Some 15 hours into my fast in the blistering Virginia heat my head hurt--but it wasn't a symptom of Ramadan.
Rather, I found myself digesting The Times columnist David Aaronovitch's latest piece, "Moderate Muslims -- it's time to be outraged." Aaronovitch argues that, "there is no Islamic peace movement [because] followers are caught up feeling sorry for themselves as victims."
He then proceeds with a laundry list of examples of extremism among Muslims -- claiming only Muslims are engaging in such extremism. He concludes that no substantive Muslim outrage exists and no Muslim peace movement exists to end violence in Muslim countries. Anti-Islam activists made a similar, and equally baseless, claim a few weeks back.
Notwithstanding that the overwhelming majority of Muslims loathe terrorism, the myth that only Muslims engage in extremism falls flat on its face with a cursory review of any US State Department Report, FBI Report, or Human Rights Watch Report. For example, the Tamil Tigers are a Hindu secularist organization that has committed more suicide bombings than Al Qaeda, Taliban, or Hamas. The Lord's Resistance Army is a Christian terrorist organization that has kidnapped, killed, and displaced over 500,000 civilians in Uganda. Buddhist extremists have launched a full-scale war on Myanmar's minority Muslim population, displacing over 150,000, resulting in ongoing terrorism with state apathy guiding the way. These are all contemporary examples, and I could go on, but you get the point.
Yet none of these atrocities form a blip on Aaronovitch's radar. And whether willful or not, this notable omission facilitates Aaronovitch's conclusion that, "no Muslim peace movement exists" and the "fantasy of victimhood...[terrifyingly] enthralls a world religion [Islam]."
So what would a global Muslim Peace Movement look like? For starters it would need to have worldwide scope to demonstrate worldwide legitimacy. Second, it would need to have longevity and a verifiable record of peace -- assertively opposing violence, rather than mere condemnation. Third, it would need to go through the test of having the option to play victim and actively shedding that claim, to rebuke the allegation of victimhood. Fourth and finally, it would need a commanding religious authority to demonstrate accountability -- after all, leadership matters.
As Aaronovitch admits, the vast majority of Muslims worldwide are peaceful. I agree. The question here is a little different because it seeks not just Muslims, but an organized, global, active, and unified Muslim peace movement.
Enter the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, a global Muslim community established in 204 nations worldwide that runs over 15,000 mosques, hundreds of subsidized and free secular educational institutions, and countless hospitals providing subsidized or free healthcare. But we're just getting started.
Second, this Muslim community has existed since 1889 and throughout its history, has never once engaged or approved of any form of religious violence, extremism, or terrorism. On the contrary, since inception it has published tens of millions of books, articles, letters, and flyers condemning religious extremism and violent Jihad. In addition to hosting thousands of peace conferences in over 200 nations annually, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community annually collects tens of thousands of blood donations to save lives, and feeds, clothes, shelters, and educates millions. Notably, it does so without accepting a single government handout. Indeed, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is financed solely through member contributions.
Third, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community faces intense persecution from many of the same extremists Aaronovitch condemns -- and Ahmadi Muslims refuse to respond in kind, or play the victim card. Instead, the Community actively promotes peace, tolerance, and service to humanity in nations where their very existence is criminalized. For example, the Community established Humanity First, a non-religious disaster relief organization, worldwide in scope, to assist people of all faiths and backgrounds -- even persecutors -- suffering through disasters. Humanity First was present during Pakistan's floods, Hurricane Katrina, and Haiti's earthquake, among many more. Despite the ongoing murders and state sanctioned persecution of Ahmadi Muslims in much of the Muslim world, the community marches forward to promote peace.
And finally, in yet another omission, Aaronovitch claims "there's no Muslim equivalent, until a few days ago....of a caliph." Aaronovitch should be pleased to know that the man leading the above described Peace Movement is His Holiness the Khalifa of Islam, Mirza Masroor Ahmad. More than "just a few days," this global Caliphate has endured for well over a century to lead this Peace Movement. And today, as the world's single largest Muslim organization united under one Imam, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community combats sectarian strife by uniting Muslims of various sects under one flag of peace and pluralism. His Holiness has championed universal human rights, condemned blasphemy and apostasy laws without exception, and repeatedly advocated for separation of mosque and state. On His Holiness's 2013 visit to Aaronovitch's home of Australia, Australia's elected officials profusely praised him as a man of peace and as a servant of humanity. This is a theme echoed by Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper, UK's Parliament, United States Congress, and countless Asian and African government leaders.
The two words world leaders have never spoken about His Holiness or the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community are, you guessed it, silent or victim.
So let me answer Aaronovitch's demand directly. The global Muslim Peace movement not only exists, it thrives -- and we invite you to join our efforts for peace. It is a shame that the media, pundits, and anti-Islam critics have given more attention to the violent ISIS 'caliphate' in the past week than they have in the past century to unprecedented example of His Holiness the Khalifa of Islam, leader of the global Muslim Peace Movement. That is truly outrageous, but this is the reality we live in today.
And as I'm forced to contemplate this reality while breaking my fast, now you know why my head hurts.
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