Clearing the Air on Islam through ‘Spread Hummus, Not Hate’ events in Beaver

Interfaith meeting with Muslims in Pittsburgh

By J.D. Prose

Beaver County Times

March 31, 2017 – BEAVER — If any two things bring Beaver Countians together, it’s food and religion, and Center Township resident Toni Ashfaq will incorporate both to educate residents about Islam during events in Beaver.

“There are a lot of misunderstandings, a lot of false information floating around,” said Ashfaq, a Muslim and the organizer of two Spread Hummus, Not Hate: Meet Your Muslim Neighbor gatherings Wednesday and Saturday at Beaver Area Memorial Library. “We just want people to meet us and see that we’re just like everybody else.”

A Wisconsin native and convert from Catholicism, Ashfaq said she and two friends — Julia Chaney, a Christian, and fellow Muslim Dr. Raniah Khairy, an OB/GYN specialist at Heritage Valley Beaver hospital in Brighton Township — began brainstorming ideas “just to kind of build bridges and promote understanding” because of the “current political climate.”

That brainstorming has resulted in the Spread Hummus, Not Hate gatherings at the library from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday and 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday. Ashfaq said they got the idea after learning of a group in Australia doing meetings.

“We thought it was a pretty catchy title,” Ashfaq said with a laugh. Just one gathering was initially planned, but after receiving an “overwhelming” response, she said a second one was added.

Islam has been distorted by politicians and certain media, she said, not naming anyone specifically. Regardless, Ashfaq said Muslims are “not in denial” about Muslims committing violence, but the media too often focuses solely on Islam.

“People get the wrong idea that those people represent the whole faith, and they don’t,” Ashfaq said, recalling a recent conversation in which she told a woman that equating terrorists with Islam would be akin to equating the Ku Klux Klan with Christianity.

Critics have accused President Donald Trump of fanning anti-Muslim sentiments with his proposed immigration ban, since halted by courts, that targeted Muslim-majority countries. He has argued that the ban is necessary to make sure terrorists are not entering the United States as refugees.

Ashfaq said she has not experienced any overt discrimination, but has seen an increase in people’s curiosity about Islam and Muslims.

“People are really starting to ask questions,” she said. “They are really wanting to understand.”

Most questions, Ashfaq said, concern sharia, Islamic canonical law; jihad, an Arabic word meaning “struggle,” but which has taken on the connotation of “holy war”; the treatment of women in Islamic societies; and how some Muslim women dress in public, which can include wearing a hijab that covers the head and chest. Those aspects of Islam, including its basic beliefs and similarities with Christianity, and a question-and-answer session will be on the agenda Wednesday and Saturday.

Ashfaq said she and her friends are hoping the events raise enough interest that others might want to organize similar gatherings to promote interfaith relationships and understanding.

“If you see somebody face-to-face, it’s harder to hate them,” she said.

18 thoughts on “Clearing the Air on Islam through ‘Spread Hummus, Not Hate’ events in Beaver”

  1. Please read this article at
    From the article, of which there is much more to consider, is this “f Jihad is simply a spiritual struggle, why is there an entire chapter of the Qur’an entitled “Booty” or “The Spoils of War” (al-Anfal)? What spoils ensue from a spiritual struggle? If jihad is simply a spiritual struggle, how is a Muslim supposed to make Jews and Christians “pay the jizya with willing submission and feel themselves subdued” (Qur’an 9:29) spiritually? If jihad is simply a spiritual struggle, why are there thousands upon thousands of Muslims worldwide who have joined violent jihad groups? Why are there any violent jihad groups at all? Why is this misunderstanding of jihad so widespread?

    1. Doncha know, its all “taken out of context”. The Koranic texts to wage war against unbelievers really means to give em hugs and lollipops.

      Now go focus your concerns on more important issues like who will win”Dancing With the Stars”.

  2. Muslims for the most part are peaceful and kind to non-believers (Infidels),
    when they (Muslims) are a non-significant minority….

  3. As a good Muslim, surely Ms. Arshfaq believes Qur’an is Alllah’s “revealed” word; literal, infallible and eternal.

    Given that Allah commands the punitive amputation of a human being’s hand and foot on opposite sides (Qur’an 5:33), where on the planet–anywhere on the planet–are such “divine” punishments morally acceptable to her. If the answer is nowhere, does she then believe Allah is wrong.

    Other religions have long been subjected–and rightly so–to query, skepticism, criticism and–as warranted–even derision. Islam deserves no less.

    1. Hello Fred — Thank you for making the point that every belief system (or religion if you prefer to use that word) must be open to examination and not immune from criticism. But, as those of us who follow events in the United States and around the world have seen, our fellow humans who actually take time and effort to look into the sacred texts and teachings of Islam — and then report on the subjugation and violence contained in them — are immediately hit with the ad hominem term “Islamophobe”. That is, of course, an attempt to make such honest truth off-limits and somehow “shame” us toward silence. For all of the well-intended Beaver County citizens who attended that gathering, here are two superb web resources: www [dot] citizenwarrior [dot] com and www [dot] inquiryintoislam [dot] com. Particularly recommendable as relevant to the subject of this event: among many items on Citizenwarrior is one titled “The Qur’an’s Last Word on Non-Muslims”, which should be locatable if that is typed into the search box at the home page’s top right section, or by using Google. It is about a 10 minute read, so please devote undistracted time when you are not multitasking.

