(New York) At the National Prayer Breakfast, an annual interfaith event held Thursday, February 5, President Obama declared what many stubbornly refuse to accept, "we have seen violence and terror perpetrated by those who profess to stand up for faith, their faith, professed to stand up for Islam, but, in fact, are betraying it." This sentiment was underscored by recent revelations from former hostage, journalist Didier Francois, who offered insight about the religious fervor, or lack thereof, shown by his ISIS captors over ten months. In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Francois states, "There was never really discussion about texts or -- it was not a religious discussion. It was a political discussion. It was more hammering what they were believing than teaching us about the Quran. Because it has nothing to do with the Quran. We didn't even have the Quran; they didn't want even to give us a Quran."
The Muslims of America, Inc., have long warned that it is not Muslims, but the ISIS/salafi extremists, and their wahhabi ideology, financed through Arab countries, that are oppressing and murdering millions around the world. Francois' observations as a journalist who had been in the region show clearly that Abu Bakr Baghdadi, the so-called and self-proclaimed 'khalifa' of ISIS is focused on a 'divide and conquer' stratagem for gaining political and ultimately physical control of the region that ISIS terrorists and their handlers seek to dominate all while posing as Muslims. "Muslims are not terrorists, we are the number one victims of terrorists. This is a known point," began Hussein Adams, Chief Executive of The Muslims of America, Inc., "Muslims are being slaughtered by these people who are perpetrating their devastation in the name of Islam in order to instigate chaos in the world. And yet, here at home in America, Islamophobes are wasting time harassing American Muslims who have not harmed anyone. The American Muslim community has co-existed here peacefully for decades."
The Muslims of America, Inc., (TMOA), an organization founded and based in the United States three decades ago by indigenous American Muslim citizens, has been vocal about what they describe as a "baseless and relentless hate campaign" against their community; instead, calling for focus on "a true enemy of peace- the salafi/wahhabi extremists". The private group of American Muslims has been fraught with unwanted attention as the usual cauldron of "experts" become vocal after a major devastating event is tied to Islam, this time the horrible attacks in Paris, which thrust the TMOA community into the US media spotlight. "While the usual Islamophobes are here in America attacking our community, the salafi/wahabis are wreaking havoc in the world killing Muslims, Christians and any others who do not agree with their twisted actions," exclaimed Mr. Adams.
A review of TMOA history shows that half a century ago, the elder members of The Muslims of America community embraced a new faith, Islam. "We are not immigrants to America," stated one member who chose not to be identified. "We are born and raised here. Our African American ancestors helped to build this country generations ago. Our fathers and grandfathers fought in World Wars, Vietnam and Korea. We fully understand our contributions and appreciate our rights and liberties both as American citizens and as American Muslims."
Thirty years ago, members of TMOA began to follow the Sufi doctrine of Islam, under the leadership of their spiritual guide, El Sheikh Syed Mubarik Ali Shah Gillani who came to America in the early 1980's from Pakistan. As Vice Chancellor of the International Qur'anic Open University, an educational institute for the study of Holy Qur'an, Islamic traditions and Sufic Sciences, El Sheikh Gillani's travels and humanitarian works in America and around the globe are far from secret, as they are well documented. Even El Sheikh Gillani's adversaries admit to his decades-long record of reformation of a group of Americans that the government had, in essence, written off. A rebuttal published July 2013 entitled, Three 'Decades of Light' in America: Vice Chancellor of the International Qur'anic Open University Issues Statement of Policy, expounds:
"When arriving in America, El Sheikh Gillani met a devoted group of indigenous American Muslims whose hearts were yearning for a leader and guide dedicated to the practice of Al Islam at a time when the deviant Wahhabi ideology infiltrated the American Muslim mainstream. El Sheikh Gillani found this earnest group of American Muslims in an unlikely place- the depressed ghettos of the inner cities where drugs, crime and violence were rampant. As unlikely as it seems, these Americans had prayed to Almighty God for relief, and after witnessing many Divine miraculous manifestations supporting El Sheikh Gillani's mission, this group of American Muslims soon formed a devout community of faithful Muslims becoming known as The Muslims of America, Inc."
This is an interesting historical fact – when the Arabs came to the US to entice Muslims with large sums of money and mass education in wahhabism, it was El Sheikh Gillani who rescued members of TMOA from the wahhabi/salafi ideology that is now spreading its creed in opposition to Islam and at the expense of the lives of Muslims everywhere. For this reason, members of TMOA have said that they keep a close eye on the activities of the wahhabi/salafis who will create a problem for all Americans.
Although El Sheikh Gillani is the spiritual guide of The Muslims of America, it has its own US administrative setup which supports members across the nation that have organized together with other families to move onto private, rural villages. In the villages, residents practice the religion of Islam- as is guaranteed for any American - with the right to freedom of expression, freedom of religion and to live anywhere in the nation. It is impossible to generalize the accomplishments of the members of TMOA, or any American Muslims, as they are vast, reaching into every realm of American society, including medicine, law, engineering, education, social work and various trade specialties.
