UK: Watford Mayor speaks at annual convention of Ahmadiyya Muslims

iRabwah | News Watch |
Source/Credit: St Albans & Harpenden Review

More than 30,000 guests from more than 90 countries attended a landmark Islamic convention last weekend.

The Worldwide Head – or Caliph – of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, led the three-day convention in the Hampshire countryside.

Watford’s Elected Mayor Dorothy Thornhill also addressed the 38,000 guests praising Watford’s Ahmadiyya Muslim Association for their community outreach and inter-faith work.

She said: “Ahmadi Muslims in Watford are passionate about their town and regularly make a valuable contribution to the community.

“Whether it is helping to raise funds for the Royal British Legion or hand-delivering thousands of leaflets highlighting Islam’s commitment to loyalty, freedom, equality, respect and peace.

“Ahmadi Muslims are ambassadors for their faith and set a fine example for others to follow.”

The convention culminated in all delegates taking a pledge – as they have done every year- reaffirming their loyalty to their country of residence.

President of the Watford Ahmadiyya Muslim Association, Lutful Islam said: “We care deeply about our town and were delighted that our Elected Mayor was able to join our special 50th-anniversary convention and speak so eloquently about the need for the true Islamic teaching of love, peace, and tolerance to triumph over adversity.

“Watford’s Ahmadi Muslims take great pride in their town. When we say Islam means peace – we practice it by example in our everyday lives through regular interfaith and outreach activities such as peace conferences, leaflet campaigns, tree-planting and litter picking.”

Ahmadi Muslims – one of the oldest Muslim groups in Britain – are active in their communities and raise thousands of pounds for charities each year and have their own charity Humanity First.

Abdul Samad, a member of the Watford Ahmadiyya community said: “It was the first time we hosted Dorothy at the convention and she was pleasantly surprised to see the extent of the event and how well organised it was.

“Watford’s Ahmadi Muslims volunteer at the event so it means a lot that our Mayor visited us this year.”

In 2003 the Ahmadi Muslims opened the largest purpose built mosque in Western Europe in Morden Surrey, which can accommodate more than 13,000 people.

The community also built the first mosque in London in 1924.

UK: 38,000+ Ahmadiyya Muslims come together to tackle extremism

UK: 38,000+ Ahmadiyya Muslims come together to tackle extremism

A festival held in the middle of a field in rural Hampshire brought 30,000 Muslims together to try and tackle extremism.

The ‘Jalsa Salana’, which was held over the weekend in Alton, saw thousands of Ahmadiyya Muslims attend to discuss tackling misinterpretations of Islam. Now in its 50th year, the festival is open to everyone, in the hope of dispelling beliefs that Islam is a violent religion.

The event kicks off by hoisting the Union Jack as a mark of loyalty to Great Britain. Lasting for three days, the Caliph – the leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community – delivered speeches to promote the peaceful teachings of the religion.

The Ahmadi community has been running a nationwide campaign called “unite against extremism” in order to try and tackle terrorism.

Ahmadi Muslims are heavily persecuted by other Muslims as they believe their religion’s founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, is the Messiah as prophesied by the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

Times of Ahmad | News Watch |
Source/Credit: The Huffington Post UK

Perspective: Meeting the Ahmadis | Anthony Cornish & Ayman Al-Juzi

iRabwah | News Watch |
Source/Credit: The New Arab / AlAraby

In the leafy Hampshire countryside, more than 30,000 members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community have gathered for the 50th anniversary of the Jalsa Salana.

An annual convention attracting visitors from more than 100 countries, united in their creed, the Jalsa Salana is a religious festival celebrating the Ahmadis’ peaceful reading of Islam.

Over three days, the community takes the opportunity to meet fellow believers that have come from around the world.

They eat together, pray together and hear speeches from community leaders. Pop-up exhibitions are also set up at the 200-acre site on Oaklands Farm near Alton.

