TIME Religion

What the NSA Can Learn From Prophet Muhammad

Islam places immense emphasis on privacy in ways that Western governments today have only begun to match with privacy laws.

Whether it’s a legal scholar or a 7-year-old child that’s bullied on the playground, it’s hard to argue with this Harvard Law Review definition of privacy from 1890: “The right to be left alone.” Add to this simple concept a detailed U.S. Constitution and separation of powers to prevent abuse, and it seems like a no-brainer that we would leave alone those who have done nothing wrong.

Unfortunately, that simple concept seems lost on the NSA, as recent revelations indicate they invaded the privacy rights of prominent American Muslim lawyers for at least six years. As an American Muslim lawyer myself, who knows who else is reading my emails?

In spying on innocent American Muslim lawyers, the NSA likely violated the U.S. Constitution, and definitely violated the Qur’an’s powerful teachings on privacy.

Not only did the Qur’an champion privacy rights centuries before any modern constitution, but also, perhaps no law in history preserves the right to privacy as thoroughly and emphatically as does the Qur’an. Chapter 24:28-29 declares:

“O ye who believe! Enter not houses other than your own until you have asked leave and saluted the inmates thereof. That is better for you, that you may be heedful. And if you find no one therein, do not enter them until you are given permission. And if it be said to you, ‘Go back’ then go back; that is purer for you. And God knows well what you do.

In our era of NSA surveillance and warrantless wiretaps, this Qur’anic teaching’s immense value should become crystal clear. The Qur’an forbids entering any home of another person, inhabited or uninhabited, without the owner’s permission. The Qur’an further commands people to retreat immediately when they’re told to retreat from the home in question—all in the name of protecting a person’s privacy. The Qur’an makes no exceptions, but specifically commands, “enter not houses other than your own until you have asked leave.”

As far as “the right to be left alone,” how astutely the Qur’an declared thirteen-hundred years before Harvard Law, “if it be said to you ‘Go back’ then go back.”

In fact, Prophet Muhammad’s hadith, or teachings, detail how important privacy is in Islam:

“A man peeped through a hole in the door of God’s Apostle’s house, and at that time, God’s Apostle had a Midri (an iron comb or bar) with which he was rubbing his head. So when God’s Apostle saw him, he said (to him), “If I had been sure that you were looking at me (through the door), I would have poked your eye with this (sharp iron bar).” God’s Apostle added, “The asking for permission to enter has been enjoined so that one may not look unlawfully (at what there is in the house without the permission of its people).” –Bukhari

Some might allege that poking an eye is a cruel punishment. On the contrary, this hadith further emphasizes Islam’s ardent protection of an individual’s privacy. Privacy, particularly for women and minors—two classes that are most victim to sexual abuse—cannot be emphasized enough.

First, consider the ease with which a person can simply not take the unauthorized liberty of peering into another’s home without permission. Contrast that with the massive potential and actual harm that exists for those who are victim to such voyeurism. Based on the ease of compliance and the potentially devastating harm to a victim of privacy violations, an active deterrent is necessary to ensure that privacy—for all people—remains protected.

Thus, Islam places immense emphasis on privacy in ways that Western governments today have only begun to match with privacy laws. And with these NSA spying revelations, it seems that even Western government efforts in the modern era pale in comparison to the unmatched privacy laws Prophet Muhammad established fourteen-hundred years ago.

So NSA, stop spying on American Muslims and stop referring to your victims with derogatory remarks about Prophet Muhammad. Instead, if you wish to uphold the U.S. Constitution, learn about Muhammad’s ardent protection of human rights and privacy rights.

And hopefully then, we can finally be left alone.

Qasim Rashid is an attorney and national spokesperson for Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA. The above is an excerpt from Qasim’s Amazon #1 Best Selling book on Islam, EXTREMIST. Find Qasim on Twitter @MuslimIQ.

TIME Religion

Extremism Is a Concept Alien to Islam–And to Human Decency

Like hundreds of other Ahmadi Muslims, Dr. Mehdi Ali Qamar was murdered only for his faith. Combined, education and compassion can conquer such extremism.

Dr. Mehdi Ali Qamar was the type of friend every American would proudly brag about. He was a loyal U.S. citizen. He was only 50, a loving husband and father of three. He dedicated his life to medicine and to finding ways to stop the suffering of others. He was only on day two of a three-week humanitarian mission to Pakistan to provide free healthcare to the needy when he was fatally shot a dozen times in the early morning of May 26, in front of his wife and two-year-old son—who watched in horror.

