Published in Huffington Post
It took 9,000 officers, five days, and roughly $1 billion in lost revenue for Boston, but suspect one is dead and suspect two is in custody.
So let me start with the standard roll call: As an American Muslim, I condemn all violence in the name of religion. Terrorism has no religion and Islam is no exception. If the Tsarnaev brothers are guilty of the Boston bombings, then I hope they are brought to justice.
Is that condemnation clear enough? Because I’m pretty sure a whole lot of people instead read blah blah blah blah blah.
Here’s the deal. It is a shame that we had to employ 9,000 officers, put our lives on hold for five days, and sacrifice $1 billion in Boston revenue to catch these culprits. It is a shame that Muslim women were assaulted in retaliation, and that’s even before we knew who the suspects were. And it is a shame I received threats of anti-Muslim violence and that even my non-Muslim but non-white friends called me, fearing for their safety.
And now the public lynching and double standards against Islam begin. Mental illness was the culprit during Newtown, Conn., Oak Creek, Wis., and Aurora, Colo. More than 70 percent of America’s 64 previous mass shooters were white American men. But not one pundit, nor any politician, nor any Muslim has ever asked why White Americans or Christian Americans are not aggressively condemning these acts of terror. After all, why ask such a ludicrous question? Anyone with a functioning cerebrum could comprehend that these terrorists represent only themselves.
But why do our brains shut down when the slightest indication exists that the culprit might maybe possibly be Muslim? No sooner did the Boston tragedy occur — and even before the slightest indication emerged regarding who perpetrated the attack — but I received dozens of emails and messages asking why “moderate Muslims” aren’t condemning the attack?
Muslims condemned 9/11, we condemned 7/7, we condemned the Fort Hood tragedy, we condemned the underwear bomber, we condemned the Times Square bomber, and now yet again we find ourselves condemning the Boston Bombers on the mere suspicion that they were “motivated by Islam.”
And this is why I am unsure if people hear Muslims when Muslims declare — in response to every violent act or attempt at violence — that Islam condemns all forms of religious violence and terrorism. Because even after condemning the Boston bombers, I receive messages that the condemnation wasn’t “loud enough” or “clear enough” or passionate enough.” ” In other words, all they heard from me was blah blah blah blah blah.
And the fact is Muslims have gone far beyond mere condemnation but taken action. The Muslims for Life campaign has raised over 25,000 blood donations in the past two years to honor 9/11 victims. The #MyJihad campaign serves to demonstrate Jihad’s true meaning. The Muslims for Peace campaign champions true, peaceful Islam. I could go on but hopefully you get the picture.
America is not under threat from radical Islam, but it is under threat from radical ignorance. This ignorance is a far more powerful and far more destructive force than any act of terror. I speak having experienced the horrific after effects of such ignorance.
Some 40 years ago, Pakistan decided to succumb to such ignorance and direct its wrath against my peaceful and pluralistic Muslim sect — the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. What began as passive discrimination advanced to laws banning our freedom of expression and worship, to now open violence against all religious and belief minorities in Pakistan — Ahmadi Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Shiite Muslims, Baha’is, and atheists. Pakistan went from a relatively peaceful nation entirely alien to terrorist attacks, to one that suffers through 3,000 civilian deaths from terrorists annually and now devoid of religious freedom.
If Americans have any hope of winning the “war on terror,” it won’t come from demonizing American Muslims, or Islam in general. It will come from education through interfaith dialogues, joining together in service of humanity, and recognizing that we are all equal human beings in search of similar goals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It will come from all Americans rejecting ignorance and uniting even stronger against extremism that tries to divide us.
The path of radical ignorance is a one way street; if we go down this path, don’t expect to come back so easily. As I said, I’ve tried reasoning with extremists in Pakistan to give up discrimination and favor tolerance.
But all they seem to hear is blah blah blah blah blah.
Access Point with Ayesha Tanzeem
Al-Jazeera, Salon and The Guardian have launched scathing attacks on the New Atheists because of their criticisms of Islam. Are Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins being unfairly labeled as bigots?
Published in Huffington Post
Feb. 28 came and went, and thus ended Pope Benedict’s short tenure. According to most, no claimant to Divine office remains on Earth, at least until the next pope is elected.
On the contrary, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the world’s only Khalifa and head of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, continues his lifelong Divinely appointed tenure to the office of Khilafat.
To put it directly, in Islam a Khalifa is God’s man on earth. He accepts God’s will and marches on despite illness, suffering, persecution or any other form of hardship. God’s man on Earth does not resign. Instead, only God Himself removes them when the Khalifa eventually passes away. Muslims believe that the Khalifa is divinely appointed as the Holy Spirit guides the election. In essence, it is divine Will with human participation. Resigning is therefore not appropriate. In secular terms it is like an elected monarchy, but a monarch who is obliged to adhere to the tenets of absolute justice and universal equity.
