Refugees from Syria and beyond are flooding countries in Europe, trying to escape the devastation and death in their homelands. How can the world help them while also maintaining peace in their own countries?
On 17th May 2016, the Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, the Fifth Khalifah (Caliph), His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaba delivered the keynote address at a special reception held to mark his first ever visit to Sweden’s capital, Stockholm. Over 60 dignitaries and guests, including various Members of Parliament attended the evening reception. We present here the keynote address delivered by His Holiness on this occasion.
Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaba, Khalifatul Masih V, Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community said:
“Bismillahir-Rahmanir-Raheem – in the Name of Allah, the Gracious, Ever Merciful.
All distinguished guests, Assalamo Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahe Wa Barakatohu – peace and blessings of Allah be upon you all.
First of all, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for accepting our invitation to today’s event. In today’s world we are passing through a challenging time. It is my belief that the peace of the world is the most pressing and crucial issue facing all of us today. During these challenging times, how can we cope with the situation?
I believe it is imperative that all of mankind, irrespective of creed, caste or colour, strives to uphold the basic human values of peace, compassion, tolerance and mutual respect. There is no room in the world for discrimination based on someone’s beliefs, religion or race, and so both the state and religion itself must be free of all forms of prejudice. Each individual should be free to believe in whatever they like because belief is a personal matter pertaining to one’s own heart and mind. Hence a person should be free to profess according to his or her religious teachings.
As I have said, it is the need of the hour that we should all focus on achieving our shared aspirations of establishing true and sustainable peace in the world. Regrettably, the hub of the world’s instability and bloodshed lies in the Muslim world because the leaders and governments have disregarded the true teachings of their religion. Nonetheless, those living in the West or other parts of the world should not consider themselves immune from danger because the world has now shrunk into an inter-connected global village.
Hence, the disorder in one part of the world can no longer be considered a local issue or limited in its scope. We are already seeing that the instability in the Muslim world is increasingly affecting other parts of the world and indeed has had a direct impact here in Sweden as well. As it is now much easier to travel long distances, in the past year, hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people, have fled their war-torn countries of Syria and Iraq in search of a better future here in the Western world.
Due to the generosity of the Swedish Government and its public, this country has accepted more than its fair share of refugees, certainly in comparison to the size of your nation. This gesture and willingness to absorb so many refugees is very laudable and proves that Sweden is filled with open-hearted and kind people. Your benevolence places a burden on the refugees and immigrants who come here, and demands of them that they live here as peaceful citizens and remain grateful and indebted to the government and the people of this nation.
Indeed, the Founder of Islam, the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa, taught that a person who does not express his gratitude to his fellow man cannot be considered grateful to God Almighty. Thus, Muslim refugees and immigrants have a religious obligation to keep in view the favours bequeathed upon them by this country, wherein they have been permitted to live here and to derive benefit from the state.
The refugees escaped their previous lives in search of peace, and so now having been granted shelter and security here, it is incumbent upon them to live here peacefully and to abide by the laws of the land. All immigrants have a duty to integrate and remember that the Holy Prophet of Islamsa taught that love of one’s country of residence is an essential part of one’s faith as a Muslim. Immigrants should remain entirely faithful to their adopted nation and should use all of their abilities to help their country advance and prosper.
Furthermore, it is also the task of the authorities and governments to ensure that they do not become entirely pre-occupied with re-settling the refugees and consequently come to ignore the rights of their existing citizens. Already, there have been some reports in which local citizens have complained to the media that the refugees are being given preferential treatment. According to one report, an elderly Swedish lady was not given proper medical treatment and was even deprived of adequate food whilst in hospital, whilst the refugees were cared for in a much better way.
To what extent these reports are accurate, God knows better, but if there is any truth in them, it is alarming and dangerous. If the perceived preferential treatment of the immigrants continues in the long term it could have serious implications. Such injustices will naturally foster resentment and frustration in the hearts of the local people and could easily escalate into hatred against the refugees. The Swedish people have long been known for their generosity and open-hearts but any discrimination against them could trigger a change in attitude that would undermine and threaten the peace of society.
Instead of reaping the positive effects of integration and immigration, it could lead to a rise in conflict and hatred. Hence, I would suggest and advise the government and policy makers that they should ensure that the rights of the local people are not unduly affected or neglected in any way. This is a very delicate issue and must be handled with extreme caution and care because if there is any resentment on the part of the local people, it could lead to an extremely dangerous chain reaction.
The local citizens could become hostile to the refugees and in turn this could lead to the marginalisation of the immigrant population, and that sense of isolation could leave some refugees vulnerable to radicalisation by extremists. In this way, an extremely dangerous vicious cycle could emerge threatening the peace and security of this nation. If, God forbid, such extremists were able to radicalise even just a few people it would gravely threaten and undermine this nation’s peace, security and prosperity. As I said, a balance has to be found and so you will have to tread extremely carefully. Whilst the government should help the refugees settle, they should also make it clear to them that they are expected to stand on their own two feet and contribute to society as soon as possible.
On the other hand, the local citizens should also be reminded that Sweden has chosen to accept the refugees due to its moral obligation to serve humanity and therefore the public should welcome those arriving with a spirit of service and compassion.
I reiterate that it is crucial that you pay great attention to the integration of the recent influx of immigrants into your society, otherwise the situation could spiral out of your control. In terms of Islam’s teachings, let me reassure you that Islam is a religion of peace, security and love for all.
