My name is Kashif Chaudhry. I am a Pakistani immigrant to the United States. Currently, I am completing a Cardiology fellowship in Boston. While speaking at Yale earlier this week, Hirsi Ali declared war on me. But why?
To provide some perspective, I am a Muslim who belongs to the Ahmadiyya sect of Islam. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is the single largest community of Muslims worldwide, with tens of millions of members in over 200 countries in the world, all united under His Holiness, the Khalifa of Islam. Established in 1889, we have a 125 year history of demonstrating – not just claiming – that Islam promotes universal justice, freedom of speech and free exchange and criticism of ideas. We promote peace through dialogue and support universal freedom of conscience for people of all faiths – and of no faith. We are at the forefront of humanitarian service throughout the world. We have schools to impart secular education, hospitals to treat the sick, and charity projects to provide food and water etc. across parts of the developing world. In the United States alone, we collected 30,000 bags of blood to commemorate 9/11 victims in the last three years and recently took our fight against hunger to the American Congress. We condemn violent Jihad, and reject apostasy and blasphemy laws as un-Islamic and inhumane, and champion the separation of Church and State.
The inspiration for all our work is Islam. We get our inspiration from the teachings of the Koran and Prophet Muhammad. But since we fully submit to the teachings of the Koran, Hirsi Ali would have you believe that we deserve to be crushed and opposed.
I followed Hirsi Ali’s speech on Daniel Mael’s – an aggressive pro-Israel student activist – LIVE twitter feed and wish to address a few points from it.
Yes it is. I try my best to submit to that call. I try my best to follow the teachings of the Koran and live my life by it. This is exactly why we Ahmadi Muslims, as a community, are able to achieve what we have. This is why Ahmadi Muslims have spread peacefully to all corners of the earth and lead humanitarian efforts of all kinds. Our inspiration is indeed the Koran.
Hirsi Ali claims (initial tweet) that she clashes ONLY with Muslims who follow the Koran completely. I am one of hundreds of millions of Muslims who are in this “1st set.” Why would anyone be at war with me? I spend my time doing community service, preach peace and love, condemn violence in all its forms, drive across the country on my few free weekends to promote intra faith and interfaith harmony. I spend my free evenings writing against religious extremism and bigotry, especially in the Muslim world. This is the bigotry that I escaped. Many of my fellow brothers are not as lucky and continue to be persecuted and killed by radical clerics in Pakistan. While we fight this hard ideological battle at the forefronts, Hirsi Ali opened another front, declaring war on me for following the Koran in toto.
I am glad Hirsi Ali agrees with me on the issue of ‘violent Jihad.’ Ahmadi Muslims have years and years and years of experience preaching against violent Jihad. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of the community, wrote:
“Behold! I have come to you people with a directive that henceforth jihad with the sword has come to an end but jihad for the purification of your souls still remains. This injunction is not from me but rather it is the will of God.” —British Government and Jihad, pg. 15
“They [Orthodox Muslim clerics] adhere so strongly to their doctrine of jihad—which is completely misguided and entirely contradicts the teachings of the Holy Qur’an and hadith—that they label as “dajjal ” [Antichrist] and advocate the murder of anyone who as much as objects.” – British Government and Jihad, pg.8
“They should remember that their understanding of jihad is not at all correct, and that human sympathy is its first casualty. Their belief, that jihad should be lawful today because it was permitted in early Islam, is totally incorrect and we offer two rejoinders. The first is that their reasoning is baseless. Under no circumstance did our Holy Prophet [pbuh] raise the sword against anyone unless they had first raised the sword; mercilessly killing innocent, pious men, women and children with such brutality that reading about these events even today brings tears to our eyes.”
“In this age, jihad has taken a spiritual form. And jihad in this age demands that we strive in raising the Islamic kalimah”
I have touched on this issue in a little more detail in this piece published in the New Jersey Record.
The Jihad that we engage in is spiritual self-reformation and an intellectual defense of Islam with the pen.
I agree there are radical clerics in the Muslim world who preach a belligerent interpretation of Jihad. I invite you to join me in condemning these extremists. They kill me, They persecute me. And now you declare war on me? Join me against them. Join us moderates. For humanity sake.
I hear you. This is genuinely sad and frustrating for me too. I speak about these issues on social media all the time. The radicals in the Muslim world have political backing and use this influence to silence us moderates. In Pakistan, for instance, a governor and federal minister who spoke against the country’s opprobrious blasphemy laws were gunned downed. The blasphemy and apostasy laws are tools used by the radical extremists to maintain control and power. With time, more and more people are becoming aware of the unIslamic nature of these laws. I have touched on this in a little more detail in this Huffington Post article condemning apostasy laws.