Likewise, a man of God is different than God’s man on earth. A man of God is a voluntary position or status — such as the imam of a mosque. God’s man on Earth, however, is an appointed position and therefore a required obligation for the one appointed. The essence of this divinely appointed spiritual leadership is unity of mankind under divine guidance and divine protection.
Despite extreme hardship, the first four Khalifas after Prophet Muhammad’s demise maintained their offices until their deaths and therefore maintained unity among Muslims. Likewise, despite immense persecution, the first four Khalifas after Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s demise, who Ahmadi Muslims believe is the Messiah, maintained their offices until their deaths. The current and Fifth Khalifa, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, was elected to Khilafat in 2003. Despite being exiled from Pakistan for his faith, increasing persecution against Ahmadi Muslims worldwide and baseless propaganda warning of the “dangers of the Caliphate,” the Khalifa has unwaveringly maintained his office.
The Prophet Muhammad declared, “Your leadership will be a reflection of you [the people].” Thus, in the rare cases where chaos, disorder and loss of life may be involved in a Khalifa’s election or even removal, it in fact reflects the electing society’s spiritual and moral decay. A corrupted people are incapable of electing a righteous Khalifa. In other words, corruption indicates an absence of Divine guidance and protection, and thus a loss of unity through the institution of Khilafat. In the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, during the election of the Second Khalifa, a party chose to reject Khilafat. Those Muslims have since denied themselves of this Divine blessing. Those Muslims who chose to maintain spiritual allegiance to Khilafat, however, have benefited from its continued growth and guidance. But perhaps the most classic example of a dispute in Khilafat in Islamic history occurred after the demise of Ali, the Fourth Khalifa. Infighting and corruption among Muslims not only eventually led to the Sunni-Shiite split, it also meant the end of a unified Khilafat altogether.
And Muslims have since been unable to re-establish Khilafat for a simple reason: Human hands cannot establish a Divine institution. Prophet Muhammad explained clearly that Khilafat is established on the precepts of Prophethood to carry on the Prophet’s mission after the Prophet’s demise (Masnad Ahmad, 14:163 #18319).
It is on this teaching of Prophet Muhammad that Ahmadi Muslims adhere to the institution of Khilafat, established in 1908 after the demise of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Messiah. Despite the mockery, persecution and declarations that Ahmadi Muslims are kafir, this era of Khilafat has already lasted beyond a century, is established in more than 200 nations worldwide and continues to thrive. It is no accident that while the Muslim ummah has been unable to re-establish Khilafat for some 1,400 years, the man who claimed to be the long-awaited Divinely appointed Messiah did in fact re-establish Divinely guided Khilafat — and has been the only one to do so.
So as we await the next pope’s election, worry not about whether a Divinely appointed individual exists. He does. His name is Mirza Masroor Ahmad, and he is God’s man on Earth.
Published in Daily Times
No other logical choice exists but to unite as one community against religious discrimination, oppression of conscience, and violence
Pakistan Ambassador to the United States of America, Sherry Rehman’s twitter bio declares: “Will take a bullet for the motherland but hope our children don’t have to.” But what is an ambassador to do when that bullet comes from Pakistan and strikes her in the back? Last week, Pakistan took the unprecedented step and charged their own ambassador with blasphemy — a crime that carries the consequence of fine, prison time, and even execution. As Rehman valiantly fights to improve her nation’s image, implores the US that her country is moderate and tolerant, and courageously defends Pakistan’s domestic and foreign policy, the motherland — of all places — proves her wrong.
But state-sanctioned persecution of Rehman is not a surprise; it is an inevitability and just the latest in a long trend. Pakistan loves to shoot — literally or figuratively — anyone or anything that stands up for Pakistan. In 1992, Pakistan figuratively shot its own constitution when the Supreme Court championed the nation’s draconian blasphemy law in Zaheerudin v State. In a landslide decision, the Court upheld the law without citing to a single Pakistani statute, ordinance, or decision. Instead, the Court enforced an invented precedent for all Pakistanis that “might makes right” when they wrote, “The [Ahmadis] who are non-Muslims want to pass off their faith as Islam? … [a] [Muslim] believer…will not tolerate a Government, which is not prepared to save him of such deceptions or forgeries…” Not two decades later, this precedent would inspire a ‘Muslim believer’ to haunt Pakistan’s highest offices. To protect their beloved blasphemy law, rather than their nation’s founding principles of pluralism, Pakistan shot its own constitution.
In 1996, Pakistan figuratively shot their only Nobel Laureate, the ‘God particle’ pioneer Dr Abdus Salam, when they literally defaced his tomb to remove the word ‘Muslim’. Dr Salam was a devout Ahmadi. Thus, Pakistan legally forbids anyone from calling Dr Salam a Muslim — even after his death. To protect their beloved blasphemy law, rather than celebrate one of history’s greatest scientific achievements, Pakistan shot its own citizen.
