Last year, two Muslim men planted bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
The attacks led to backlash against people of Islamic faith, but a local group is trying to step out in front and break down misconceptions and barriers.
Muzaffar Ahmad watched the scenes unfolding at the Boston Marathon last year like most Americans, stunned and hurt.
"All Muslims kind of go into a shock like 'I hope it's not a Muslim again,'" said Ahmad. "We are just sick of these bad incidents happening, these extremists, terrorists doing it and then all people - Americans - starting thinking is this another Muslim? Are all Muslims like that?"
Ahmad, a spokesperson for the Indianapolis Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, says the organization and most that practice the faith, stand against any justification of violence.
"It breaks our heart to see religion being used, but the Ahmadiyya community, we not only talk about the peaceful message of Islam, but we also take action," said Ahmad.
Those actions include holding programs to educate about the Muslim religion and an annual blood drive. Last year, the local Ahmadiyya community collected 100 bags of blood in memory of those killed and hurt during attacks on 9-11 and the Boston Marathon.
"The message is to tell people that Islam is a peaceful religion and values the sanctity of life," said Ahmad. "We are just trying to do whatever we can to help our fellow Americans and to tell everybody that Islam is a peaceful religion and has nothing to do with extremism that we see."
Ahmad says having a presence locally helps correct some misconceptions about the religion.
"The single most important thing to do is to tell American people that Islam is not the enemy, it's the extremists," he said. "Every group has an extremist element. Just like what we saw in Kansas City the other day when a member of a KKK group, which is an extremist group, but they associate themselves with Christianity. Just like they don't represent Christianity, similarly terrorists or Muslim extremists don't represent Islam."
Ahmad says it’s important for the Muslim community to continue to stay active in promoting peace. He is encouraged by the response of the outreach activities and believes Hoosiers feel better about Muslims because of the messages of peace.
"After the events, a lot of people come up and say 'you know, we never that Islam is so peaceful. We've never talked to Muslims. We don't know,'" said Ahmad. "It motivates me to take time off my work or my personal life and just go to these events and it just gives me a good feeling that we are doing something positive not just for Islam, but for our society."
(Photo of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community team with Boston Chief James Hooley courtesy of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community - United States of America)