Photo: Anadolu Agency
Thirty students in Istanbul release a video in 16 languages to challenge negative views of Islam. (Photo: Anadolu Agency)

Istanbul, 19 Jumadil Awwal 1436/10 March 2015 (MINA) – After January’s attack on Charlie Hebdo and anti-Semitic murders in France was followed by an anti-Muslim backlash in the West, 30 Turkish students have come together to shoot a video in 16 languages to challenge what they say is a “wrong” perception of Islam.

Using the Prophet Muhammad’s sayings and verses from the Quran, students from the Faculty of Theology at the Istanbul-based Marmara University went to countries across Europe and North America, during a 15-day trip and talked about Islam in 16 languages in front of the camera, Anadolu Agency quoted by Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA) as reporting.

“We were sitting in a café with my friends after the Charlie Hebdo attack and arson attacks on mosques in Sweden and thought: ‘What could we do in order to tell there is no connection between terror and Islam?’ … [we] decided to prepare a video with the Prophet Muhammed’s sayings,” says Mesut Arslan, 24, a third-grade student at the Marmara University, who produced the project.

Twelve people were killed on Jan. 7, when two masked gunmen attacked the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo magazine, known for printing controversial material, including derogatory cartoons of Prophet Muhammad in 2006 and 2012.

Another gunman killed a municipal police officer and four other people in a separate hostage incident in a kosher supermarket in Porte de Vincennes.

In December, three mosques were attacked by arsonists in Swedish cities of Eskilstuna, Eslov and Uppsala. Swedish police increased security around mosques in the country.

In February, three young Muslims – Deah Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Mohammad, 21, and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19 – were murdered in North Carolina by their neighbor in what many are calling a hate crime.

The video starts as saying: “Muslims will not respond to attacks made against the Prophet Muhammad with methods not approved by him or his teachings.”

“‘Mercy’ and ‘Compassion’ start off 113 of 114 chapters of the Quran with praise to Allah as ‘the most gracious and ‘the most merciful’. The Quran does not encourage terror,” it adds. It was also stressed that Islam forbids tyranny, oppression and aggression and defends the rights of everyone including non-Muslims.

“Some people in the West do not know anything about Islam. They do not know our Prophet and do not have any idea about our lives. They suppose that women are living under pressure because of our beliefs,” says Suheyla Oruc, 21, a first-year student from Marmara University. “That’s why we conducted this project,” she adds.

Germany also has witnessed an increase in suspicion and negative feelings towards Muslims in recent months as far-right and populist parties have sought to benefit from a growing fear of Islam, which was largely influenced by reports of murders and atrocities being committed by Daesh (the Arabic acronym for ISIL).

A recent study by the Bertelsmann Foundation has revealed that 57 percent of Germany’s non-Muslims perceive Islam as a threat – a four percent increase since 2012. Germany has the second-largest Muslim population in Western Europe after France.

“The most effective way to say there is no connection between Islam and terrorism was to talk about mercy and our Prophet’s sayings,” says Rumeysa Hatice Uludogan, a second-year student who edited the video. “We have actually done nothing extra. We’ve just showed whatever Islam is.”

A student in the video quotes the Prophet Muhammad as saying: “‘He, who does not show mercy (to others) will not be shown mercy by Allah.’”

“‘Verily Allah does not look at your wealth or your appearance, but he looks at your hearts and your deeds,’” says another student citing the Prophet.

The students are hopeful about their project: “We hope people will hear our voice through this video and change [their] wrong views about Islam,” Oruc says. (T/P010/P3)

Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)