Ahmadis are an international sect of Muslims that believe in reviving what they believe to be the “true” version of Islam – one centred on peace, tolerance, and integration.

Founded in 1889 in what was then British India, they have lived a life of persecution, particularly in Asia and across the Middle East.

Discrimination against the people stems from their belief that their founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, was the promised Messiah after Muhammad – a claim that is rejected by other sects of Islam, many of whom who go so far as to declare Ahmadis non-Muslim.

Much of the culture of persecution against Ahmadis has stemmed from Pakistan, where the community has been officially outlawed.

To be issued a passport in Pakistan one must sign a document stating that Ahmadis are not Muslim.

Ordnance XX, legislation passed in 1984, states: “Any person of the Qadiani group who directly or indirectly, poses himself as a Muslim… shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.” Qadiani is a derogatory term for Ahmadis.

“Some of the reasons for discrimination can be political or a person might hold a grudge against someone,” says Jamal Akbar, a London-based IT consultant volunteering at the Jalsa.

“But they’ll use the Ahmadi card to get revenge on that person, attack them or kill them.”

“It’s hugely toxic,” says Zaki Ahmad, an expert on Ahmadi human rights in Pakistan who is running an exhibition at the Jalsa Salana.

He tells us that high illiteracy rates, particularly in Pakistan, allow this anti-Ahmadi narrative to go unchallenged. “It’s manipulation on a wide scale.”

Across the Arabic-speaking world, there is no official legislation attacking the community. However, the discrimination against them spills over borders and affects Ahmadis living in other countries.

Despite this, they are not interested in interfering with politics. So much so that they refuse to even stand up against a government that oppresses them. This is reflected in their non-participation in the transnational Arab Spring uprisings.

“When the Arab Spring started, the head of the community said that the behaviour of the Ahmadi Muslims should be that they obey an established government,” explains Ahmed Ahmad, a Syrian refugee who fled the country with his brother in 2014.

This is their first Jalsa Salana. “We fled Syria for two reasons. Of course when there is a civil war going on you have to leave to survive. But the other equally important reason was because there was no life there any more for the Ahmadis.”

For Ahmad and his brother, opposing the regime was never an option. “I can say Ahmadis are very obedient,” he explains. “Being disloyal has nothing to do with Islam, which teaches us to be loyal to the country where we live.”

Muhammad Ibrahim Ikhlaf, of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Students Association (AMSA), goes further in his explanation of how the teachings of the community promote peace, non-violence and pacifism.

“Islamic injunction teaches us that whatever your leader is – whether an oppressor or tyrant – you should obey them. This is our duty,” he says. “In order to prevent chaos and anarchy in society our duty is to pray and advise but we cannot be rebellious.”


When loving your country is a basic element of Islam, how can any true Muslim exhibit disloyalty or betray his nation and thereby forgo his faith?
– Mirza Masroor Ahmad

In this sense, Ibrahim is underpinning the Ahmadi commitment to a secular society, in which religion and politics co-exist in separate spheres.

In the words of the community’s current caliph, Mirza Masroor Ahmad: “When loving your country is a basic element of Islam, how can any true Muslim exhibit disloyalty or betray his nation and thereby forgo his faith?”

As well as explaining the community’s absence from the Arab Spring, this is yet a further example of their peaceful reading of Islam.

“You could call this a separation of mosque and state,” says Farhad Ahmad, a British Imam of the Ahmadiyya community, present at the Jalsa.

This secular notion clearly contrasts with the current political landscape of the Middle East, which is often defined by religion and sectarianism.

The two regional superpowers, Iran and Saudi Arabia, are primary examples of the marriage between religion and politics.

Yet, even though the Ahamdis believe in a secular society, they are not shy of spreading their faith. In fact, the community’s international television channel known as MTA – Muslim Television Ahmadiyya – is symbolic of this.

With four satellite channels beamed around the world, spreading the Ahmadi message of Islam, one of the channel’s presenters explained how “vital” the network has been in converting Arab Muslims.

