Hamid Malik’s garments stood out amid the business suits and dresses seen at lunchtime Wednesday in the State House.
He was covered in a brown knee-length jacket called an achkan, worn by men in South Asian nations. On his head rested a triangular fur hat known as a Jinnah cap.
Malik is a regional imam for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, an Islamic sect founded in 1889. Together with other Ahmadiyya adherents, he was at the State House’s Great Hall of Flags to address the misconceptions some Americans have about Islam.
“In a world that is so divided, in a world where you see so much hate,” Malik said, “just some education about the other, stepping into the other person’s shoes, reduces that gap and bridges the hearts that have been divided.”
Over samosas and croissant sandwiches, Malik delivered a lecture about Islam to legislators and other politicians, including state Representative William Galvin, a Canton Democrat.
“The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is out trying to educate and show people that Islam is a religion of peace,” Galvin said. “People are apprehensive because they don’t know about the faith.”
The national Ahmadiyya Muslim Community launched a campaign called “True Islam and the Extremists” about three months ago. Following years of global attacks by jihadist militant groups such as the Islamic State, the Ahmadiyya movement wanted to differentiate between Muslim teachings and the violent actions of Islamic extremism.
“Such brutal and inhumane ideologies have nothing to do with their religion whatsoever,” Malik said. “Islam’s real teachings are of peace and security from all evil.”
The “True Islam” campaign is based on 11 principles, which were displayed in large banners in the hall Wednesday. The principles — the rejection of terrorism, separation of mosque and state, and equality and empowerment of women, among others — are based on the teachings of the Koran and the Muslim prophet Mohammed, Malik said.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community represents a small fraction of all Islam practitioners. Its views are perhaps best expressed by its motto: “Love for all, hatred for none.”
Galvin was introduced to Boston’s Ahmadiyya Muslim Community by Canton Police Chief Kenneth Berkowitz, who met with chapter leaders more than five years ago.
“It’s important to point out fanatics aren’t exclusive to the Muslim religion or people who practice Islam,” Berkowitz told attendants Wednesday at the State House. “A very small percentage of Muslims are extremists. Most of them are great Americans like these guys.”
The Boston chapter of Ahmadiyya has held an annual blood drive ever since the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. It did the same following the Boston Marathon bombings, whose perpetrators were motivated by Islamic extremism. As the president of the Boston chapter, Amer Malik, said during the lunch, “The terrorists took our blood, but we will give blood.”
The chapter has collaborated with other places of worship, including First Parish Unitarian Universalist in Canton.
“Everything is about relationship,” said the Rev. Beverly Boke of First Parish, who spoke during the lunch.
Most speakers said there was a sad timeliness to the gathering, given recent attacks around the world, including the shootings at a Paris music hall in November, an Orlando nightclub in June, and during a protest in Dallas last week.
“Just because there are extremists in any faith, religion, race, doesn’t indicate that the entire race is evil,” Galvin said. “I think that’s what [the Ahmadiyya] are saying.”