by Saima Sheikh
Last weekend Turkey was rocked by terror attacks and then on Tuesday, Belgium was attacked by a terrorist group, ISIS. My heart bleeds for the victims of these terror attacks. My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families.
As soon as I heard the news of the Belgium attacks, I knew that the Muslim bashing would start and soon enough Twitter was filled with hatred for Muslims and Islam. #StopIslam was trending in no time. On top of that, the two Presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz wasted no time labeling all Muslims as terrorists. Ted Cruz went even further than Donald Trump and said that we should have surveillance in Muslim neighborhoods. Really! He further elaborated that we have neighborhood patrols for gangs so we should do the same for Muslims. Doesn’t the self proclaimed “Constitutionalist” know that the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution grants everyone freedom of religion. Instead of blaming Islam and Muslims for the acts committed by ISIS, these politicians need to work with Muslims to root out extremism and youth radicalization.
They need to work with organizations like the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA which is the largest and the oldest U. S. Muslim organization, established in 1920. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has initiated a public awareness program dubbed the True Islam campaign which seeks to educate Americans and Muslim Americans on the peaceful, anti-extremist teachings of Islam by clarifying 11 of the most common misconceptions extremists use to radicalize youth. This includes the true Islamic teachings on terrorism, the concept of Jihad (used as a tool to recruit youth), women’s rights in Islam, loyalty to one’s nation of residence, separation of Mosque and state (including correct understanding of Shariah law), etc.
Let’s examine some of the 11 points from the True Islam campaign. Terrorism of any kind including murdering innocent people is against the teachings of the Holy Quran. It forbids Muslims from creating disorder in the world: “Seek not to create disorder in the earth. Verily, God loves not those who seek to create disorder” (28:78) and it recognizes the sanctity of all human life: “Whosoever killed a person … it shall be as if he had killed all mankind; and whoso saved a life, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind” (5:33).
Prophet Muhammad rejected all types of terrorism in the name of Islam, even while Muslims faced twelve years of intense persecution in Mecca; He did not allow any violent response. Instead, Prophet Muhammad ordered his followers to migrate to another land. This was in exact accordance with Quranic teachings: “…They will reply, ‘We were treated as weak in the land.’ They will say, “Was not Allah’s earth vast enough for you to emigrate therein?” (4:48). Thus, the Holy Quran teaches that even in the face of intense persecution, a Muslim must sooner emigrate as a means to maintain the peace, rather than retaliate. Again, no rationale is found in the Holy Quran for terrorism of any kind.
Terrorists use Jihad as a recruiting tool. Jihad means to struggle and strive in good works to attain nearness to God. Again, the above Quranic verse, “…whosoever killed a person…it shall be as if he had killed all mankind” (5:33) is applicable in this instance. True Islam rejects violent jihad, whether it be against Muslims or non-Muslims. The Holy Quran explains that Muslims are permitted to fight only in specific situations: “Permission to fight is given to those against whom war is made, because they have been wronged” (22:40). The Holy Quran further clarifies the purpose of war. Thus, even when war in self-defense is permitted, its purpose is to ensure freedom of religion for all faiths, not just Islam. Therefore, these days there is no room for violent Jihad because religious wars are no longer being fought.
Instead of violent jihad, true Islam champions a bloodless intellectual “jihad of the pen” (part of one’s continuous jihad or struggle to acquire knowledge) to engage in dialogue regarding matters of faith, without any compulsion (just like I’m doing now).
No religion, whatever its name can sanction violence and bloodshed in the name of God. This is also true for Islam which means peace. Terrorism has no religion. Terrorists do these heinous acts to instill fear in the general public. ISIS doesn’t represent Islam nor are they doing this to defend Muslims because majority of their victims are Muslims! ISIS is using my religion Islam as a means to brainwash young minds into committing barbaric acts. I briefly highlighted two of the eleven points and would like to invite my fellow Americans including the Republican candidates, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz to visit True Islam website and support this grassroots initiative by endorsing any of the 11 points they agree with. Let’s unite as a nation to end extremism instead of using fear mongering to alienate an entire religion and its adherents.