Maulana Mubasher Ahmad, Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, USA
The documentary film “OBSESSION: Radical Islām’s War against the West” presents dreadful and graphic scenes taken from the Arab TV showing radical Mullās all over the world preaching hatred and exciting violence and Jihad against the West and the United States of America. It is a propaganda film prepared to scare the Christians and to get sympathy for Jews and Israel. The following response to the documentary film was presented on June 9, 2007 at the Annual Meeting of the Northern Illinois Conference Evangelical Association held at St. Charles, Illinois. After listening to the response, many Christian clergymen criticized the film and said that it was prepared with wrong motives.
In the name of God, the Gracious, the Merciful.
O Lord, our God, help us to have our hearts united in nourishing and serving Life, and grant us wisdom and strength to counter the evil of those who preach violence and promote death!
O our Loving God, let the compassion, mercy, and forgiveness — as preached and practiced by Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allāh be on him) against his bitterest of enemies — replace anger, revenge, violence and oppression!
O Lord, our God, let the unconditional love — as taught by Jesus Christ — prevail over hatred and animosity that over-shadow our times!
O our Merciful God! Let the light of Justice and Peace dispel the pitch darkness of war and injustice! Enable us — the Children of Abraham —Christians, Muslims and Jews — to stand together in unity to help those who are victims of transgression in any form at any place! Amen.
Religious Extremism in Islām
First, we should be honest in self-criticism, and try truthfully to identify the causes of the war waged by radical Muslims against the West, particularly the United States of America.
We should acknowledge the fact that for millions of Muslims all over the world, the image of America is troublesome: To them it seems as if the USA is determined to invade, occupy or dominate the oil-rich Muslim countries for economical gains. America calls for freedom and democracy, but at the same time it has supported world’s worst authoritarian dictators and oppressive governments in the past, such as the Shah of Iran and Pakistani army dictator General Zia-ul-Haq. The Muslim public feels that the U.S.A.’s attitude towards Israel is different as compared with the Muslim countries. Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land, establishing illegal settlements, and use of force is not condemned by America. But any Palestinian resistance to Israeli illegal occupation is denounced as “terrorism” and is responded by Israel with overwhelming armed attacks. This causes further radicalization of resistance factions in Palestine and elsewhere in the Muslim world.
America is known as providing financial help in support of the military strength of Israel to maintain its illegal occupation of Palestinian lands. The radical Muslims resent the fact that Israel is getting $3 to $6 billion of American taxpayers’ money every year. It equals to 15 million dollars each day. This financial aid is perceived as being used against the Muslims. They see the atrocities committed against their children, women and civilians conducted by means of the American money are convinced that the state of Israel also possesses weapons of mass destruction.
In addition, we should also understand that America’s close connection with the oil-rich Saudi Arabia is seen with suspicion by the Muslim radicals. The holy cities of Mecca and Medina are located in Saudi Arabia. The US armed forces’ presence in Saudi Arabia to protect the Saudi monarchy and its oil fields provides fuel to the fire to the radical Muslim agitators. The fact which is not well known to most of the Americans is that the Saudis profess a radical form of Islām known as Wahhābism, and the Saudi Kingdom most generously funds the theological schools known as madrasas all over the world. We should know that these madrasas are the breeding incubators of radicalism in Islām. In these madrasas, orphan and poor boys are admitted and trained to become Mujāhidīn. They are trained to make explosives and other weapons, and how to use them. Also, the students are brainwashed to become suicidal bombers. The Wahhābī Saudis also provide training to the imāms (religious leaders) from all over the world—including the United States. These imāms, trained in Saudi Arabia, come to the Western countries and lead Muslim congregations teaching and preaching radicalism to the young Muslims attending their mosques.
The documentary “OBSESSION” was released in 2006, but it fails to show the response of the West against radical Muslims. It is completely silent to the fact that a global war against terrorism has been leashed out by the West and is still going on with full force.
Within hours of September 11 attacks, Muslim leaders worldwide, including all major Islamic organizations in the United States denounced the attacks as sinful and illegal acts from Islamic perspective. The majority of Muslims all over the world believed that the 9/11 attacks could not be acts of Jihad because all the victims were civilians, including several Muslim individuals.