“When MTA started, the people were introduced to the Ahmadiyya community,” says Tamim Abu Daqqa, a theologian from Jordan who features regularly on MTA3.

As often as once a month, Abu Daqqa travels to the UK-based studio to preach about the Ahmadiyya community on air.


Every day we are receiving more and more converts through MTA. They are attracted to Ahmadiyya because we are presenting Islam in a very nice way
– Tamim Abu Daqqa

“Since we launched the Arabic channel in 2007 we have had thousands of people converting in Arab countries,” he says.

“Every day we are receiving more and more converts through MTA. They are attracted to Ahmadiyya because we are presenting Islam in a very nice way.”

Beyond presenting Islam in a good light, Ahmadis seek to actively contribute to humanitarian efforts around the world.

Through missionaries and its main charity, Humanity First, they aim to improve impoverished communities by providing services and building infrastructure.

“In Pakistan, for example, when the earthquake happened we set up a camp, we set up marquees and we were providing hot food and shelter to the people there,” Hanif Shakir, head of operations at Humanity First, told The New Arab.

He is standing next to a model of a water well, which he uses to demonstrate as an example of the work they do. “We aim to win hearts, not territories.”

The Jalsa Salana itself is a hefty operation, run by more than 5,000 volunteers from all sectors of society.

Accountants are making bread while bankers are chopping onions. As this year’s convention draws to a close, preparation for next year’s begins.

As with every year, more visitors will be expected in 12 months’ time.

UK: Muslim women lose dignity in the name of Halala

LONDON: The issue of divorce among Muslim women has taken a dangerous turn because clerics are out to exploit them in the name of Halala. When a man divorces a woman three times, she goes to a cleric who tells them that the couple can be reunited after Halala, which means after the woman contracts another marriage, at least for one night. Hence, these one-night brides lose their dignity in their houses and often fall prey to psychological diseases.

The clerics have set up the Halala centres in London, Birmingham and other cities where divorced women are exploited. But real Ulema oppose this trend. Though all prominent clerics condemn exploitation of women, they do not highlight this issue because it could lead to disrepute of the Muslim community. The community is already facing a tough time due to child sex grooming and other such cases.

In some cases, men divorce women three times in one go due to anger but later they realize that they have made a wrong decision. When they go to clerics to seek a way out of this problem so that they can be reunited, the clerics tell them that their wives have to contract a second marriage before they can be reunited in a marital bond again.

The women are then hoodwinked into marrying the clerics and spend at least one night with them. The clerics agree to let them go to their former husbands in the morning but later they change their mind and demand huge sums of money to honour their agreement. They sometime keep the perturbed women in their houses for many days to quench their lust.

These women fail to get their dignity back when reunited with their husbands but they have to survive for the sake of children and family. They then suffer from psychological diseases. Some clerics have opened Halala centres in their houses and their agents bring divorced women to them. They sometimes gift these women to their friends.

iRabwah| News Watch |
Source/Credit: The News International

USA: Texas pastor gets life in prison after using the Bible to justify abusing women

USA: Texas pastor gets life in prison after using the Bible to justify abusing women

A volunteer youth pastor was sentenced to life in prison in Texas this week for sexually assaulting multiple teens at his church, reports the Houston Chronicle.

Dell Ivan Godkin, 48, was found guilty of sexually abusing one victim beginning when she was 13-years-old, and continuing until she was 17, by telling her God approved of what they were doing.

“He would say lots of things about God being OK with it,” explained prosecutor Monica Cooper, adding that Godkin would cite passages from the Bible to explain the roles of men and women to his victims.

In the case of the 13-year-old, he promised to stop molesting her by making a “deal” before she turned 17 on the condition she tell no one what had happened.

According to the prosecutor, members of the church were stunned by Godkin’s actions and described him as a good Christian.

