Category Archives: Islam

My interview with ‘The Record’ on the streets of Paterson, NJ

Distributing 'Muslims for Peace' flyers in NJ

Almost every weekend, Ahmadi Muslim youth from all across the USA take to the streets to distribute peace flyers. Part of the wider ‘Muslims for Peace’ campaign launched by the Ahmadiyya MuslimCommunity USA, the flyers aim to remove misunderstandings and mistrust between American people and Islam. This past weekend, I was interviewed by reporters as I distributed flyers  with a ‘Muslims for Peace’ youth group in downtown Paterson. The following was published in ‘The Bergen Record’ on Feb 27th [online here – http://www.northjersey.com/community/religion/022711_Muslim_group_spreads_message_of_love_acceptance_in_Paterson.html]

BY ZACH PATBERG
THE RECORD
STAFF WRITER

“When Muslim extremists hijacked planes to use as missiles against New York and Washington, they in effect hijacked Islam”, Kashif Chaudhry — an Englewood doctor — said.

So for the past year, almost every weekend, Chaudhry and thousands of other Muslim-Americans across the country have fought to get it back — and reverse a popular belief among Westerners that their religion promotes violence. They wage this public relations war with advertisements on the sides of buses, brochures handed out on street corners and simple conversation with anyone who’ll listen.

On Sunday, the Muslims for Peace movement’s North Jersey chapter was in Paterson at the corner of Market and Main streets passing out pamphlets that read “Love for all — hatred for none.” In a month or so, they’ll likely fan out to Bergen County, perhaps Englewood, Chaudhry said.

“I want to change the perception out there,” said Anwar Muhammad, one of more than a dozen volunteers, mostly from the same Clifton mosque, standing at the Paterson intersection. “Most Muslims are not violent and proclaiming jihad.”

The campaign, run by the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, aims to counter negative generalizations about Muslims that have led to such turmoil as the protests over building a mosque near the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Chaudhry, 28, said the timing of their effort with the recent clashes between dictators and pro-democracy protesters across the Middle East was coincidence. But the relevance is there. Just as the protestors retaliate against oppressive regimes, so has the Ahmadiyya sect endured the spurn of intolerance, Chaudhry said. According to the volunteers, its followers must address themselves as non-Muslims in Pakistan or face three years in jail. Saudi Arabia refuses them pilgrimage access to Mecca. Many have been killed by the Taliban for their non-traditional beliefs – namely, that church and state be separate.

Here also their brochures — adorned with a dove and the word “terrorism” crossed out — are not always well received. “My job is to deliver a message of peace,” said Muhammad, who emigrated from Pakistan about six years ago. “If someone is not ready to accept it, that has to be their choice.”

Much rarer are the times — maybe “one in a hundred,” Muhammad said — when a connection with a passer-by is made. Muhammad remembers a 10-minute conversation with a man last Sunday about the Quran’s portrayal of Jesus as a prophet.

“He was surprised to hear that,” said the 30-year-old computer programmer from Parsippany.

Eddy Pepitoni, a 50-year-old Irish Catholic from Prospect Park, also seemed impressed after a brief chat with Chaudhry. He agreed that “peace is what we definitely need.” Then, before continuing on his way across Main Street, he held up the brochure with the dove to add: “The true terrorists in this county are the ones against this.”

E-mail: patberg@northjersey.com

Advertisements

The Doctrine of ‘Jihad’

A shorter version of this was published in the ‘Bergen Record’  here. The full text is copied below:

The word Jihad is perhaps on the top ten most feared words in the West. The same word also perhaps makes it to the top ten most ill-understood concepts amongst both Muslims and non-Muslims.