In response, the United States immediately decided not only to eliminate the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks, but also punish those who harbored them—the suspect list included Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, and Iran. The War on terrorism started with attacks on Afghanistan—one of the poorest, most remote, and least industrialized countries on earth. The United States and its allies took military action and toppled the Ṭālibān which had given the leaders of al-Qā‘idah sanctuary in Afghanistan; destroyed the terrorist infrastructure, killed or captured a majority of al-Qā‘idah’s leadership; cut off al-Qā‘idah’s funding and seized its effects, thus severely damaged the organization led by the suspect terrorist Osama bin Laden. Over 2000 al-Qā‘idah and its allied Sunnī militants have been killed so far. More than 3,000 civilians were killed in Afghanistan as a result of U.S. bombing with number of injured estimated to be in the tens of thousands.
The al-Qā‘idah leader, Osama Bin Laden is still alive. We must realize the fact that killing or capturing Bin Laden would not end terrorism. On the contrary, new generations of terrorists are already creeping up in various parts of the world. Political turbulence in the Middle East has helped a new breed of al-Qā‘idah-style militants to gain footholds where they had rarely been active on such a scale. Every day a new movement is born. Dozens of groups that have declared themselves as franchises of al-Qā‘idah or modeled themselves on it have appeared in recent years in Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, Algeria, Pakistan and Yemen. The alleged plot to attack New York’s John F. Kennedy International airport shows that such groups are now breeding in Trinidad, Tobago and Guyana. Thus the south of the U.S.A. is not safe. Potential threats of attacks are now coming from Caribbean and Latin America as well. Therefore, it seems that so far the war on terrorism is proving counter-productive.
After Afghanistan, we went after Iraq. The whole world knows well that Iraq had no role in September 11 attacks and had no established connection with al-Qā‘idah. However, after 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government claimed that Iraq was a threat to the United States on the pretext that Iraq could begin to use its alleged Weapons of Mass Destruction to aid terrorist groups.
The Muslims of the world saw this just an excuse to dominate a region that was rich in oil, and it had nothing to do with the allegation of having weapons of mass destruction. Invasion of Iraq was launched on March 20, 2003. Saddam’s regime was quickly toppled, and only 40 days after the invasion, on May 1, 2003, President Bush claimed victory in Iraq. But do we really have a victory in Iraq? The war is still going on.
In Vietnam, the US spent a total of $120 billion to fight the war for eight and a half years. This year, the Senate has approved $120 billion war-funding only for the current year! The total cost of Iraq War is in access of $1.2 trillion! More than 3,500 U.S. soldiers have been killed, and more than 22,000 U.S. Military personnel have been wounded in action so far. An estimated 67,000 Insurgents have been killed or detained. In addition, more than 600,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed [Washington Post] thus causing a tremendous increase in the suffering of ordinary people among the Muslims. And we wonder why the radicals among them hate America!! Still we want to know why the radical Mullās are crying “Death to America!” Millions of Iraqi Muslims—nearly 15% of the population—have fled their homes since the invasion in 2003 [UNICEF]. Half the refugees are children.
Jihād in Islām
As the term Jihād” has been repeated many times in the documentary, therefore, please allow me to explain what Jihād in Islām is! It is a great tragedy in the history of Islām that the concept of Jihād was distorted by over-zealous preachers and radical Muslim scholars. The founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (may peace be on him) recognized this dangerous trend that was entirely contrary to the teachings of the Qur’ān. More than 100 years ago, in his book entitled “The British Government and Jihād,” published in AD 1900 in India, he wrote,
It should be remembered that today’s Islāmic scholars (who are called maulawīs) completely misunderstand Jihād and misrepresent it to general public. The public’s violent instincts are inflamed as a result and they are stripped of all noble human virtues… I know for certain that the maulawīs who persist in propagating these blood-spattered doctrines are in fact responsible for murders committed by ignorant, egotistical people… They should remember that their understanding of Jihād is not correct, and human sympathy and compassion are its first casualties. (Pp. 8-9)
May God bring these maulawīs back to the right path! They have misled the populace into believing that the keys to Paradise lie in beliefs that are oppressive, cruel, and completely immoral…
Is it not shameful that a complete stranger should be unjustly killed while occupied in his daily affairs, thus widowing his wife, making his children orphans, and turning his house into a funeral parlor? Which Ḥadīth (saying of the Prophet) or verse of the Qur’ān authorizes such behavior? … Foolish people hear the word Jihād, and make it an excuse for fulfillment of their own low desires. Or perhaps it is sheer madness that inclines them towards bloodshed. (Pp. 14-15)
The tradition prevalent among the Muslims of attacking the people of other religions, which they call Jihād, is not Jihād of the Divine religious Law (Islāmic Sharī‘ah). Rather, it is a grievous sin and a violation of the clear instructions of God and His prophet. (P. 20)
Thus, he gave a clear verdict that to kill innocent people in the name of Jihād is forbidden in Islām. Anyone who wages war on false pretext is an enemy of God. Furthermore, he predicted that those who engage in terrorist acts in the name of Jihād shall be utterly humiliated and defeated in the end!