“People were shocked when they heard that that’s how he controlled both of his victims (by quoting Scripture),” Cooper said. “He’s the scariest kind of child predator because he’s the kind that is sitting next to you in church, and he seems like the nicest guy.”

During the punishment phase of the trial, Godkin’s ex-wife took the stand and stated that he had beaten her repeatedly during their tumultuous 12-year-marriage and that she had informed the pastor of the church to no avail.

“One of the assaults occurred after she had gone to their pastor at church seeking help,” the district attorney’s office said in a statement. “By the time she arrived home, Godkin knew she had spoken to the pastor and beat her because of it.”

Although Godkin was given a life sentence, he will be eligible for parole in 2046 when he will turn 78.

iRabwah | News Watch |
Source/Credit: The Raw Story

Pakistan: The Rebirth of Jihad

Within Pakistan, banned groups like JeM and JuD campaign openly for jihad against India. 

“Bharat ka aik ailaaj, al-jihad” (“The cure to India is nothing but jihad”), the crowd chanted at the start of Jamaat-e-Islami’s anti-India rally near Nasir Bagh, Lahore. The rally, which was destined for Wahga, on Pakistan’s side of the India-Pakistan border, was filled with a mix of emotions – anger, frustration, and hatred. It was attended by Jamaat-e-Islami’s top leadership, including its chief, Siraj-ul-Haq. Accompanying him was Hizbul Mujahideen’s chief, Syed Salahuddin.

Earlier in the day, vehicles full of Jamaat-e-Islami and Hizbul Mujahideen volunteers, announcing the rally and singing jihadi tarana, roamed freely around Lahore. Even before the rally, which was scheduled for July 31, camps set up by Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Hizbul Mujahideen could be seen outside the Punjab Assembly building on the Mall Road in Lahore. With full Islamic zeal and zest, the people at these camps chanted pro-Kashmir slogans, encouraging the common citizens to take arms against India.

This was only one of the many rallies and processions organized by Islamist groups in the past few weeks.

It all started after Indian forces in Kashmir killed the young militant separatist Burhan Wani. Wani, who belonged to Hizbul Mujahideen, was known for his tech-savvy methods, through which he preached jihad to the people of the valley. He gathered a huge following on social media platforms through his videos – one of the reasons his death sparked sudden outrage across the valley. According to media reports, around 50,000 Kashmiris attended his funeral prayers.

Following his funeral, Kashmir saw a series of clashes between the Kashmiri population and Indian forces. Around 62 people have been killed so far, with hundreds more injured. A curfew was imposed, mobile and internet services were jammed, and for a a few days, most of the Kashmiri papers were forcefully stopped from being published. This renewed anti-India movement in Kashmir is often described as an indigenous movement, not sponsored by Pakistan. Burhan Wani is said to be the product of the very same movement. However, with Pakistan declaring him a martyr and Syed Salahuddin, head of Hizbul Mujahideen, holding rallies in Pakistan, a few eyebrows have been raised.

Former Pakistani ambassador to the U.S. Husain Haqqani says, “Every time there is unrest in the Kashmir valley, hopes are raised in Pakistan that the solution of the Kashmir issue is near and the jihadists become active.” Emphasizing the attempted hijacking of the Kashmiris’ struggle, he adds, “If anything, jihadi activism delegitimizes the demands of the Kashmiri people in international eyes. Unfortunately, the jihadists and their backers in Pakistan do not see the folly or failure of their policies.”

As the renewed protests in Kashmir erupted, it appeared to be a rebirth of jihadi organizations’ activities in Pakistan as well.

Jamaat-ud-Dawa was the first one to take the lead with its “Azadi Caravan.” Setting out from from Lahore on July 19, the caravan was destined to arrive in Islamabad on July 20. Stretching for several kilometers, the caravan consisted of buses, trucks, and cars. As the caravan traveled on the Grand Trunk road, it was received warmly in cities on the way, as participants kept joining the ranks. Buzzing with slogans like “Bharat ki barbadi tak, jang jaari rahay gi” (“The war will continue until India is destroyed”), the rally was led by Hafiz Saeed – a founder of  Lashkar-e-Taiba and an internationally declared terrorist.

