For the second time this week, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community prayed for the victims of the San Bernardino attacks, while also trying to educate the larger community that terrorism isn’t part of Islamic teachings.
Starting with a verse from the Quran, first sung and then spoken in English, people who spoke were clear: the people who claim their attacks are in the name of Islam are twisting the religion for their own game.
The Quran says: “… We prescribed for the children of Israel that whosoever killed a person — unless it be for killing a person or for creating disorder in the land — it shall be as if he had killed all mankind; and whoso gave life to one, it shall be as if he had given life to all mankind. And our messengers came to them with clear signs, yet even after that, many of them commit excesses in the land.”
Ahmad Hameed, a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Harrisburg, said people ask him why Muslims don’t speak out against violence. It’s a misconception though, because Islam is based on peace and has been speaking for peace for hundreds of years.
With each ISIS-related terror attack, Muslims in America are having to negotiate a growing anti-Muslim rhetoric. Many stand steadfast in their effort to work for peace and understanding with their communities.
Though soundbites and messages from suspected terrorists point to jihad as a reason for their attacks, Christopher Khalid-Janney, another member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Harrisburg, said this is a misinterpretation of what the Quran says. According to the Quran, jihad does not mean attacking someone of another religion; it’s used in many ways, including to fight against negative thoughts or other internal things that might drive a person away from religion. A taking up of arms is only supported if a person has been persecuted and driven out of their home because of their religion — and it that instance it’s a last restort, Khalid-Janney said.
He hopes that Muslims will take it upon themselves to educate other community members.
“It’s easy to take one piece of information, one verse, one piece of audio and speak to that,” Khalid-Janney said. “It’s another thing to go face-to-face with a person and say, ‘I don’t understand this, I don’t understand what this means.'”
He encouraged anyone with questions to come to the Hadee Mosque and speak with a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
One person who changed his mind after meeting with members of the Islamic community, is Raymond Marks, of Harrisburg.
After Sept. 11, Marks said he thought all Muslims were out to get him and America. But then, after talking with his Muslim neighbors, he found quite a different outlook.
The religion is based on peace, not terrorism or attacks, he said.
“For someone like me to come to a mosque and pray with them, it’s a big step,” Marks said.