Guest columnist Zohaib Zafar is a graduate student at Cleveland State University and a member of the Muslim Writers Guild of America.
In this age of misinformation, many Americans have misconceptions about Islam and according to a 2014 Pew study, most Americans do not even know a Muslim. As an American Ahmadi Muslim, I recognize that we must change this and address any concerns our fellow Americans may have about Islam. This is why on Saturday, September 10, #MeetaMuslim day took place.
Hundreds of Ahmadi Muslims were out on the streets in 50 major U.S. cities with signs that read, “I’m a Muslim – Ask Me Anything.” We answered any questions that the general public and community leaders had about our religion. In Cleveland, we went to Public Square and West Side Market.
Collectively, the media fails to illustrate a realistic portrait of what Muslims do. While we must condemn the terrorist attack that took place in London and pray for the victims of this barbaric attack, we must also recognize that most Muslims are peaceful, law-abiding citizens. If God forbid, this attack was done in the name of Islam, the perpetrator violated basic teachings of Islam found in the Holy Quran. The Holy Quran says that there is no compulsion in religion and that if you kill one person, it is as if you killed all of humankind. Recognizing that the true teachings of Islam are only a source of good will alienate violent extremists and allow peaceful Muslims to win an ideological war.
The media hardly ever recognizes the peace initiatives of my community, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. My community has tens of millions of members worldwide and we are led by one leader, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad who resides in London. He speaks against injustice done in the name of Islam on a regular basis and has done this his entire life. He has warned against the devastating consequences of nuclear war for years and sent letters to political leaders such as Benjamin Netanyahu and King Abdullah, of Saudi Arabia, in an effort to prevent war and conflict.
Every 9/11, Ahmadi Muslims do the Muslims for Life event in which we remember the victims by donating blood. We have collected over 40,000 pints of blood so far and we will have another blood drive soon. No Ahmadi Muslim has ever been indicted let alone convicted of terrorism. In fact, hundreds of Ahmadi Muslims have lost their lives because of terrorism even a hundred years before 9/11.
Why should we be held responsible for terrorism done in the name of Islam when we have only been victimized by these same terrorists? If Americans continue to tolerate Islam and Muslims, it will send a message to violent extremists from all religious backgrounds that they are losing their war and that pluralism will prevail.