This rally was the first of the three stages of the movement, which Saeed described at its start in Lahore. The stated purpose was to “wake up the parliamentarians” in Islamabad. The second stage, Saeed announced, would be to march to Chakothi, a small border town on Pakistan’s side of the Line of Control (LOC). “And in the third phase, we will march into occupied Kashmir (Jammu and Kashmir) and we will continue marching till Kashmiris get freedom,” he declared.

During his speech in Islamabad, Saeed announced that the people of Pakistan were at Kashmiris’ side. “Where your blood is spilled, ours will also flow with you,” he said. In his 20-minute speech, Saeed targeted the Nawaz Sharif-led civilian government several times, while not bringing up the military leadership even once.

Many journalists and analysts in Pakistan see the free movement of JuD throughout the country as a continuation of state’s policy of supporting and sponsoring jihadists to achieve the desired results. Bilal Farooqi, a Karachi-based journalist who keeps a keen eye on the activities of these organizations, thinks the state has yet to learn its lesson: “Even after losing more than 70,000 Pakistanis to the monster of terrorism, our policymakers still don’t realize the drawbacks of the doctrine of strategic depth.”

Lamenting the free hand given to the likes of JuD and sectarian groups like Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), he says, “After creating a strong base in Punjab, JuD is now working on penetrating the parts of Sindh and Balochistan under the garb of their relief activities.”

Pakistan’s former president, General Musharraf, banned these organizations under international pressure. But instead of closing them down permanently, his government allowed them to rebrand themselves as charity, or non-violent, organizations. Farooqi, talking to The Diplomat, insisted that by doing so, the state machinery was offering a free hand to the likes of JuD. “When they help the people in need, they spread their message as well – which serves them as a recruitment tool,” he explained.

In the past, many such charities were banned by the government, but many of them still remain active. As Jamaat-ud-Dawa has the Falah Insaniat Foundation (FIF), Jaish-e-Mohammed has the Al-Rehmat Trust. Sectarian outfits like Sipah-e-Sahaba also changed their names in a bid to rebrand themselves. When banned, SSP changed its name to Millat-i-Islamia Pakistan and finally to its current name, Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ).

After the Pathankot attacks in January, India claimed to have traced a few numbers that were in contact with the terrorists back to Pakistan. The numbers, which were publicly available, could easily be traced on the internet to the Al-Rehmat Trust’s social media presence. Speaking to India Today, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s adviser on foreign affairs, Sartaj Aziz confirmed that the numbers provided by India traced back to JeM’s headquarter in Bahawalpur.

A Joint Investigations Team, which was formed on Sharif’s instructions to probe into the Pathankot attack, concluded that there was no evidence of Pakistan’s involvement in the attack. India’s  National Investigation Agency chief also confirmed that Pakistan wasn’t helping JeM plan or execute the attack.

Though Pakistan denied that any of the attackers infiltrated India from Pakistan, a well-positioned official inside a civilian Law Enforcement Agency (LEA) confirmed that there were proofs of JeM’s involvement in the Pathankot attacks: “The evidence provided by India, after investigations, revealed that Masood Azhar’s closest ally was the brains behind the attack.” Masood Azhar is the founder of JeM.

Explaining the reason for Pakistan’s inaction, the official said that instructions from the prime minister were clear – to arrest or kill the members of JeM. Initially, Islamabad did just that; the Counterterrorism Department (CTD) raided several seminaries and houses across the country to arrest JeM members. Then, “In a high-level security meeting, PM Sharif was pressured by [Chief of Army Staff] General Raheel Sharif to let the army handle the operations, instead of the CTD,” the official told The Diplomat.

“No one knows what happened after that,” he added.

