Building Bridges of PeaceNo Comments | October 2016
ADDRESS BY WORLDWIDE HEAD OF THE AHMADIYYA MUSLIM COMMUNITY TO NON-AHMADI GUESTS AT THE 41ST ANNUAL CONVENTION IN GERMANY
After reciting Tashahhud, Ta’awwuz and Bismillah, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaba said:
“All distinguished guests, Assalamo Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahe Wa Barakatohu – peace and blessings of Allah be upon you all.
With the Grace of Allah, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Germany is once again holding its Annual Convention here in Karlsruhe. These three days are of great significance and importance to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and those Ahmadis participating, as they have gathered here together with the intention of increasing their spirituality and religious knowledge.
Yet, as we join here today, it is an undeniable fact that the world’s peace is teetering on a knife-edge. With each day that passes we witness increasing conflict and uncertainty across the globe. It is a strange and tragic paradox that even though we are more connected than ever before, we are actually growing ever more distant by the day. Notably, the stability of Europe has markedly deteriorated during the past year, following the vast influx of refugees from Syria and Iraq, and also because of the various terrorist attacks that have taken place recently.
Undoubtedly, the evil acts conducted by so-called Muslim terrorist groups or by certain extremist individuals is causing untold damage to society and increasing the fear of Islam in the minds of the wider public. Given all of this, I am sure that there will be some people who are concerned and fearful of the fact that thousands of Ahmadi Muslims have gathered together this weekend for their Annual Convention. Whilst this Convention has been taking place for many years, previously most of the members of the general public were not aware of it. Now, because of the prevailing circumstances, awareness of this event will have increased and some people will be suspicious or fearful of the fact that so many Muslims have assembled together in one venue.
Indeed, some of you seated before me will also have reservations and misgivings and so your attendance, in spite of such fears, is extremely noteworthy and testament to your good nature. You have exhibited exemplary courage by attending an Islamic religious function at a time when the media’s portrayal of Islam and false propaganda have given rise to the belief that Muslims are all terrorists and extremists. Your presence also proves that despite the misinformation and propaganda, you hold a positive and sympathetic opinion towards Ahmadi Muslims.
For this gesture and demonstration of friendship and goodwill, I am extremely grateful to you all. There may also be people attending, who in spite of harbouring fears about Islam, have come here out of curiosity. I thank all of them as well and commend them for their willingness to learn about Islam and their interest in this event. Anyway before proceeding any further, let me take this opportunity to reassure all of our guests that the Islam commonly portrayed in the Western media is not in any way an accurate reflection of its true teachings.
Islam is not, God forbid, a religion that promotes extremism or violence, rather it is a religion that advocates peace, tolerance and justice at all levels of society. Unquestionably, there are some Muslim groups or individuals who are perpetrating the most heinous possible acts in the name of Islam. Yet, rather than serving Islam, all they are achieving is to defame it by violating its true teachings. In complete contrast to the extremists, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is an entirely peaceful religious community that seeks to spread tolerance, reconciliation and freedom of belief throughout the world. However, do not think that we have adopted a new interpretation of Islam or have modified its teachings in any way. The sole reason we are peaceful, the sole reason we care and love mankind and the sole reason we seek to heal the divisions that have beset the world is because, and only because, we follow the teachings of Islam. It is due only to the fact that we have understood the true meaning of the Holy Qur’an that we Ahmadi Muslims seek to live our lives in this peaceful fashion. Everything we say and do is inspired by what we have learned from the Holy Qur’an and from the practice of the Founder of Islam, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Upon hearing this, many of you will question that, if Islam is so peaceful, then why is it that Muslim extremist groups are wreaking havoc both in the Muslim world and increasingly in the West as well? Why are they mercilessly killing innocent people? Fresh in your mind will be the despicable attacks that have taken place in France and Belgium during the recent past. And above all you will have been enormously distressed and alarmed by the spate of attacks that have taken place here in Germany during the past few months. For example, in May, there was an attack at a German railway station, followed by an even bigger attack on a train in July. Similarly, there have been attacks by refugees and failed asylum seekers in different cities during recent weeks. Innocent people have lost their lives or have been badly injured. Naturally, such attacks have frightened members of the public and instilled a fear of Islam within the hearts and minds of the locals. It is a tragedy of the highest scale that these attacks are being associated with Islam because such atrocities are the polar opposite of what Islam stands for.
Islam is that religion which has outlawed in the strongest possible terms the killing or infliction of harm upon innocent people. Yet the terrorists who claim to act in Islam’s name are guilty of targeting innocent and defenseless people. They are slaughtering blameless individuals who have never waged any war or sought harm to anyone. And of course the height of this brutality was the beheading of an elderly priest in a French church recently. Under any circumstances, and in any age, such brutality is entirely without justification and beyond comprehension. If some Western governments have assisted Muslim governments fighting against rebels or groups in their own countries, it does not give the latter the licence to export their hatred and evil activities to the Western world.