In 2011, Pakistan’s 1992 Supreme Court decision that ‘might is right’ inspired an extremist who violently shot and murdered Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer. Taseer condemned Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and declared his public mission to see them revised, if not repealed. Extremists did not tolerate this. Governor Taseer’s assassin, Mumtaz Qadri, simply embraced the Supreme Court’s words that “… [a] [Muslim] believer…will not tolerate a government, which is not prepared to save him of such deceptions or forgeries…” and took vigilante action accordingly. To protect their beloved blasphemy law, rather than allowing the democratic process to proceed, Pakistan shot its own governor.
In 2011, again, an inspired extremist in Pakistan shot and murdered Shahbaz Bhatti, the nation’s only Christian federal minister. Bhatti, like Taseer, opposed Pakistan’s blasphemy law and made no secret of his wish to see them repealed. Last week, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper courageously inaugurated Canada’s first Religious Freedom Ambassador from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Canada headquarters in Maple, Ontario. Harper declared, “Shahbaz Bhatti worked tirelessly to defend the vulnerable not only his fellow Christians, but also Hindus, Sikhs, Ahmadis, and all other minorities. He did so knowing that it placed him under a constant and imminent threat to his life.” To protect their beloved blasphemy law, rather than allowing freedom of conscience the chance to reign free, Pakistan shot its own federal minister.
What began in Pakistan with the persecution of Ahmadi Muslims in the 1970s and 1980s, soon spread to the persecution of Hindus, Christians, Shias, and Sufis in the 1990s and 2000s, and is now consuming Pakistan’s remaining few pluralistic government officials in the 2010s. In just the past three years alone Pakistan has shot and killed over 119 Ahmadi Muslims, over 200 Shia Muslims, and at least two major politicians. Pakistan continues to shoot its Christian and Hindu citizens, and anyone not deemed the right kind of Muslim — all to protect its beloved blasphemy law.
And now, as Pakistan shoots its own ambassador in the back, who will take a bullet for Sherry Rehman? The answer is simple but its performance requires courage. It is a job no one person can do, but instead requires the collective effort, courage, and compassion of all people of all faiths and of all people of no faith. No other logical choice exists but to unite as one community against religious discrimination, oppression of conscience, and violence. As long as Pakistan’s blasphemy law lives, those who stand up for freedom and tolerance will continue to fall at the hands of the Supreme Court-endorsed extremists. Only by working together — above dogmatic differences and beyond religious bigotry — can we make the motherland truly deserving of its name: the Land of the Pure.
It is time we joined collectively to take a bullet for the sake of humanity, in a hope our children won’t have to.
Published on the CNN
When will Iran’s government and clerics stop running from the truth that their religion – which they call Islam – would be unrecognizable to the Prophet Mohammed?
On the mere allegation that American pastor Saeed Abedini evangelized Christianity, Iran threw him in front of a member of its Revolutionary Court, whom many have called a “hanging judge.” Abedini now faces eight years in prison, which is nothing short of reprehensible, immoral and cowardly.
If Iran’s purpose was to protect what it thinks is Islam, it has failed.
In 1902, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, courageously declared, “Religion is worth the name only so long as it is in consonance with reason. If it fails to satisfy that requisite, if it has to make up for its weakness in argument by handling the sword, it needs no other argument for its falsification. The sword it wields cuts its own throat before reaching others.”
Thus, in using force to counter Abedini’s alleged evangelism – an oppressive act alien to Islam – Iran’s religion cuts only its own throat.
If Iran’s purpose was to silence Abedini, it has failed. More people worldwide now know of him, his message of Christianity, his struggle and his passion than ever would have otherwise. Iran has given Abedini a loudspeaker that he never could have built on his own. Thus, while trying to silence Abedini’s message, Iran’s religion silences only itself.
If Iran’s purpose was to honor Prophet Mohammed, it has failed. The message it has given to the world is one of intolerance and fear, characteristics alien to Mohammed’s example of love and pluralism. Iran’s act does more to dishonor the prophet than Abedini ever could. Thus, by cowardly, hypocritically and ignorantly demonizing Christianity, Iran’s religion makes only itself look hideous.
As a practicing Muslim, I’m not sure what religion Iran practices, but it has nothing to do with the Islam that my Prophet Mohammed taught.
And what exactly did Mohammed teach?
My Mohammed declared in writing to St. Catherine’s Monastery at Sinai, “This is a message from Mohammed ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them. Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them. No compulsion is to be on them. … The Muslims are to fight for them. … Their churches are to be respected. … No one of the Muslims is to disobey this covenant until the Last Day.”
My Mohammed championed the Quranic commandment to protect all houses of worship, including churches. “Permission to fight is given to those against whom war is made – because they have been wronged. … Those who have been driven out from their homes unjustly only because they said, ‘Our Lord is God’ – And if God did not repel some men by means of others, there would surely have been pulled down cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques, wherein the name of God is oft commemorated” (22:40-41).
