William Kilpatrick: ‘Beware of Muslims Bearing Pamphlets’
By William Kilpatrick, who taught for many years at Boston College. He is the author of several books about cultural and religious issues, including Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right From Wrong; and Christianity, Islam and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Jihad.
“True Islam is a religion that wholly rejects all forms of terrorism.”
So says an online pamphlet put out by the True Islam Campaign. The pamphlet lists ten other truths about “true Islam,” including “True Islam believes in the equality, education, and empowerment of women,” “True Islam encompasses the universal declaration of human rights,” and “True Islam recognizes no religion can monopolize salvation.”
Each truth is accompanied by a page or so of text providing verses from the Koran and other Islamic sources to support the assertion.
The True Islam Campaign says that it hopes to counter the menace of extremism which, it says, is fueled by ignorance of Islam. Thus:
Extremists like ISIS depend on ignorance of Islam to grow. That’s why the more people know about Islam’s true teachings—and what Muslims truly believe—the less they’ll fall for ISIS’s propaganda.
The pamphlet even comes with an invitation to an Iftar dinner (the dinner that ends the fast each day during Ramadan): “Be our dinner guest. Meet your Muslim neighbors. All welcome.” The invitation also includes a “Find a Mosque near you” button.
Who could object? Americans believe that the vast majority of Muslims are moderate, and this looks like just the group to make the moderate case.
As you may have guessed, however, I do have some objections. Although the campaign claims to express “the values, beliefs, and ideals of the entire Muslim community,” it decidedly does not speak for the global Muslim community. Since the campaign is sponsored by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in the U.S., and since all the Ahmadiyyas in the world make up only about 1 to 1.5 percent of the worldwide population of Muslims, they can hardly claim to speak for the “entire Muslim community.” What’s more, the Ahmadiyya (or Ahmadi) sect is widely regarded as a heretical group, and is often targeted for persecution by other Muslims. It’s no wonder that the Ahmadis are concerned about extremists, as they themselves have long been victims of extremist violence.
But it’s not just the extremists who consider them heretics. Mainstream Muslims do as well. Orthodox Muslims have numerous reasons for classifying Ahmadis as heretics, but the chief reason is that their founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908), denied that Muhammad was Islam’s final prophet. Indeed, Ahmad claimed that he himself was a prophet who had received divine revelations. Not only that, he also claimed to be the long-awaited Mahdi, as well as the Messiah who Muslims expect to appear in the end times.
Christians might well wish that his claims were true, especially his claim that he had been chosen by Allah to renew Islam. It would be nice to think that the Ahmadi version of Islam really does represent true Islam. That’s because it’s a kinder, gentler version of Islam—one that is much closer to the wishful fantasy that many Westerners mistake for the Islamic faith.
In effect, Ahmad tried to put a smiley face on Islam. He seemed to genuinely believe it was a religion of peace and love. And, although he held the Koran to be the highest authority, he more or less ignored all the hard sayings in its pages.
In many ways he was like an earlier version of Pope Francis. Like Francis, he emphasized tolerance and acceptance, he believed that spirituality was more important than doctrine, and he believed that God wills a diversity of religions. Accordingly, the Ahmadi community regards Zoroaster, Krishna, Buddha, and Confucius as prophets along with Jesus, Moses, and Muhammad. Unlike orthodox Muslims, Ahmadis tend to look at Islam as an ever-evolving faith that is in the process of syncretizing a variety of religious beliefs.
In many respects, the Ahmadiyya sect looks like the moderate faith that many Westerners believe is adhered to by the vast majority of Muslims.
The only problem with this rosy scenario is that the vast majority of Muslims roundly reject the Ahmadis. Pakistani law prohibits Ahmadis from calling themselves Muslims, Saudi law prohibits them from performing the pilgrimage to Mecca, and there is a general consensus in the Muslim world that Ahmadis are not really Muslims.
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- The Holy Quran and the Seventh Century Arabian Metaphors
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- God Is Living, So Why Does Religion Treat God As Dead?
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