Such people should look at, and heed, the example of the Founder of Islam (peace be upon him). History bears witness to the fact that the wars fought in early Islam were forced upon the Muslims and were entirely defensive in nature. Yet, even under such circumstances, the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) laid down extremely strict rules of engagement for Muslim soldiers to follow and abide by. For example, he commanded that no church or place of worship and no priest or religious leader was ever to be targeted. Furthermore, he taught that no woman, child or elderly person was ever to be attacked. He even went as far as to say that, during a state of war, the Muslims should endeavour to protect the environment and so no trees were to be felled. When the teachings of the Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him) are so clear, how could it ever be permissible for Muslims to murder or harm innocent people living thousands of miles away from conflict zones?
The truth is that such attacks are not justified and never will be. As I have mentioned already, even in a state of war, there are extremely strict rules of engagement laid down by Islam. For example, chapter 8, verse 68 of the Holy Qur’an states that only those directly engaged in warfare may be taken as prisoners. And so even during a war a Muslim is not permitted to imprison anyone with whom he is not in direct combat, never mind to kill them. Yet today, Muslims are engaging in suicide attacks or other terrorist activities, in which they are brutally murdering innocent people living in towns and cities thousands of miles away who had no quarrel or knowledge of them. Such abhorrent and unspeakable acts serve only to defile the teachings of Islam. Whosoever is engaging in such a way, whether as part of a group or as a lone individual, is not following Islam, rather they seek only to serve their own personal interests or to fulfill the selfish interests and ambitions of their leaders.
Nonetheless, whilst it cannot be denied that the greatest cause of today’s disorder and cruelties lie in the Muslim world, it would be wrong in my opinion to absolve all other parties of blame entirely. Certain Western governments and major powers have also made mistakes and have instigated unwise and unjust policies, in terms of their relationships with Muslim countries, that have led to a negative and extreme reaction amongst some segments of the Muslim world. Such foreign policies have created instability and sowed division, paving the way for extremism and terrorism to flourish. A direct consequence of this state of affairs has been the sudden influx of huge numbers of refugees into Europe. This influx has already inspired fear and panic amongst the local people.
Whilst the willingness of certain countries, especially Germany, to provide refuge to them has been a show of kindness, solidarity and compassion, the truth is that it is not easy to absorb so many people and there are inherent risks and dangers involved. Indeed, as a result of the refugee crisis, Europe has instantly become a more dangerous and unstable place, as it has created an opportunity for terrorist groups to send their members to this continent posing as refugees. Apart from any attacks they themselves are involved in, such extremists also seek to spread their networks of terror by radicalising Muslims already living in this part of the world.
They take advantage of their personal frustrations and incite them to launch suicide attacks or other atrocities here. Tragically, we have already seen examples of this in recent months. Furthermore, another negative consequence of the refugee crisis has been the hardening in attitude towards immigrants across Europe. In many countries we are seeing far-right nationalist parties gaining influence and popularity. The same is true here in Germany where it is obvious that the compassion and warmth that the majority of this nation displayed a year ago towards the refugees has rapidly declined and been replaced by a combination of fear and hostility towards the immigrants.
Various media reports and surveys substantiate the fact that much of the population now considers the willingness of the German government to open its borders last year to be a serious mistake. This shift in attitude is worrying, and in particular, the subsequent rise of nationalist parties is a cause of deep concern and a threat to the nation’s peace and security. A prime example of this was the attack at a shopping centre in Munich in July when a number of young people were killed. The attacker in that tragic event was later identified as a far-right sympathiser. This is an extreme example, but even at a general level, there is no doubt that people are increasingly fearful and concerned about the effects of mass immigration. Local people feel a sense of injustice and anger that immigrants are taking benefits from the German state, funded by the German taxpayer.
Further, there is a belief that such immigrants deriving benefit from the state are not loyal or sincere to Germany and actually seek it harm. There is no doubt that we are passing through extremely precarious and volatile times and so it is imperative that the authorities do not take these matters lightly. Rather, the government must take urgent action to try to calm this situation before it spirals out of all control. It should implement policies through which the rights of German citizens are protected and not affected in any way. The authorities should also seek to help genuine immigrants settle here and to stand upon their own two feet. On many occasions I have said, most recently in Sweden earlier this year, that immigrants should not simply take benefits from the country they migrate to; rather, they should be encouraged to enter the labour force and actively contribute to society as soon as possible. In my view, this would have an instantly positive effect and would lessen the perilous gulf that is opening up between existing citizens and immigrants. Furthermore, you cannot disregard the threat of terrorists or extremists entering this country and so the authorities must ensure they do everything possible to protect the people of this nation and to identify those who seek to harm it. Wherever and whenever someone uses his religion to justify cruelty and injustice, or to usurp the rights of others or to act against the state, it is certainly the responsibility of the government and authorities to firmly put a stop to such activities.