My Mohammed returned to Mecca peacefully and victoriously and, citing Prophet Joseph’s noble example, graciously forgave all his persecutors. While Mecca exiled Mohammed only for his faith, Mohammed now protected the rights of all to stay in Mecca regardless of their faith. But with one condition: that freedom of conscience remain free for all people, Muslim or not.
Had Iran followed Prophet Mohammed’s Islam, no such “hanging judge” would exist, no such eight-year prison sentence would exist, and no such restrictions on Abedini’s peaceful preaching would exist.
So give it a rest, Iran. You’ve been running long enough. Your so-called religion honors neither Islam nor Prophet Mohammed, nor will it ever silence other faiths.
Stop running, Iran, or you’ll bleed yourself dry.
Published in the Huffington Post
In her recent piece, “7 Things That May Surprise You About Muhammad,” author Lesley Hazleton offers unique insights into Prophet Muhammad’s life. Giving credit where it is due, I’ve enjoyed Hazleton’s TED talk on Prophet Muhammad, and many of her writings on Islam. In fairness, however, several of her “7 Things” are incorrect. This article mentions and clarifies these matters.
1. He was born an orphan.
Hazleton accurately summarizes Prophet Muhammad’s early years but perhaps it is semantically more accurate to say “he was orphaned as a young child.” The foster mother who cared for him as an infant and young child was a woman named Haleema. Prophet Muhammad loved her dearly.
2. He married up — and for love.
Hazleton accurately summarizes Prophet Muhammad’s marriage to Hazrat Khadija, but I offer two minor matters of clarification.
First, while Hazleton is correct that the marriages were “a means of diplomatic alliance,” Prophet Muhammad was in fact married 11 times, not nine times, after Khadija’s death.
Second, Hazleton writes that Muhammad had “[no children] with any of his later wives.” Perhaps she meant to say “no children who lived to adulthood” as Prophet Muhammad in fact had at least 11 children with his later wives, each of whom died in infancy or when only a few years old.
3. His first reaction to becoming a Prophet? Doubt and despair.
Hazleton accurately states Prophet Muhammad’s fear upon the Angel Gabriel’s appearance to him. Imam Bukhari records Prophet Muhammad’s initial reaction.
Allah’s Apostle returned with the Inspiration, his neck muscles twitching with terror till he entered upon Khadija and said, ‘Cover me! Cover me!’ They covered him till his fear was over and then he said, ‘O Khadija, what is wrong with me?’ Then he told her everything that had happened and said, ‘I fear that something may happen to me.’ Khadija said, ‘Never! But have the glad tidings, for by Allah, Allah will never disgrace you as you keep good relations with your Kith and kin, speak the truth, help the poor and the destitute, serve your guest generously and assist the deserving, calamity-afflicted ones.’ 
Khadija then took Prophet Muhammad to her cousin, Waraqa ibn Nawfal, a Christian Nazarene priest and Biblical scholar. Waraqa further reassured Prophet Muhammad not to fear, but recognized that he experienced precisely what past true Prophets of God experienced. He declared to Prophet Muhammad:
This is the same angel who appeared in times long past to Moses. Would that I might still be alive when you will be turned out of your native city. I could then help you to my heart’s content.’ Prophet Muhammad responded, ‘Shall I be banished from my native city?’ Waraqa replied, ‘Any man who came with something similar to what you have brought was treated with hostility; and if I should remain alive till the day when you will be turned out then I would support you strongly. 
Sadly, Waraqa bin Nawfal died shortly thereafter, but his predictions and recognition of Muhammad’s truth were fulfilled in their entirety.
4. He led an early form of Occupy Wall Street.
Hazleton inaccurately compares the Occupy Movement and Prophet Muhammad’s propagation of Islam. The two are substantively opposites.
For example, despite facing immense social, economic, and civil injustices Prophet Muhammad wholly forbade causing any form of public disorder or interruption. He did not form any public protests, marches, or resistance movements. No “Occupy Mecca” or “Occupy Kaba” existed. Instead, he preached quietly among family and friends during the first three years of his ministry.
When active persecution began, Prophet Muhammad ordered his companions to worship privately in their homes as to avoid public disorder as much as possible. When persecution intensified, he ordered his followers to migrate to Abyssinia (modern day Ethiopia) and seek refuge under the righteous Christian King Negus. When persecution yet further intensified, he and his companions were boycotted and exiled from Mecca for a near three year period. They lived in a barren valley on the brink of starvation. Even during this intense period of suffering he forbade any form of public protest and disruption. Finally, when persecution reached its climax, he still forbade any form of public protest, and migrated with his companions secretly and peacefully to Medina — some 240 miles away — all to preserve peace and avoid public disorder.
Yes, Prophet Muhammad protested social and economic inequality, but not by any comparison to the Occupy Movement. Rather, it was through prayers, patience, and private preaching for peace.
5. He was a pacifist — at first.
Hazleton mischaracterizes Prophet Muhammad’s decisions on when to, and when not to, fight. Dictionary.com defines a pacifist as one who “is opposed to war or violence of any kind.”