There are many sects in Islam. Just over a hundred years ago, almost all sects without exception held the belief that Jihad meant ‘Holy war’ – that waging such a war on infidels was an obligation of the Faithful Muslim. The killing of a disbeliever was Jihad and such an act entitled one to paradise and granted him the title of ‘Ghazi’ [Raider]. Important as it was to the Muslims, Jihad was referred to as the ‘sixth pillar of Islam’ by many Sunni scholars and Shia Muslims incorporated it in the ten ancillaries of faith. Anyone who dared disagree with this definition as the sole meaning of Jihad was deemed an infidel. When the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, India claimed at the end of the 19th century that the doctrine of Jihad as understood by the orthodox clerics was opposed to the true principles of Islam, he was immediately branded a heretic and an infidel by the clerics of his time.

Ahmad wrote: “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 objects.” [British Govt and Jihad p.8]

Today, his peaceful interpretation of ‘Jihad’ finds place in many Muslims’ hearts. Over a hundred million followers of Ahmad reject the violent interpretation of Jihad. Not just the Ahmadiyya Muslims, sect after sect, clerics are starting to incorporate peaceful interpretations of the word and are renouncing fanaticism as unIslamic and unlawful. What used to be prime identity of the faithful is itself becoming a mark of infidelity. Knowingly or unknowingly, the interpretation of Ahmad is spreading across hearts and souls. This said, the frustration of the ‘jihadis’ is growing in their own circles.

A brief interpretation of the Islamic concept of Jihad is intended here.

Jihad is an Arabic word which literally means ‘struggle’. It has been used multiple times in the Quran and in the sayings of the Holy Prophet [pbuh]. The Quran for instance says:

“Lo! those who believe, and those who emigrate (to escape the persecution) and strive in the way of Allah, these have hope of Allah’s mercy. Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” [2:218 Pickthal]

“Those of the believers who sit still, other than those who have a (disabling) hurt, are not on an equality with those who strive in the way of Allah with their wealth and lives. Allah hath conferred on those who strive with their wealth and lives a rank above the sedentary.” [4:095 Pickthal]

The word for fighting in the Quran is “Qitaal”.  Prophet Muhammad [pbuh] did fight wars, however, all without exception were defensive wars. Prophet Muhammad [pbuh] was averse to fighting all the 13 years he and his followers were tortured and put to the worst persecution in Mecca. It was not until Prophet Muhammad [pbuh] migrated to Medina and heard of the Meccans deciding to wage war on Medina that divine permission to fight was granted. What is described by islamophobes as an offensive and brutal first war was in fact a battle between nearly three hundred ill-armed Muslims and over a thousand well-armed fighters from Mecca. Seriously, I can see no person take on such a war in all sanity and claim victory beforehand. This was not an offensive but a defense against an offensive. It was a last resort to prevent innocent bloodshed in Medina and to defend the peaceful propagation of Islam. Such was the nature of all wars fought by Prophet Muhammad [pbuh].

Indeed, such fighting is a struggle. But so is spending out of one’s wealth for the poor and needy. So is fighting against one’s inner temptations. So is trying to establish the 5 daily prayers. So is to fast in the true Islamic spirit. So is to refuse to be slave of one’s inner self and rise in moral strength. Why then should the word ‘Jihad’ be limited to fighting alone.

This, with the fact that no offensive act is remotely allowed in Islam, makes the Orthodox stand on Jihad funny all the more. Talking of Jihad, the Quran says: “Ye should believe in Allah and His messenger, and should strive for the cause of Allah with your wealth and your lives. That is better for you, if ye did but know.” [061:011 Pickthal]

Where is the fighting mentioned? And emphasizing the extraordinary importance of human life, it says: “Whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind.” [5:032 Pickthal]

The fanatic understanding of Jihad that was common at the time of Ahmad was further propagated and preached by later clerics. Prominent amongst these was Abul Aala Maududi, a religio-political figure in the Indian subcontinent, who wrote:

“Islam wishes to destroy all states and governments anywhere on the face of the earth which are opposed to the ideology and program of Islam regardless of the country or the Nation which rules it. The purpose of Islam is to set up a state on the basis of its own ideology and programme, regardless of which nation assumes the role of the standard-bearer of Islam or the rule of which nation is undermined in the process of the establishment of an ideological Islamic State. Islam requires the earth—not just a portion, but the whole planet.. Towards this end, Islam wishes to press into service all forces which can bring about a revolution and a composite term for the use of all these forces is ‘Jihad’… the objective of the Islamic ‘Jihad’ is to eliminate the rule of an un-Islamic system and establish in its stead an Islamic system of state rule.” [Jihad in Islam, p.6,7,22]

This probably was the wish of Maududi. The Holy Quran and the sayings of the Prophet [pbuh] do not state such an aim of Islam. The aim of Islam is to submit to the will of God and to serve His creation.

