In late December, my family traveled by road during a visit to our native Pakistan. Traveling across southern Punjab, it was impossible to escape the landscape’s surreal connection to the latest incident of terrorism in San Bernardino earlier in the month.
My thoughts kept returning to Tashfeen Malik — one of the suicide attackers of San Bernardino — who posthumously made headlines news back in the United States. Tashfeen grew up in Pakistan, in one of these rural, dusty towns. An ordinary girl from this remote and underdeveloped place — by U.S. standards — had committed one of the most gruesome attacks on U.S. soil since 9/11. As a new immigrant, her heinous actions were even more bewildering. Her aspirations defied the norms of a typical new immigrant who would have looked forward to embracing the American Dream. Instead, she came equipped with a vengeful vendetta to kill.
After 9/11, the initial analyses mostly concluded that illiterate and poor Muslims were prone to indoctrination and easily lured by the ilk of Taliban and al Qaida. However, that hypothesis has been nullified by Faisal Shehzad (Times Square in New York), Nadal Hassan (Fort Hood, Texas), the Tsarnaev brothers (Boston), Mohammad Abdulazeez (Chattanooga) and most recently the San Bernardino terrorists.
They were all educated and from middle-income backgrounds.
Islam is a universal religion that embraces diverse cultures and traditions. It would be narrow-minded to deem it a monolithic faith and judge its 1.7 billion followers through the prism of its worst elements — the extremists — who defy the norms of logic and distort its core message to pursue their depraved agendas. Americans overwhelmingly reject that notion. Even Jeb Bush chided Donald Trump for his stereotypical rhetoric against Muslims in one of the Republican presidential debates.
However, as President Obama has also urged, it is imperative upon Muslims to conduct an introspective analysis and fully eradicate the radical elements lurking within their ranks. Even a single Muslim with extremist leanings is one too many.
Radical ideology stems from inconsistent Muslim leadership and a lack of spiritual leadership. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, however, is the only Muslim organization worldwide that is unified under a single spiritual leader. His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad is a champion of peace as he leads the world’s most formidable crusade against extremism.
Under his guidance, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community calls upon Muslims and non-Muslims to join the True Islam and the Extremists campaign and endorse 11 key points that clarify misconceptions about Islam. It is a concerted effort to educate Americans on Islam’s true teachings. True Islam shows how Islam rejects terrorism and espouses the non-violent Jihad of self-purification and of the pen. It elucidates on Islam’s empowerment of women and its advocacy for freedom of speech.
San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan is one of the leading public figures who has endorsed the campaign. “It is the right message that this country needs to hear,” he has said.
As I see what has become of my birth country, Pakistan, I see first hand the dangers of unchecked extremist ideology. This is where the True Islam campaign steps in to counter the grave danger of extremism. Americans of all faiths, and no faith, are invited to stand united against this menace by endorsing the True Islam campaign.
We owe it to our future generations, and we owe it to ourselves.
Mansura Bashir Minhas is a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. She lives in Fort Lauderdale.