Convention At Chino Mosque Addresses ISIS Threat To Islam

(December 29) The twenty-ninth annual West Coast convention of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community held at the Baitul Hameed Mosque in Chino December 26 to 29 directly addressed the efforts by the Islamic State In Syria [ISIS] to attract Muslim youth and other disaffected elements to its cause.
The upshot of the convention was assertions by the Ahmadiyya Community that the violence and intolerance advocated by ISIS is not representative of Islam in its purest form or as is practice by the majority of the 72 Islamic sects.
“Isis has built its case around distorted and inappropriate interpretations of the Koran and Islmic teachings,” said Ibrahim Naeem, the faith outreach director for the Los Angeles West Chapter of Ahmadiyya Muslim community.
Naeem said the Ahmadiyya and other Muslims were as appalled by the action of ISIS as non-Muslims.
“We want to have a conversation about the current state of Islam, in particular the concern with ISIS and what their objective is as opposed to what the ideas and ideology of Islam is in general worldwide,” Naeem said. “What people are concerned about when they hear of these terroristic acts is they link them all. They think Islam is a monolith and that all Muslims have the same ideology. Nothing could be further from the truth. People who are part of ISIS are far removed from the basic beliefs of Islam. What ISIS believes and what ISIS practices is absolutely anathema to the beliefs of the Ahmadiyya community. We have a saying – a motto of sorts – ‘Love for all. Hatred for none.’”
The convention, known as a Jalsa Salana, was titled “The ISIS World Crisis and the Pathway to Peace.” Over 1,500 Muslims from across the country and guests attended.
The most scholarly and dynamic speech at the three day event was that given by Imam Azhar Haneef, who oversees the Ahmadiyya mosques in the tri-state area of New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania.
Haneef sought to provide some historical, cultural and overarching religious perspective on the phenomenon of ISIS.
“There has been a root disease within the Muslim world for some time,” Haneef stated. What ails Islam and the world currently, he said has plagued all religions that have receded from their spiritual apex into a directional nadir. Using the Muslim term caliph, which refers to the leadership succession of a religious movement, Haneef pointed out that Moses, as the leader of the Jews, was succeeded by his chosen caliph, Joshua, who led the Jews into the Promised Land. For a time, Haneef said, the Jews maintained their spiritual intensity and flourished, reaching ultimate fruition under King David. But in time, as Haneef said was inevitable, the Hebraic spirituality was compromised and King Solomon lamented that the son who would succeed him to the thrown would be too weak to carry on. Israel had so declined that by the time of Jesus, Haneef said, the zealots were casting about futilely to reestablish Israel to its former greatness, refusing to knuckle under to the authority of the Roman Empire.
“When it reached a point of crisis at the time of Christ. the zealots were rebuilding the empire, just like the Taliban and Al Khaida today, determined to fight against Rome to the point where Rome destroyed Israel in A.D. 132. Hundreds of thousands were killed. The temple was desecrated. Israel was not to come back until 1947.”
Similarly, Christianity, which stared out with such fervent spiritual intensity under Jesus Christ, Haneef said, would be subject upon Jesus’ passing to a caliphate.
“Jesus selected a leader for after he was gone, James, or Peter, for the Catholic succession,” Haneef said. “Someone was needed to keep people united and focused for the mission of the founder. None live on earth forever and they start a succession. Each succession started out spiritually. Look at the struggle of the early Christians. Centuries later, the Christians who were born into a mission of peace and who had been forced to go into the catacombs to survive had split into an eastern and a western church and were fighting amongst themselves. The Spanish Inquisition drove the Jews and heretics out of Europe, yet these people called themselves the caliphate of Jesus Christ.”
ISIS and Al Khaida and the Taliban are the Muslim manifestation of, Haneef said, “the same scene, the same struggle. We have a situation coming into Islam the prophet [i.e., Mohammed] warned the Muslims about. The caliph, a spiritual successor, is always spiritually inclined and then the devotion dissipates. The true caliphs are followed by kings, who are followed by those who turn from being not just powerful monarchs but then become corrupt kings and become despotic tyrants with no sense of justice.”