Islam requires Muslims to love their country, to be loyal to it and to abide by the laws of the land. This is the message that Imams and Muslim clerics should be voicing to all of the Muslim refugees who are coming to the West. They should be told that it is their Islamic duty to be grateful to their adopted nation and its people. They should be reminded that they have been given a second lease of life and the opportunity to raise their children in a country that is free from war and disorder and so it is incumbent upon them to value and cherish their new home.
Moving forward, I would now like to present some Islamic teachings that I believe can play a great role in developing peace at a local societal level, a national level and indeed at an international level.
In Chapter 5, Verse 9 of the Holy Qur’an, Allah the Almighty states:
“O ye who believe! Be steadfast in the cause of Allah, bearing witness in equity; and let not a people’s enmity incite you to act otherwise than with justice. Be always just that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah. Surely Allah is aware of what you do.”
The words of this verse are extremely clear whereby Muslims are instructed to never bear grudges or to seek revenge from their enemies, rather they are taught to always remain just and fair in all matters and under all circumstances. See how beautiful this commandment is to establish the peace of the society. Islam has not only called on Muslims to be just, but it has also laid down the standards of justice that are required. In Chapter 4, Verse 136, Allah the Almighty has said:
“O ye who believe! Be strict in observing justice, and be witnesses for Allah, even though it be against yourselves or against parents and kindred.”
Hence, Islam teaches that a Muslim should be ready to testify against himself, his parents or his most loved ones, in order to establish the truth and for justice to prevail. Certainly, there can be no higher standard of justice than this and so this precept is the gateway to establishing true peace in the world.
Another golden principle for the establishment of peace is given in chapter 49, verse 10, of the Holy Qur’an, where it states that if there is a dispute between nations or groups, third parties should unite and seek to bring about a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
If a peaceful resolution is not possible, then nations should stand shoulder to shoulder with one another in an effort to stop the cruelties and injustices that are occurring.
If the world understands the true value of this principle then there is still time for mankind to escape the clutches of further war.
In the short time available, I have presented some examples that prove that Islam is not what you may have heard or read about in the media.
The Qur’an is not, God forbid, a book of terrorism or extremism, rather it is a teaching of love, compassion and humanity. If Muslim countries acted upon the true teachings of their religion there would be no civil wars or conflicts and no scope for their troubles to be exported abroad. Certainly, if we wish to see the true picture of Islam then we should study the era of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa and of his four rightly guided Successors.
Their blessed examples prove that Islam is a beacon of peace and justice that enshrines universal religious freedom and pluralism. For example, during the era of Hazrat Umarra, the second Successor to the Holy Prophetsa, Islam spread to Syria and a Muslim government was formed. However, following an attack by the Roman Empire, the Muslims were forced to leave the country. History bears witness to the fact that upon their departure, the local Christians of Syria were brought to tears and fervently prayed for the Muslims to return, because they had seen how the Muslim government had always protected their rights.
And so it is a cause of the deepest regret and sorrow that today’s Muslim governments and leaders have forgotten the true teachings of their faith and care only for their own seats of power and personal interests. Their injustices and cruelties have caused frustrations to ferment amongst their local populations and in turn such grievances have fuelled extremist and terrorist organisations.
Anyway, during these challenging times it is the responsibility of the major powers and the international institutions to act with justice at all times. Where conflicts arise, international organisations, such as the United Nations, should act impartially and equitably and their sole motivation should be to establish peace and reconciliation between all parties. The obvious truth is that if nations and groups had acted with justice in the past then the disorder and instability we see today would not have spread and we certainly would not have faced the current refugee crisis.
Another, extremely significant Islamic principle is given in Chapter 23, verse 9 of the Holy Qur’an which states that true Muslims are those who are mindful of fulfilling their pledges and covenants and who seek to discharge the trusts that have been handed over to them. In my opinion, this principle is not only for Muslims, but is a universal principle for all nations and people. All governments and international institutions have huge trusts placed in them and it is the duty of their leaders to ensure that they fulfil them with honesty, integrity and justice. It is the responsibility of governments and politicians to serve their people and to protect the future of their nations and they should never take this burden lightly. Similarly, the primary objectives laid out in the Charter of the United Nations are “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,” “to live together in peace” and “to maintain international peace and security.”
The UN Charter specifically states that its objectives are underpinned by a desire to save mankind from the mistakes that led to the two World Wars of the 20th Century. Having undertaken this huge responsibility, the United Nations must seek to fulfil its noble objectives and truly value the peace of the world as the most significant issue of our time.
But regrettably this responsibility is being ignored. I maintain that if all parties understand their responsibilities and act with justice and fulfill the rights of one another, then there is still time for the black clouds of warfare and conflict that loom all around us to pass by safely into the distance.
Thus, again I advise the major powers of the world to strive wholeheartedly and earnestly in the cause of world peace. May Allah grant the people of the world wisdom and enable mankind to set aside personal interests for the sake of the common good. If we fail in this task then, as I have said on many occasions, the world is moving rapidly towards another World War whose repercussions could easily last for generations, given that various nations now possess nuclear weapons. The consequences of such a war do not even bear thinking about.
The question we should all ask ourselves is whether we desire to leave behind a better world for our children and future generations to live in? Or do we wish to hand over a legacy of warfare, bloodshed and untold sorrow and grief? May Allah protect mankind and have mercy on us and enable all people to act with justice, common sense and goodwill towards others, so that we are able to protect our children and coming generations.
With these words, I would now take your leave, but before doing so, I would like to once again thank you for accepting our invitation. May Allah bless you all. Thank you very much.”