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad writes: “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. Second, even if we assume that jihad as conceived of by these clerics was obligatory in early Islam, the commandment is no longer applicable because it is written that violent jihad and religious fighting will come to an end with the appearance of the Promised Messiah, who will not raise the sword or any other earthly weapon. Prayer shall be his only instrument, and firm determination his only weapon. He will establish peace and gather together the goat and the lion. His age will be one of peace, gentleness and human sympathy. Alas! Why do these people not reflect that thirteen hundred years have passed since the Holy Prophet [pbuh] said, “yada-‘ul-harb” in honor of the Promised Messiah. These words mean that the Promised Messiah will end warfare when he comes.” [British Govt and Jihad p. 9]

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad claimed to be the same Messiah and reformer awaited by all world religions. The Holy Prophet [pbuh] had said of the Messiah, “He will put an end to wars”.  Ahmad declared that of the many wrong concepts that he had come to rectify, one was the notion of ‘Jihad’. He writes:

“The second principle for which I have been appointed is the reform of the incorrect concept of jihad that is widespread among some ignorant Muslims. So God has made me understand that the prevailing concept of jihad is opposed to the Qur’anic teachings. Fighting commanded in the Holy Qur’an, was more sensible than the fighting of Moses, and possessed greater attraction than the warring of Joshua. It was based on the fact that those who took up swords unjustly, murdered Muslims without cause, and took oppression to extremes, be killed by the sword.” [Tohfah-e-Qaisariyyah, p. 10]

The only time fighting is allowed in Islam is in state of defense when an enemy launches an uncalled for offensive. Fighting is the last option in such a case and is only to be used to protect religion and one’s own life in extreme situations of persecution. In a country like the US for instance where Muslims live in peace and practice faith freely, the very thought of a violent ‘jihad’ on this soil is disgusting at the very least and totally against Islam itself.

Ahmad wrote in a letter to one of his disciples, “In this age, jihad has taken a spiritual form. And jihad in this age demands that we strive in raising the Islamic kalimah”

“Spread the meanings of the Islamic kalimah,” he preached. “Give answers to opponents, spread the beauties of the Islamic faith in the world, and manifest the truthfulness of the Holy Prophet [pbuh] to the world. This is jihad, until such a time that God shows another form in the world.”

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has understood Jihad to mean a peaceful struggle against one’s inner temptations and a peaceful struggle to spread the beauties of Islam and interfaith harmony worldwide. The Jihad of the fanatics is a concoction of their misguided power-hungry masters. It has no basis from the teachings of Islam. Where a rejecter of this ‘jihad’ was considered an infidel at the time of Ahmad, fanaticism is progressively being abandoned by one non-Ahmadi Muslim sect after another. Just a while back no one except the Ahmadi Muslims had this philosophy, today the violent Jihadi interpretation found in the literature of most Muslim sects is being rejected by their followers themselves!

While some misguided Muslims are still killing others – including Muslims – in the name of Islam and Jihad, the Ahmadi Muslims are doing their Jihad by striving to make people understand the true meaning of Jihad and show them the beautiful and peaceful image of Islam. The majority lie between the two – silent witnesses. It is time to choose a side.

 

The ‘Pancasila’ is drowning

The video footage is gruesome and graphic.