Sanctity of Life: The Holy Qur’ān teaches sanctity of human life and reaffirms the Biblical teachings that whosoever unjustly kills a single person, it shall be as if he slaughtered all mankind; and whosoever saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had protected the life of all mankind (5:33). “You kill not the life which God has made sacred” (6:152). Killing of the innocent and committing suicide both are grievous sins in Islam. The Quran forbids suicide (4:30), and it is an unforgivable sin in Islam.
The Qur’ān gives comprehensive instructions against all evil thoughts and plans, all kinds of abusive behavior and every form of cruelty and inequity. The Qur’ān gives injunctions to protect the person, property, honor or good name of another person. The Qur’ān declares it in unambiguous words, God does not love those who create disorder on earth (5:65) and (28:77); He does not love who are unjust (3:57); and does not love those who exceed the limits (2:191) and (5:88).
What is the true meaning of Jihād? Jihād does not mean “Holy War.” It means striving, contention and taking action dedicated to a noble cause: In Arabic language, Jihād is a verbal noun derived from the root jahada, which is defined as exerting one’s utmost power, effort, endeavor, or ability in contending with an object of disapprobation (An Arabic-English Lexicon, Edward Lane).
As a matter of fact, Jihād in Islām is of different kinds. Various terms have been used to make distinction between them, such as: Jihād of the heart, Jihād of the tongue, and Jihād with the pen. The greatest Jihād in Islām is remaining firm in faith, and to overcome sinful temptations of one’s own self.
Jihād in the Bible: For Christians it would be easy to understand the concept of Jihād by some examples taken from the Bible: In Luke 13:22-24, the Bible says about Jesus Christ, “And he went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying towards Jerusalem. Then said one unto him, ‘Lord, are there few to be saved?’ And he said unto them: Strive to enter in that narrow gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.” This striving and making an utmost effort to enter the narrow gate–(that the Holy Qur’ān calls it the straight path) is the highest form of Jihād in Islām.
From Islāmic perspective, St. Paul was asking the Philippians to engage in a Jihād when he wrote to them,
That ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel. (Philippians 1: 27)
In Islām, striving by means of the Qur’ān is called the Great Striving—Jihādan Kabīran (25:53).
Again, in the First Epistle to Timothy, St. Paul wrote,
This charge I commit onto you … fight a good fight; holding faith, and a good conscience. (Timothy, 1:18)
In the same Epistle, St. Paul wrote,
But they that will be rich fall into temptation and snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But you, O man of God, flee from these things and follow after righteousness, goodness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto you are also called, and have professed a good profession before many witnesses. (Timothy, 6:9-12)
This fighting the good fight, holding faith and good conscience, laying hold of eternal life is what we call the real Jihād in Islām. It is entering through the narrow gate. It is staying on the straight path.
The next form of Jihād is the struggle to improve the quality of social life by removing societal evils and establishing good moral values. This is Jihād against poverty, ignorance, disease, hunger, immorality and crime. Social and moral reformation under the guidance of the Qur’ān is called the “Jihādan Kabīran”—a “mighty striving”—the Great Jihād (25:53). The last form of Jihād is to repel an armed aggression in self-defense for maintaining religious freedom. As compared to other forms of Jihād, fighting against an armed and aggressive enemy is called in Islām Jihādan Saghīran—the lesser Jihād.
The Qur’ān says,
Permission to fight is given to those against whom war is made because they have been wronged—and Allāh indeed has power to help them—Those who have been driven out of their homes unjustly only because they said, ‘Our Lord is Allāh’—And if Allāh did not repel some men by means of others, there would surely have been pulled down cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques wherein the name of Allāh is oft commemorated. And Allāh will surely help one who helps Him. Allāh is indeed Powerful, Mighty— (22:40-41)
This concept of Jihād is closer to the Christian doctrine of “just war.” But it is not called a “holy war” in Islām. Modern Western thought, strongly influenced by Crusades-era terminology of “holy war,” tries to portray Jihād as an Islāmic war against all the non-Muslims. But most clearly, the permission to fight back is not to destroy the churches, temples or synagogues. On the contrary, the Qur’ān makes clear that it is to protect them along with protecting the mosques. In other words, it is to protect religious freedom for all those who worship God in accordance with their own faith traditions.