El Sheikh Gillani stated recently in response to criticism regarding his leadership of TMOA, "The Holy Quran says that Almighty God gives honor to the descendants, or Ahli Bayt, of the Holy Last Messenger Muhammad, peace be upon him, who told the Muslims then, 'the similitude of my Ahli-Bayt is like the Ark of Nuh (Noah). Whosoever boards it will be saved and whosoever stays away from it will drown.' My position is like that of the Pope. I'm not limited to Americans, but have followers all over the world in many countries. Many Christians go out and do bad things, do you blame the Pope? I'm not responsible. I have always said, if anyone violates the law, punish them."
And yet, unlike the Pope, when even one person claiming to follow El Sheikh Gillani commits a crime, it is immediately associated with him. Indeed it is a recorded fact that if members of the TMOA community have committed any offences, the appropriate authorities have been involved just as with any other American citizen. It begs the question that if a parishioner at a local church commits a crime, is law enforcement pressured to monitor, harass, and arrest all other church members? Is the church shut down? Are there calls for expulsion of Christians from America?
There are those who do call for action against innocent American Muslims, but additional remarks from President Obama at the National Prayer breakfast should all but silence those who have forgotten their own American history, which is filled with examples of the dangers of generalization and aggression in the name of any religion. Obama specified:
"And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ... So this is not unique to one group or one religion. There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith. In today's world, when hate groups have their own Twitter accounts and bigotry can fester in hidden places in cyberspace, it can be even harder to counteract such intolerance. But God compels us to try."
It is through senseless and bigoted propaganda campaigns launched over the Internet and social media, like Twitter, that TMOA has seen an increase in rhetoric that has placed many of its members under unwarranted scrutiny or in unnecessary danger. A member of The Muslims of Americas learned how far some would go to paint a picture of extremism, often by carelessly involving law enforcement. In Wayne County, Georgia, Sheriff John Carter received a "tip" that the TMOA village nestled in rural Odum was building underground bunkers, an oft-repeated but proven fictitious story that pops up at every corner when researching TMOA. Sheriff Carter responded, went to the property to investigate and discovered that the only underground activity was the innocent homeowner's replacement of a septic tank. In December 2013, a neighbor fired gunshots onto a Muslim village in York, South Carolina, shouting racial and religious slurs with no care as to the men, women and children living and gathered.
To many, El Sheikh Gillani's life reads like that of a Nobel Peace prize winner, rather than a figure associated with extremism. From where does the great confusion come? "I am the Vice Chancellor of IQOU, Imam of the Muslims of America and the spiritual guide of those who follow the sufi way. I teach students of the International Qur'anic Open University and others via video conference. Neither I, nor competent Sufis Qadrees, are at all interested in wealth, worldly affairs or aspiring to become a ruler of any country. Traveling the path that leads directly to Almighty Allah is our goal." states El Sheikh Gillani. Addressing accusations that he is the leader of a foreign terrorist organization called Jamaat Al Fuqra, El Sheikh Gillani exclaims, "What is Jamaat El Fuqra? It is a pity that there are those who have repeated this same nonsense and baseless accusations for the last 30 years! They have taken 25 year old Kashmiris' training videos and claimed them to be American Muslims training in the US! This is all known to be false."
El Sheikh Gilani's mention of the Kashmiris is related to a video that often surfaces in which critics charge he was training an army of Americans to fight America. However, a history check and an examination of the video shows that the Kashmiri people were absolutely fighting against genocide in their own country at that time. Furthermore, Americans and humanitarians around the world were calling for support of Kashmiris who are still denied self-determination today. Furthermore, ninety percent of the Kashmiris are sufis who follow the Qadri order started by the ancestor of El Sheikh Gilani, the very famous Great Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani of Baghdad.
One has to wonder what is behind a deliberate demonization of Muslims whose 1.6 billion faithful are working and living peacefully in the world? "Look no further than the same people who pushed America into World War II," began TMOA Public Relations Director, Matthew Gardner, "who tricked America into the Iraq war behind the lie of weapons of mass destruction? Who demolished the USS Liberty? Who has hidden the truth behind 9/11? There are obviously those with nefarious and hidden agendas who have much to gain. Their desire is to spark a clash that will allow the usurpation of basic human rights in order to aggressively subjugate the world and save it from a chaos they themselves started."
To prosper in every society there have to be freedoms, but freedom at the expense of the human rights and dignity of another group cannot be tolerated. Insulting the way of life, the religion, of billions of people through caricatures, books and films that malign Islam is obviously intended to incite anger and promote violence. "There's wisdom in our founders writing in those documents that help found this nation the notion of freedom of religion, because they understood the need for humility," said Obama, "They also understood the need to uphold freedom of speech, that there was a connection between freedom of speech and freedom of religion. For to infringe on one right under the pretext of protecting another is a betrayal of both."