Over a thousand extremist fanatics marched towards Cikeusik village in the Banten province last week. Twenty Ahmadis had gathered in a house here, which belonged to an imprisoned local Ahmadi Muslim leader accused of spreading beliefs considered ‘heretic’ by fanatics. The angry mob had come determined to punish the innocent Ahmadis for their ‘blasphemy’ and ‘heresy’. As they chanted ‘God is great’, they threw rocks at the house, then chased the Ahmadis who tried to run for their lives and lynched at least three in the most brutal way. They were stripped naked, thrown in the mud, pelted with rocks and beaten with clubs and machetes. The beating continued even after the bodies seemed to have lost all life in the video. Five men were critically injured and two are still missing. Two cars, one motorcycle and a house were also burnt down and other property looted in the assault.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s official motto is ‘love for all; hatred for none’ – a line which they practically live by. The moderate Islamic Sect, numbered at between two and five hundred thousand, has existed in Indonesia far before the Proclamation of Indonesian Independence. The very national anthem of the State was written by an Ahmadi Muslim. In recent times however, they have been the subject of repeated and severe attacks. Radical groups working in the name of Islam have passed edicts of ‘death’ against them. They have demanded the government outlaw the Ahmadiyya and ban them just as has been done in Pakistan. Bowing to extremist demands, the government passed a decree in June 2008 that prohibits Ahmadis from worshipping in public and talking about their beliefs. Some Ahmadis have faced jail.

Encouraged by their success, radical groups have started taking the law in their own hands. Many Ahmadi houses have been burnt in recent months, mosques razed to the ground and worshippers forced to flee ‘Muslim’ villages. The recent growth in anti-Ahmadiyya violence and fanaticism and extremism in general is a disturbing trend. It is a big blow to the Pancasila, the official philosophical foundation of the Indonesian State, which ensures equality and social justice for all.

The state did respond to the rise in extremism – with silence. The Police had been informed beforehand of the possibility of an attack but no action was taken to protect the few Ahmadis. No barricades were built to prevent a clash and no extra police was called. The attackers were organized. They had colored ribbons on them to differentiate them from the victims. Police present at the attack site acted as mere spectators, doing nothing but watch. Of the thousands that attacked the Ahamdiyya in Bansten, not a single has been arrested. Apparently, the government relies on support from Islamic parties and is ‘forced’ to respect their demands.

In a recent visit to Indonesia President Obama praised the religious tolerance and the ‘spirit of inclusiveness’ in Indonesia. He also lauded Indonesia’s efforts to target growing extremism in society. True Indonesia is a US ally, but the fact is that it can be praised for anything but its religious tolerance in recent times. The Pancasila is drowning and so is the hope for a better human rights record in Indonesia. Indonesia must learn from the mistakes of the likes of Pakistan. If the moderate voices do not stand up to curb the growth in extremism in society, the whole country will suffer the actions of a few.

As an onlooker from the US, I see a healthy country known for its superior tolerance turning into a state plagued with bigotry and hatred. This trend must be reversed. The Pancasila must be saved from death.

The ‘Disturbed Dove’

Rev Terry Jones “Burn a Koran” day this 9/11 because “Islam is of the devil” offers a lesson to us all. Drawing support from the Bible, Tertullian (“The Father of Latin Christianity”), Saint Clement of Alexandria, and numerous medieval clerics considered womanhood the foulest crime and deepest shame. To declare this behavior as representative of Christianity would be absurd and indicative of one falling victim to phobia.

Muslims believe Jesus [on whom be peace] was a prophet of God and the Bible as a holy book revealed unto Jesus. Rev Jones overlooks these facts and plans to celebrate a ‘Burn the Quran’ day on 9/11.

Jones should understand that Islam is not what Osama bin Laden or Faisal Shehzad believes it to be. Islam is what the Quran says and what Prophet Muhammad practiced. Islam believes in religious liberty and free speech. The Qur’an (2:257) says, “There is no compulsion in religion.” Prophet Muhammad was a champion of religious tolerance and freedom. Jews coexisted with Muslims in Medina and Muhammad openly declared that any Muslim that harmed Christians would spoil God’s covenant and disobey him, “Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.”