The great spiritual Jihād of standing firm in faith against satanic temptations and social evils is of permanent nature—an ongoing obligation for all the Muslims. But the lesser Jihād, fighting in self-defense is only occasional and isolated, and is to be conducted only in a crisis situation. Only a legitimate head of state has the authority to declare war. Any preacher or so-self-made leader, or scholar has no right to pronounce an armed struggle against an aggressor. Moreover, the strict rules governing the conduct of warfare are to be obeyed; for example, non-combatants cannot be killed. Women, children, elderly and the clergy or monks cannot be targeted. Property cannot be destroyed. Disfiguring of dead bodies is prohibited. Prisoners of war are to be treated humanely.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community believes that the doctrine of Jihād has been entirely perverted by the so-called “fundamentalists” and it needs to be rescued, and the offenders stopped by all possible means.
What is ahead of us?
Now the question arises, What can we do together—Muslims and Christians living in the United States of America? I think it is imperative that we should review our Government’s foreign policy with an honest self-criticism, and ask our elected law-makers and the Administration to avoid all such actions which are counterproductive, and instead of reducing terrorism are actually helping more terrorist groups to emerge among the radical Muslims.
Americans should be made aware of the miserable condition of Palestinian Christian and Muslim refugees. We need to be more sympathetic to their plight and right to return to their homeland to live a decent life. Moreover, human rights of religious minorities need to be protected. American public in general and the faith-based communities in particular have to become more vocal and more effective in safeguarding human rights of the suffering–be they Muslims or Christians or any other faith community. Similarly, humanitarian help needs to be provided to the victims of war in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Muslim and Christian civilians in Palestine.
Churches in America need to work closely with moderate Muslims. We must try to guard against judging Islām by double standards. We interpret differently the violent texts in the Bible in their historical contexts, but we pick up verses from the Qur’ān to prove as if Islām teaches perpetual violence. Christian faith leadership, whether Catholic or Protestant, instead of demeaning Islām and the Prophet of Islām, should condemn attacks on Islām that are done regularly through the media, and by some Christian leaders. Christian attacks on Islām or the The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) do not help solve the problem. They actually aggravate the present tense situation. No Muslim ever, even the most hateful and radical ones, shall insult Jesus or Moses. They express their full reverence for them as the prophets and chosen ones of God.
We need to wage an information war against the hate-preaching Mullās and against their perverted ideology of Jihād. The Aḥmadiyya Muslim Community has taken the lead to rebut modern day radical scholars such as Maulānā Maudūdī, Ḥasan Al-Banna, Sayyid Quṭb and ‘Abd al-Salām Faraj. All are invited to read Murder in the Name of Allāh (1953) by Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad – the Fourth Spiritual Head of the International Aḥmadiyya Muslim Community.
The Muslims living in the West need your support to educate Church members by circulating anti-radical literature produced by moderate and peace-loving Muslims, especially by the Ahmadiyya leadership. To counter the radical propaganda such as “Islām is under attack by the West,” “Islām is in danger;” or “America is leading the West to conquer Muslim lands to destroy Islām,” I suggest that we, the Muslims living in the West, have to show that Islām is not in danger in the West; we are free to practice and promote our faith in America; many mosques are coming up, and the number of Muslims is rapidly growing.
There is a need of an ongoing interfaith dialogue, and the commonalities between Islam and Christianity need to be elaborated. The Qur’ān stresses that the People of the Book—the Muslims, Jews and Christians, should work together on the commonly held values. We must promote our shared values of love, mutual respect, tolerance and freedom of worship. We have to improve our understanding of our neighbors’ faith. For Christians, it will helpful to remove existing misunderstandings about Islām, which is the second largest religion in the world after Christianity, and is the fastest growing religion, not only out there somewhere, but also in Europe and in our own country America.
In the past, the Jews, the Christians and the Muslims have worked together in advancement of sciences, medicine, philosophy and many other fields. It is time to create a new culture of co-existence and cooperation. Instead of thinking of clash of civilizations, let’s think together to create a new Judeo-Christian Islāmic civilization based on mutual respect, love, peace and justice!
The task ahead is not an easy one to achieve, but we have hope for the future. We have the will to work hard, with patience and steadfastness. Please allow me to conclude my remarks by reading out a small poem by entitled “Love Can Wait” written by Lon Woodrum, a writer, teacher and Christian minister:
Love Can Wait
With swift impatience,
Bent to know the fall of pity
And the end of faith,
Feverish to see
Its banners blow
In darkness over fields of death.
But love is patient
Till all time is passed;
Love waits on God,
Sure in its stand
No matter what the years
May bring, at last
All ages gather
To His command.