Friday, April 14, 2017

USA: A response from Zion's Muslim community to terror threats

Our Khalifa, Mirza Masroor Ahmad, leads us in prayer and we beseech God to have mercy on his creation and guide all of us to a place of peace and unity.

Times of Ahmad | News Watch | US Desk
Source/Credit: Daily Herald
By Daily Herald | April 14, 2017

Editor’s note: Representatives of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Zion said they were “deeply troubled” by the arrests this week of two Zion men on charges of plotting to assist ISIS. We asked Junayd Latif, director of propagation for the community, to answer questions about the organization, Islam and the group’s effort, called “True Islam,” to counter radicalization. The following are questions we asked and Latif’s responses.

Q: What is the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Zion?

A: We are the Zion chapter of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Muslims who believe in the Messiah Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, India, who established the community in 1889. Our chapter began in the mid- to late 1980s, after being started originally in Waukegan in the '70s. Ahmadi Muslims believe a divine system of elected leadership called khilafat (successorship) is the key to their ability to maintain a unified message and a high level of organization that is reflected in the many accomplishments they've made in a relatively short period of time.

Q: Tell us about the "True Islam" project's efforts in the Chicago area.

A: "True Islam" is a nationwide campaign launched in 2015 by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA under the guidance of our khalifa with the goal of educating our neighbors about the true teachings of Islam. This is a part of an ongoing conversation that the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has been having with our American neighbors that started in earnest after 9/11 with a public awareness campaign called Muslims For Peace. After the attacks of 9/11, we realized that most Americans knew very little about the religion of Islam. The AMC printed flyers and began public awareness campaigns and flyer distributions that informed our neighbors of what True Islam was and created a face for the moderate Muslim.

This created many allies, and then we launched the Muslims For Life campaign to honor the lives lost on 9/11 by saving lives through blood donations. From 2011 until today, about 30,000 bags of blood have been collected every year through interfaith blood drives hosted by Muslims and non-Muslim partners from around the country.

Today, after the rise of ISIS and the radicalization of youths in our country and around the world, we felt we have to dismantle the extremist ideology. We have to show that if Islam is truly the peaceful religion that we claim it to be, how does it answer all of the justifications that extremists use to recruit and terrorize in the name of Islam? So we identified 11 main misrepresentations that fuel extremist ideology and totally debunked them with references from the only standards that Islam can be judged by -- The Holy Quran and the recorded sayings (Hadith) and practice (Sunnah) of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). This presentation is offered to all Americans, Muslim and non, as a way of taking away the extremists' legitimacy and showing that it is solely selfish cultural and political influences that they follow to meet their global agenda.

This is why it is so important that non-Muslims as well as Muslims know about this effort, because the more we can collectively call false to the bad actors, the less appealing their message will be to impressionable souls looking for validation.

The centerpiece of this campaign is "Coffee, Cake and True Islam," which is an effort to provide a comfortable environment for guests to visit with us and discuss these confusing issues. These meetups take place all over the country on a weekly basis. The Zion community's next one is 7-8 p.m. Friday at its mosque at 2103 Gabriel Ave., Zion. A location near you can be found at

Q: How can non-Muslims be convinced that this view is "true Islam" and not the view that seems to appeal to radical groups like the Taliban, ISIS, al-Qaida and their followers?

A: For Muslims, our litmus test is very simple: If it can't be supported by first the Quran, then the lifestyle and sayings of the prophet, and finally by science and rationality, it is absolutely false. In the Quran, it says, "God is not the author of confusion" and that "surely truth has been made distinct from falsehood," so the only thing missing in all of these cases is the proper context and a sense of humility, and the truth becomes glaringly obvious.

Q: It can be natural to understand how young people in repressive or economically disadvantaged countries can be prone to messages from radicals. How do young people in places like our own suburbs succumb to such messages?

A: We like to assume that money cures all ills, but the reality is that desperation affects us all and the only positive way through it is with the right perspective. We are identifying Islamic extremism at this moment, but that is not the ideology that is most harmful to our kids. We have material extremism, sexual extremism, violent extremism. We have gang violence, drug abuse, sexual abuse, mass shootings, workplace violence. All of these are results of emotional extremism. Many of us have lost our ability to regulate our emotions in a way that is empathetic and compassionate.

Basically, we have to get to know each other and build compassion and real human connections, or people will only know us based on what they are told. It's easy to dehumanize someone in that situation. We have to see our kids as big empty vessels that are constantly being filled. If we do not put the love, compassion and goodness into them and protect their innocence, they will be filled with all the things we don't want them to have. We have to fill our kids (yours and mine) with as much good as possible so there is no room for anything else.

Q: News media reports often include statements that Islam is a "peaceful religion." Yet we often hear passages from the Quran cited that seem to encourage violence or reject other religions. What should non-Muslims know that can reconcile these very different interpretations?

A: Every verse that has been criticized has been done so out of context. Visit or a coffee-and-cake meetup and hopefully we can show where the misunderstandings are taking place.

Q: Many people urge Muslims to do more to help stop radicalization and to help authorities stop terror or violence. What is the reaction of the Muslim community to calls such as this?

A: We wholeheartedly agree. Islam and terror cannot exist in the same space. We have cooperated with police when occasions have called for it, and we encourage every Muslim to step forward and alert authorities if we know of impending harm or have any suspicions.

Proactively, we manage the largest Muslim Boys and Girls youth organizations in the country. The ideals that I've given here are reinforced in our children through classes, camps, and weekly addresses. We even have a satellite channel called MTA (Muslim Television Ahmadiyya) that hosts children's classes and programs. In over 120 years of existence, there has never been one terrorist attack by an Ahmadi Muslim.

Q: What activities are Muslim groups like yours doing to counter radicalization?

A: In addition to the steps described above, our khalifa hosts an international Peace Conference in London that brings tens of thousands of Muslims together to reinforce the message of True Islam. He also hosts interfaith peace symposiums, and under his guidance our community in countries around the world hold similar conferences that engage all levels of local and national government. We do charity walks. We publicly denounce terror attacks as they happen. We have a 24-hour satellite channel that spreads the message of True Islam to the corners of the world. But before any of it happens, our khalifa, Mirza Masroor Ahmad, leads us in prayer and we beseech God to have mercy on his creation and guide all of us to a place of peace and unity.

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