      1. I think one would be wise to consider not taking everything in the Q’uran literally, like Christians largely ignore the book of Leviticus. There are a minority of Muslims and Christians that find that problematic, but I’d argue they worship a Book, and not the Message.

      2. And hello to you also, Mr. Davidson — You have really zeroed in on the essential difference between people who kill in the name of Allah and, as the expression which always seem to be stated “the vast majority of peaceful Muslims”. The slaughter of humans on 9/11, in San Bernardino, Orlando, Paris, Nice, etcetera, was done by DEVOUT, ORTHODOX, FULLY OBEDIENT Muslims, who take all of the Qur’an seriously – especially the 2nd to last chapter CHRONOLOGICALLY, written just a year before Muhammad’s death in 631. This is a link to the item at Citizenwarrior that I suggested in my previous comment: Please read it carefully if you are not already award of a crucial doctrine called “abrogation”. I am a senior citizen, 68 years on our astonishing planet, and recall a term popular decades ago, “cafeteria Catholics” — members of the Church who ignore important pillars of practicing that faith, such as nihil obstat, regular confession & attendance at mass. Well, in a parallel way, worshippers of Allah who disregard commands in Chapter 9 which invoke murder upon Infidels are “cafeteria Muslims”. The world is, of course, indeed immensely blessed for such disregard by most people in Islam, but this does not change reality — Muhammad killed and encouraged his follower to kill, he is regarded as the ideal example of conduct (there is no “Golden Rule” for Muslims), and those who consider complete fidelity to all of the Qur’an as absolutely required to live holy lives will not hesitate to murder fellow humans. There was yet another instance of such “faith” very recently in London, when a Muslim engaged in jihad by vehicle.

      3. And as you suggest, Steve, we have ‘cafeteria Christians’ of all sorts too. While the Westboro Baptists may take the Bile –all of it–literally. I doubt that you observe 90% of what you might find in Leviticus, and other sections with Yahweh smiting this one and smoting that one. Or ever the new testament. Have you visited prisoners lately? And what about the Crusades?

      4. Mr. Davidson — In reply to your 5:25 PM post: the difference between Cafeteria Muslims (CMs) and Cafeteria Christians (CCs) is 180 degrees, a complete polar opposition. CMs disregard Allah’s insistence on violence toward infidels. CCs disregard God’s insistence on love toward everyone. “Westboro Baptists” are a total perversion of the New Testament’s message. If you disagree, cite verses containing words of Christ encouraging or permitting similar aggression.

      5. Steve, the who point of this is for you to sit down with a Muslim or two, and pose these questions to them. I’m not a person ‘of the Book,’ but a student of Zen. But I have talked with a good number of Muslims, and have some as friends.

      6. Carl, you are assuming that Steve has not already done so.

        And you did not state whether you have asked your Muslim friends such questions.

      7. I have, and they usually point out that the vast majority of Muslim clerics interpret the controversial passages differently, with notes that today;s recent history and conditions is not that of the 7th Century.

      8. To Fred and Carl — I have to parachute out of this trialogue now (about 9:25 Eastern US time) for family commitments and a night of sleep, but if you are available tomorrow — Thursday afternoon — I want to continue it. Goodbye until then.

    2. Hello again to Fred, Carl, and everyone else who is following our conversation.

      Your suggestion to “sit down with a Muslim or two” is quite sensible, so, as a quick way to do that, please ask Toni Ashfaq to comment. Especially on what I contend in a post above: that worshippers of Allah who are FULLY committed to obeying the Qur’an’s commands (including Sura 9:5 and 9:111) consider her and every other peaceful Muslim to be heretics, and have the utmost contempt for them.

      This matter of total dedication to ALL parts of that sacred Islamic book brings me to mentioning Asra Nomani, a degreed former professor of psychology who has, with several associates, organized what they call the Muslim Reform Movement (MRM). She apparently has such an intense awareness and rejection of subjugation and violence done by those who read the Qur’an assiduously — thus finding mandates for hatred and murder in it — that the MRM is attempting to bring their faith out of (as Carl writes) “the 7th Century”.

      I would guess that Ms. Nomani and her team will welcome contact from Ms. Ashfaq. Perhaps even a webcam broadcast could be undertaken at the library, as a continuation of Beaver County’s resident education venture. Yes, such a gathering and its actualization is going to take effort, but it might be just the first of many more Muslim-Christian interfaith events.

      Carl: I am not a person “of the book” either. My thinking about, as Eric Allen Bell called the “mystery which cannot be organized into a knowable form” hangs out in a “Big Mind” cubbyhole. When some spare minutes appear in your life, do a web search of Ken Wilbur’s brief remarks in a video on that subject. And if you have not encountered Mooji’s satsangs on non-dualism (advaita), I highly recommend them.

      More obligations for Yours Truly today, so probably not chiming in here until around 7 PM Eastern US time.

      1. Fred, thank you for posting that 8 1/2 minute video. If extremely short of time, we can watch it from 7:43 onward, the essence of Brother Rachid’s remarks.

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