"Let us all be courageous. Take a risk and say, ‘hello’."
Thoiba Ahmed, an Independent local election candidate for Letterkenny, is calling for unity against hate in the wake of the attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Thoiba is the first Muslim woman to stand for local election to the Letterkenny Municipal District. A native of Sudan, Thoiba is aiming to promote social inclusion and peace-building work locally as she contends to bring a strong compassionate woman’s voice to Letterkenny council.
Thoiba reacted to the twin shootings at two Christchurch mosques, in which 50 people died, with words of condemnation and with advice for the local community.
She said that “the aims of terrorism is to create division and hatred, whereas the aims of peace is to create unity and respect. Terrorism aims to disrupt society and divide communities by provoking intense fear and shattering all sense of personal and community safety.”
Thoiba will be running for election to Letterkenny Municipal District under the slogan: ‘Let My Difference Make a Difference’.
A strong advocate for social inclusion, she advises others to “look for the similarities between us and stick to the universal human values, which is the biggest shared space for everyone”
Thoiba states that while the target of these terrorist attacks were Muslims, the impact has been to cause fear and suffering for all people, not just in New Zealand but throughout the world.
“An attack on one community only leads other communities to fear an attack on theirs.”
Her aim is to build inclusive communities that celebrate and embrace diversity.
“I have found Letterkenny and Donegal to be a most welcoming place and I have become an active member of this community, making friends with not only the native people of Letterkenny but also with people from across Europe, Africa, America and Asia,” she said.
With years of experience in community groups and the Donegal Intercultural Platform, Thoiba notes that Letterkenny has taken great steps in engaging with and integrating many new communities that have come to live here over the years.
She said: “I am standing in these elections as a symbol of inclusion and of the diversity that now exists in Letterkenny, and the rest of Donegal. We need to learn about each other and our different cultures and religions. There are those who want to spread hatred and division. They rely on ignorance and fear in order to do this. They do it through spreading ignorant lies at one level and through terrorism at the worst extreme.”
“It is vital that understanding and compassion can flow both ways in the communication between Muslims and non-Muslims in this world that we share together as one.”
Thoiba is calling on everyone to make the effort to find out about their new neighbours, whether they have been in Letterkenny for generations or whether they have only moved here in recent months.
“Let us all be courageous. Take a risk and say, ‘hello’. Take the time to find out about each other. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If we build mutual understanding we can build trust, and from this we can build a stronger and more vibrant community.”
Thoiba’s advice to all Muslims is a quote from the holy Quran ‘And good and evil are not alike. Repel evil with that benign and graceful way which is best, and lo, the person between whom and you are there is enmity will behave as if he were your warm-hearted friend.’ (Fussilat, 34)