Like hundreds of other Ahmadi Muslims, Qamar was murdered only for his faith. He was murdered because he was an Ahmadi Muslim—a Muslim who believes in the Messiah, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian. It is for this belief alone that Ahmadi Muslims face intense persecution in nations like Pakistan.

And while some critics are quick to point to such murders as examples of alleged “Islamic” terrorism, few have the education or compassion to see the peaceful and patient response as examples of Islamic teaching. While such religious violence leads to both loss of life and additional fear of Muslims and Islam, ironically, therein lies the key to counter such loss and fear.

For Ahmadi Muslims, these death threats, and the days of most intense pain after a loved one is murdered, are the opportunity to reassert a campaign for humanity based on education and compassion. The extremists sending Ahmadi Muslims death threats are the same extremists killing Christians, spewing anti-Semitism and demanding theocratic rule. They are the ones promoting death for blasphemy laws, opposing female equity and equality and demanding suffocating restrictions on individual expression and thought. These are the ones hell-bent on a barbaric violent Jihad of the sword—a concept alien to Islam and human decency.

Thus, rather than pointing fingers at each other, this is our opportunity to unite against such intolerance wherever it exists. And this call to unity can manifest itself in any number of ways. So it wasn’t just the threats of murder, but the murdered themselves—like Qamar’s death painfully reminds me—who convinced me to write The Wrong Kind of Muslim and tell the story that millions can’t under threat of death. Thus, I believe all people of all backgrounds can unite on the following two principles.

First, I am beyond disgusted that terrorists and extremists dominate what Christians, Jews, atheists and other non-Muslim groups hear about Islam. I am a Muslim for peace, I exist and my voice deserves a platform. Dr. Mehdi Ali’s voice deserves a platform. His acts of service to and love of humanity deserve a platform. And millions of Muslims in Pakistan and worldwide exist who reject terrorism, extremism, intolerance and oppression deserve a platform too. The Wrong Kind of Muslim, for example, is just one attempt to tell the story they can’t tell, often under penalty of death—but it is a story that must be told. Thus, we have the chance to unite on the principle that education is an irreplaceable element to combat extremism.

But education alone is not enough.

Second, compassion must supplement that education. I believe that every human being of any faith or of no faith has the fundamental human right to believe or not believe as they wish. I believe no person, no government, no religious authority has the right to interfere in an individual’s personal beliefs. I believe that we are all equal human beings and our differences are not a source of division, but of recognition and strength. I believe that only when we recognize our differences, instead of glazing over them like they don’t exist, will any meaningful understanding of one another come to fruition. Thus, compassion for humanity and interaction with humanity melts away fear of one another.

Combined, education and compassion can conquer extremism. Education arms us against internal ignorance, and compassion compels us to engage in external collaboration. United, we can repeal Pakistan’s barbaric anti-blasphemy and anti-Ahmadi laws, avenge those lost to violence by ensuring a peaceful future and ensure we write the right narrative of humanity with tolerance—not terrorism.

But until we gain a critical and unified mass, the murders will continue—of Christians, Hindus, Shia Muslims and atheists, among others. May 28th marked the 4-year anniversary that the Taliban murdered 86 Ahmadi Muslims in broad daylight, and in response both Pakistan and Muslim leadership have remained silent. Qamar was murdered just this week—only for his faith. Last week another Ahmadi Muslim, Khalil Ahmad, was murdered while in police custody—only for his faith. And beware, next week approaches quickly.

Whatever your faith, I am here to convince you that we must remain united against extremism wherever it lies.

Countless people who you would have loved to call your friend are dying to convince you—educate yourselves, and have the compassion to listen.

Qasim Rashid is an attorney, author, and national spokesperson for Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA. He is the author of EXTREMIST: A Response to Geert Wilders & Terrorists Everywhere. Follow him @MuslimIQ.

TIME Religion

Debunking the Extremist Myth That Islam is Anti-Jewish

New bus ads in DC say the Qu'ran promotes Jew-hatred. It's a meritless, dangerous accusation.

The fiasco continues.

Islamophobes are fabricating the myth that Islam promotes Jew-hatred by taking out ads on D.C. buses. Take a look at the ad, linked above—does anyone else find it insane that these ignorant people are spending money promoting pictures of Adolf Hitler?

Now, certainly some Muslims are anti-Jewish, as are some Christians, agnostics, atheists—you get the idea. However, nothing in the Qur’an or in Prophet Muhammad’s example supports the myth of “Islamic Jew hatred.”

As I detail in my upcoming book, EXTREMIST, an objective study of Islam demonstrates that the myth of Islamic Jew hatred crumbles like a house of cards.

So let’s dig in.

