CAIRO - Showing the true nature of their faith, a diverse Muslim community in South Korea is struggling to overcome challenges posed by a stereotyped media.
"There is a true face of Islam, but it is not seen in the media," Shariq Saeed, a nine-year resident of Seoul from Pakistan, told Korea Times on Friday, April 13.
"The true Islam is what we see around us here: brothers sharing in peace."
Each Friday afternoon, Saeed is one of the worshippers who answer the call to prayer that rings out from Seoul Central Mosque.
Seoul Central Mosque is the largest mosque in Korea and was built in 1974 with support from Saudi Arabia.
The white building, flanked by twin minarets, stands out in the grayness of Seoul with the mosque faÃ§ade decorated by graceful script of Arabic.
Seoul's Muslim population illustrates the diversity of Islam.
The community formed around Seoul Central Mosque is made up of worshippers from the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia, and Africa.
Though living peacefully for years in Korea, the Muslim community complained of the stereotyping they face in the media depiction of their faith, which affects the way they are perceived in the society.
"The media shows Muslims as poor people fighting each other, but that is not the truth," said Mohd Fakrul, an exchange student from Malaysia.
Sometimes when I tell people I'm a Muslim they are somewhat suspicious.
At the mosque, Fakrul said the diverse Muslim community reflects the true nature of Islam.
"But just look at us. This is peace," he said.
Finding a unique platform for practicing their faith in the diverse community in Seoul, many challenges were still facing Muslims.
"In Malaysia we have many mosques, but in Seoul there is only one mosque," said Mohd Fakrul, an exchange student from Malaysia.
"If we need to pray in the middle of the day, it can be difficult to find a proper place."
Jeon Seung-joon, a Korean Muslim who found Islam in Ireland, said that halal food imposed another challenge for the religious minority.
"Food is very difficult, because I love meat but can only eat halal products."
Yet, other Muslims found it a great opportunity to move deeper in the faith and share it with Koreans, who are generally unfamiliar with Islam.
"Here I feel more duty to fulfill my duty as a Muslim and if I meet people I can share information about Islam with them," said Ammar, also from Malaysia.
According to the Korea Muslim Federation (KMF), established in 1967, there are about 120,000 to 130,000 Muslims living in South Korea, both natives and foreigners.
The majority of the population is made up of migrant workers from Pakistan and Bangladesh.
The number of native Korean Muslims is estimated at some 45,000.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net