The recent Senate Report on the use of torture by the CIA will no doubt be used by Muslim extremists to conclude that the US is indeed waging a war against Muslims. It may provide such groups further propaganda material to radicalize Muslim youth in justifying their cause that Islam is under attack. Likewise, the current tragedy unfolding in Sydney, Australia will be used by Islamophobes to argue that Islam is inherently dangerous. It is therefore important to confront the fallacies that the West is somehow at war with Islam or that all Muslim youth are silent against acts of extremism.
The fact is that Muslims peacefully practice the tenets of Sharia in the West; they offer daily prayers, preach and convert non-Muslims, construct mosques, publish religious books, wear Niqabs, hold religious assemblies and festivals. That their freedom in Muslim majority countries like Pakistan or Iraq is severely restricted due to sectarianism and bigotry is ironic. Many Muslims have migrated to the US to escape religious persecution in their homelands.
In exercising this religious freedom, members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association visited members of the US Congress on the Capitol Hill (May 2014) and more recently organized a youth event at the UN (November 2014). The objective of this outreach was to tell a counter-narrative to what ISIS or like-minded extremists have been spreading. In the past two years, the members of our Muslim youth association have helped collect nearly 5,000 blood donations to honor 9/11 victims, held more than 60 interfaith events in university campuses including engagements with churches and synagogues, organized youth retreat events, raised donations and awareness of hunger through walkathons, distributed thousands of "Muslims for Peace" flyers, given education awards and published almost 300 newspaper articles as part of an intellectual discourse.
These efforts are inspired not by a deferential need for a Muslim apology but by various teachings of Prophet Muhammad himself: "A true Muslim is one from whose hand and tongue others are safe," "love of country is part of faith" and "your life and honor are sacred on this day."
These efforts aim to counter the other fallacy that Muslims are passively sitting and do not condemn atrocities by Jihadi groups. While extremists exploit many legitimate Muslim grievances regarding political issues in the Middle East to misguide and radicalize, our 3,000-strong association has been empowering Muslim youth in community service and building interfaith bridges here in the US.
Our youth association is part of a global Muslim Community led by a spiritual head, His Holiness, Mirza Masroor Ahmad. In his address at the Ahmadiyya Peace Symposium held recently in November 2014 in London, His Holiness raised the probing question, "I would also hereby like to question those people or organizations who claim that Islam is a religion of violence on the basis of the atrocities of the extremist groups. Do they [ISIS] have arms industries or factories?" He was alluding to the fact that the troubling rise of ISIS owes itself not to Islam but to the fiery mix of contemporary realpolitik, exploitation of faith for political causes, petro-dollars, arms deals and big power interests.
The modus operandi of ISIS and similar extremist groups is two-fold: (i) Takfir (i.e. branding fellow Muslims as apostates) on flimsy grounds and (ii) distortion of Quran's verses that permit legitimate self-defense to argue for an open-ended war against "infidels" comprising mostly of Muslims. Members of our youth association have been engaging in scholarly efforts to refute both these perversions. "Demystifying Islam" and "Extremist" are recent books authored by Harris Zafar and Qasim Rashid respectively who are members of our association that challenge this false narrative of Islam shared by ISIS and Islamophobes alike.
In spring 2015, our association is kicking off a campaign entitled "Stop the CrISIS" in 70 chapters across the country. It promotes the message that true Islam represents service to humanity and that no legitimate cause or necessity can ever justify abhorrent tactics in achieving success -- unlike what extremists claim.
Perhaps, the US policy makers ought to have considered this principle when designing their "enhanced interrogation" procedures.