Originally Published in Star-Telegram
American extremists returned to media coverage this week by descending on Garland.
They wasted no time from their last plots of creating disorder, targeting major American cities like San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and New York City. Each attack on American minds went through without failure.
Of course, this is a reference to the Islamophobes who came to Texas to hold a contest about drawing Prophet Muhammad for a prize of $10,000. In response, two renegades drove to the event, opened fire and were killed by police.
This Islamophobic contest, like the anti-Islam ads that littered major cities over the past several years, is legal.
After all, in America, freedom of speech applies to any speech that does not promote imminent violence.
Hate speech is legal. Yet, just because one has the freedom to do something does not mean it should be used to such extremes.
Garry Trudeau, creator of Doonesbury, in his George Polk Career Award acceptance speech, said, “At some point, free-expression absolutism becomes childish and unserious.”
The bigoted Islamophobes and their group of anti-Islam personalities fall in this camp.
They appear as children prone to temper tantrums who are quick to write blogs about Islam and Muslims, blogs riddled with errors, fabrications, and flat-out lies — yet their readers take them as fact.
This firebrand anti-Islam circus is eerily reminiscent to treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany.
Nazis often used anti-Semitic cartoons in the years leading up to Kristallnacht, which made violence against Jews a tolerable affair.
In fact, anti-mosque activity is so rife in America that the ACLU has a map dedicated to tracking it, and it isn’t a pretty picture.
Yet, all is not lost. What is the antidote to such bigotry, and what is the proper Islamic response?
Far from the vulgar and false portrayal of Prophet Muhammad the Islamophobic contest attempted to legitimize, it is Prophet Muhammad himself who taught how to respond to hate directed at him.
Muhammad helped a lady who was leaving town because she heard there was a magician named Muhammad who cast spells on people.
When they reached her destination, she asked for his name. Muhammad replied that he was the same Muhammad she earlier feared.
After encountering Muhammad, her bigoted opinions changed.
According to extremists he should have attacked her the instant she made insulting remarks about him. Instead, Muhammad bore the insults with patience, setting a timeless precedent that all Muslims should continue to follow.
This also shows that if one is part of the 60 percent of Americans who do not know a Muslim and have a negative view of Islam, then they should meet a Muslim, like the aforementioned lady.
Today, the khalifa of Islam, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, follows Muhammad’s footsteps and encourages patient and compassionate responses.
The khalifa puts action to words by hosting the annual Ahmadiyya Peace Symposium in London. His Holiness travels the world speaking on the path to peace and just relations between nations.
His Holiness meets with Muslim youth to empower them to be leaders in their communities, most recently meeting with a delegation of nearly 200 American Muslims in early April.
In February, President Obama spoke on how Islam is a peaceful faith and extremists have perverted Islam.
Leadership matters, and these are the leaders the world should look toward when trying to build bridges of understanding and compassion.
With leaders like these, there is a chance humanity can make it out of this in one piece, no matter where extremists descend next.