I pray for the day when these laws are repealed. So do hundreds of millions of other Muslims worldwide. I agree these laws should go and I invite you to join us moderates – who suffer from these laws on the ground – instead of declaring war on us.
Anyone who says FGM is a ‘Muslim problem’ is being dishonest. I am glad we agree that FGM pre-dated Islam and is present across different cultures and tribes. FGM has no sanction in the Koran and popular Islamic tradition. Some schools of thoughts within Islam do encourage FGM because of certain controversial narrations. The majority of Muslims world over rejects such views and believes they could be addressed with mass education/awareness campaigns. We believe FGM should be viewed as an act of terrorism.
FGM is common in other non-Muslim communities as well. The largest ethnic group in Kenya – the Kikuyu tribe – is one example. According to a Kenya Demographic Health Survey (1998), “42.5 per cent of Kikuyu women aged between 15 and 49 have been circumcised” (The Nation 5 Jan. 2000). According to the FGM Website, 50 per cent of the Kenyan population (6,300,000) have undergone the practice. A Basic Support for Institutionalizing Child Survival (BASICS) report states that “80 percent of women above the age of 14 have undergone some type of FGM. Evidence suggests that the age of circumcision is getting younger and younger.”
Our education should cover all such cultures and tribes that have failed to see the harm and crime in FGM. Just shouting “FGM is a Muslim problem and so lets fight all Koran followers,” is not just dishonest, it is counterproductive. Let us fight this good fight together. I invite you to join me – instead of declaring war on me – in fighting FGM.
Yes we do. This is why the majority of Muslims world over refuse to send their kids to ‘madrasas’ that have unfortunately become ideological recruiting centers for radical Mullas. The majority of practicing Muslims send their kids to secular schools, yet teach them the Quran at home or through Muslim schools – the same Muslim day schools you advocate should be closed down.
My friends’ kids attended a Muslim day school at the Ahmadiyya Muslim Mosque in North Jersey every Saturday. Like me, they are heavily involved with community work today. They are helping make America a better place for everyone.
Firsly, Saudi Arabia is not representative of Islam. This naïve simplistic view of the faith of 2 billion humans is insulting to Hirsi Ali’s intellect. Read my piece comparing the Royal Saudi State with the United States of America here. Many of Hirsi’s counterparts in the antisemitic world make the same mistake confusing Israel’s policies with teachings of Judaism.
Secondly, if a symbol in a flag signifying military prowess is any indication of the flag-bearer’s (or their faith’s) inherent violent nature, then what do we say about the following:
1) The seal of the President of the United States has thirteen arrows denoting the ‘power of war.’ Does this show of military power mean ‘Christianity’ or ‘secularism’ (however you see the country) is inherently violent? Or is the President a violent man?
2) The flags of Guatemela, Haiti, Sri Lanka, Mozambique etc also contain military symbols. None of these is a Muslim-majority country. Does this translate to the inherent violence in the people or faith of the citizens of these States?
3) The flags of some of the US States – including mine i.e. Massachusetts – have a sword in it too. Does that mean the residents of Massachusetts, or people all over the world who share the majority faith practiced here (Christian) are not peaceful?
4) The flag of many counties (e.g Essex county) and cities, including one of my favorite – London – has a sword as a symbol. Would it be fair to infer that Londoners are not peaceful or that those who share their values anywhere in the world must be violent savages?
Sorry Hirsi Ali, this one was lame.
We are. Its been too long now. We are only picking pace with time. We get persecuted and killed on the frontlines for this vital fight of ours. But while we fight radical clergy, you declare war on us. If you cant share our burden, please don’t make it worse for us Hirsi.
And if you are genuinely unaware of the work we moderates do, just read this article published on the same day as your speech in the Huffington Post, written by the spokesperson of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Also follow our intellectual Jihad against all radicals and bigots – religious or otherwise – at the Muslim Writers Guild of America.
Lets end this on a complete agreement. Thank you for reiterating what all American Muslims already know and cherish – the superior values and freedoms of the United States. This is exactly why I am writing this blog. I believe it is hurtful to American Muslims who follow Islam and the Koran that you would brand them with the likes of ISIS and declare war on them. I request that you reconsider. I ask that you redirect your war towards those who want me dead in the Muslim world. Thank you.