The Muslim world too must guard its sacred text and historical books against infiltration by ideologies that are contrary to Islam. As seen in the Darussalam Publications of Saudi Arabia, many books have been tainted through mistranslation and misinterpretations that go outside those globally accepted by Islamic scholars. The wahhabi regimes have used their publication houses to transform books that Muslims trust into tools that promote their own deviant ideology. In books well known in the Muslim world, the wahhabis have inserted information that has no basis in Islamic law to misguide and oppress Muslims. Such is the case of the highly popular book, The Pious Woman, in which it states, "Undoubtedly, for Muslim women to drive cars is contrary to the spirit and teaching of the Qur'an and Sunnah." In response, TMOA Assistant Chief Executive, Khadijah Smith demands, "Publications such as these should be closed down. Selling purposefully misinterpreted books which propagate the wahhabi ideology is not only against Islamic principles, but also a base for the education of groups like ISIS."
When asked what keeps TMOA firm on its mission of peace and unity, the response was not surprising from the American Sufis. For over four years, in Hancock, New York, the headquarters of TMOA, a masjid in the village called Holy Islamberg bears a miracle that hundreds have witnessed. Mrs. Smith, explains, "One of the greatest signs shown in the history of mankind is the appearance of the personal name of Almighty God, Allah, which has appeared on the wall of our masjid that is dedicated to the great Hazrat Ghaus ul Azam Sheikh Abdul Qaadir Jilani of Baghdad, blessing of God upon him."
The masjid, known as Baitullah, holds what members know to be a sign of Divine help and support to the mission of El Sheikh Gillani. "Come and see," invites El Sheikh Gillani, "Going back to the times of many of the Holy Messengers of Allah, they were often ridiculed, criticized, and brutalized when they brought a message of hope and peace to a chaotic world. I know my ancestor the Holy Last Messenger, Muhammad, peace be upon him, was targeted and every imaginable lie was brought against him, but the lies were eliminated by Almighty Allah Himself. Allah is sufficient as our protector. Allah is sufficient to bring us together as one, as it was before!"
Attempting to overshadow the miracle appearing at the village of Holy Islamberg are reports, oddly enough not by neighbors or law enforcement but by anti-Muslim organizations, demanding investigation or even removal of TMOA members. Far-right Christian-Zionist groups are by far at the forefront, but they do not echo the sentiments of Christians everywhere. Although things that are unknown can cause feelings of fear to spring up in those who do not understand American Muslims, TMOA members have been celebrated for opening the doors of interfaith relations through an organization founded eight years ago by El Sheikh Gillani called the United Muslim Christian Forum (UMCF).
When asked about the significance of forming such an organization, Gardner responds, "We didn't suddenly become a threat because we pray to God five times a day. We have family, neighbors, co-workers and friends who are Christians. For the last eight years, UMCF events have unified Muslims and Christians to celebrate the similarities of people of faith who believe in the messengers of God including Abraham, Moses, Jesus son of Mary and the Holy Last Messenger, Muhammad, peace be upon them all." President Obama concurs, "In Islam, there is a Hadith that states: 'None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.' The Holy Bible tells us to 'put on love', which binds everything together in perfect harmony."
As evidence that it can be done, Gardner identifies a large village in Lahore, Pakistan where many Christians choose to live together on 300 acres of land. They live peacefully, unharmed and protected without fear of the millions of Muslims living around them. Surely the melting pot of America is as open and willing to live together with others who choose a different way of life than what is mainstream. It seems evident that the American Muslim and American Citizen are not contradictory, but in fact are complementary to each other. At the same time, it is apparent that the salafi/wahabi ideology is not compatible with any civilized society. According to TMOA, the fire of fear blazing up around the world can be quenched with unity, not clashes, between Christians and Muslims.
"As American Muslims, we are working to bring unity and prevent this 'clash of civilizations' being promoted around the world," Gardner concludes, "However, the practice of peace brought by Islam is currently drowned out by growing groups of extremists, the enemies of Islam, who are unfortunately physically doing the job the Islamophobes started in the media with the character assassination of Muslims."
El Sheikh Gillani warns, "The only thing that will save the USA is world peace and unity between Muslims and Christians. All of these ISIS and other extremists are not Muslims. Muslims are people who follow the traditions of the Holy Last Messenger, peace be upon him. Muslim Sufis along with Christians can, and must, come together to save this world. I bear witness that there is no deity save Allah alone. He has no partner. Just as I bear witness that Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) is His servant and messenger. I bear witness that Isa (Jesus), peace be upon him, is a servant and Messenger of Allah and the son of His servant (Maryam) and His Word that He sent to Maryam and a spirit from Him. I bear witness that paradise is a reality and that hell is a reality."