A group of Muslims and non-Muslims took to the streets of Saskatoon in Saskatchewan, Canada, Saturday to deliver a message of peace and community, in an effort to counter-balance the views of those who harass Muslims and link Islam to violence and terrorism.
Co-organized by Mubarka Butt and Mohammad Abusha’r, the group dubbed their pop-up event 1001 Roses for Peace. During their events, they gave out white, red and pink roses to passersby at three different spots: Midtown Plaza, the Lawson Heights Mall and Center Mall.
The group also provided a poster board and invited people to write their messages of peace.
“We are a part of this community,” Butt said, noting that Muslims are connected to and care about their community.
The goal of the pop-up event was simple, she added.
“[We want to] get a positive message out and to help people recognize that Muslims are Canadians first,” she said. “And they are equally against violence and hate crimes as other Canadians are.”
Lisa Shepard was at Midtown Plaza to assist with handing out roses for her friend and the others in the group. She said her friendship with Butt and other Muslims prompted her to support the cause.
“Muslims are peaceful … they care about this community and … they care about their families,” Shepard said. “We wouldn’t want to equate Islam with terrorism, just like we wouldn’t to equate Christianity with right-wing crazy people.”
By midday Saturday at the Midtown Plaza, the group’s poster board was nearly filled with positive messages.
There were some people, however, who declined to take a flower were quick to enter the shopping mall.
Nathan Grayston, a Saskatoon-based filmmaker and two colleagues were with the group the entire day, collecting footage at all three spots. Grayston plans to create a five-minute video clip and publish it, online, Saturday night.
“I saw that these people were doing this and I just thought it was really awesome just to see people taking action against issues like this,” Grayston said as he adjusted his tripod and DSLR camera.
Grayston added that he has observed two very different attitudes to Muslims.
“I think there’s a really big divide,” he said. “There’s a whole lot of people that are really reasonable and then there’s a lot of people that come out, online, and they say some insane things.”
Co-organizer of the pop-up event, Mohammad Abusha’r, echoed that observation. Abusha’r said he feels Saskatoon is an open and welcoming community, but he’s noticed strong and inaccurate portrayals of Islam in the media.
“The media doesn’t present the real idea about us,” he said. “And sometimes people pick the bad ideas about us, and the bad about Muslims … and of course it affects us.”
Abusha’r said he hopes people will get a fuller understanding of Muslims and Islam, beyond what they encounter in the media.
“As any people here, we love this country. We are related to this country, and we want to make peace and civil peace, and protect everything about it,” he said. “I’m a Canadian and I love this country.”