We’ve all heard the old adage – those who don’t learn from the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it.
With the rise of ISIS, the world is at such a crossroads once again, except this time the stakes are much higher and the situation much more dire. In response to ISIS, His Holiness the Khalifa of Islam, Mirza Masroor Ahmad has unequivocally declared, “The actions and statements of ISIS and other extremists who pretend to represent Islam, whilst all the while spreading hatred and violence, run entirely contrary to the peaceful teachings of Islam.”
But ISIS did not come into existence overnight. ISIS is the result of decades of ignoring the lessons of history.
Back in the 1980s, His Holiness’s predecessor Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad warned the world of the rise of Pakistan’s Dictator Zia ul Haqq. Dictator Zia championed death for apostasy and death for breaking blasphemy laws. He empowered those who soon became the Taliban and gave carte blanche approval to the destruction of religious minorities. Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad lectured worldwide, held countless press conferences, and wrote dozens of books and articles demanding separation of mosque and state, championing universal freedom of conscience, and imploring a united front against Dictator Zia’s extremist regime.
Unfortunately not enough people listened. Western nations backed Dictator Zia and his Taliban because he was anti-Russian. Muslims in Pakistan backed Dictator Zia due to populist mullah support. And much of the world sat idle as Dictator Zia empowered a generation of extremists and terrorists who now cause 4,000 annual civilian deaths in Pakistan. These extremists have recently and increasingly influenced radical thought around the world. Groups like ISIS, therefore, are no accident. They’re the collective result of global apathy, tacit support, and direct approval of extremist ideology by nations and religious leaders who had the power to turn the tide.
Flash forward to 2014, and history seems to repeat itself. Only this time the stakes are higher. Whereas Dictator Zia only managed to radicalize those in Pakistan, ISIS threatens to radicalize youths in much of the Middle East and even in the United Kingdom. It is not too late, however, to turn the tide against extremism and demand more out of ourselves, our political leaders, and our religious leaders.
But we must act now.
For over a decade His Holiness the Khalifa of Islam Mirza Masroor Ahmad has carried on his predecessor’s torch of tolerance and peace, and has responded emphatically against terrorism. In part, ISIS wishes to establish some sort of global caliphate to conquer non-Muslims and enforce religion. This ambition is nonsensical and even laughable, but also represents just how warped and dangerous their worldview is. In reply, His Holiness, who is the world’s only Khalifa and who leads world’s single largest Muslim organization numbering tens of millions in over 200 nations — the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community — has been unequivocal in stating, “Extremist Islamic groups and the so-called Caliphate that extremists are trying to establish in the Middle East are a complete betrayal of the true peaceful teachings of Islam and will never succeed. These groups have attached their own cruel ambitions to an institution (Caliphate) that in reality seeks to champion the rights of all people. Let me make it clear that the institution of Caliphate leading the Ahmadiyya Community has no interest in power or government. Rest assured that true Caliphate has no worldly or political objectives.”
This is not mere lip service. It is no accident that the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has existed for over 125 years, is now in over 200 nations, has spread without a single act of religious violence, and is known worldwide for its humanitarian, charitable, and secular education services.
However, the irony from many Muslim leaders and anti-Islam critics is astounding. Both sets of critics attempt to dismiss His Holiness because he commands no military and rules no government. Meanwhile, both sets of critics also warn of the dangers of ISIS because ISIS controls a military and seeks to rule a government. You cannot have it both ways. You cannot warn of the dangers of a militarized Caliphate, and then dismiss the world’s only existing Khalifa as irrelevant because the existing Caliphate does not have military ambitions.
The bottom line is this: His Holiness the Khalifa of Islam leads a successful and worldwide Muslim organization because he shuns worldly power, a military, and any form of oppression. This is the example of just leadership the world — and particularly the Muslim world — needs today.
We cannot make the same mistake the world made in the 1980s when they ignored the advice of Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad regarding Dictator General Zia. Today, His Holiness the Khalifa of Islam leads by example to show the path to tolerance. Muslims who accept him as the Khalifa have spread to every corner of Earth with the emphatic purposes of service to humanity, universal freedom of conscious, and pluralism. The Khalifa of Islam is the anti-thesis to ISIS, the antithesis to terrorism, and the cure for corruption in the Muslim world.
We need not doom ourselves again — let us learn from the lessons of history.
Qasim Rashid is a lawyer and author of EXTREMIST. He is a national spokesperson for Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA. Find him on Twitter @MuslimIQ.