Originally published in New Haven Register
The news seems to report much about problem leaders of the Muslim world. They include bloodthirsty extremists, fiery Mullahs and unyielding autocrats. Also, throw in the chatter from absolute cynics who can’t believe that a practicing Muslim could possibly live a life of peace. And we are left to ask: Where are the good guys in the group?
Well, this month several U.S. media outlets picked up on the visit from London to Los Angeles of a unique Muslim leader. His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad is the spiritual Caliph, or Khalifa of Islam, and head of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
The Khalifa is the fifth successor to the Community’s founder, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, India, who toward the end of the 19th century claimed to be the awaited reformer and Messiah.
Today, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community cites a following in the tens of millions, concentrated in West Africa and the Indian subcontinent, but also in more than 200 nations worldwide. This effectively makes the Khalifa the current head of more members than any other Muslim group, and in real terms, the Khalifa of Islam.
And here’s the main message the Khalifa brought to L.A. At a keynote address to 350 political leaders, university scholars and local community leaders in Beverly Hills, he explained that whereas the early Muslims during the time of the Prophet Muhammad fought wars only to defend themselves and the cause of religious freedom, today, religious wars are unnecessary and have no place.
As such, Muslim clerics should abandon the fantasy of a bloody jihad of the sword. In fact, the Khalifa has advocated a separation of church (in our circles, mosque) and state.
Contrast the Khalifa’s message with that of the politically savvy Mullah of certain countries who instilled a culture of intolerance. For instance, a shocking Pew poll released this month showed that about two-thirds of Muslims in Afghanistan, Egypt and Pakistan support the death penalty for the mere act of leaving Islam.
This is despite a prominent verse in the Quran that there is no compulsion in matters of faith and thus no punishment whatsoever for apostasy.
To dispel the spurious image of a violent Islam, the Khalifa instructed the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA to launch a major campaign called “Muslims for Peace,” in which members, mostly Muslim youth, went door to door and on busy streets across America to hand out fliers that told about Islam’s peaceful message.
In Los Angeles, the Khalifa stated that, “Whenever any jihadist organization stands up in the name of Islam and misconstrues its true teachings, we have to stand up to this and speak out.” Six hundred thousand fliers later, the task continues.
Another message of the Khalifa was to unite people on the oneness of God and a common purpose of serving humanity. To this end, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has built dozens of hospitals and nearly 600 schools in many parts of the developing world to offer free health care and education to all people regardless of background.
Whereas the Taliban tried to shoot down young Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai for supporting a woman’s right to an education, the Khalifa of Islam has, in fact, set up numerous girls’ schools. Whose stance is Islamic? Well, the Khalifa is inspired by a saying of the Prophet Muhammad that educating your daughters will win you paradise.
Here in the U.S., in 2011, to commemorate victims on the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, the Khalifa directed the USA Community to organize blood drives nationwide. Some 260 blood drives later, we worked together with churches, synagogues and universities to raise more than 10,000 blood donations. Then in 2012, we raised more than 11,000 blood donations. The event was so successful in fulfilling a vital need that it’s now an annual program of good works called the “Muslims for Life.”
So you might ask: Who funds the Khalifa’s projects? It’s not oil money. Nor is it the State Department. Nor any other government for that matter. Individual member contributions make up the sole source of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s activities. As a result, there are no strings attached to the Khalifa’s humanitarian work.
Whether the cynics believe it, the Khalifa is on a mission to spread good will. And simply because that’s what Islam stands for. In fact, the Community’s official motto is just that: Love for All, Hatred for None.
Instead of just focusing on the problem makers, we need to keep the spotlight on good, enlightened Muslim leaders such as the Khalifa of Islam, who are making a positive impact for both Muslims and the world. At the end of the day, you may never convince the perpetual skeptic. But shouldn’t the facts speak for themselves?