Monday, October 04, 2004

Southern Baptist's Islamiphobia

This is a speech I made at the US Ahmadiyya Muslim Jalsa Salana (Annual Convention) October 4, 2004

Earlier this month, the Rev. Jerry Vines, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, at the group’s national meeting in St. Louis, blamed many of America’s problems on religious pluralism.

In his hatred spewing rhetoric, Rev. Vines abused Islam, the Holy Prophet Muhammad, sallallaho alaihe wasallam, and concluded by saying: “Islam is not just as good as Christianity.

His remarks, of course, sparked the usual shockwaves of disbelief as Muslims and followers of other faiths condemned him, but the damage was done. Shortly afterwards a poll was taken by 1,823 Americans and 51 per cent of those polled indicated they were in agreement with Rev. Vines’ statement about Islam.

Those abusive words of Rev. Vines and his denigrating remarks about the Holy Prophet Muhammad, sallallaho alaihe wasallam, were still hanging in the air when the largest convention of Black Baptists followed the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis. The hate-mongering virus left behind by Rev. Vines immediately infected them.

We are living in a day and age when Islam is being attacked on all fronts and it stands in the face of innumerable odds. That’s nothing new to Islam and it has stood firm over the test of time. As it held strong in the times of the Holy Prophet sws, so shall it hold strong in the times of the Promised Messiah AS.

However, most interesting about this present day dilemma is the fact that one of our worst enemies is the Muslim community itself, and the ignorance that has festered within the Muslim community over the centuries. It’s now time for Muslims to embrace the fundamental Islamic virtue of tolerance by heeding the words, thoughts and deeds of the Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah (a.s.)

Islam has always upheld the highest virtues of morality and manners….even to the extent of smiling when greeting your fellow man…even to the extent of moving obstacles on the road….even to the extent of showing generosity and kindness to the orphan, the widow, the sick, the poor, the hungry, and all animals.

So I ask you, how could such an intensely deep and profound message as Islam, overlook the fundamental teaching of tolerance? The fact of the matter is, Islam holds the highest value to tolerance. We see this teaching clearly in the Holy Quran where it says:

“There is no compulsion in religion. Surely, right has become distinct from wrong…” (Chapter 2, Verse 257)

We hear this verse all the time…but let’s make some sense out of it….let’s think about it on a practical level. We all agree that religions are designed to promote a relationship of love with our Creator, God.

So what is the punishment we should exercise against someone who doesn’t accept Islam? The answer is simple….the punishment is absolutely nothing. That’s right, absolutely nothing. No better place can we see this, than in the Holy Quran itself. Allah, the Almighty, says:

“…If they accept [your teachings], then they will surely be rightly guided, but if they turn back, then your duty is only to convey [the Message]….” (Chapter 2, Verse 21]

It also states:

“ …Truth has come to you from your Lord. So whosoever follows the guidance follows it only for the good of his own soul, and whosoever errs, errs only against [his own soul]. And I am not a keeper over you.” (Chapter 10, 109)

So there you have it….we are not keepers over anybody and we are certainly not responsible for exercising any punishment to anyone who rejects Islam. And why should we? If Islam brings about the betterment of one’s life, isn’t it punishment enough to reject something good in your life?

For example, if I reject education, isn’t ignorance enough of a punishment for me? If I choose not to eat nutritious food, isn’t my resulting poor health enough of a punishment for me to suffer? This is the Natural Law that Allah has set in motion…we suffer the consequences of our own actions and our choices.

Islamic teachings overflow with the tolerance towards others. We accept all the Prophets sent to all the Nations throughout time; whether we know their names or not. Isn’t that a monumental victory for tolerance?

Allah, we believe, sends down prophets to many people and directed them to preach his commandments. The Holy Qur'an shows no hatred toward any religion; it accepts them all as paths leading to the Unity of God. It is a unique feature of Islam that a Muslim has to believe in all the messengers of the past be they from the Judaic dispensation or from outside the family of Abraham.

