by Richard Yamartino
Since the attack on the twin towers on September 11th, 2001 the daily news cycles have been filled with terrorist attacks either domestically, in Europe or, more prominently, in the middle-east. Are we to understand that all of Islam is a militant camp bent on extremist modes of operation? Is the foundation of Islam fundamentally bellicose? If the answer is no, many have asked, why is it that we never hear the condemnations from Islamic leaders? When will the clergy of the faith of Mohammad speak out against such attacks?
On March 7 at the First Parish Church in Concord, we heard answers to some of these questions at an event entitled “True Islam: Understanding our Community.” Sponsored by Concord Carlisle Community Education, First Parish of Concord, and the CCHRC, the event featured Nasir Rana, a Concord resident and member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. Nasir teaches a course on Islam through Concord Carlisle Community Education and is the head of public affairs for the northeast regional Ahmadiyya Muslim community. He is also part of the True Islam campaign, which has been operational since the 9/11 attacks.
The goal of True Islam is to educate the public about the true principals of Islam and to promote goodwill between all faiths. Their presentation laid out eleven overall beliefs of their Faith: Principal amongst them is the belief that the purpose of Islam is to spread peace and justice. They categorically reject all forms of terrorism, advocate for peace; and promote interfaith dialogue, education, and community service.
Imam Salman Tariq from the Baitul Aman Mosque of Hartford, Connecticut further elaborated on the complete rejection of terrorism, and pointed out that it is Muslim innocents who have suffered the most as a result of terrorists hijacking their faith. He further sited the Koranic verses, “Whosoever kills a person…it is as though he has killed mankind”, as an example of why terrorism does not belong in Islam. Imam Tariq went on to highlight other principals such as the equality of men and women, the misuse of the term “Jihad” as a justification for war, and the need for all Muslims to be obedient to the government of the country in which one lives. “Obedience to the government and love of your nation is part of your faith. Because American Muslims are beneficiaries of the freedoms they enjoy, they should be grateful and pay back their gratitude with their loyalty,” he said.