Do not let Muslim extremists succeed in their goal

The following article was published by Toronto Star on Oct. 30, 2020

The killing of Samuel Paty and recent attacks in Nice have resurfaced the questions surrounding Islam, violence, and compatibility of Muslims in the West. Though it’s regrettable that Muslims feel a burden of condemning such attacks, I feel it’s inevitable as some of these attacks are explicitly carried out in the name of Islam.

As an Imam with the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at of Canada, following the lead of the worldwide spiritual leader His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, I condemn these attacks in strongest possible terms and express my sympathies for the victims and their families. They became casualties of a heinous, senseless act of terror.

As far as my fellow Muslims in France and worldwide are concerned, we need to keep in mind two important aspects of this issue.

The first being that we should understand and comprehend that such murderers of innocent people do not and should never be our representatives. The overwhelming majority of Muslims do not follow such extremist interpretations of faith. Hence, they should be categorically rejected by us all and their ideology should find no space in our circles.

Secondly, it is not enough to merely declare that such attacks have nothing to do with Islam. A further step needs to be taken to first acknowledge and then counter the narrative of extremist Muslims, even if they be few in number.

Hence, even though the Holy Quran categorically speaks against punishing people for “blasphemy” and asks us to avoid such gatherings and show patience, the painful reality is that such extremism has taken root in a significant portion of Muslims. Many shamefully boast about punishing “blasphemers,” while some countries have even enacted blasphemy laws.

The problem of extremist interpretation isn’t limited to one issue. It extends to many other fundamental matters, such as apostasy, rights of women and those of minority faiths, democracy, freedom of speech, etc. To exterminate extremism, we need to counter the narrative of extremists who claim to act in the name of our faith.

Especially relevant today for Muslims is the declaration of His Holiness Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community: “Religion is worth the name only so long as it is in consonance with reason. If it fails to satisfy that requisite, if it must make up for its weakness in argument by handling the sword, it needs no other argument for its falsification. The sword it wields cuts its own throat before reaching others.”

It is natural that such attacks would cause at least some apprehension toward Muslims amongst the public in France and around the world. To this, I say that we should not let the extremists succeed in their goal.

The easiest prey for extremist organizations is alienated Muslim youth. If all Muslims are targeted for the actions of a few deranged individuals, not only would it alienate more Muslims, but also cause further division in our society. And surely, further division and hatred is not what is required at this point.

Listen to the overwhelming majority of Muslims today and do not let these murderous lunatics define who we are. In this case, it is not a cliché. We really do need to come together and unify people in order to de-escalate the situation.

Freedom of speech is absolutely essential and a bedrock of democracy. Everyone should be free to say anything without fear of violence. Violence is never justified, no matter how much one may disagree with what is being said.

Having said that, I also think that it is a matter of decency and moral responsibility for any society to look out for sensibilities and sentiments of its residents and not provoke them deliberately.

While some may feel that drawing derogatory cartoons of Prophet Muhammad is the best way for them to resist against the extremists, it should be clear that they also deeply hurt the sentiments of millions of Muslims worldwide. This is why I feel that such divisive acts, even though they are legal, should not be cheered on by enlightened societies.

Luqman Ahmad



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