As an Ahmadi Muslim, I condemn in the worst possible manner the maltreatment of minorities in certain parts of the Muslim world. How can a Muslim hate a Jew or a Christian when the Quran calls them ‘the People of the Book’ and marriage to them is permitted? Truly, illiteracy and “Mullahism” – the spread of the power of orthodox clergy, the same type of orthodoxy that corrupted the Medieval Church – are to blame.

Jones claims the Muslims “desire is to rule, reign and take over”, again conflating Islam with extremism. Jones’ words remind one of the Christian missions that conquered many parts of Africa, South Asia and America under the guise of the Cross.

Jones also accuses Islam of preaching ‘wife beating and honor killings’. While some Muslims do commit these crimes, Islam is not to blame. Prophet Muhammad [pbuh] declared that paradise lay beneath the feet of mothers and instructed that salvation could be obtained by educating one’s daughters and bringing them up with good morals. Not only are Jones’ allegations against Islam false, but the Church, we know, had a position that rivaled that of the Taliban.

Jones demands all American-Muslims to adapt to local values, “They should be made to sign a legal, binding document, pledging allegiance … to their new home, the USA.” It may surprise Jones that loyalty to one’s country is a tenet of Islam. Of the 2 million American Muslims, the overwhelming majority work for its betterment no differently than non-Muslim Americans do. For such as harbor confused identities, the confusion is theirs – Islam is not to blame. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has had an aggressive stance on this subject. It has categorically stated that those who have divided loyalties should leave America – love it or leave it! Rev Jones paranoia regarding American-Muslims loyalty to America rivals that of Romans paranoid of Christian loyalty to its rule in the first two centuries of Christianity.

Jones suggests that the building of all mosques in America should stop immediately until the building of churches in Muslim dominated countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq is permitted. Just as those Christian warriors who expelled Jews and Muslims from Spain under the Alhambra Decree and destroyed or converted all their places of worship into churches cannot define Christianity, the despotic and totalitarian regimes of Saudi Arabia or Iran do not define Islam.

Jones states that, “We must not forget, Sharia Law calls for the death of homosexuals, the death of adulterers, and inhumane punishment of criminals.” Sharia does not prescribe the death penalty for any crime short of murder. What we see in parts of the Muslim world is again the reflection of the ignorant clerics.

Jones seems to be suggesting that America should undo its values of freedom of religion and return to the Medieval Age. As he preaches hate against Islam, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is busy campaigning for peace. The ‘Muslims for peace’ campaign [www.muslimsforpeace.org] successfully runs in many American cities and is spreading the true and peaceful message of Islam. We invite Rev Jones to the discussion table to debate these values in peace.

By burning the Quran on 9/11, Jones will imply that those 9/11 victims that revered the Quran were lesser Americans. He will also be blaspheming against Jesus and Mary [on them be peace] who the Quran extols. He will be disobeying Jesus himself who has clearly asked him to love his enemies. Jones says he is doing all this in love of Muslims. He should not be surprised if ignorant and crazy extremists chose to show him similar love in return. After all love breeds love!

While Jesus preached peace, the medieval Church brutally persecuted followers of other faiths. How fair would it be to celebrate a ‘Burn the Bible’ day based on these violent and hateful episodes in the history of Christianity? In orchestrating the “Burn a Quran” day Jones, and his Church, is making a choice between American values and the sordid Medieval Age.

Identifying the real enemy

Muslims For Peace

I am an American-Muslim who was born in Pakistan. I belong to a religious community which is persecuted throughout Pakistan for its beliefs – in particular for its rejection of an aggressive jihad. Voices calling for the killing of people such as myself are regularly heard in mosques and religious seminaries throughout Pakistan. Following the massacre of nearly 90 members of the community, while most of my Pakistani ‘friends’ failed to send me a message of condolence, my hospital program director led a moment of silence. He did not care if the victims were orange or green, believed in the Sun or disbelieved in the moon. All he cared for was humanity – welcome to America!

I am writing this article to remind America of its distinctive founding values.  At the same time, I have message for American-Muslims.

