By Laiqa Ahmad Bhatti, Slough, UK
Brutality begins at home. It is quite true that some aspect of the recent terror attacks may stem from their home lives as Yasmin Alibhai-Brown has mentioned in her article in the Daily Mail today (24th March). However, just like the terrorists have nothing to do with Islam, neither do these contributing factors have to do anything with Islam. The truth is anything that may seem contrary to integrating in society is merely cultural. Love for the country you live in is an integral part to Islam.
The Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) has said:
‘Love for one’s country is a part of faith.’
As a consequence, there can be no conflict of interest between a person’s love for God, and love for his country.
Muslims are encouraged to integrate with their community. The Arabic word Islam means peace, and peace can only be established when a society becomes coherent and peaceful. How can Muslims achieve that without integration? That integration starts at home. Where this integration fails, it is not due to the peaceful teachings of Islam but simply due to cultural barriers.
However, integration does not occur in one way alone. I feel very much like a thread woven into the British community but, as a recent university goer myself, I did not go to nightclubs or pubs etc. in order to feel integrated. I know of other non-Muslim friends who didn’t either yet it didn’t make any of us any less British. Instead, I have spent many hours dedicated to school clubs, activities and charity work where I have felt I was contributing to society.
The truth is that this ‘free’ life on TV that Ms Alibhai-Brown speaks of is not liberating for many people. Peer pressure and the constant need to chase a greater high does not necessarily lead to happiness and liberation. Alcohol and drug abuse can become rife, several late nights lead to lectures being missed and I have seen many students severely under perform as a result. That is not the sort of liberation I desired for myself. My liberation came into my hard work and striving to be somewhere where I can benefit my country and my faith. It was aspiration to serve others in one way or another that liberated me. And that came from my religion; Islam and was cemented by my parents
You will certainly feel you are losing out if you do not understand the reasoning behind certain prohibitions in Islam. Many parents, even my own at times, have advised me to do something just because it is the norm in the culture, despite it not having a root in the Islamic faith. However, what guided me in these situations was my faith. My community, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, has an open dialogue with its youngsters. We are taught about Islam with reasoning and with love. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community teaches an Islam that is compatible with every culture, every race and every nation. It teaches the true Islam.
From the outset of wide media coverage of terrorist attacks, I have felt that not enough awareness is being given to truly peaceful Muslims. Why isn’t enough media attention given to those who find themselves firmly integrated within their wider community? Wouldn’t that help extremists think twice before heading down the dark path of extremism? If they see Muslims who have embraced faith and country, their identity may not feel so lost and it may provide them with what they feel ISIS provide, a sense of belonging.
My youth may not have involved me getting drunk, spending my nights in sweaty, cramped and noisy nightclubs but that does not mean I have not integrated. It does not mean I feel like an outsider in my own country.
ISIS do prey on the feelings of isolation in teenagers and young adults. But the root of that isolation is not Islam. It is merely cultural. It has many contributing factors but this feeling of isolation and uselessness is not only springing up in the Muslim community. We see it all round and not just in the youth. So while it may affect the Muslim youth now, no section of society is safe from it and we need to work towards cohesion of society.
However, this does not negate the important role Muslims have to play in tackling extremism. It is our duty to spread the true message of Islam. Just recently, at the 13th National Peace Symposium, Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, 5th Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community said:
“As a religious community we desire only that the world comes to recognise its Creator and that people fulfil the rights of one another. To fulfil these twin objectives we make every possible effort in all parts of the world. We seek to inform others that Islam’s teachings have no link with the violence and disorder witnessed in the world.
So it is incumbent on every Muslim to know the true teachings of Islam and spread them. If young Muslims feel they are being unjustly oppressed by their parents, then they should know that Islam judges on intentions. For that reason, it is imperative that the Muslim youth should actively study their faith and learn about it. In the end, Islam says that there is ‘No compulsion in religion…’
ISIS prey on the feelings of isolation in teenagers and young adults. But the root of the isolation is not Islam; it is simply a quest for power. The Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, in the same Peace Symposium said that:
“Rather than religion, the root cause of today’s conflicts was an “unquenchable thirst for power, influence and resources”
Islam is an all-compassing faith and it is for all of mankind. That means time, place or culture can never lead to conflict with the teachings of Islam. Laying the blame for terrorists on ‘Muslim’ parents is wrong. It suggests that Islam promotes these heinous acts of injustice and that is far from the truth.
We need to make the distinction between terrorism and Islam and then and only then can we start to tackle this issue of extremism.