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Ahmad: Religious education is the way to prevent war

Syed Sajid Ahmad is involved with a sect of Islam, Ahmadiyya. He runs publications for the movement, which has been persecuted throughout the world for its unorthodoxy. David Samson / The Forum

Sometime before 9/11/2001, we visited the Twin Towers when they stood tall. We stood by a replica at the entrance and had our picture taken. We went to the top and looked around and took pictures of the New York skyline.

We visited the venue again recently. As usual, we parked on the New Jersey side. We saw the tall shiny tower that has replaced the Twin Towers. We took the ferry to the other side and walked to the memorial. The names engraved around the falling waters in the square come from diverse religions and ethnicities. Before entering the museum, I looked around to fix some markers in my mind so that we may find our way back to the ferry. We spent some time in the museum. It brought back the memories of the day that changed the world around us. As we got out of the museum, there was the square with falling waters but I could not recognize any of the landmarks to find my way back to the ferry. As I walked around to set my bearings, I realized that actually there were two identical squares with water falls representing the two towers and I was able to find my way back from the other square.

From New York, we drove to D.C. We encountered numerous traffic gridlocks on the way and appreciated the light driving conditions in North Dakota, but the drive provided us time to talk and ponder over 9/11.

9/11 was preceded by attacks on our embassies in Africa that were responded by a missile attack on the camp of Osama in Afghanistan. The missile attack did not stop 9/11. Taliban were driven out of power in Afghanistan, but they still occupy a considerable part of the country and operate in Pakistan. A political solution is being sought to the stalemate. Saddam was hanged but suicide attacks in Iraq continue. ISIS rose to occupy large swaths of land in Syria and Iraq. Efforts to stop Taliban, al-Qa'ida and ISIS have resulted in devastation of many neighborhoods and misery to thousands of fellow human beings.

Militancy is an ideology to enforce perceived good by force rather than by persuasion. Militants persecute, terrorize, torture and kill to force their way. It needs to be countered by the ideology that human conscious be appealed to accept the good on its own free will.

A large part of militancy in Islam stems from corrupted interpretation of the concept of Jihad. Quranic verses are used out of their context and in contradiction to other passages of the Holy Quran to indoctrinate and excite people to hurt their fellow human beings. Solution indeed lies in teaching masses the true meaning of Jihad that conforms with the universal message of Quran and dispelling the wrong notions about Jihad by reaching out to affected regions. This is a chore to be taken up by the leaders of the countries where corrupt ideology has been preached for decades.

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908) wrote in the year 1900, "The doctrine of Jihad as understood and propagated by the Muslim divines of this age who are called Maulawis is utterly incorrect. It can lead to nothing except that by their forceful preaching they would convert common people into wild beasts and would deprive them of all the good qualities of human beings; and so it has happened...

"The practice of attacking the people of other religions prevalent among the Muslims, which they name as Jihad, is not the lawful Jihad [as envisaged by Shariah], rather it contradicts the word of God and Prophet, and is utter sin. But as some Islamic nations have of old swept into this habit, therefore, it is not easy for them to abandon this habit... Yet, a way comes to my mind, and that is, if the ruler of Kabul ... should gather renown scholars and bring the matter of Jihad into discussion, and then, through the scholars, make the public aware of their misconceptions, rather have some booklets written by the scholars of the country in Pashtu and have them widely published. Then, for sure, such action will have deep effect on public, and the emotions stirred by the ignorant mulla [religious clergy] spread among the public will subside eventually. And certainly, it will be unfortunate for of the public if the ruler does not pay attention to this necessary correction. And, the final result is the trouble for that government which sits quiet on such edicts from the mullas." (English Government and Jihad, published 22 May 1900)

Solution to the problem was presented in 1900 and 9/11 happened a hundred years after. Solution can still be implemented if the affected governments sincerely wants to solve the problem. Educating the masses in schools and places of worship is much cheaper and less painful than the huge cost of war and its toll on both sides.

Ahmad has compiled Why Islam is my choice and Words of Wisdom and has translated A Gift for the Queen and Points to Ponder.