Controversy over the “Ground Zero” mosque is raging as opponents voice fiercer arguments against it. Actually they are just repeating the same arguments more fiercely – that a mosque is a center for terrorism and Islam, by nature, is a terrorist faith. Islamophobia has recently gained more support as some politicians repeat the same rhetoric against the Muslim faith.

Here is my point – we must be clear about what defines Islam and we must be able to tell the difference between Islam and those who exploit it. Islam is not what Osama bin Laden or Faisal Shehzad say. Islam is what the Quran says and what Prophet Muhammad practiced. Islam is not what we see with the government of Saudi Arabia or Pakistan’s suppression of religious freedom.  Islam believes in religious liberty as well as free speech. It says “There is no compulsion in religion.” And “Let him who will believe and let him who will disbelieve”. Prophet Muhammad was a champion of religious tolerance and freedom. Jews coexisted in Medina during his time. About the Christians of the world, he declared openly that any Muslim that harmed them in any way would spoil God’s covenant and disobey him. He said, “Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.”

Most American-Muslims today are peaceful law-abiding citizens. Why then should the acts of a few fanatic terror organizations that operate under the name of Islam elsewhere be used to attack the sentiments of over 2 million American Muslims?

America, I must remind you that you are a champion of human rights in the present age. You must not compare yourself to despotic and totalitarian regimes like Saudi Arabia or to countries like Pakistan suffering from the curse of fanaticism. You must uphold the clear injunctions of the First Amendment. There have been challenges in the past. Uprisings have taken place against the Catholic Church and the Jewish community. We must learn from these events and not fall prey to hate and religious discrimination in this age.

I admit that certain Muslim groups espouse extreme behavior, but remember that as a moderate Muslim, I am a bigger target of the hate of such fanatics than you are. I suffer each day at their hands across the Muslim world. In a recent sermon, an influential Pakistani religious cleric said he would tolerate Jews and Christians but would like to see members of my community killed throughout Pakistan.  Just this last week, two prominent members of my community were gunned down for their religious beliefs, one a US citizen. As such, you must realize who the fanatics are and who the moderates are.  You must understand that Islam is not to blame, that a particular fanatic interpretation of it is.

To my fellow moderate American-Muslims, I ask why are so few talking? Pick up your pen and make it clear that you stand against fanaticism and disown fanatic interpretations of our beautiful faith. If you truly disown the acts of terrorists, say it loud and clear. If your voice is not heard louder than theirs, you are complicit. Silence is usually soothing – not here!!

Which is more ‘Islamic’, KSA or USA?

Muslim American

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia [KSA] is the largest Arab country in the Middle East. It is sometimes called “The Land of the Two Holy Mosques” in reference to Mecca and Medina, the two holiest places in Islam. Saudi Arabia’s government takes the form of an Islamic absolute monarchy. The UK and Thailand are also considered monarchies but what sets countries like KSA apart is the unlimited political power and governing authority vested in the monarchy. Oman, Qatar and the Vatican City are other examples of absolute monarchies in this age.

The basic law of the land, based on the salafi interpretation of the Islamic Law [Sharia], declared in 1992 that Saudi Arabia was a monarchy ruled by the progeny of King Abdul Aziz Al Saud. It also declared the Qur’an as the constitution of the country, governed on the basis of Islamic law [The salafi interpretation]

The United States of America on the other hand is a federal constitutional republic. In this article, we intend to compare the despotic regime of Saudi Arabia with the democratic power of the United States in the light of Islamic values and teachings.

Justice is one of the major principles mentioned in the Quran. It says: “Verily, Allah enjoins justice, and the doing of good to others; and giving like kindred; and forbids indecency and manifest evil and transgression. HE admonishes you that you may take heed.”  [16:90]

“Verily Allah commands you to give over the trusts to those entitled to them, and that, when you judge between men, you judge with justice.” [4:58]

Justice is ensured by laws that aim to improve the social health of a community and by a swift and effective legal apparatus that ensures proper implementation. In Saudi Arabia, hundreds of Sharia courts operate under the Ministry of Justice that ensure proper punishments according to the Saudi interpretation of the Sharia, which is brutal at the least. Many of the laws are vaguely worded which means individuals can be arrested and imprisoned on religious or political grounds. Oftentimes, prisoners do not know for what crime they have been kept behind bars. They are denied any contact with family members or lawyers.