Though he loathed violence, Prophet Muhammad openly and repeatedly declared his willingness to take up arms to defend his Jewish allies in the Charter of Medina, defend all Christians in his letter to St. Catherine’s Monastery, and to follow the Qur’anic commandment to defend all “Synagogues, Churches, Temples, and Mosques” from “being torn down.” (22:41) That is, Muhammad considered fighting a last resort but would employ force if it meant defending universal religious freedom. This does not make him a pacifist “at first” or ever, but instead demonstrates his logical rationale, practicality, and recognition that at times, force is needed to ensure self-defense and universal freedom of conscience.
6. He knew how to say he was wrong.
Hazleton is correct that Prophet Muhammad did not let ego dictate his decisions, but her “satanic verses” example is incorrect. In fact, the entire “satanic verses” incident is fabricated. Addressing this alleged incident, esteemed historian and Islamic scholar Hadhrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad cites accepted and ancient scholars, concluding: 
…this story is entirely a fabrication, and its forgery is clearly evident from every rational aspect. Hence, the great Muhaddithin and leaders of Hadith, such as ‘Allamah ‘Ainī, Qazi ‘Ayad and ‘Allamah Nawawi have expounded with conclusive argumentation that this occurrence is false and nothing more than a fabricated Hadith. Thus, ‘Allamah ‘Aini writes in debate of this issue: ‘This story is evidently negated, both in light of narration and common sense.’ 
Then, Qazi ‘Ayad writes:
‘Prudent and reliable individuals have not accepted this narration due to the fact that the narration of this story is confusing, and its authenticity is very weak. Moreover, the manner of its narration is also weak and feeble. In addition, no narrator has successfully traced this narration to the Holy Prophet or any of his companions.’ 
Furthermore, ‘Allamah Nawawi writes:
‘Nothing of this narration is correct, neither in the aspect of narration nor in the aspect of common sense.’  On the other hand, many A’immah-e-Hadith (scholars of Hadith) have not even made mention of this occurrence. For example, the Sihah Sittah has not even hinted towards it, though mention of the recitation of Surah An-Najm and the prostration of the Quraish is present in it. It is apparent that this narration passed the eyes of the Muhaddithin, who rejected it with belief of its forgery and unreliability. In the same manner, many great Mufassirin [commentators of the Holy Qur'an], such as Imam Razi have declared this instance vain and devoid of truth.  Moreover, among the mystics, sagacious ones, the like of Ibni ‘Arabi, have stated, ‘There exists no truth in this occurrence.’ 
Thus, no such verse was revealed that compromised the worship of one God and not a shred of evidence traces the incident back to Prophet Muhammad or any of his companions.
Hazleton would more accurately have stated that Prophet Muhammad employed Qur’anic guidance to take consultation from his companions before making a decision. This proved fruitful on many occasions. For example, during preparation for the Battle of Badr, Prophet Muhammad chose a particular camp location for his army. One of his companions suggested an area that would provide a better tactical advantage. Prophet Muhammad, recognizing his companion was correct, readily agreed and moved the entire camp. On another occasion while leading prayer, Prophet Muhammad completed zuhr (afternoon) prayer after only two rakaats instead of the correct four. When his companions inquired whether the prayer had been changed, Prophet Muhammad realized his mistake and immediately completed the full prayer.
7. His tragic failure came at the end.
Hazleton is incorrect both when she states that “he died without designating a successor,” and that Prophet Muhammad “paved the way for the divisiveness between Sunni and Shiite that persists today.”
First, the Sunni-Shia split did not occur until roughly 30 years after Prophet Muhammad died. While three decades is not terribly long, Muslims remained united through four separate Khalifas during that time, demonstrating that their ultimate divisiveness was their own doing, not Prophet Muhammad’s.
Second, the early Muslims did in fact follow Prophet Muhammad’s guidance and united under Abu Bakr as the first Khalifa. Before his demise Muhammad declared, “It does not behoove a people who have Abu Bakr among them to have anybody other than him as their imam.”  Today — centuries after the Sunni/Shia split — Muslims argue and dispute over what a hadith may or may not have meant. But actions speak louder than words, and actions demonstrate that all Muslims did in fact unite willingly under the Khalifa of the time, Abu Bakr.
Third, Shia Muslims today claim that Prophet Muhammad clearly appointed Ali as his successor. If that is the case, then the onus is still on Muslims for not obeying Prophet Muhammad’s orders. In other words, whether we believe the Sunni rendition or the Shia rendition — both renditions prove that the split occurred because of a disagreement among Muslims, not because of any failure on Prophet Muhammad’s behalf.
Finally, and all of the above notwithstanding, Islam is a religion which forbids compulsion. Islam is not a political ideology or sovereign nation that demands absolute loyalty. What religion on Earth did not divide into sects over dogmatic disagreements after its founder’s demise? The Sunni/Shia split — while not desirable — is a reflection of Islam’s protection of freedom of conscience and permission to have disagreements. To allude to such protection as a “tragic failure” is incorrect.
