Raja:On being Muslim

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Originally published in the Loudoun Times

I am writing this piece in light of the recent shooting in San Bernardino. As an American Muslim, I am providing my perspective on ISIS and the kind of leadership Muslims need in these troubled times. Muslim leaders need to advocate the true Islamic teachings of peace and tolerance.

The horrific incident at San Bernardino last week sent a shock wave through the entire country. Muslims, along with their fellow Americans, are mourning the loss of 14 innocent lives on that tragic day. While the detailed investigation is still underway, initial reports indicate that the couple was radicalized by the extremist views of terrorist organizations, such as ISIS.

I am a Muslim myself. Every time I hear about a violent act committed by a Muslim inspired by extremist ideology, I cringe in agony because yet again, another Muslim has fallen prey to the extremist propaganda of this so-called “Islamic” organization. I’m in agony because ISIS’ caliphate is the antithesis of the kind of leadership Muslims need today.

ISIS does not represent Islam. A recent poll by the Pew Research Center shows that there is much disdain for ISIS in Muslim countries. Muslims themselves have been the largest victims of ISIS’ brutality. Yet we see some Muslims act violently inspired by extremist views; not because of the true Islamic faith, as the Islamophobes and bigots deceptively allege.

Violence is a form of aggression and must be treated as such, regardless of someone’s religious or ethnic background. Just like the KKK and LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) are not representative of Christianity, ISIS and its accomplices are not representative of Islam. Islam categorically rejects all forms of violence. In fact, Islam equates killing of one soul to the killing of all of humanity (5:32).

Authorities say that Tashfeen Malik, one of the suspects for the San Bernardino shooting, had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in a Facebook post. Allegiance to anyone that promotes violence against one’s own people is clearly against the teaching of the Prophet of Islam. Instead, the Prophet of Islam declared that it’s part of one’s faith to be loyal to his or her homeland. Any practicing Muslim in their right mind should not even think about hurting his or her fellow citizens let alone taking their lives.

ISIS leadership is corrupt. Abu Bark al-Baghdadi incites evil and perpetrates terrorism. To pledge allegiance to him is a suicide of one’s conscience and betrayal of one’s obligation as a Muslim. There is a need for a spiritual Islamic leadership, a leadership that builds a universal bond of brotherhood among Muslims, a leadership that provides guidance and direction in today’s tumultuous environment, a leadership that champions justice and peace in the world.

Mirza Masroor Ahmad is the current spiritual leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. The community has membership in the tens of millions in over 200 countries. Here in the U.S, under Ahmad’s leadership, members of the community launched a national blood drive campaign called “Muslims for Life” to honor the victims of 9/11. Through this campaign over 30,000 pints of blood have been collected since 2011. The community is building schools and hospitals in remote parts of Africa to serve humanity through the Humanity First organization.

Since 2004, Ahmad has been actively promoting peace in the world through lectures, symposiums and meetings with the public officials. In 2012, he delivered an address on Capitol Hill during his visit to the United States and presented the Islamic perspective on creating world peace by promoting equality and justice for all. Ahmad has also written letters to many political and religious leaders exhorting them to do their utmost to save humanity from destruction.

I believe the best way to beat ISIS is to promote a counter-ideology that is based on the Islamic principals of justice and peace. It is more critical than ever that Muslim leaders take special measures to defeat the extremist ideology promoted by ISIS through the advocacy of peace and tolerance taught in Islam. American Muslims should also keep an eye on their surroundings and fully cooperate with the authorities. As Muslims, our pledge of allegiance is to the United States of America and there is no contradiction in being an American and a Muslim at the same time.

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