Torture from means as brutal as electric shocks has been reported from Saudi prisons. Free trials are not permitted. KSA has the highest rate of beheadings in the world. Those involved in armed robbery, rape, adultery, drug use and trafficking, and renouncing Islam are punished by public executions. With such a poor legal setup, many innocent victims end up on the guillotine. No family contact is permitted and a death notice is sent to the family post-execution.

The legal system in the US has its own cons. But as an innocent peace-loving citizen, chances that you’ll find yourself in prison one good morning is far less compared to KSA. Punishments for crimes are far more humane in the USA. Free trials are permitted. Family contact is almost always a privilege and so is the right to hire a lawyer.

The Holy Prophet [pbuh] has said that it is far better to pardon someone guilty by mistake than to punish an innocent. The status of the punishments per se is not the discussion here. The presence of a just and effective legal system is. Which system is closer to the principles of the Quran? Where do you expect swifter justice and a strong legal system based on those lines? You chose!

Freedom of Religion – Coming to Freedom of religion, the Quran says, “There is no compulsion in religion”. It also says:

“And say, `It is the truth from your Lord; wherefore let him who will, believe, and let him, who will, disbelieve.” [18:29]

With the First amendment in effect, there is complete freedom of religion in the USA. There are no compulsions and restrictions.

KSA is one of the worst offenders of this Quranic principle. The authoritarian government of KSA disallows construction of churches or synagogues on its soil.  Public practice of non-Muslim religions is strongly prohibited. The ultraconservative and strict interpretation of the Salafi Sunni Islam discriminates even against other Muslim sects including the Shia and Ahmadi Muslims. The Holy prophet [pbuh] used to judge the Jews of Medina based on Biblical Law. They practiced their faith freely in Medina. He considered Christians his friends and allies and prohibited restrictions on their practice. Saudi Arabia thinks he was being generous and Saalfi Islam does not entertain such generosity.

Separation of religion and state do not exist in KSA. Burial of non-Muslims is not allowed on KSA’s royal soil. Preaching any faith other than ‘Salafism’ is an offense of the highest order.

The Holy Prophet [pbuh] was clearly told in the Quran that his duty was to convey the message and it was upto people to believe or to reject. He never enforced on people what KSA does today.

Which is closer to the true principles of Islam and the practice of the Holy Prophet [pbuh] in this day and age? USA or KSA?

Democracy – The Quran says,And those, who hearken to their Lord, and observe Prayer, and whose affairs are decided by mutual consultation, and who spend out of what WE have provided for them” [42:38]

The Holy Prophet [pbuh] always consulted with his companions. It is well known that during the Battle of Uhud, the Holy prophet [pbuh] was hesitant to fight the enemy outside Medina but with majority of his companions being in favor of tackling the advancing enemy outside of the city, he decided to march out.

This democratic setup means that no individual could have absolute authoritarian power. Compared to the totalitarian regime sitting on the Saudis, the USA sounds far closer to the Quranic teaching of ‘mutual consultation’ and to the practice of the Holy Prophet [pbuh].

Women rights – Saudi women make up 5% of the workforce in KSA, the lowest world over. Women are barred from driving. Interestingly they are allowed to fly planes if they are able to find someone to drive them to the airport. They are not allowed equal opportunity to higher education by norms of society. About 30% of women in KSA therefore are unable to read and write.

Women were badly persecuted in Arabia before the advent of the Holy prophet [pbuh]. Islam came to liberate women from the clutches of oppression. Prophet Muhammad [pbuh] declared that he who does not treat his wife equally was not a true Muslim and that women were like fragile glass, they were to be loved and taken great care of. He also taught that one way to paradise was to educate one’s daughters and bring them up with good morals. Did the Saudis miss these sayings of the Prophet? Did they also miss the part where Muslim women are encouraged to pursue education and work towards the betterment of society?