Summary: In short, Hazleton has historically provided worthwhile analysis on Islam and Prophet Muhammad and should be commended and appreciated for doing so. In this piece, however, Hazleton commits a few errors, and I hope these clarifications help set the record straight.
 Sahih Jami’ Bukhari Vol. 1, Book 1, #3.
 Sahih Jami’ Bukhari Vol. 4, Book 55, #605.
 Mirza Bashir Ahmad, Seal of the Prophets Volume 1 209-11 (2011) available at http://www.alislam.org/holyprophet/Seal-of-Prophets-Vol-1.pdf.
 ‘Umdatul-Qārī Sharḥu Ṣaḥīḥil-Bukhārī, Vol. 19, pg. 313, Kitābu Tafsīril-Qur’ān, Sūratul-Qamar, Under the verse “Fasjudū lillāhi wa’budūhu” [An-Najm (53:63)], Dārul-Iḥyā’it-Turāthil-’Arabī, Beirut, Lebanon, Edition 2003.
 Sharḥul-’Allāmatiz-Zarqānī ‘alal-Mawāhibil-Ladunniyyah, By Muḥammad bin ‘Abdul-Bāqī Az-Zarqānī, Vol. 2, pg. 25, Bābu Dukhūlish-Sha’bi wa Khabriṣ-Ṣaḥīfah, Dārul Kutubil-’Ilmiyyah, Beirut, Lebehon, First Edition (1996) (emphasis added).
 Al-Minhāju bi-Sharḥi Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim bin Al-Ḥajjāj, p. 533, Kitābul-Masājid wa Mawāḍi’iṣ-Ṣalāh, Bābu Sujūdit-Tilāwah, Dāru Ibni Hazam, First Edition (2002).
 At-Tafsīrul-Kabīr, By Imām Muḥammad bin ‘Umar bin Al-Ḥusain Fakhr-ud-Dīn Ar-Rāzī, Vol. 23, pg. 44-48, Tafsīru Sūratil-Ḥajj, Verse 53, Dārul-Kutubil-’Ilmiyyah, Beirut, Lebanon, Second Edition (2004).
 Sharḥul-’Allāmatiz-Zarqānī ‘alal-Mawāhibil-Ladunniyyah, By Muḥammad bin ‘Abdul-Bāqī Az-Zarqānī, Vol. 2, pg. 25, Bābu Dukhūlish-Sha’bi wa Khabriṣ-Ṣaḥīfah, Dārul-Kutubil-’Ilmiyyah, Beirut, Lebehon, First Edition (1996).
Published on the CNN
(CNN)–My New Year’s resolution is to not die for my faith. I’d hoped that 2012 would bring a revolution among Muslims and Muslim-majority nations to free oppressed minds.
Yet I find myself still waiting to not die. That’s the “curse” of being an Ahmadi Muslim in too much of the Muslim world.
Ahmadi Muslims believe Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908) is the long awaited messiah and Mahdi the Prophet Mohammed foretold, sent to unite mankind and establish peace. But this isn’t an evangelical piece, so please, keep reading.
Instead of peace, 2012 brought increased persecution in which vigilante murder, unjust arrest and outright discrimination against Ahmadi Muslims continued. A new type of persecution also increased, from which even death is not an escape.
On December 3, armed extremists destroyed 120 graves belonging to Ahmadi Muslims at a cemetery in Lahore, Pakistan. When I condemned the attack on Twitter, the response from some was just as ignorant. “You’re an infidel! Stop calling yourself a Muslim!” “You’re causing Fitna (or chaos) stop with these infidel beliefs!” Across Pakistan, Europe, Indonesia—and yes, even here in America—this is reality for Ahmadi Muslims.
I get it.
Some Muslims aren’t thrilled that Ahmadi Muslims believe the messiah has come because they expect Jesus, son of Mary, to literally descend from heaven. Ahmadi Muslims believe the Quran is clear that Jesus died a natural death many years after surviving the crucifixion.
But this isn’t about persuading anyone to believe us. Instead, it is about confronting Fitna’s actual source and recognizing the biggest poison for Muslims worldwide: religious bigotry.
Sometimes that bigotry is peripheral. The other day I tweeted a quote from Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison praising the head and Khalifa of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Mirza Masroor Ahmad, “… under (your holiness’) leadership the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has been a true blessing for us here in the United States.” Like clockwork I lost a dozen followers.
Sometimes that bigotry is disguised as a compliment. “You’d be such a good Muslim, if only you weren’t a Qadiani,” someone once told me in person. Qadiani is a pejorative for Ahmadi Muslims. The “compliment” reeks of patronization, is actually an insult, and ignores the shocking possibility that perhaps I am a “good Muslim” because I am an Ahmadi Muslim.
Sometimes that bigotry is direct. “You Qadiani mother–er! You will burn in hell for your beliefs! You godd- Jewish agent I’ll kill you!” No comment.
