Coffee and Islam: Tackling Islamophobia one latte at a time

A cafe might seem like an unusual place to combat Islamophobia, but a Western Australian imam believes it's the perfect place to explain his religion.

Perth's Imam Kamran Tahir hosting a coffee and Islam session.

Perth's Imam Kamran Tahir hosting a coffee and Islam session. Source: SBS News

Many of us rely on a cup of coffee or tea to get us through the day, but would you consider heading out for a cup of your favourite beverage to learn about Islam?

For the past seven months, Imam Kamran Tahir has been doing just that in Perth.

“Why not meet people who have concerns or questions about Islam over a cup of coffee?" he said, pointing to communication and education as the best ways to answer people's concerns.

The project, called "Coffee and Islam", is trying to tackle the rise of Islamophobia around the world.

"It's such a simple concept, but it's such a successful one. The reception to it has been great."

Since he began the project, he's met with a wide range of people in the Western Australian community, helping to clarify what is and isn’t part of the teachings of the Koran.

Demystifying Sharia

One of the most common questions he faces is in relation to Sharia Law, and the belief that Muslims want to replace existing laws in Australia with it.

"Sharia actually means a path. A path which is a spiritual path. Religion is solely to do with the spiritual state," Imam Tahir explained.

"Sharia for any Muslim would be that he be obedient to the Law of the Land, be a spiritual person.

"The Jewish faith has the same concept, called Halakha. Which when translated, means exactly the same – a path."

One of the many who have met Imam Tahir for a coffee is Kirsty Brown.

“I think it actually dispels fears and breaks down barriers. I think people hear the media and the bad reports and I think they are just normal people like you and I."

Kirsty was part of a group who joined Imam Tahir for coffee this week, where he held an open discussion on his faith.

Greg Clark and Gary Allan also opted for a caffeinated catch-up with the local Imam, saying the opportunity for conversation was too important to ignore.

"The debate around Islam and Muslims has gone decidedly nasty in the last couple of years especially," said Gary Allen.

"I think there is a lot of misinformation out there that needs clarifying.

"Unfortunately, Islam and terrorism seems to be linked in some people's minds," Greg continued.

"If we can break down that misconception, then we’re going to make some progress."

But while Coffee and Islam has been a great start to the conversation, Imam Tahir wants to do more.

Coffee and Islam
The mosque is handing out over 100,000 of these pamphlets to combat Islamophobia. Source: Ahmadiyya Muslim Association Australia

Muslims for Loyalty

Along with the members of his Cockburn Mosque, Imam Tahir has been distributing flyers for the Muslims for Loyalty project.

It’s designed to build awareness and reinforce that, through the teachings of the Koran, Muslims are obliged to be loyal to the country they live in.

Among the 150 members of their mosque, they plan to distribute 100,000 pamphlets along with invitations for Coffee and Islam.

So far the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, much to the joy of the WA President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association, Rashid Waqas.

“We have had a very good response from the people of Perth,” he said.

“They’ve actually advised us: ‘You should spread this message openly and as far as you can’.”

And what would Imam Tahir’s reaction be if he confronted by Islamophobic person while handing out these flyers?

“I’d invite them to a cup of coffee!” he replied with a grin. "It's as simple as that!"

4 min read
Published 26 November 2017 at 7:45pm
By Kyle Brown