The other question which came up in our talk last week with veteran radio host Bernie Hayes on WGN St. Louis’ Urban Forum, was – how do we as Ahmadi Muslims feel about the current popular uprisings in the Middle East. It is interesting that we were holding this discussion on Wednesday Feb 23rd. On Friday the 25th the Khalifa (Caliph) or spiritual leader of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community discussed this subject in his weekly sermon. This is important because the Khalifa of the time, is the official voice of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
My own position as stated on the program was very much in alignment with the Khalifa of the time. I explained that as an Ahmadi Muslim I am in sympathy with the people in the streets of the Middle East.
As the Khalifa explained, we are in solidarity with those who “preceded us in faith”. Moreover as a majority of these people are Muslim, we share a deeply and dearly held belief in the Holy Prophet Muhammad. In this sense, we are of the same family, for as the Holy Qur’an teaches, “all believers are brothers” (49:11).
Moreover if so called Muslim leaders complied with Islamic teachings, they would have guarded the rights of their fellow country men, most of whom are Muslims themselves. From the Islamic standpoint, the Khalifa points out that the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) would have actively engaged these leaders to be more responsive to the people.
As Ahmadis however, we are concerned about what the future holds for our brothers and sisters in faith in the Middle East. History has taught us that the real revolution is not simply swapping the outer trappings of leadership. There is a risk that a mere “change at the top” could lead to the rise of religious or military extremists. The risk therefore is that the uprisings that we are witnessing in the Arab streets could be usurped by countervailing forces and become as in the words of Jesus, “pouring old wine into new wine skins”.
In this latter case the Khalifa points out that the people can become oppressors themselves. As Ahmadi Muslims we are particularly sensitive to this reality. Ahmadis in Pakistan, and Indonesia who were active in the founding of these nations are now themselves victims of persecution. Subject to blasphemy laws and discriminatory ordinances Ahmadi Muslims in these nations have seen what happens when popular uprisings for independence later go wrong.
Our efforts in St. Louis and in the United States with regard to this issue is to support the quest for freedom among the Arabs. Attached to this desire, however, is our continued struggle to secure the rights and freedoms of our Ahmadiyya Muslim brothers and sisters in many Muslim countries like Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh and currently a growing list of other places including nations in the Middle East.
Over the last 12 months members of our community has met local officials including Chief of Police Dan Isom as well as Fire Chief Jenkerson. Moreover we are moving forward to meet with congressional and senate representatives. Our aim is to educate our national and local leaders about how persecution of minorities develop in Muslim countries. We further wish to inform them that the discriminatory framework that leads to religious persecution emboldens extreme groups who later rise to threaten American interests abroad and since 9/11 – threaten our interests at home. One of the gifts of Islam is to restore trust to our national and international policy. We educate our leaders so that they become aware of how we, a democratic nation can be manipulated into supporting religious discrimination and persecution through our support for despotic regimes. We the members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, continually caution our political leaders to keep our allies such as Pakistan and Indonesia honest. They must not take the tax dollars nor the influence obtained from our struggles for social justice and equity, and squander them on a foreign policy that compromises the ideals upon which our nation is built.