Freedom of Religion

Hiding Behind Religion: The case of Extremism and Terrorism

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Umar Gyasi Agyemang, Ghana

A few months ago, a terrorist group attacked a mosque filled with people who had gathered to worship their Lord and to pray for the good of mankind in Burkina Faso. This happened in the model village of Mehdi Abad (northern desert part of the Sahel region) of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, an Ahmadi-Muslim majority village where around 650 members of the community live, near the town of Dori.1 Reports indicate that this was an attack that targeted the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. We see this in other places of the world where the rights of Ahmadis to worship freely are curtailed; thousands have lost their lives and property as a result. This incident is captured in a press release of the community in the following words:

‘The terrorists separated nine of the older men, including the Imam of the mosque, from the other worshippers and marched them into the courtyard. They then demanded that Imam Alhaj Boureima Bidiga, 67, renounce his faith to which he responded, “If you wish to take my head off then you can, but it is not possible for me to denounce Islam Ahmadiyyat.” The Imam was then shot and killed.

They then proceeded to ask the same question of the other eight men, in turn. One by one the men refused to disavow their faith and one by one they were shot and killed. As the killings took place, the martyrs exclaimed ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is Great) as their final words. This took place in front of the other worshippers, including children.

Following this heinous attack, the terrorists threatened to return to the village and kill all the remaining Ahmadi Muslims if the worshippers reopened their Mosque or did not denounce their faith.

The bodies of the martyred men lay where they fell all night as others feared they too would be killed if they retrieved the bodies. The martyrs were buried the following day.’2 

There are other countries globally where acts of terrorism and extremism take place in the name religion. However, due to some sort of power or upper hand possessed by these groups, the mainstream media in these countries find it difficult bringing to light such incidents, except those incidents that escalate and cannot be concealed. This is to say that there are many atrocities that are done but not highlighted in the media because of the threat such groups pose.

Religion has been used as a tool for many individuals and groups who desire to carry out their selfish desires in pursuit of power and wealth. A lady was recently accused of blasphemy against the Holy Prophet (sa) and was beaten and burnt to death in Nigeria3. In other instances people have been sentenced to death based on the same accusations. So these are some of the extremes people go in order to “protect their religion”. We need to stop all forms of extremism whether they are religiously motivated or not.

Allah states in the Holy Qur’an:

يَهْدِي بِهِ اللَّهُ مَنِ اتَّبَعَ رِضْوَانَهُ سُبُلَ السَّلَامِ وَيُخْرِجُهُمْ مِنَ الظُّلُمَاتِ إِلَى النُّورِ بِإِذْنِهِ وَيَهْدِيهِمْ إِلَى صِرَاطٍ مُسْتَقِيمٍ

‘Thereby does Allah guide those who seek His pleasure on the paths of peace, and leads them out of every kind of darkness into light by His will, and guides them to the right path.’ (5:17)

The call of Allah is always towards peace, where people can live in harmony and tolerance. A perfect example is the environment created by the Prophet of Islam (sa), in which he lived harmoniously with the Jews, Christians and idolaters in Medina. A society where people were allowed to freely practice their religion without any hinderance. Allah further states in the Holy Qur’an:

مَنْ قَتَلَ نَفْسًا بِغَيْرِ نَفْسٍ أَوْ فَسَادٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ فَكَأَنَّمَا قَتَلَ النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا وَمَنْ أَحْيَاهَا فَكَأَنَّمَا أَحْيَا النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا

‘. . . whosoever killed a person – unless it be for killing a person or for creating disorder in the land – it shall be as if he had killed all mankind; and whoso gave life to one, it shall be as if he had given life to all mankind.’ (5:33)

Looking at all the religions in the world, and taking a critical look at their doctrines, one can only conclude that these religions do not teach violence but rather peace and tolerance. For that matter violence or acts of terrorism can never be attributed to religion in anyway. Yes, we have people, who act based on their own personal interests and gains in the name of religion.

The acts of extremists put the peace of our societies in jeopardy and this must be condemned by all of us. Mankind is like one body; when one part gets injured, the pain is felt everywhere. The Fifth Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba) states:

If peace is not for the entire world, then it cannot be considered true peace. True peace can only be established when it is established beyond personal, filial, ancestral, national and patriotic preferences; and in order to establish a central axis.4

The response of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community has always been replying to hate with love. We pray fervently for those we have lost; may Allah shower his unending reward on them and may this sacrifice of theirs nourish peace and tranquillity in the village and around the globe. May the hatred of these terrorists and extremists change into love for the community and mankind in general.

Allah demands that we live peacefully in this world and not act with senseless violence. We proclaim the motto of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community: “Love For All Hatred For None”.

The founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) states:

A religion which does not inculcate universal compassion is no religion at all. Similarly, a human being without the faculty of compassion is no human at all. Our God has never discriminated between one people and another. This is illustrated by the fact that all the potentials and capabilities which have been granted to the Aryans have also been granted to the races inhabiting Arabia, Persia, Syria, China, Japan, Europe and America.
The earth created by God provides a common floor for all people alike, and His sun and moon and many stars are a source of radiance and provide many other benefits to all alike. Likewise, all peoples benefit from the elements created by Him, such as air, water, fire and earth, and similarly from other products created by Him like grain, fruit, and healing agents, etc. These attributes of God teach us the lesson that we, too, should behave magnanimously and kindly towards our fellow human beings and should not be petty of heart and illiberal.5

The message of Islam is clear and in line with the verses stated above. A people or community shouldn’t be targeted and hated for their beliefs. Extremism and terrorism have no place in Islam, and such acts are not in line with any teaching of Islam, and the key to solving this is going back to the teachings of the Holy Qur’an.

About the Author: Umar Gyasi Agyemang graduated from Jamia Ahmadiyya International in Ghana. He currently serves as an Imam of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Ghana and is the National Coordinator for The Review of Religions in Ghana.


  2. [Ibid]
  4. His Holiness (aba) concluding address at the Germany annual convention 2022 – RoR November 2022 print edition
  5. A Message of Peace by the Promised Messiah (as) page 6

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