Women are lesser humans in the KSA. They can be divorced at will. Where Islam has emphasized the rights of orphans and widows, the latter are considered ‘cursed’ in parts of the ultraconservative Saudi society.

Women in the USA have all access to education and work. Family and child support ensures that they are not left to the mercy of the streets if deserted. They enjoy equal opportunity in all ways.

Education – The Quran has repeatedly asked man to reflect and gain knowledge. Indeed, one of the most prosperous ages in the history of science was the early Islamic age. Islam makes it obligatory on every Muslim to seek knowledge and encourages travel to far lands in pursuit of wisdom. Do I need to write anything more? I find it shameful to compare the two countries in terms of the importance and place given to education, science and technology. KSA in spite of all its oil money has not made one good contribution to the world of science and technology.

Prophet Muhammad [pbuh] had said: If anyone travels on a road in search of knowledge, Allah will cause him to travel on one of the roads of Paradise”.  Of the two countries, which is treading this road to paradise?

Peace and Tolerance – KSA wouldn’t tolerate a fly from neighboring Israel. The USA on the other hand is one of the world’s most tolerant nations. It is built on values that honor diversity and plurality, tolerance and mutual respect. KSA on the other hand enforces Salafism and tolerates little that is perceived outside its walls. Islam has clearly preached the former.

Equality – The Quran emphasizes absolute equality. The Holy Prophet [pbuh] is reported to have said, “O people! Your God is one and your forefather [Adam] is one. An Arab is not better than a non-Arab and a non-Arab is not better than an Arab, and a red person is not better than a black person and a black person is not better than a red person, except in piety.”

Needless to say, everyone is equal in the USA. You could be from the remotest jungle on earth and still work your way to become the Dean of a University or the Chairman of NASA. The key is hard work and determination – opportunities are equally available to all.

There is equality in KSA as well, just that Arabs are a little more equal than non-Arabs, Muslims a fraction more equal than non-Muslims. Did I miss an injunction in the Quran that said Arabs were supposed to be our Masters? The Quran says all are equal before God.

Animal Rights – Prophet Muhammad’s [pbuh] kindness to animals is well known. He is reported to have said, “A woman was punished because she had kept a cat tied until it died, and was thrown into hell. She had not provided it with food, or drink, and had not freed her so that she could eat”

The Holy Prophet [pbuh] once narrated the story of a sinful lady who was pardoned by God on account of her feeding a hungry dog. Dogs in KSA are considered ‘impure’ by many and stray cats roaming the streets are common sight. The teachings of the Holy Prophet [pbuh] on animal rights is better understood and followed in the USA than the KSA.

General Ethics – I had wanted to make a comparison between the Muslim world and the West but ended up writing on the KSA and USA specifically. Broadening the theme at the end, let us see who is better equipped with the morals taught by Islam.

Truth, honesty, cleanliness, humility, meekness, kindness, responsibility, hard work , patience, use of good language, mutual respect and care are a few of the numerous ethical injunctions of Islam.

The Holy Prophet [pbuh] for instance is reported to have said, “Cleanliness is half of faith”.

When I compare the West and the Muslim world with an unbiased eye with regard to each of the above-listed, I find myself convinced that we as a group have lost it! Our faith is limited to rhetoric and rituals. Those who do not understand our faith seem to be practicing it far better than we do.

But our system is based on the belief in the sovereignty of God? Well so is the USA’s. But they don’t believe in Muhammad [pbuh]? Sometimes I wonder which is more important, following in name or following in practice. I wish we followed both!

Muslim countries abound in conspiracy theories and blame everything on the USA. They should stop for a second and look up to the USA and learn the practicality of Islamic values from them. The Islamophobic population of the West should in turn realize that they have little to fear from a system that they are already so close to. The answer to which is more ‘Islamic’ depends on how you perceive Islam – a name brand or a set of perfect and practical teachings.