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Paris attacks, Islam and the war within

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Whether Islam is a religion of peace or it promotes terrorism is a wrong question to begin with. That’s what many people have been asking on social media in the wake of utterly reprehensible, tragic terrorist attacks in Paris. That’s what they usually ask after each and every attack where Muslim men or women are found to be involved.

‘Send Muslims back to deserts’, ‘deport them’ and ‘kill them all’ are some of the common phrases used by some.

These people forget while making hateful comments that with about 1.62 billion followers or 23% of the global population, Islam is the second-largest religion followed by a large number of adherents and is the fastest-growing major religion in the world. If Islam was wicked, people would not flock towards it in multitudes (duh).

As historian Reza Aslan says Islam is neither a religion of peace nor hate. It’s just like any other religion and it all depends on what you as an individual bring to it. A good man will be a good Muslim and a wicked man will be a wicked Muslim. And same goes with Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and Jews as well.

They say terrorism is bad and cannot be justified. I concur! Any form of terrorism that uses violence to harm and kill innocent men, women and children for political gains should be condemned. What ISIS does is definitely terrorism, for it kills innocent, unsuspecting civilians in cities for no fault of their own. I, however, also have a question and I am not the first person to ask it. What was it that the United States of America did in Iraq?

As this life is a trial, the battle of good and evil goes on in our hearts until one wins over the other. We must win this war.

The whole country was bombed back to the stone age and destroyed under false accusation that it possessed the weapons of mass destruction. Thousands of innocent men, women and children were killed due to the US’ War on Terror. Was it not state terrorism? Or is it the case that a mighty state has the right to wage wars on other smaller countries and reduce them to rubble without expecting retaliation. Or is it something acceptable?

The Newton’s Third Law of Motion says that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. This is something the world has acknowledged to be true. For instance, if I abuse a person or slap him, I should expect some kind of retaliation and vice versa. Great people like Gandhiji would turn the other cheek, but they are few and far between or I dare say are extinct species. People these days want an eye for an eye and blood for blood. They long for retribution and justice, at once.

No one can justify what the ISIS did in Paris and at the same time we should have the humanity (and intellectual audacity) to condemn what the US did in Iraq. For, the people who died in that country were humans like us. They had two hands, two eyes, five senses, feelings and passions. They were no children of a lesser God. In fact, all men and women are born equal in the world. The issue is not with the religion which the man created to become a good human being instead of savages.

The problem is with us – the humans. Humans are good and wicked. Humans are murderers, rapists and good samaritans. Verily, good and evil dwell inside all of us. It depends on us whom to nurture. If we choose the latter, we become like the followers of the ISIS. It’s all about the choices we make.

Shakespeare writes:

Two such opposed kings encamp them still
In man as well as herbs: grace and rude will;
And where the worser is predominant
Full soon the canker death eats up that plant.”

The Holy Quran concurs.

God says in the Quran (76:3)

إِنَّا خَلَقْنَا الْإِنْسَانَ مِنْ نُطْفَةٍ أَمْشَاجٍ نَبْتَلِيهِ فَجَعَلْنَاهُ سَمِيعًا بَصِيرًا (Verily We created Man from a drop of mingled sperm, in order to try him: So We gave him {the gifts}, of Hearing and Sight.)

And in 76:3

إِنَّا هَدَيْنَاهُ السَّبِيلَ إِمَّا شَاكِرًا وَإِمَّا كَفُورًا (We showed him the Way: whether he be grateful or ungrateful {rests on his will}.)

Especially, the second verse above says it all. As this life is a trial, the battle of good and evil goes on in our hearts until one wins over the other.

We must tame the evil inside us and win this war that is raging within. The survival of the human race is at stake.

Next Story

Story Of Pakistani Immigrant Who Came To U.S. Helps Feed The Homeless

“I have a deep interest in social justice, Catholic social teaching … and so to be part of something bigger than myself, my son and I chose to come to lunch here today to support and be a small part of a great thing."

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Sakina Halal Grill serves a hot luncheon buffet to paying as well as non-paying guests. (J.Taboh) VOA

When Pakistani immigrant Kazi Mannan came to the U.S. in 1996 as an impoverished young adult, he could only dream about success. He worked long hours in a series of tough jobs, saved money and learned everything he could about working and living in America.

His hard work paid off. After more than 20 years, he’s now a successful entrepreneur and owner of a popular Pakistani-Indian restaurant just a few blocks from the White House.

But what’s most remarkable about his story is what he’s doing in his restaurant every day.

