Editor’s Note: The op-Ed below is a condensed version of the keynote address delivered by Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, during a March 17 peace conference in London. It was sent to PennLive Opinion by members of the Harrisburg-area Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. We’re republishing it in an effort to build a greater understanding between our Muslim and non-Muslim neighbors.
By Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad
“Our faith demands us to try and urge people, in all parts of the world, whether rich or poor, whether powerful or oppressed, whether religious or irreligious, towards peace and justice.
“In recent times, one of the issues that many politicians and intellectuals have debated and campaigned about is climate change and specifically a reduction in carbon emissions.
“Certainly, striving to protect the environment and to look after our planet is an extremely precious and noble cause. Yet, at the same time, the developed world, and especially the world’s leaders, should also realize that there are other issues that must be tackled with the same urgency.
“People living in the world’s poorest nations do not concern themselves with the environment, or the latest figures on carbon emissions; rather, they wake up each day wondering if they will be able to feed their children.
“We must not consider such hardship as other people’s problems. Instead, we must realize that the result of such poverty has severe implications for the wider world and directly affects global peace and security.
The fact that children have no option, but to spend their days collecting water for their families, means that they are unable to go to school, or to attain any form of education. They are stuck in a vicious cycle of illiteracy and poverty that is seemingly endless and hugely damaging to society.
“Frustrations are being preyed upon by extremists, who entice the impoverished with financial reward and by promising a better life for their families. Similarly, the targeting of illiterate youth means that the extremists have free rein to radicalize and brainwash them.
“Poor nations must not be looked down upon, rather we should consider them as part of our family – our brothers and sisters.
“By helping the developing nations stand on their own feet, and by giving their people opportunities and hope, we will actually be helping ourselves and safeguarding the future of the world.
“As a result of recent terrorist attacks and widespread immigration to the West, there has also been a dangerous rise in nationalism in many Western countries, evoking fears of the dark days of the past.
“It is particularly disturbing that far-right groups have become increasingly vocal and have seen their membership rise and have even made political gains.
“They too are extremists, who seek to poison Western society, by inciting the masses against those who have a different color of skin or who hold different beliefs.
“In addition, the rhetoric of certain powerful world leaders has become increasingly nationalistic and belligerent, as they have pledged to put the rights of their own citizens above all others.
“I do not dispute the fact that it is the responsibility of governments and leaders to look after their own people and to protect their interests. Certainly, as long as the leaders act with justice, and do not infringe upon the rights of others, attempts to better the lives of their citizens is a great virtue.
“However, policies that are based upon selfishness, greed and a readiness to forfeit the rights of others are wrong and a means of sowing discord and division in the world.
“Quite openly and proudly, the major powers are trading arms that are being used to kill, maim and brutalize innocent people. Regrettably, such nations are focused only on attempts to boost their economy and to maximize their nation’s capital, without pausing for thought at the consequences.
“They desperately seek to attain the largest possible contracts to sell destructive weapons that, once fired, do not distinguish between the innocent and the guilty.
“They proudly sell weapons that make no exception for children, women or the infirm. They shamelessly sell weapons that engulf and obliterate towns and cities indiscriminately.
“Countless children are seeing their parents being killed in the most inhumane fashion and all they can do is wonder why their parents have been taken away from them.
“Thousands of women are left widowed, hopeless and vulnerable. What good can come of such devastation? All I see is a generation of children being pushed into the arms of those who seek to destroy the peace of the world.
“Instead of being in school, getting an education, so that they grow into decent, law-abiding citizens, the only education an entire generation of children is getting, is how to master grenades or rocket launchers, how to do suicide attacks and how to wreak havoc in the world.
“I mentioned that a major focus of the international community is climate change and a desire to keep the air that we breathe clean. Is there anyone who thinks that heavy bombardment has no effect on the atmosphere?
“Furthermore, if peace ever does prevail in the war-torn countries, their towns and cities will have to be rebuilt from scratch, and this in itself will be a huge industry that will cause an increase in harmful emissions and pollution.
“Thus, on the one hand, we are trying to save the planet, yet with our other hand, we are senselessly destroying it. In light of all of this, I firmly believe that world powers are being blinded by short-sightedness and tunnel-vision.
“If we are to leave behind a legacy of hope for our children, and bequeath a peaceful world to our future generations, we, irrespective of our religion or beliefs, need to urgently change our priorities.
“Instead of being consumed by materialism and a desire for power, every nation, whether rich or poor, must prioritize the peace and security of the entire world above all else. Instead of embarking on an arms race, leading to death and destruction, we must join the race to save and protect humanity.
“Instead of shutting down borders and ports in warring countries, causing for innocent children to be left starving and the sick being deprived of medical treatment, we must open our hearts to one another, knock-down the walls that divide us, feed the hungry and help those who are suffering.
“Even though so-called Muslim terrorists claim to act in Islam’s name, I do not believe that we are witnessing a religious war; rather, the wars being fought, and atrocities committed, are only for geopolitical gains.
“The so-called Jihadi terrorists and extremist clerics serve only to tarnish the name of Islam and undermine the efforts of the vast majority of Muslims who are peaceful and law-abiding citizens.
“Whilst I accept that the evil acts of some Muslims have greatly damaged society, I do not accept that it is only Muslims who are to blame for the volatility of today’s world. Suffice to say, that now is the time that humanity distanced itself from the notion that only Muslims are to blame for the problems in the world.
“When the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) returned victoriously to Makkah, he did not take a single drop of blood in revenge; rather, according to the command of Allah the Almighty, he proclaimed that all of his tormentors and all those who had violently opposed Islam, were to be instantly forgiven.
“He declared that under Islamic rule, all people would be free to practice their own religions and beliefs, without any interference or cause for fear. His only condition was that each member of society remained committed to peace. He instructed that all people, no matter their caste, creed or color, were to have their rights protected and be treated with respect at all times.
“This was the timeless and magnificent example of the Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him) and it is this spirit of compassion, grace and mercy that Muslims and non-Muslims need to adopt in the world today.
“It is this spirit of forgiveness and benevolence that all nations, whether large or small, rich or poor, need to develop. Only then will long-term peace be attainable.”
Read original article HERE.