By Tariq A. Al-Maeena
Yet another despicable act occurred a few days ago when the Rida Mosque in Mahasen neighborhood of Al-Ahsa in the Eastern Province was bombed by those following a takfiri ideology. Four people who had been there offering prayers lost their lives to yet another act of terrorism, while another 18 were badly injured. The mosque is frequented by those following the Shia branch of Islam.
The media in the following days was full of condemnation of the latest series of attacks based on sectarian lines, and news of other terrorists who had been captured or are on the run. But it is not just our own homegrown terrorists who dominate the news. There are marauding bands such as Daesh (the self-proclaimed IS), Al-Qaeda and other fringe groups who have been thrust onto the front pages or the airwaves with their brutality, all the while chanting religious verses. All that this has succeeded in doing has been to promote a very violent image of Islam to those who are not Muslims.
So is this what Islam and Muslims are all about? The mayhem, murders, and bombings of the innocent? Is there no other face of Islam? You would have to dig deep between the pages to read of the other face of Muslims, a people who have dedicated their life to the proper teachings of this great religion and who by virtue of their piety are not seeking headlines.
There are Muslim individuals such as Dr. Mike Ghouse from the US who is a community consultant, social scientist, thinker, writer, news maker, and a speaker on a wide range of issues concerning Islam and the Western world. He is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day and building bridges between the faiths.
There is also Akbar Ahmed, the world renowned Muslim anthropologist whose various projects have contributed to and shaped contemporary thinking on the relations between the Muslim and the Western worlds. Professor Akbar Ahmed is the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies in the School of International Service at American University in Washington, DC. He has served as a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and was the First Distinguished Chair of Middle East and Islamic Studies at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD.
The list of such distinguished individuals and their positive contributions to society is long but inevitably obscured by the dastardly deeds of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the Daesh leader, and his kind. And yet there are other relatively unknown Muslims who are shunted to the sidelines and deserve to have their story told. They do not carry impressive credentials, but through their selfless acts they can indeed be a proud beacon to Muslims everywhere.
One such individual is Ali Banat, a Sydney born and bred Muslim who very recently discovered that he had cancer and only seven months to live. A successful entrepreneur, Ali had everything he wanted, a fleet of high performance cars including a Ferrari Spider, luxury watches, mansions and just about everything else. Facing his inevitable fate, Ali began disposing of all his assets and made a determination to make a difference in the lives of many who needed a helping hand.
For one of his projects, Ali travelled to Togo, Africa where he felt he could help without too much red tape. He founded the MATW Africa Project which aims to build a village which will be home to over 200 widows, a school, and a residential dorm to house 600 orphans. A mini hospital/medical center and businesses to support the local community are also going to be established. Half of the money required has been collected through goodwill donors. Ali explains: “After someone tells you, or you find out that you are sick or haven’t got much time in this life, wealth is the last thing you want to chase and this is how we should be living our life every day. These people are going for the wrong goals; you will realize that when you get sick when someone tells you, you haven’t got long to live. You will realize all this stuff doesn’t benefit you in any way.
“It all started when I went to the cemetery to attend a funeral and I was thinking to myself after you go there’s nothing, there’s no one there for you, no mother, no father, no brother, and no sister except for your good deeds. At this point in my life, Alhamdulillah I have been gifted by Allah with cancer throughout my body and I have changed my whole life to helping people. It is a gift because Allah has given me a chance and some time to change.”
Ali’s days on the earth have decreased as the cancer has begun tearing through his body. Yet it is his dream to make things happen, and the project in Togo is one of them. He is a Muslim and he is not a terrorist. Perhaps that doesn’t command him headline space but his deeds toward humanity should.
[The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena]
(Courtesy: Saudi Gazette)