The realization of this reality, Haneef said, “drove a truly spiritually dedicated caliph, Omar al Farooq, whose efforts on behalf of Islam had pushed the border of the Islamic state far into Persia and into portions of what had been the Western Roman Empire to tearfully ask one of his associates, ‘Tell me, what am I? Am I a caliph or am I a king?’ His companion answered him, ‘If you extort even one dinar from the people and misappropriated money from the state treasury you are a king and not a caliph.’ Omar said, ‘I know not what I am,’ and he broke down in tears.“
Hanef said, “Kings are not spiritual. They are political. This whole discussion takes us back to our roots. We have to recognize where we began and where we are and how afar form the original source have we come.”
Haneef said it was his hope that the non-Muslim world will see that all of Islam is not hell bent on destruction of those who do not share all of their beliefs and recognize that “these Al Khaida terrorists are driven by a radical and perverted vision of Islam that crushes dissent and justifies the murder of women and children for political power and a totalitarian Islamic empire they hope to establish.”
ISIS and other advocates of violence, Haneef said, “have turned from the true spirit of the prophet they claim to represent. Much of the disorder we see in the world today is occurring because of the acts of so-called Muslims. One group is viciously spreading its net of fear and terrorism. I am speaking of a group of extremists commonly known as ISIS. They are impacting not just the Muslim community but countries in Europe where we see disturbing number of our youth who have come to believe ISIS represents a true picture of Islam. For this reason they have resolved to help and fight for them, thinking, ‘I will bring back that old Muslim empire and then destroy all infidels, representing Mohammed. Yes, I am in.’ We need to make them not go down this line of rationalization. Everyone, and not just the Muslim world are alarmed. Their objectives are utterly horrific and barbaric. I could not watch someone saying ‘Allah Akbar’ – God is Great – and taking an instrument and removing someone’s life. This is senseless brutality we are witnessing over and over again. I cannot claim this to have any semblance of Islam. This is not the way and never was the way of the Prophet of Islam nor any prophet.”
Congressman Ed Royce, R-Fullerton, the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, also spoke at the convention. Royce said ISIS, the forerunners of which existed as early as 1999, escalated into prominence within the cauldron of a “toxic environment” in Syria as the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, struggled to maintain power during the ongoing Syrian Civil War, which resulted in a “humanitarian nightmare as al-Assad, backed by Iran and Russia continued to order mass atrocities.”
The current situation in which ISIS has maintained its footing and is gaining strength, Royce said, would have been avoidable if there had been a stronger stand taken against ISIS early on by both the United States and its allies. Royce said he believed “We should have implemented a policy to rally the international community to protect civilians and hold al-Assad accountable. Some others in the international community argued a different position, that intervention would lead to civil war. It is regrettable what happened.”
Royce said he believe ISIS had “subverted Islam,” and he called for “cooperation and engagement with Muslim community… in exposing the true nature of ISIS.” Muslims as much or more than other religious groups, Royce said, are victims of ISIS. “ISIS is a threat to every religious minority,” Royce said. “It is a threat to every religious majority, because for those who do not agree with the tenets of ISIS, as ISIS defines them, the threat is death.”
Karen Comstock, the newly selected police chief in Chino, offered her perspective of the Ahmadiyya community, removing it to a local rather than international context. She said she was “impressed” by the “Ahmadiyya community’s constant quest for peace and love but also knowledge” and the “wide ranging professional fields” the mosque’s members worked within. She said she wanted her department to “work in partnership with you to deliver peace for the community of Chino.”
Rancho Cucamonga City Councilwoman Lynne Kennedy said the Ahmadiyya’s approach represented “core beliefs that resonate for all of us. The real enemy is disease, ignorance and poverty. Those are the things we need to concentrate on. This is an opportunity to learn. This event gives us all an opportunity to come together. We know there is no lack of information, but at what point does information become knowledge and knowledge understanding? That is the key: unity among diversity. We must learn from one another. We have to be willing to embrace diversity and accept living among one another.”
Corona City Councilman Dick Haley decried the violence ISIS has engaged in but noted that violence is ubiquitous, as he was reminded recently while watching his grandchildren playing a video game involving a virtual firefight among assault weapon wielding combatants.
In the world of virtual reality and video games, a reset button can restore vanquished combatants, Haley said. Games may make life seem superficial, he said, but in the real world, “We are at war. We too suffer from peer pressure to do things or not do things.” When violence is brought to bear in the real world, Haley said, “There is no reset button.”
He said a stand against resorting to violence must be taken. “We can work together to collectively stop this,” he said. “The people of the world, all of God’s people, have to put our foot down and say we’ve had enough.”

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