Those who proclaim Islamic Jew-hatred deliberately misrepresent the Qur’an 7:167—among several more verses. My analysis of 7:167 below—which is equally applicable to any allegedly “anti-Jew” verse—demonstrates without question that nothing here is “anti-Jewish.” But to remain objective, I reference Dr. Philip Jenkins—a prolific non-Muslim academic—who, on the question of Islamic Jew-hatred writes in his book Laying Down the Sword:

“In order to make such texts look vicious, anti-Islamic critics systematically exaggerate the Jewish element in the passage… The Qur’an offers nothing vaguely as explicit as the New Testament passages in which Jesus himself, who is for Christians the incarnation of the Divine, speaks so furiously against “the Jews.” It is the Jesus of the New Testament who calls his enemies the children not of Abraham but of the Devil, the Father of Lies. [But Jesus] was not condemning all Jews in any racial sense, but was rather attacking rival factions and leaders in his day. And that is the model we find in the Qur’an. In reality, the Qur’an has nothing that need be taken as a condemnation of Jews, or of any ethnic group.”

The Qur’an instead condemns unjust behavior while lauding just behavior—regardless of the person or people committing the act. Simply reading 7:166 and 7:167 together illustrates this point:

“And when [the Jews] forgot all that with which they had been admonished, We saved those who forbade evil, and We seized the transgressors with a severe punishment because they were rebellious. And when they insolently rebelled against that which they had been forbidden, We said to them, “Be ye apes, despised!”

Here the Qur’an speaks of Jews and the Sabbath. God “seized the transgressors” because “they were rebellious.” Just as important, God “saved those [Jews] who forbade evil.” The distinction is not Jew or non-Jew; the distinction is Jews who observed the Sabbath verses Jews who profaned the Sabbath. And for perspective, while the Qur’an metaphorically refers to as “apes” only those Jews who profaned the Sabbath, the biblical condemnation of Jews who profaned the Sabbath in Exodus 31:15 is quite violent: “Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day must be put to death.”

Far from “Jew hatred,” the Qur’an 2:63 repeatedly declares that the Jews shall attain eternal paradise. The Qur’an mentions Prophet Moses by name more than any other prophet—over 150 times— and Islam recognizes the Divine origin of the Torah and the Psalms of David. Prophet Muhammad’s benevolent treatment of Jews attracted their love for him. Safwaan bin Assal relates, “some people among the Jews kissed the hands and feet of the Prophetsa.” It is impossible to consider that a man could garner such love from his citizens with force or violence. Following this example, throughout Islamic history the Jews flourished under Muslim rule in parts of North Africa, Jerusalem, Persia, and Spain.

As Jenkins notes, it is the Gospel of John that incites fear of the dangers Jews posed to Christ, names Jews as dogs, swine, and snakes in Matthew, and declares the Jews’ father is the devil again in John. Martin Luther thus wrote, “What then shall we Christians do with this damned, rejected race of Jews? …their synagogues should be set on fire…their homes should likewise be broken down and destroyed…rabbis must be forbidden under threat of death to teach any more… [let us] be free of this insufferable devilish burden—the Jews. Pope Clement VIII added, “All the world suffers from the usury of the Jews, their monopolies and deceit.”

Thousands of Jews were murdered during the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and at various times in Europe and Russia. The word ghetto owes its origin to the slums of Venice where Jews lived. Father Charles Coughlin commanded a weekly radio audience of more than thirty million Americans in the 1930s and openly supported anti-Semitism, Adolf Hitler, and Benito Mussolini. And lest we forget, Hitler identified as Christian.

Thus, blindly blaming Islam—which is responsible for none of the above atrocities—ignores that anti-Semitism is a worldwide epidemic. The Anti-Defamation League, in its 2012 report on anti-Semitism in ten European countries concluded, “As with previous surveys, data from this latest 2012 European tracking poll indicates that significant percentages of European respondents continue to believe in some of the most pernicious anti-Semitic stereotypes.” A 2011 ADL poll found that about 15 percent of the US population—forty-five million Americans—“fall into the most anti-Semitic co-hort.”

This allegation of Islamic Jew-hatred is dangerous because it is meritless, creates an irrational fear of Islam and of Muslims, and ignores the factually proven growing anti-Semitism in Europe and America. Per Islamic teaching, Prophet Muhammad treated Jews as equals and with compassion. So enough of these ridiculous bus ads—find something productive to spend your money on. Let’s stop blindly blaming Islam for anti-Semitism and instead work together to root out anti-Semitism wherever it exists.

Qasim Rashid is an attorney, author, and national spokesperson for Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA. His upcoming book, EXTREMIST: A Response to Geert Wilders & Terrorists Everywhere, is due out May 28.

 

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