While the paramilitary Rangers’ operation against “criminal elements” in political parties was in a full swing, JeM’s members were seen collecting funds for jihad after the Eid prayers – often in the presence of Rangers. However, Punjab’s Home Department recently instructed the police authorities to keep watch on JuD’s fundraising activities.

Ayesha Siddiqa, an author, and journalist based in Pakistan, says there has been no change in Pakistan’s 15-year old policy. “We fail to change our basic security assessment – for example in Balochistan, where we refuse to see the movement without the lens of foreign intervention,” she says. “We refuse to let go of the thinking that only jihadists can help us achieve our strategic goals.”

Journalist and author of a book on LeT Arif Jamal is also of the opinion that the policy of using jihadists hasn’t changed yet. The only difference that he sees is the tactics. “The fact that the Pakistan Army kept the jihadist infrastructure intact shows that they wanted to revive jihad in Kashmir and Afghanistan at a later time. They slowly started reviving it as an instrument of the defense policy around 2005,” he says.

He further adds that former COAS General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani completely revived jihad, and General Sharif (no relation to the prime minister) has continued to do so.

Azaz Syed, a senior journalist who was present during JudD and Jamaat-e-Islami’s rallies in Islamabad, holds the establishment to be responsible for these policies.

“After the incidents of violence in Kashmir, the jihadist elements inside Pakistan seem to be reviving and it is impossible for them to be working without the military establishment’s consent,” he says. More than anything, Syed believes these activities are a serious question mark for the sincerity of the National Action Plan. “Our leadership unanimously approved of this plan after the APS Peshawar attack but unfortunately, it seems to be a failure as JuD holds rallies only few hundred meters away from the parliament,” he adds.

“In a country where critics of the establishment can hardly move around unobserved, how are thousands of JuD and HuM supporters able to mobilize and march openly?” asked Ambassador Haqqani.

“The Pakistani military establishment has always viewed groups focused on India and Afghanistan as their assets. Unless and until there is a shift in how the security establishment and its allies view India, they will continue to support jihadi groups and their ideology,” Haqqani adds.

Instead, he says, “India must address Kashmiri grievances and Pakistan should stop encouraging jihadis in Kashmir.”

“It would be much better for both countries if the situation in Kashmir de-escalates without more violence,” Haqqani concludes.

iRabwah| News Watch |
Source/Credit: The Diplomat

Where’s the Outrage Over Nun Beachwear?

While the French are banning Muslims in burqinis, Italian Catholic bishops find it ironic there’s alarm when a woman is “overdressed while swimming in the sea!”

SABAUDIA, Italy — Go to any public beach in Italy and chances are you’ll eventually see a woman wearing a veil and long skirt. But she likely won’t be a Muslim in a version of the controversial burqini. She will almost certainly be a Catholic nun in her summer habit either watching children in her care or, God forbid, just enjoying some sun, which is considered a human right here in Italy, where the sea defines the majority of the borders.

No one in Italy would dare blink an eye at the sight of a habit-wearing sister at the seaside or even in the water.

“We have nuns on the beach all the time,” Marco Beoni, a barista at a coffee bar along the sea near Sabaudia, about an hour south of Rome, told The Daily Beast. “They go in the water in their skirts and sit on blankets just like everyone else. Who cares what they are wearing. What’s the problem?”

In fact, most Italians are at odds with edicts at several French beach resorts banning women wearing the burqini (also spelled burkini), as the modest full coverage swimwear is called. Even Socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls has waded into the debate in Paris, declaring the wearing of the burqini is “not compatible with the values of France and the Republic.”

Italy’s interior minister, Angelino Alfano, himself no great fan of immigration or integration of non-Italians into the country, said he thought France was making a mistake by banning the burqini. “We aim to avoid certain prohibitions that can be interpreted as provocations that could trigger retaliation towards Italy,” he said when asked if Italy would follow France in banning what has been interpreted as religious wear on the beach. “After all, the ‘French model’ of integration has not yielded great results.”

