When asked what he would say if ever seated on an airplane next to someone who confesses to being affiliated with ISIS, Haaris Munir offered a swift, sharp response.
“I think the first thing I’d ask him in general is whether he’s actually read the Quran,” the 20-year-old from West Bloomfield Township said Thursday night. “A lot of these associations with ISIS brainwash people with information that’s not even in the Quran.”
Munir and about 150 others gathered Thursday night at Henry Ford College in Dearborn for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Metro Detroit’s second annual “What is the Pathway to Peace” symposium. Themed “Stop The CrISIS,” the event aimed to unite community members to dispel myths about Islam and discuss solutions to rising extremism.
The event was planned before last week’s attacks in Paris and Lebanon, which have spurred lawmakers to suspend U.S. admissions of Middle Eastern refugees as well as sparked fears of a backlash against Metro Detroit Muslims. Coordinators and participants say the current climate imbued the dialogue, which drew members of Christian and Jewish groups, with even more significance as conflicts abroad influence Americans.
The aim is “saying with one voice: ‘We are not going to tolerate this kind of extremism and we are going to try our best to discuss solutions as much as possible to quell the violence that is happening there and the possible threat coming to our shores, as well,’ ” said Mahir Osman, secretary of public affairs for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Metro Detroit. The group is within the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA, launched in 1920 as part of an international movement.
Throughout the two-hour function, where tables were adorned with a card that read “Love for All, Hatred for None,” speakers and attendees highlighted Prophet Muhammad’s life depicted in the Quran as examples to follow in their daily lives — not extremist interpretations.
“We need to present the truth to society,” said Dr. Mansoor Qureshi, president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Metro Detroit. “We should all be walking ambassadors of the prophet — our actions, the way we walk, the way we talk, the way we interact with others. We need to tell them what Islam and what the Prophet is all about. Then they can see and judge for themselves.”
Others speakers pointed out the Quran called for worshipers to help others and that extremist acts have killed or affected many Muslims.
“There are no … verses which justify the actions of terrorist groups like ISIS at all in the holy Quran, and we should be able to present that,” said Imam Yahya Luqman of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA Midwest Region.
The political and social ramifications also permeated the discussion. The Rev. Richard Peacock, who is active with Peace Action of Michigan, suggested possible ways to combat ISIS, including enhanced diplomacy and calling on authorities to “stop flooding” foreign territories with weapons.
He also advocated for increasing humanitarian aid through the United Nations to help refugees and internally displaced people. “We must push against racism that denies refugees the opportunity to come to our United States,” he said.
While considering how to help others, Muslims should also stand vigilant against those who work to commit crimes or wrongdoing in the name of the faith, said Ali G. Awadi, an adjunct professor at Cleary University in Howell and Henry Ford College who has a doctorate in public policy and administration. “When you turn a blind eye, you’re spreading the corruption.”
Reviewing Islamic teaching and examining relevant, hot-button issues encouraged attendees.
“It was nice to see all the support of everyone,” said Nudrat Ahmad of Troy. “It’s the ignorance that drives this radicalization. It’s refreshing to see all these people educating themselves about what Islam is really about.”