People do crazy things for religion.
Take for example hundreds of families belonging to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Chantilly, VA, trying to self-fund a mosque for the past decade. In an extremely friendly lending environment, the women from these families sold $500 dresses, their husbands made $5 kabob rolls, and their children cooked $.50 brownies to raise funds. And the Community’s executives, instead of lobbying governments for petrodollars, dug into their checkbooks to donate — urging others to reciprocate.
Photo credit: Patch.com / Mary C. Stachyra
Well, on the eve of Jan. 29th, someone went crazy at this under-construction mosque in Chantilly VA: it was vandalized. All the custom glass windows on thefirst floor were shattered, leaving behind rocks, beer cans and a financial damage of $60,000.
There is a bright line distinction, though, between both crazy acts: one is driven by knowledge and love, while the other by ignorance at best, and hatred at worse.
This is not the first time such ignorance (or hatred) was directed at a mosque. Google the term “mosque vandalized” and you find 244,000 results. Just within 10 days of bin Laden’s death, three mosques were vandalized in New York, Maine, and Portland; so one more in Virginia is hardly ground breaking news.
What is news is the fact that we still know so little about these Muslims. Who are they? Why do they want to come to “my” community?
As an Ahmadi Muslim, allow me to tell you who we are.
Since 1924, members of the oldest Muslim organization in America have advocated loyalty to one’s country of residence. Instead of religious extremism, they are focused on education — hailing the first Muslim Nobel Laureate (in Physics) in 1979. Instead of male chauvinism, Ahmadi Muslim fathers empower their daughters, helping them to win Rhodes scholarships. And instead of confused pessimism, this community commemorated the 10th anniversary of 9/11 by raising more than 10,000 units of blood in collaboration with the American Red Cross. Pretty crazy, right? Or call it “Psychicemotus,” if you want to use a fancy word from the Grammy award winning musician Yusuf Latif ‘s album, also a respected member of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA.
On the topic of vandalism though, a thought may cross someone’s mind about the brutal church burnings and atrocities committed against minorities in Muslim countries. It’s shameful. It’s contrary to what Islam teaches, “Allah did not repel some men by means of others, there would surely have been pulled down cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques, wherein the name of Allah is oft commemorated (22:41). Therefore, the Ahmadiyya Muslim community has publicly denounced such horrific acts.
I wonder how a mutual understanding of each others’ belief would impact the minds of those who vandalize a house of God; no matter whether we call it a church, synagogue, temple, or mosque.
But all is not lost in this battle against a pocket of ignorance. As the word spread, not only that other Muslims reached out to help but local churches also extended notes of sympathy, synagogues expressed support, and non-Muslim friends asked where to send a check. Look at the largest mosque in Northern Europe and one of the largest mosques in North America , both self-funded and belonging to the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, and one thing is clear: We seek your prayers, not payers, to take this peaceful mission forward.
The perpetrators left the crime scene in dark, but it’s heartening to see our nation and its constitution standing by our side in broad daylight. Stones can shatter a glass window but they cannot touch our iron resolve.
We are coming to Chantilly, VA to join hands with anyone interested in making this world a better place. Whether that is by feeding the hungry, providing free medical care to the indigent, cleaning a highway, or raising a good child. We are coming to Chantilly, VA because it is our community too.
Steve Jobs famously said, “We’re here to put a dent in the universe.” A universe plagued by hunger, disease, poverty — and so much tumult. Throwing rocks at a mosque or whining about them, only puts adent on our nation’s face. We are all better than that.
Let’s join hands as neighbors and pledge to go crazy — good crazy — and make that dent in the universe.
Follow Dr. Faheem Younus on Twitter: www.twitter.com/FaheemYounus