It should be no surprise at all that the Catholic Church, for its part, doesn’t see any problem whatsoever with modest swimwear. The head of the Italian bishops, Monsignor Nunzio Galantino, said that caution is understandable, but only when tempered with common sense.

“It’s hard to imagine that a woman [in a burqini] who enters the water is there to carry out an attack,” he told the daily Corriere della Sera in a far-reaching interview on the topic. “I can only think of our nuns, and I think of our peasant grandmothers who still wear head coverings.”

Making an analogy with the wearing of a cross or a kippah, Galantino said, “The freedom to be granted to religious symbols should be considered on a par with the freedom to express one’s beliefs and to follow them in public life. And, let me tell you: I find it ironic that we are alarmed that a woman is overdressed while swimming in the sea!”

 

iRabwah| News Watch |
Source/Credit: The Daily Beast

Perspective: ‘Meet a Muslim’ event helps to break down barriers

A few weeks back, I got a frantic call from the president of my congregation, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, asking me to attend a dinner that evening. This dinner had a title: Meet a Muslim. It was graciously organized by a friend of the community, Robert Stall, who is a member of the Building Bridges foundation. I immediately knew I had to clear my schedule and make this dinner. It was far too important to miss.

Following a spate of extremist violence in Europe and here in America over the past year, polls have been reporting that anti-Muslim sentiment is at an all-time high. One reason for this is that an estimated 60 percent of Americans have never met a Muslim.

This means their perception of Islam is mostly shaped by headline news and images drawn from extremist violence. But once you have had the occasion to meet and speak with a Muslim, it has a “love-thy-neighbor” humanizing effect that can change perceptions dramatically. Muslims have jobs, watch sports, argue with their kids and take vacations. And we cherish the opportunity to respond to people’s fears and anxieties about our religion, and to wrest back the narrative hijacked by extremists.

The dinner turned out to be a wonderful interfaith experience and an affirmation of our common humanity. There were about 20 people; among them Jews, Christians, agnostics and Muslims. We prompted our hosts to ask us what questions they have in their minds about Islam. Is it Sharia law? Why were Muhammad and his companions in military engagement? Are the extremists following Islam? Who was Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and why do millions of Muslims today believe him to be the Messiah foretold by Muhammad and Jesus?

I recently attended the Erie County Fair where the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community had a stall. The fair, one of the largest of its kind in the country, attracts around a million people over 10 days. It is a golden opportunity to engage numerous people, address their anxieties and educate them about what most Muslims really believe and what Islam really teaches. I was humbled by how many people stopped at our stall to welcome our presence and expressed how needed such engagement was.

Those who pander to extreme far-right ideas, whether in certain Muslim lands or with political rhetoric here in America, want to see us divided. They want the narrative to be about “us versus them.” They don’t want us meeting, greeting and talking. But this is really a clash of the like-minded; those who seek the common good versus those who seek to sow discord. So, do your bit to fight the war on terror and defeat the political campaign rhetoric of the far right; come out and meet a Muslim.

 

iRabwah| News Watch |
Source/Credit: The Buffallo News 

“Is Islam a Religion” : A Response to David Solway

“Is Islam a Religion” : A Response to David Solway 

In his article “Is Islam a Religion,” David Solway makes a multitude of inaccurate accusations in his characterization of Islam. Using his own self-serving Quranic verses and cherry-picked traditions of the Prophet Muhammad that are taken out of context and not juxtaposed with other clear verses for interpretation, Solway caricatures the religion of Islam dishonestly to advance his extremist viewpoint. I will address some of his initial points for the purpose that the reader will recognize that the demonized version of Islam that Solway analyzes throughout his piece is of little use for anything meaningful.

To begin, the same descriptions Solway uses to characterize what a religion is in the “common expectation of the term” can be applied to Islam without a doubt. For example, the “community of believers dedicated to the loving worship of the divine” is precisely portrayed in Chapter 51 Verse 57 (51:57), which describes the purpose of man’s existence: “And I have not created the Jinn and the men but that they may worship Me.”

