Muslim youth group combating Islamophobia by raising £500,000 for charity with single event

'We have to combat narratives of hate and divisions and we have to condemn. We have to ask ourselves as a society what we want to achieve' 

Chloe Farand
Wednesday 16 August 2017 17:55 BST
Members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community taking part in last year's Mercy for Mankind challenge in London
Members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community taking part in last year's Mercy for Mankind challenge in London (Ahmadiyya Muslim Community)

A Muslim youth organisation is fighting back against hatred and Islamophobia in the UK by raising half a million pounds for charities in a single event.

Hundreds of young Muslims will take part in a half marathon or sponsored walk to promote peace and dispel "misconceptions" about Islam.

The Mercy for Mankind charity challenge organised by the Ahamadiyya Muslim Youth Association (AMYA) is due to be held in the Lake District in Cumbria, a region devastated by strong floods in December 2015.

At the time, the association helped to raise money for those affected by the floods and dozens volunteered to take part in the relief effort. This year, AMYA decided to return to the area to show its ongoing support to the community.

Farooq Aftab, the event organiser and the deputy head of AMYA, told The Independent the location was important because it showed Muslims were engaged in public life across the UK, despite the area itself not being particularly diverse.

"We recognise Islam as a religion of peace and integration which promotes unity and this is what this event will show. We want to make sure that we bring people together and that we show unity and humanity," he said, adding the event will help to fight "misconceptions about Islam".

The event's motto "every act of goodness is charity" is a message of the Prophet Muhammad who according to Muslims encouraged charitable actions towards others.

"This year again, hundreds of us are travelling to the Lake District from up and down the country to raise funds for the most needy in our society without any distinction of faith, colour or creed," he said.

More than 700 members of the AMYA will run and walk alongside members of the local community in a bid to raise £500,000 for charities in the UK including the Cumbria Community Foundation, Bloodwise, the Royal British Legion, Save the Children, NSPCC, Barnardos, CLIC Sargent, Unicef and the British Red Cross.

Mr Aftab added that the timing of the event, a week after a neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, led to the killing of 32-year-old Heather Heyer, was important because of tensions created by the far-right in some communities.

"We have to combat narratives of hate and divisions and we have to condemn them, that is vital. We have to asked ourselves as a society what we want to achieve," he said.

This years marks the 33rd edition of the charity challenge, which AMYA launched in 1985. Since then, the Muslim organisation has raised more than £2m for charities in the UK.

Every year, the event is held at a different location but this year's half marathon and five kilometre walk will begin from Fitz Park in Keswick on 19 August.

For more information about the Mercy for Mankind challenge or to donate, visit here.

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