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EXCLUSIVE – Qasim Rashid: “Dialogue is the first step towards overcoming hatred of any form”

Dialogue is the first step towards overcoming racism, xenophobia and violence.

Our special guest, today, is Qasim Rashid, human rights activist and advocate of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in America.

“Re-Sight Islam” is your latest podcast. How important is dialogue to overcome racism, xenophobia, intolerance, and violence and build bridges of understanding?

Dialogue is the first step towards overcoming hatred of any form. My hope with the Re-Sight Islam podcast is to provide our friends of various different faith traditions a path to learn about Islam in a comfortable and engaging environment. Rather than spend time on academic exercises, we try to engage the listener with a narrative based in fact, history, and accuracy. So far the podcast has been extremely well received as it’s been the #1 Islam podcast on iTunes for nearly the entire month of August. We hope your listeners tune in on iTunes, Podbean, Google Play, or Stitcher to check us out, and follow us on Twitter @ReSightIslam.

In “The wrong kind of Muslim” you speak about the stories of those who were jailed, injured, and martyred for their faith. Is there a special story, among these, that you want to tell us in a few word?

The book is about how people are pushing back against extremism and fighting for universal freedom of conscience for Ahmadi Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Jews, and atheists. The theme of the book is one of hope and optimism that tomorrow can be better than today, as long as we stand together against extremism and hate. This is the message of His Holiness the Khalifa of Islam, Mirza Masroor Ahmad, who is the worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. The book speaks to the Khalifa’s constant guidance that by striving to protect the rights of each other, life will be better for all of us.

Jihad doesn’t mean terrorism or violence. What is the true meaning of this word for the right kind of Muslim and what are the main differences with the wrong one?

The word Jihad means to struggle, and the greatest Jihad is the struggle against self that incites one to commit evil. Prophet Muhammad (sa) taught that the true Jihad is to promote peace, goodness, and justice. Our True Islam education campaign (trueislam.com) provides detailed guidance on Jihad and how terrorists manipulate this word for their vain desires. I recommend all your readers visit that website to see for themselves.

Did you follow the lastest events in the italian political landscape, especially regarding immigrational issues? Do you see any similarity with what is happening in your country, under Trump? Is there some kind of worldwide trend giung in that direction?

Unfortuanely nationalism has taken a rise in many countries around the world, leading to increases in hate crimes, racism, and extremism. The Khalifa of Islam Mirza Masroor Ahmad has spent much of the last 15 years speaking to world leadership about the lack of justice nationally and internationally, and how that lack of justice risks plunging the world into another global conflict. His Holiness’s landmark book, World Crisis and Pathway to Peace, is a must read to understand how we can recognize our obligations to one another and to the Creator, and protect ourselves from extremism, violence, and injustice. 

As protests become more and more frequent, they seem to have sparked a related debate, in america, on the “right way to protest”: all of a sudden, marching seems menacing, demonstrations are taken as riots and even kneeling during the national anthem is considered offensive, so: what is, for a minority, the right way to protest, in your opinion?

According to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), minorities should always stand for justice, even when they are treated unjustly. This is extremely difficult to do but ultimately beneficial in the long-term. Islam forbids violence against the government or against fellow citizens. Yes, people may defend themselves if attacked, but should not advance any form of violence or extremism against their nation of residence or countrymen. Peaceful protests against racism, hatred, and intolerance are of course within Islamic teachings and should be encouraged. Islam commands Muslims to stand for justice in all matters, even if it is against themselves or their own family. Thus, when injustice exists, Muslims are called to stand firm against injustice, with peace and trust in God.

Historically, it seems like one thing all religions have in common is the unequal treatment of women – let’s take the hijab as an example, as it is largely respected by women themselves: as a man, how do you think is possible to reconcile these traditional religious demands with modern feminist istances?

To be clear this question is best addressed to Muslim women. Muslim women don’t need a man to speak for them. So I encourage you to reach out to Muslim women for this question as well. On this issue of hijab, the misconception is that it applies only to women. In fact, the Qur’an first addresses men to observe hijab by never gawking or staring after women, never touching women unless it is one’s wife–and even then with her permission, and never tolerating mistreatment of women. Once men are addressed, then the Qur’an admonishes women to also observe loose fitting clothing. The Khalifa of Islam in a recent lecture admonished, “Islamic teachings are crystal clear that women are not inferior to men in any way whatsoever. Thus, where the Holy Quran mentions ‘believing men’ it also mentions ‘believing women’. This is true equality… When we compare and contrast the status bestowed upon women in Islam compared to other religions, it is like night and day.” Thus, it is not Islam that is the issue, but the failure of certain Muslim men who oppress women. On the contrary, the Khalifa of Islam is on record about the equality of men and women according to Islam, the Qur’an, and the example of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). That is the model we must all strive to follow.

Interview by Corrado Parlati and Marzia Figliolia
Special thanks to Qasim Rashid for the availability.

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