Solway further brands Islam as an “unrepentant politico-expansionist movement…bent on universal conquest.” Unfortunately, the factors he uses to support this viewpoint are weak and nonsensical. The concept of taqiyya, or “deception,” as a means to advance Islam is completely illogical; how is it possible that the prophet Muhammad could have even won over a single person, let alone the hearts of over a hundred thousand near the time of his death (and now over a billion), through deceit? Furthermore, the moral quality of truthfulness can be attested to more in  Muhammad’s character than perhaps any religious or political figure in the history of mankind. Strictly adhering to honesty, Muhammad was known as al-Amin (truthful) and al-Sadiq (trustworthy) before his call to prophethood. During his call, even his sworn enemies could not deny his truthfulness, such as when Abu Sufyan admitted to the emperor Heraclius that Muhammad had never broken his promises. Simply put, no real evidence can be cited that the prophet Muhammad taught his followers to spread Islam by lying.

The second factor Solway lists is “social and cultural infiltration.” While this claim is ambiguous on its own, I challenge Solway to find even one teaching from Islam that advocates for any negative connotation of this vague phrase. Spoiler alert: Not one source of authentic Islamic knowledge (Quran, Sunnah, Hadith) will support such a sentiment.

Lastly, Solway uses the same worn out explanation for how Islam teaches its followers to preach: “bloody violence.” However, I must ask, how could Islam really have spread to the four corners of the earth if the method was through “bloody violence.” If such teachings were really a part and parcel of Islam, would we not see countless Muslims leaving the faith of Islam as soon as they got the opportunity? What about the largest Muslim country in the world Indonesia in which no Muslim army was sent for so-called forced conversions? How could a religion spread through “bloody violence” produce some of the most ardent followers in the history of mankind? Followers who were willing to face some of the most bitter persecution and cruel martyrdoms at the hands of their oppressors. Moreover, in matters or preaching, the Qur’an clearly teaches in 16:126 to call others to Islam with “wisdom and goodly exhortation, and argue with them in a way that is best.”

It is important we take a general look at the manner in which the prophet Muhammad spread his message through his compassionate example, divine teachings, and heavenly signs. On the other hand, not a single example can be cited in the life of the prophet Muhammad which calls for a violent coercion on non-Muslims to accept Islam. The most clear demonstration which beautifully, explicitly, and powerfully dismantles such an absurd notion of “bloody violence” as a legitimate means to spread Islam is the Victory of Mecca. One this day, which occurred due the Meccans violating the Treaty of Hudaibiyah, a people that had mercilessly imposed decades of war, persecution, and misery upon Muhammad and his followers were forgiven unequivocally and unconditionally in the greatest act of forgiveness in the history of mankind. If such a reality existed in which the prophet Muhammad wanted to show his followers to ruthlessly subjugate others in accepting Islam, this would have been the perfect instance. Yet (sorry Solway), this is the opposite of what happened. Interestingly, the two years in between the Treaty of Hudaibiyah and the Victory in Mecca in which no fighting took place between the Meccans and Muslims were filled with huge outpourings of conversions into Islam. The propaganda of the Quraysh tribe that the prophet Muhammad was lustful for war (the same deceit spewed by Islamaphobes and extremists alike today) was proven false in the eyes of the Meccans after the treaty, which was completely lopsided in favor of the Meccans, and thus many opened their hearts to the beauty of Islam.

In just a few paragraphs of Solway’s piece, such glaring falsehoods were exposed with simple illustrations of logic. Unfortunately, when rationality and the use of the true sources of Islamic knowledge are taken out when understanding and commentating on Islam, we encounter the viewpoints of not only misguided Muslims but also the David Solways of the world. Sweeping generalizations are his tool, and thus ignorance is his condition.

iRabwah | News Watch |
Source/Credit: Patheos | Islam Ahmadiyya