The Holy Qur'an says: “This Messenger of Ours believes in that which has been revealed to him from his Lord and so do the believers; all of them believe in Allah and His angels and in His Book and in His Messengers, saying ‘We make no distinction between any of his messengers,’ and they say, ‘We have heard and we are obedient. Our Lord! We implore thy forgiveness and to thee is our return. (Ch.2: v. 286)

It is a major platform in our faith that we accept their profession of believing in God, and we accept their different names as expressions of the One True God, Allah, whether they call him Jehovah, Yahweh, Ahura Mazda, Brahma or the Great Spirit. The Holy Quran commands us to respect their expressions of God, and we are forbidden to insult that which they worship. [Chapter 6: Verse109]

One of the most powerful examples of tolerance we see in Islam is that Muslims must not only protect the peace of Muslims, but also the followers of other faiths. Allah the Almighty says:

“And if Allah had not repelled some men by means of others, it would have surely resulted in the destruction of cloisters, churches, synagogues, and mosques, wherein the name of Allah is continually glorified.” (Chapter 22, Verses 40 & 41)

Tolerance is one of the prized jewels of Allah’s teachings. Anyone who opposes these self-evident Truths is spiritually termed a pig. They roll around in the filthy philosophies, which sow the seeds of dissension and destruction to communal harmony. That’s why Jesus says in the Bible, “Do not cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample over them.”

Similarly, this is one of the prophecies in Bukhari, that when the Promised Messiah would appear in the latter days, he would “kill the swine”. We have all witnessed the fulfillment of this prophecy in Zion, Illinois. A man by the name of Dr. John Alexander Dowie personified the epitome of intolerance.

He used profane rhetoric against the Holy Founder of Islam, peace be upon him, and Islam in general. His intolerance didn’t stop there. His intolerance spread to other Christian groups and contagiously victimized anyone who disagreed with his interpretation of Christianity.

He would have continued with his version of Islamaphobia but a lone voice was heard from a remote, unheard of village in India….Qadian to be exact. This was no ordinary voice though. The Hadith say that this man’s voice alone would dissolve disbelief. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian stood up against Dr. Dowie and his intolerant views and abuse of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, sallallaho alaihe wasallam. His only weapons were his pen and his prayers; but those were pretty potent weapons.

And the whole world was forced to testify how this prophecy was fulfilled. Now standing in Zion is a building on the corner of 173 and Gabriel, which boasts the motto, “Love for all, Hatred for none”. It shouts out at you as you drive by, and you can’t miss it. That happens to be the house of worship of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. People throughout the area now repeat our motto of peace and love in their own literature.

Zion does not only bear the historic evidence of the victory of the Promised Messiah, but it stands as a testament to the victory of tolerance over the forces of bigotry, hatred and ignorance.

The Promised Messiah and Mahdi of this age declared more than 100 years ago, in his book “A Message of Peace”:

Irrespective of whether we are Hindus or Muslim, and though we have many differences, we believe in God who has created this world and all that is contained in it. We also claim commonality as human beings and we live in one country as neighbors. It is our duty that we should become friends with a clear conscience and honest intentions.

We should sympathize with each other on all matters temporal or religious. My Friends! That faith is no faith that does not teach sympathy for mankind. A human being is not human unless he displays some element of sympathy.

Our God has made no distinction in any nation. Whatever faculties were given to the ancient nations have been given to the Arabian, Persian, Chinese, Japanese, European and American nations. The earth serves as a common ground for all and the sun, the moon and the stars perform common service for all mankind.

These Divine Manifestation teach us that we should, also treat each other equally, with amity and with tolerance. Narrow-mindedness or hard-
heartedness have no place in human relations.’”

As we can see, tolerance is fundamental to Islam and is inseparably woven into the fabric of our teachings. As Ahmadis, according to the teachings of the Promised Messiah (a.s.) we must instill the Islamic principles of tolerance in our daily lives. Learn to tolerate differences in your communities….understand that people have just as much a right to believe their views, as you have a right to believe yours.

Remember that tolerance is simply the capacity for, or practice of, recognizing or respecting the behavior, beliefs, opinions, practices, or rights of others, whether agreeing with them or not.

In conclusion, Islam has no tolerance for intolerance. As the Promised Messiah (a.s.) said: The earth serves as a common ground for all and the sun, the moon and the stars perform common service for all mankind.

Like the sun and the moon, Islam should perform its duty and show its love to everyone alike. The sun showers its brilliant rays upon the whole world, and the moon gives its cooling light, dispelling the darkness. In the same way, Islam should dispel the darkness and evil we now face in America as Muslims.

If all of us do our jobs and teach Islamic tolerance it should give cooling love to all hearts. And if we do nothing more than to teach Americans these few simple words – “Love for all, hatred for none.

All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of all the worlds.


No comments: