In recent times, in several Western countries, the far-right has gained prominence and attracted ever-more members to its ranks. As a result, xenophobia, and especially Islamophobia, have grown apace. The root cause for this retrograde trend is that some people fear that Islam is incompatible with Western values, such as freedom, democracy and equality. These sceptics believe that Muslims are unable to integrate successfully into Western societies and, indeed, that they are even a threat to other citizens.
Furthermore, some believe Islam to be a religion of extremism and imagine that Muslims are extremists or religious fanatics, who will spread poison in society, incite division, disturb the peace of their nation and forcefully apply the Sharia – Islamic law – in Western societies.
If it could ever be proved that the root of the above -mentioned issues is Islam, it would, of course, follow that the concerns of the far-right would be justified.
If it could be proved that Muslims who do wrong are motivated by a religion mainspring, it could be said that Islamophobia is justified.
Yet, what if extremism and violence have nothing at all to do with Islam? What if anti-Islamic groups are spreading hateful slander and false propaganda based on false premises rather than facts?
The answer to the following three questions set out below should serve as a touchstone for finding out whether Islamophobia springs forth from legitimate concern or whether it is false propaganda:
Does Islam promote peace or violence?
In Arabic the word ‘Islam’ literally means ‘peace’ and ‘security’. Furthermore, the definition of a Muslim, according to the founder of Islam, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), is that a true Muslim is the one from whose tongue and hand all others are safe. Hence, Muslims are commanded to spread peace in their environments by greeting others with “Assalamu aleikum” - peace be upon you.
Does Islam permit force and compulsion to apply Sharia – otherwise known as Islamic law?
If it were true that Islam were a bloodthirsty religion that permits force and compulsion in order to convert others, why has the Holy Qur’an declared freedom of faith and belief as a fundamental right in Chapter 2, Verse 257: “There is no compulsion in faith.”
Furthermore, while addressing the Holy Prophet of Islam, Allah the Almighty states that if He desired, He could have enforced His will and compelled everyone to accept Islam. However, instead, Allah the Almighty preferred free will to prevail. (Chapter 10:100)
Likewise, Allah the Almighty states in the Holy Qur’an that Muslims should preach only their message and proclaim Islam to be a truthful religion, yet at the same time the Qur’an also states that every person is free to accept or reject Islam:
“Let him who will, believe and let him who will, disbelieve.” (Chapter 18:30)
The Covenant of Medina constitutes historical evidence of how freedom of faith and religion was bestowed to everyone in a predominantly Muslim society. In Medina, Jews and pagan Arabs lived alongside Muslims and had equal rights as citizens despite practising their own religions. We don’t find a single example in the life of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) of someone being forcefully converted to Islam or obliged to follow Islamic commands, known as Sharia.
Indeed, all of his battles against pagan Arabs or Jews were an act of self- defence. Early Muslims never attacked or deprived anyone of their fundamental freedom of faith. It is, in fact, the case that the permission for Muslims to fight and defend themselves was to establish freedom of religion. The Holy Qur’an further states that if Muslims did not defend their religion, then churches, temples, synagogues, mosques and all other places of worship would all be in grave danger. So, permission was granted to protect the rights of all people to live their lives freely and according to their beliefs. (Chapter 22, Verse 40-41)
3. Can Muslim integrate into secular Western societies?
For a true Muslim, there is no contradiction or conflict between their love for Islam and their love for their country. In fact, these two characteristics are interconnected, as the Holy Qur’an has commanded all Muslims to be law-abiding citizens. (Chapter 4: 60). Furthermore the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) declared loyalty towards ones country as an intrinsic part of Islamic faith.
In terms of Muslims of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Community - who believe in Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (peace be upon him) as the Promised Messiah and Reformer of this era - at all major events, all members of the Community stand up and make a pledge in which they promise to give up their lives, wealth, time and honour not only for their religion, but also for the sake of their nations. Therefore, who could prove to be more loyal citizenry than those who are constantly reminded to serve their nations and from whom a pledge is repeatedly taken to be ready throughout to make all sacrifices needed for the sake of their faith and nation?
According to Islamic understanding, a Muslim woman does not have to take off her Islamic veil, or a Christian nun does not have to take off her head covering, or a Jew does not have to take off his Kippah to be integrated into a society. Muslims, Jews or Buddhists don’t have to shake the hand of someone of the the other gender to be integrated. Muslims don’t have to drink alcohol, or Hindus don’t have to eat cow, or Jews don’t have to eat pork to be integrated into a society. If for someone, integration means that individuals have to give up their religious values in an attempt to adopt to the mainstream, then such a society cannot be called free, democratic and multicultural. In such a scenario, under the rallying-cry of integration, we would deprive individuals of their basic rights of religion, belief and expression.
Doesn’t integration mean to be a loyal and law-abiding citizen? Doesn’t integration mean to respect the rights of others and live in peace with others? Doesn’t integration mean “Love for all, Hatred for None”?
The Power of Prose