Since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 (9/11), and the more recent bombings, stabbings and shootings under the name of Islam, large segments of American society have identified Islam with tyranny, intolerance, and extreme violence. Yet, the majority of non-Muslim Americans have very little information about the religious beliefs or cultural customs observed by Muslims and depend on the news media for their overview – and the media generally reports only when there is another attack by a radicalized Islamist. Without a prominent Muslim spokesperson (or people) to actively educate the public about the positive aspects of the Koran teachings, Stewart and I, with a lack of knowledge ourselves, went out to learn what we could.
We had that opportunity at the Miami Book Fair International. We spoke with several members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, a dynamic, fast growing international revival movement within Islam, with membership exceeding tens of millions. (Current headquarters are in the United Kingdom.)
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is the leading Islamic organization to categorically reject terrorism in any form. They advocate for universal human rights and protections for religious and other minorities. They champion the empowerment and education of women, with members who are among the most law-abiding, educated, and engaged Muslims in the world.
We had conversations with Taha Shaikh and Mansura Minhas, both “Muslims for Peace”. Of course, many more questions about Muslim customs, beliefs and cultural observances remain unanswered, at least to our satisfaction. For example, why would women, especially those living in the United States where sexual assault and rape is criminal, believe it is still their responsibility to hide their hair and body? Although the Koran commands women to be modest because men have instinctive sexual urges, why in this day and age, aren’t Muslim men held accountable for their sexual impulses and treated accordingly? Do modern Muslim women still go along with female genital mutilation?
At this point in time, we look to moderate Muslims to dispel the fears radicalized Islamist terrorists have created. Moderate Muslims need to reach out to the general public to demonstrate their desire to belong to the greater community rather than be exclusionary.