By Amer Aziz
The terrible news of four Marines and a sailor shot to death in Chattanooga doesn’t come as a surprise. While details remain sketchy, the story line in similar attacks is all too familiar: A young man born and bred in the West with a seemingly normal life and a future falls prey to an extremist ideology and goes up in flames taking down innocents with him.
What little we know about Muhammad Abdelazeez comes across as conflicted and disoriented. He is someone we think was perhaps driven by a puritan ideological zeal, and yet, only a few months ago was arrested for recklessly driving while drunk and high on dope.
To experts, that doesn’t come as a surprise. In 2008, the Guardian newspaper in Britain obtained a copy of a study on radicalization. It stated, “Far from being religious zealots, most of those involved in terrorism don’t practice their faith regularly. Many lack religious literacy and have a high propensity for intoxication and visiting prostitutes.”
Most importantly, the study viewed that a well-established religious identity protects against radicalization. Those who actually take the time to study their religion can readily find out rogue ideologues lying in ambush to spring the disoriented and uneducated playground of the nascent mind.
We should question at once: is there a readily available, unified and tested leadership model in the Islamic world that can address this clear and present danger?
His holiness, the khalifa of Islam, Mirza Masroor Ahmad, is the head of the Ahmadiyya Community in Islam, which has a 125-year history of proselytizing a doctrine of peace and reconciliation while dedicating oneself to the service of humanity.
Ghulam Ahmad, who Ahmadi-Muslims believe to be the messiah foretold by Muhammad, had more than a hundred years ago called out the rogue ideologues who prey on disoriented youth: “Today’s Islamic scholars completely misunderstand jihad and misrepresent it to the general public. I know for certain that clerics who propagate these blood-spattered doctrines are responsible for murders committed by ignorant people who know nothing of why Islam was forced to fight battles in its early history.”
Under the guidance of the khalifa, the Youth Association of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community regularly holds conventions educating its youth on history, philosophy and doctrine. It implores them to become upright, loyal citizens through campaigns like “Muslims for Loyalty.” And it implores service to humanity with campaigns like “Muslims For Life,” a blood donation campaign. Such firm, grounded orientation and robust leadership is the crying need of the Islamic world today.
Amer Aziz, of Amherst, is a writer and editor for the Muslim Writers Guild of America and an officer with the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA.