I’m a British Muslim man of the same age as the London and Manchester terrorists – and I know why we turned out so different

khuram-butt-jihadis-next-door-abzI am the same age as Salman Abedi, the Manchester suicide bomber, and almost the same age as the recently named London Bridge terrorists; I also profess to be of the same faith. Thankfully, these are the only two things we have in common. As well as studying medicine at university, I currently serve as the president of the UK Ahmadiyya Muslim Students Association. I spend a lot of my time working to organize interfaith dialogues and peace conferences. So how exactly did we turn out so different? And could knowing the answer to this help reduce the numbers of young people being brainwashed into extremism?

The primary answer to this is education. Even in childhood, I always asked questions about my religion – and as I grew up, I had access to imams and elders ready to answer them. I was free to challenge them, to ask the toughest and most sensitive questions about the most “controversial” aspects of Islam.

Through this process I learnt that Islam teaches there is no compulsion in religion, that taking even a single life is equivalent to killing to the whole of mankind, and that saving a life is equivalent to saving the whole of humanity. I learnt that the concept of jihad is not about spreading religion through force, but about struggling against one’s own evil desires in order to reform oneself and become a pure-hearted, decent individual.

I learnt that the Prophet Mohammed taught that loyalty to one’s nation of residence is part of one’s faith, reinforced by the fact that at least once a year at our religious functions we publicly make the pledge to serve our country whenever required. I learnt about the role of charity in Islam, and what the Qur’an calls the “steep ascent” – the true means of attaining nearness to God: “It is the freeing of a slave, or feeding in a day of hunger, an orphan near of kin, or a poor man lying in the dust.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE INDEPENDENT (UK)

Interfaith Hope in Baltimore

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by Zafir Ahmed

Last month, I heard hope, felt peace, and saw love. These emotions were quite contrary to what  I had the morning after this year’s election. I remember feeling really confused and insecure about what the future held for me, a young Muslim living in America. About a month ago, members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community here in Baltimore decided to have an interfaith session at their mosque, on the 20th of  November, to respond and find solutions to the host of emotions that have been generated because of the election and to unite against all forms of hatred. Despite this Sunday being one of the coldest days of the year, the turnout for the event was much greater than expected. Under one roof  were people sitting shoulder to shoulder, who on the outside, seemed to have very little in common. The only thing uniting them was a yearning to unite a country that seemed to be tearing apart.

The highlight of the event were speeches made by people of different faiths and backgrounds who gave each other a message of hope and support. A professor of psychology from the University of Maryland Baltimore campus explained how doing good and having a positive interaction with just one person could result in a chain of goodness that will keep on getting longer and longer. He emphasized that it is the duty of every member of society to get to know each other and not just judge the book by its cover. A member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, who also happened to be a former Marine, emphasized that we cannot let America add yet another item to it’s not so proud moments list. Moments in our history when white and black could not sit together, a time when Japanese Americans were put into internment camps, and many others. This event highlighted how much we can all learn from each other. A Jewish woman and a pastor stood at the podium and gave advice to the Muslim youth like they were there very own. The thing that struck me the most was a comment that an audience member made at the end, he said that if the Trump administration makes a Muslims registry then all of us who are not Muslims will register as Muslims as well.

FULL ARTICLE FROM BELIEFNET

True Islam: Muslim community works to introduce principles of faith

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The violent narrative of groups such as ISIS and the Taliban thrives on ignorance of Islam, said Qasim Rashid, a lawyer and spokesman for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.

Rashid pointed to the example of Salah Abdeslam, the suspect in the terrorist bombings of Paris. “The lawyer of the suspect called his client ‘an ashtray,'” Rashid said. Belgian attorney Sven Mary described the suspect as having “the intelligence of an empty ashtray — an abysmal emptiness,” according to an April 27 report by The Washington Post.

“Mary said Abdeslam’s radicalization probably happened online,” the newspaper report continues. “He said the young extremist had scant knowledge of Islam. ‘I asked him if he had read the Quran, which I have done, and he said he had read his interpretation on the Internet,’ the lawyer said.”

Two days later, Rashid spoke at the University of Arkansas on behalf of the school’s Al-Islam Students Association.

“Extremists like ISIS depend on people’s ignorance of Islam to grow,” Rashid said. “That’s why the more people know about Islam’s true teachings — and what Muslims truly believe — the less they’ll fall for ISIS’s propaganda.”

Rashid presented what he called a “counter-narrative” to the message of ISIS. True Islam is a campaign by the Ahmadiyya community to educate both Muslims and non-Muslims about the teachings of the Quran.

The True Islam website lists “The Eleven Points” of Islamic doctrine, backed up by references from the Quran, the holy book of the Muslim faith. Each participant is asked to endorse each point individually. Rashid asked his audience to support the True Islam campaign by endorsing the points from their cellphones while he spoke.

“Endorse the parts you agree with and join our campaign,” he said. “Ask about those you don’t agree with.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM NW ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT GAZETTE 

The History of Religion and Violence

osaama SaifiBy Osaama Saifi

Nabeel Qureshi and myself are much more similar than we realize. We both grew up in the West as Muslims and members of the same sect. We both were impacted by the repercussions of 9/11 on Muslims in America. And we both made a decision in our pursuit of religion.

One may wonder why I didn’t choose Christianity like Nabeel. Islam was being maligned by both extremists and the media. Of course, being named Osaama did not help.

In his recent piece, Nabeel presents the conundrum he faced when trying to understand Islam. Growing up, I too faced this same struggle. Every person who is born into a faith needs to go through their own conversion to solidify their convictions. Like Nabeel, I too looked at Islam and other religions holistically. But unlike Nabeel, I didn’t choose Christianity. I chose Islam.

From Seeking Allah Finding Jesus to Answering Jihad, Nabeel’s works stem from his conversion to Christianity from Islam. Nabeel has become renown for being the Christian who has seemingly unmasked Islam’s deceptively curated past. An example of his work is seen recently, which takes Islamic text out of it’s historical, literary, and holistic context. It was this facile analysis of a 1400-year-old religious book and it’s early history that lead to Nabeel’s conversion to Christianity.

One should not question the spiritual reasons for which a person accepts a religion, but the rational views of such a thought can always come under scrutiny. After all, if a religion claims to be the Truth then it can withstand the crucible of a rational examination.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HUFFINGTON POST