Jihad of Love not Hate: A response to critics

My last week’s article on ‘Wage a Jihad of love not hate’ stirred up some controversy and upset some people for which, I am sorry. They think I am targeting Pakistani Muslims unfairly, and pushing Western propaganda, this is not at all the case. I will speak about anyone who commits injustice, spreads hate and violence in our global village. My job as an Imam, teacher and well-wisher for everyone is to always speak the truth, whether it is sweet or sour. I am in the words of the Majestic Quran ‘neither Eastern nor Western.’ I am proud to say ‘I am totally committed to the Almighty Lord. So, I thought I will just explain my thinking on hate and why this is a negative feeling that we should all expunge from our system immediately. The Quran tells us how to overcome hate: “Always say pleasant things to people” (Baqara: 83).

Have you ever asked yourself why do I hate so-and-so? Is it because you are frightened of them? You have no empathy feelings for them since you believe they deserve nothing less than that, or simply because you’re angry? If you could, you would even use violence against them. The Quran calls these negative feeling ‘ghil’ hate, so it teaches a prayer: “Lord don’t let hate take root in our hearts, Lord you are compassionate and caring” (Al-Hashr: 10). When animals are irritated or threatened they physically attack, the snake or scorpion will use its venom. But we humans are Divine representatives, vice regents of Allah. Shouldn’t we know better? “Small, scared people hate, self-hating people hate, bullied and betrayed people hate as though it would make them large, safe and strong” (Prof Nancy Gibbs).

Hate speeches by political and religious leaders are incendiary rhetoric and pomposity, inflammatory like putting a match on petrol soaked dry wood. Tough political leaders like Putin, Trump, Makron and others incite our darkest fears, cajole us to hate and drag us into the dark dungeons of hatred. Unfortunately, some Muslim religious leaders are doing that too. Ordinary people easily get caught up in that crossfire and are paralysed by their venom. We don’t need them, we want leaders with moral courage who can inspire love, kindness and forgiveness, and motivate us to be patient and curb our passions and fears. Hate preachers tell us to discriminate, disengage, moral leaders on the other hand promote engagement and friendship, they tell us that our opponents are not necessarily our enemies. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) taught: “Give people good news and don’t spread hatred”.

An example of this is Özlem Cekic whose email inbox has been full of hate mail since 2007, when she became Danish Member of Parliament becoming the first Muslim woman to do so. At first, she just deleted the emails, dismissing them as the work of fanatics, until one day a friend made an unexpected suggestion, to reach out to the hate mail writers and invite them to meet her for coffee. Hundreds of “dialogue coffee” meetings later, Cekic did have face-to-face conversations and successfully defeated the haters and made friends. She challenges us all to engage with people we disagree with.

We need hope and prayer to tackle the sickness of hatred that is rapidly growing in our global village. The political polarisation all over the world is frightening, the extremist right and the far left are pitching their tents against each other’s. This political polarisation is also fuelling religious bigotry and extremism. However, hope is aspirational not a strategy, prayer is seeking divine help and intervention. Both are wonderfully powerful tools for raising our determination to pursue peace and love, but by themselves they can’t bring about change. We need to take the responsibility of tackling hate, so we need to be accountable for what we say and what others say too, particularly we must hold accountable our leaders and what they say, and how they behave. The Majestic Quran promises the messenger “your tomorrow will be better than yesterday, and the Lord will give you so much that you will be happy” (Duha: 4-5). Yes, we must look forward to a better future for ourselves and for the sake of our children, families, workplaces, as well as sports stadiums that are free of hate!