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In November 2015, Friday the 13th, a retired marine named Ted Hakey came home late night from a bar in Meriden, Conn., took hold of one of his high-powered rifles and opened fire at the mosque next door. A bullet went straight through the central prayer hall where, just a little earlier, worshippers had lined up for the night prayers.

Police acted promptly to figure out where the gun was fired from and arrested Hakey. FBI seized 24 guns and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition from his house. Hakey's Facebook account was replete with anti-Muslim vitriol, like "All Muslims must die!!! I hate them all!!!" and "Once a tipping point is reached, the Muslims are [expletive]." And for Ted Hakey the tipping point had been reached earlier that day with the ISIS terrorist attacks that killed 130 innocent souls and injured hundreds more in Paris.

But, "Hatred does not cease by hatred; hatred ceases by loving," the old Indian adage goes. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community from the mosque reached out to Hakey and offered him forgiveness. They held a meeting at the mosque for the Meriden community, in which they themselves apologized for not reaching out to the neighbors earlier to acquaint them with the teachings of true Islam, and to assure the neighbors that the hate-mongering extremist groups like ISIS are teaching things that are, in fact, antithetical to Islam. The congregation offered Hakey unconditional forgiveness and overflowing love. Every member reached out to Hakey and gave him a tight reassuring hug. The mosque has always prominently displayed their motto, "Love for All, Hatred for None," but this day they all proved it with their stretched arms and heart-to-heart communion.

Hakey was overwhelmed by this outpouring of love and forgiveness. He has -- since completing his sentence -- become an avid ambassador of "True Islam," spreading the message of peace. He hopes he will be able to change hearts and heal souls of this hatred. He hopes others can experience the openness and communication he has with the Muslim community.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and its founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, have been at the forefront to remove the misunderstanding about jihad among Muslims and non-Muslims for well over a century. The claim that Islam condones or even encourages violent jihad was made by the so-called Muslims scholars -- on the one hand -- through misinterpretation of the words of the Prophet and the Quran to arouse the ignorant masses to create rebellion against European colonizers. On the other hand, most Christian missionaries -- who had thronged to the East in the wake of the expanding European Imperialism to "save" the local, mostly Muslim, inhabitants through conversion -- also played the same tune to belittle and berate Islam as the religion of thugs and raiders.

Prophet Muhammad (Peace be on him.) never advocated violence; his teachings highlight peaceful coexistence and mutual respect. The Quran categorically pronounces the "Age of Knowledge" has dawned and the superiority of any philosophy or religion could easily be judged on its own merits. Therefore, there is no compulsion in matters of religion; the choice rests squarely with the people themselves -- Holy Quran, 2:257 and 18:30.

Prophet Muhammad spent majority of his life under the ruthless oppression of the powerful elites in Mecca, trying to teach them through persuasion and perseverance in the face of unthinkable suffering. He wanted to establish principles of freedom of thought, expression and religion. Many of his followers were killed defending these very principles. The Prophet taught them to bear it all with forbearance. His own beloved wife and his uncle passed away under the weight of this unrelenting persecution. He asked his companions to emigrate, first to a Christian kingdom across the Red Sea (in modern Ethiopia) and later to Medina. He himself secretly fled Mecca, his beloved home town, when the enemy colluded to assassinate him. He taught his followers how far one should go to avoid violence and how important it is to safeguard the rights of freedom of expression and belief.

The inhabitants of Medina -- totally exhausted by decades of incessant civil wars -- saw in Prophet Muhammad a beacon of hope for their future. Muhammad was elected as their uncontested leader and was asked to draw up a constitution for them to live by. Prophet Muhammad thus founded a true Islamic state in Medina, based on the principles of absolute justice, pluralism, religious freedom and equal rights for every citizen. This was 600 years before Magna Carta. (See, for example, a 2016 article by Craig Considine, a professor at Rice University in Houston in Religions theology journal, Religious Pluralism and Civil Rights in a "Muslim Nation": An Analysis of Prophet Muhammad's Covenant with Christians.)

The Meccan enemy was not ready to leave him alone. They attacked Medina many times, forcing him to defend himself and the nascent nation. They would also not allow the Muslims to perform pilgrimage to Kaaba, a sacred house of worship all Arabs had a right to visit for millennia. The prophet eventually made a 10-year peace treaty with the Meccans -- even with stipulations that were clearly detrimental to their interests -- to avoid war. The Meccans later broke that treaty.

Prophet Muhammad was able to enter Mecca with 10,000 of his follower without a major fight. Those who had violently persecuted Muslims for years and committed atrocities of war expected to be treated the same way by the Muslim army. Prophet Muhammad, however, forgave them all -- even the one who brutally murdered the Prophet's uncle. Muhammad announced, "This day there is no reproof against you, and you are all free." Arabia was swayed to Islam by the shear power of forgiveness.

NAN Religion on 11/04/2017

Print Headline: Worldwide hate epidemic

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