The above religious bigotry I can handle. When some of the above sometimes turns to death threats, I can only foolishly hope my wife doesn’t find out. (She has this funny thing where she doesn’t want her husband brutally murdered. I know I know, women!)
But sometimes that bigotry is full-blown state-sanctioned persecution and violence. Like in certain Arab states where Ahmadi Muslims are incarcerated and deported for the crime of being an Ahmadi Muslim. Or like in Pakistan where simply claiming Mirza Ghulam Ahmad is the messiah is a criminal offense warranting capital punishment for the use of derogatory remarks in respect to the Prophet.
No exaggeration—as we lawyers like to say—that’s the black letter of the law. Fortunately, no Ahmadi Muslim in Pakistan has been executed for this crime, yet. But is it anything less than an execution when the Taliban murders 86 Ahmadi Muslims in broad daylight and the police, who admitted to knowing of the attack beforehand, look on from afar?
Look, I’m not looking for special treatment. Nor do I want sympathy. But I do want one thing for the sake of humanity: That Muslims condemn all forms of religious bigotry—peripheral, patronizing, direct and violent. While this simple request is what’s right, some turn a deaf ear, despite Prophet Mohammed’s pluralistic example.
Mohammed championed religious equality in the Charter of Medina he signed with Jews. He assured protection of religious freedom in his letter to Christian monks at St. Catherine’s Monastery. He also afforded all Arabs carte blanche forgiveness when peacefully retaking Mecca—on the single condition that religious freedom reign free. Even Prophet Mohammed’s rules of war were specifically designed to protect, not persecute, religious freedom.
Every Ahmadi Muslim, Shia Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, Baha’i, Sikh, atheist, agnostic, pagan—and the list goes on—has that fundamental human right to religious freedom. Establishing that right creates the peace and mutual respect we all ostensibly want.
I say ostensibly, because when it comes to religious freedom in too much of the Muslim world, I’m still waiting to not die. I’ll continue to wait, alongside millions, until Muslims recognize religious bigotry for what it is—a cancer—and expel it from their midst. Yet, my in-box will reflect that this simple plea has, for some, fallen on deaf ears.
Well, I guess I better not slack on my New Year’s resolution.
Published in the Huffington Post
Richard Dawkins controversially asserts that, “it can be plausibly argued that a deeply held belief [in hell] might cause a child more long-lasting mental trauma than the temporary embarrassment of mild physical abuse.” Dawkins then backtracks by adding, “…violent, painful, repeated sexual abuse…probably has a more damaging effect on a child’s mental well-being than sincerely believing in hell.”
Dawkins’ comparison is nothing short of ridiculous. Those convinced and suffering from the belief in hell can always choose not to believe — as many do when older. Those who suffer sexual abuse can never “undo” the experience no matter how much time passes. It is much simpler to forget a fabricated hell than a real-life hell. Dawkins — himself the victim of sexual abuse and not the victim of mental abuse regarding hell — unfortunately ignores this fact.
Meanwhile, to remedy this alleged mental abuse of hell, Dawkins proposes that children not be taught about any particular faith, and instead enjoy full liberty upon adulthood as to whether they wish to believe in God, or not.
Dawkins’ bizarre aforementioned comparison aside, as one who believes in God, I agree that every human being should have a carte blanche right to choose first, whether they even believe in God, and second, if so — to which faith they choose to reach that God.
Dawkins, likely inadvertently, has endorsed (without crediting) a principle Prophet Muhammad championed 1400 years prior. The Qur’an categorically condemned any form of religious compulsion by declaring in no uncertain terms, “There shall be no compulsion in religion” (2:256). This remarkable verse extends beyond just religion as the word translated into “religion” is deen. Deen encompasses any form of thinking, ideology, or intellectual perspective–not just religion. Islam forbids compulsion regarding any of them.
Likewise, the Qur’an, in 22:39-41, commands Muslims to protect all houses of worship — temples, churches, synagogues, and mosques — so that freedom of conscience remains free. That is, the Qur’an provides muscle to ban compulsion of conscience. It is the only ancient scripture — religious or secular — to both specifically champion, and also provide muscle, to protect universal freedom of conscience.
Moreover, Dawkins should be pleased to know that the Qur’an condemns employing mental trauma to coerce belief. In 10:100 the Qur’an says, “And if thy Lord had enforced His will, surely, all who are on the earth would have believed together. Wilt thou, then, force men to become believers?” That is, if God does not Himself compel mankind — whothe hell is any individual to do so? The Islam that Prophet Muhammad taught — in vast contrast to some extremist regimes we see and condemn today–was an Islam that championed universal freedom of conscience, and forbade everyone from compelling anyone.
But speaking of hell, in comparing Islam’s afterlife concept to Dawkins’ concept of no after life — it is only Dawkins’ teaching that would frighten children — or adults. Dawkins would have children believe that after we lose consciousness and die, our bodies simply rot, are eaten by worms and insects, emit a putrid odor, and our self-awareness is destroyed into an eternal agnostic void of nothingness. All our joys, pleasures, friends, loved ones, families–everything we ever held near and dear is all left to eventual death and destruction, never to be seen or heard from again.