Kazi Mannan speaks with two of his regular homeless guests at his restaurant, which welcomes paying and non-paying customers. (J. Taboh/VOA)
Kazi Mannan speaks with two of his regular homeless guests at his restaurant, which welcomes paying and non-paying customers. (J. Taboh) . VOA

Mannan offers free meals to the homeless and anyone else in need.

Paying it forward

He says it’s his way of heeding the principles of his Muslim faith.

“I know God is happy with me, what I do, because I do it with my pure heart, with my pure intention, to uplift others without seeking any reward, any recognition,” he says. “I don’t need any awards, I don’t need any money. I just want to please Him.”

Mannan helps the needy he says, because growing up poor in Pakistan, he knows what it’s like to be hungry.

“I have nine siblings and [we didn’t have] much to eat … when you are poor and you [don’t] have things that other people have, when you get it, you want to appreciate, you want to share with others,” he said.

His desire to share deepened as he worked as a limousine driver in the nation’s capital. He saw homeless people on the street, day and night, in all kinds of weather — looking for food in trash cans.

The experience had an impact.

“I don’t want to see another human being going through the poverty that I went through. I don’t want to see another human being going through the hunger that I went through. I want them to have that feeling that they were being accepted, so they can come and sit here and eat with respect,” he says.

Just like family

His message is simple. Come to Sakina Halal Grill, which is named after his late mother, ask for food, use the restroom, and sit for as long as you want.

“We will love you and respect you the same way we respect a paying guest. We will treat you like family,” he said.

Members of the homeless community are welcome at Sakina Halal Grill restaurant anytime for a free meal. (J. Taboh/VOA)
Members of the homeless community are welcome at Sakina Halal Grill restaurant anytime for a free meal. (J. Taboh). VOA

Marchellor Lesueur, who is homeless, has been coming to the restaurant every day for the past eight months.

“I think that he’s a saint. He’s a beautiful man,” he says about Mannan. “My stomach was growling, I was looking for a blessing, then he popped up, gave me a card and invited me to a restaurant for lunch. And I was so overwhelmed and happy I couldn’t wait to get here, and ever since then I’ve been coming.”

Hegehiah Griakley is also a regular. He was finishing up a generous portion of rice and chicken, which he described as two meals in one.

“This is more than lunch,” he said. “They give you enough to feed you for the rest of the day I think. The food is great, the people are nice. I wouldn’t mind working here!”

Griakley says he once asked Mannan what he could give him in return for the free food. “Because most people expect you to give back.”

“But he said ‘no, no, no, no, no!’ He just wanted me to have a good meal,” he recalls. “I couldn’t believe that. It was so nice. I loved it.”

Compassionate immigrant

Mannan estimates that he’s provided more than 80,000 free meals since the restaurant opened in 2013.

And when he’s not feeding the needy in his restaurant, Mannan delivers meals to local shelters and churches, and organizes food and clothing drives at nearby parks.

Kazi Mannan distributes food to the needy at a local food and coat drive -- one of many he organizes every year. (K.Mannan)
Kazi Mannan distributes food to the needy at a local food and coat drive — one of many he organizes every year. (K.Mannan). VOA

“Some people tell me ‘homeless people are using drugs and you’re feeding them; that’s bad.’” To which he responds, “For you, it’s bad, for me, it’s joy. … I see a person who’s fallen to the ground. Whatever problem they went through to become homeless, it’s not my job to judge — my job is to give them respect and love.”

His paying customers are still his main business. Many of them contribute towards the free meals… and support his cause.

First time customer Geralyn Nathe-Evans was visiting from Minnesota when she read about Mannan’s mission in an article.

“I have a deep interest in social justice, Catholic social teaching … and so to be part of something bigger than myself, my son and I chose to come to lunch here today to support and be a small part of a great thing,” she said.

Mannan uses food as a way to help his fellow man, in practice of his faith. He urges others to do the same with their talents.

“If you’re a medical doctor, can you love him through your practice? If you are a lawyer, can you love him through your practice? Be kind and be compassionate to your client?” he asks.

In doing so, he believes “we will all prosper and flourish” as a society.

Also Read: Apple Watch Can Detect And Notify Users Irregular Heart Rhythms

Meantime, he says he will continue to nourish both body and soul of all who walk through the door of his restaurant.

“Just uplifting others is a joy for me. It doesn’t matter [what] color, religion you belong to. We are all human. I am focusing on humanity. I’m bringing humanity together and this is my mission.” (VOA)