Originally posted in The Northwestern
On April 15, Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam members in Oshkosh, opened their doors to the community to gather and find out more about Islam. Our topic was “Demystifying Islam”. The very purpose was to allow for an open dialogue and invite any questions, especially the ones termed “Difficult”.
By any estimation of how to gauge the success of a gathering, it was a successful event. We had over 40 members from Oshkosh Community show up with prepared questions about Islam.
However, to our disappointment the questions remained to be the same rhetoric that one finds in the media, or from the politicians or from some of the talk show hosts. The audience kept pressing on the same negative points: How come no Muslim community condemned 9/11, why is Sharia Law coming to the USA, why don’t Muslims believe that Israel has a right to exist, why do Muslims subjugate their women and so on.
Our hope was that the discussion could actually be moving toward questions that are meaningful about Islam, like: Why the need for Islam when Christianity existed? Or why does Islam so adamantly reject the deity of Jesus Christ? Or why does the Holy Quran have verses dedicated towards violence etc. To our utter disappointment, no matter what we would say to answer the common negative questions, another person would get up and ask the same question again.
To set the record straight once again, and to answer the common allegations again:
•Muslims, especially the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community,have condemned 9/11 attack and any acts of terrorism before and since then, be they on US soil or elsewhere. This Muslim community has been the proponent of peace and resolving conflicts through dialogue for over 100 years. Our websites, and our literature is a testament to this claim and can be easily verified
•Sharia Law coming to the USA is nothing more of a misrepresentation of choice words, and can easily be compared with the 1960s model of “Russians are coming”, or Communism is spreading under the McCarthy times.
•Israel has a right to exist. There I said it, and I am a Muslim. But to have a dialogue on this 50 plus year old issue that has changed sides and players so many times, in an event or in an article is simply not possible. So please accept this as the base statement and anything above this will go more into the Geo-Political issues of the region and must not be tainted as a religious conflict.
•Why are Muslim Women considered second rate citizens when it comes to western perspective is brought to front page often. I will admit that there are domestic violence issues in Muslim countries and many violent acts have been committed in the name of “Honor Killings”. However, to paint them as religiously sanctioned practices is not fair. If it was religion dictating to keep women subjugated then the two Muslim countries, Pakistan and Bangladesh would not have elected women premiers.
Islam offers insight into religious evolution that mankind has been facing ever since mankind gained the appreciation of a benevolent God. God has been taking care of our spiritual guidance from the time of Adam and continuing his spiritual rainfall whenever the human spirit is in most need. Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, who believes that the long awaited Messiah Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian has come, proclaims that God’s benevolence and His mercy lies in His continuous guidance of Humanity.
But even if we reject the claim that Muslims make that Islam is the continuance of the same message that Abraham, Moses and Jesus received, and we reject the claim that Islam as a religion is only founded on peace, we are still faced with the challenge of reconciling multiple faiths and belief systems that are amongst us. As long as we continue to get bogged down with superfluous hatred for other’s beliefs, and we do not take the time to learn the common values that we all as humans share, we do not have any opportunity to move towards peace.
Almost all religions have a concept of Heaven and Hell. However, more often our interfaith dialogue is more about this salvation and not about finding the peace of Heaven in our lives here on earth. The concepts of charity, loving thy neighbor, being good parents, mutual respect, are all common between religions and when adopted will bring peace amongst ourselves in our lives on this earth.
This is the entirety of the message of Islam: Make this world heavenly by finding peace in our lives and our society. If one finds a way towards this peace in another fashion then who am I to challenge that. I can only offer the path to that goal that I feel convinced about, and if we want to have an educated dialogue on the pathway to peace, then our doors are always open.