Islam, instead, teaches that once we lose consciousness and die, our bodies are no longer needed, but our consciousness lives on through our souls. God judges our souls by our willful actions in this life — namely our service to God and our service to humanity. Those who commit violence, injustice, and treachery are likewise held accountable for their willful informed actions. That said, Islam does not monopolize salvation but instead repeatedly declares that non-Muslims can and will enter heaven. Finally, Islam teaches that hell is not an “eternal place of torment and damnation,” but a limited place, described as a “nursing mother,” in which our souls are spiritually cleansed and eventually admitted to paradise. In Islam, heaven, not hell, is eternal. And heaven affords us that opportunity — if God wills — to eternally reunite with our loved ones and relive our joys, free of pain and suffering.
In comparing Dawkins’ version of death to Islam’s version of life after death, it is Dawkins who needs to follow his own advice and not torment children — or adults — with such a horrifying, depressing scenario of oblivion.
And those who insist that Dawkins’ version is “reality” while Islam’s version is “fantasy” fall into the same trap as believers who insist their version alone is “reality” while all others are “fantasy.” But rather than dwell on this dispute, we instead return to the principle on which Dawkins agrees with Islam: Freedom of conscience must remain free.
Yes, whether he admits it or not, Dawkins is endorsing Prophet Muhammad’s teaching. And while hell just might have frozen over, perhaps we can work together to a world of freer consciences and fewer mental abuses.
Published in the Washington Post
As a Muslim American, #MyJihad begins every night—get to bed on time so I can wake for pre-dawn prayer and nourish my soul. #MyJihad is not skipping a healthy breakfast—as our Starbucks society is prone to tempt—and thus properly nourish my body. #MyJihad ensures I spend time daily in service to humanity—charity, volunteer work, and mentoring—to nourish my personal moral development. And finally, #MyJihad is to read and learn about ideas that challenge my thinking—to nourish my intellect and foster pluralism.
And all the while, #MyJihad reminds me to treat those who malign, misdirect, and misinform Americans about jihad, with respect and decency—because that is the example prophet Muhammad set for all Muslims. As an American Muslim, #MyJihad is to properly define jihad with my actions of service and love—never hate.
So what is #MyJihad? It is a grassroots public educational and service campaign started by MyJihad.org. The campaign is designed to provide a unifying storm with bus ads, on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and news media. It is an inspiring phenomenon, as people of all walks of faith affiliation and non-affiliation—Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Jew, atheist, and more are uniting to share their struggle towards self-improvement and overcoming the odds in their lives.
#MyJihad defines jihad correctly as—not holy war—but struggle. A struggle that prophet Muhammad taught in three categories—struggle against the self, struggle against Satan, and struggle against a visible enemy.
#MyJihad reminds us that once upon returning from battle, Muhammad remarked, “We are returning from the lesser Jihad to engage in the greater Jihad—the Jihad against the self.” Thus, Muhammad himself defined the greater Jihad as the Jihad against the self-that incites to evil.
Jihad against the self encompasses the struggle against Satan, against satanic thoughts, influences, actions, and injustices. (Think, temptation of Christ).
Finally, jihad is the struggle against a visible enemy. Islam—like most ideologies employed even today—permits fighting in self-defense as a last resort. But the Koran remarkably goes a step further in 22:39-41, commanding Muslims to fight in defense of universal religious freedom, specifically obliging Muslims to protect “temples, churches, synagogues, and mosques” and their congregants.
The need for this long-awaited positive campaign was sown on that fateful day in September 2001. While nothing compares to that horrific loss of life, terrorists did not only destroy 3,000 innocent lives on Sept. 11, 2001. They also condemned the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims to an eye of suspicion, misunderstanding, and in a growing number of cases—discrimination. One word many Americans heard for the first time that day continues over a decade later to dominate anti-Islam Web sites, blogs, and books: Jihad. The maligning, misdirection, and misinformation about jihad that spread since by self-proclaimed scholars with degrees in Google-ology has only created more fear and discrimination.
Today, #MyJihad is our opportunity to reverse the trend. #MyJihad allows Americans to unite despite our differences and show the world our beautiful struggle for peace and pluralism. #MyJihad invites all humanity to the common principle of love for all and hatred for none.
Muslims, like myself and countless others, have responded to hate with action—blood drives to honor Sept. 11 victims, multiple BBB-accredited Muslim charities, and now grassroots campaigns like #MyJihad. This unprecedented grassroots campaign on jihad (out of my hometown of Chicago) takes the bold step to champion jihad’s true meaning and take it back from extremists and propagandists alike. And the best part—like the blood drives and charities—anyone can participate in #MyJihad.
If you haven’t participated in #MyJihad, you’re missing out, so stop waiting, join the movement for peace and understanding by following the three steps on myjihad.org.