In terms of establishing peace in the world, I have highlighted time and time again – the importance of justice and equity. Indeed, Islam states that the key to peace is justice and fairness at all levels of society. Moreover, Islam does not only call for justice, but also outlines the standards of justice required. Thus, chapter 5, verse 9, of the Holy Qur’an states that a person should treat even his worst enemies and opponents with fairness and that the enmity of any nation or person should never incite a person to disregard the principles of fairness and justice. It is our belief that the perfect manifestation of this teaching was the Founder of Islam, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and so let us look at his example. Once, some Muslims killed two opponents of Islam who they considered to be a threat. However before they were killed, the opponents had entered the confines of the Sacred Mosque in Makkah in order to seek refuge.
Upon being informed of this incident by the opponents of Islam, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) admonished the Muslims involved in the strongest terms and deemed their act to be a great injustice and cruelty. According to the prevailing Arab custom, he immediately ordered for blood money to be paid to the relatives of the deceased. This is the practical example of the Qur’anic teaching that a person should treat even his enemies with justice and fairness. Hence, when a matter came to the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) for judgement he did not consider who was his follower and who was his opponent; rather, the Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him) looked only at what was right, what was fair and what was just.
This is the outstanding standard of justice that Islam requires from all Muslims and so let it be clear that attacks on innocent people who have done no wrong – whether in stations, trains, clubs or anywhere else – are completely unjustifiable and must be condemned in the very strongest possible terms. I have just quoted one example from the history of early Islam, but there are countless others that testify to the magnificence of Islam’s teachings. Based on these Islamic teachings, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has always remained firm in its belief that no one has the right to take the law of the land into his or her own hands. Certainly, it is our conviction that Islam’s respect for life and liberty is absolute and unmatched in the history of mankind. Thus, chapter 5, verse 33, of the Holy Qur’an declares that to kill even one innocent person is akin to killing all of humanity and to save the life of one person is akin to saving all of mankind.
Accordingly, if a person analyses Islam’s teachings with fairness they will soon realise that the terrorism and extremism prevalent in the world today has nothing to do with Islam, regardless of what the terrorists claim or how the media portrays the religion. The truth is that those who promote violence or extremism are violating Islam’s noble teachings only to serve their own personal ambitions and lust for power. In fact, the literal meaning of “Islam” is peace, reconciliation and security for all and whosoever acts against this contravenes the teachings of the religion. In light of all this, today it is the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community that has picked up the mantle of spreading Islam’s true teachings to all parts of the world. It is the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community that seeks to establish true and long-lasting peace in the world. It is the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community that is striving for people of all races, ethnicities, religions and beliefs to come together and to live side-by-side with mutual respect and tolerance.
And it is the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community that endeavours to unite humanity under the umbrella of love and mercy. In order to achieve these objectives, we make every possible effort, and so at a time when the world is embroiled in increasing conflict and division, we are building bridges of peace that are bringing people together. Furthermore, we are serving humanity to the very best of our abilities. We are striving to help those in need and to provide them with a better future for themselves and their children. Thus, we have established various humanitarian projects in deprived parts of the world.
For example, we have built and are running hundreds of schools and dozens of hospitals in some of Africa’s most remote areas that are providing education and healthcare to local people irrespective of their creed, caste or colour. Through our Water for Life project we are providing easy access to clean and safe drinking water to people living in remote villages and towns. Similarly, we are providing various other essential facilities and services in order to alleviate the pain and difficulties of people so that they can live in relative comfort and ease. We do not desire any praise or recognition, as we are merely following what our religion has taught us.
This is true Islam and I am sure you will agree that it is far-removed from what is commonly portrayed by the media. Therefore, you do not need to fear Islam or to consider it to be a threat. However, there is certainly a need to fear those terrorists and extremists who are acting against Islam’s teachings. They are a source of grave danger, not only for the non-Muslim world, but to Muslims as well. In fact, if we analyse the statistics or reports, it is clear that those perpetrating violence in the name of Islam are inflicting their greatest cruelties in Muslim nations against Muslims themselves. Thus, it is not Islam that is attacking you or seeking to usurp your rights, rather it is people and groups who have their own vested interests and agendas and who have no link with Islam or religion.
As Ahmadi Muslims we have always strived for peace in the world through our words, deeds and prayers and we will continue to do so forevermore, God Willing. To promote and work for peace is the urgent need of the time, otherwise the direction the world is heading in seems certain to lead to a catastrophic world war, whose potentially devastating consequences are unimaginable. Thus, let us all unite against the forces of evil that seek to divide mankind and let us unify in the name of peace and harmony.
Instead of inciting hatred and enmity against one another, we should work towards peace and mutual understanding. All people, and all organisations, must collectively endeavour to uphold human values, and strive to make the world in which we live, a better and far more harmonious place. May Allah enable all people to act with justice and tolerance and may true peace emerge in the world. May Allah grant wisdom to the people of the world so that the world we leave behind for our children and future generations is a world of peace and prosperity, Ameen. At the end I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our guests once again for accepting our invitation. May Allah bless you all. Thank you.”