Defeating an ideology, especially one of hatred and barbarism, requires an opposing creed, an organised alternative system of thought. It is not simply bombs or bullets that can truly rid so-called 'Islamic' extremism from the world. Even diplomacy can only succeed to a limited degree if the seeds of animosity still remain in the hearts of the extremists. Rather what is truly needed is a way of easing the restlessness which exists in the minds of religious fanatics, a means of convincing them that there exists a different way to live other than through a thirst for bloodshed, territorial gain, and brutal vengeance.
Such an approach may appear idealistic, and indeed it cannot be achieved overnight. But after all, evidence suggests that though the reasons for individuals turning to extremism are multifarious, at least some of those most prone are people who feel detached from any true connection, devoid of any meaningful relationships, and who consider themselves hopeless and worthless. For those who succumb to extremist propaganda, to take innocent lives for an apparent cause seems to them to be a lifeline, a purpose, a way of making their mark on a world which they consider bitter and deceptive. Through conveying to such people an alternative creed which they can derive joy and contentment from, ultimately recruitment for terrorist groups will begin to fizzle out.
What is this alternative thought? It is a movement which began in the late 1800s in a small town in India, by a man named Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who claimed to be the long-awaited Promised Messiah, the man to bring Islam back to its original teachings at a time when its true message had become perverted by religious clerics for material gain. Despite living in a remote village, 10 miles away from even a post-box, he declared that his movement would ultimately triumph over those who sought to distort the true message of the religion.
Fundamentally the meaning of Islam is peace and submission to God. Submission to God entails exercising the rights one owes to Him, such as prayer and fasting, and exercising due rights to His creation, dealing with all individuals with kindness, love and forgiveness. Fundamentally, the purpose of life according to Islam is to become a reflection of the perfect attributes of God. God according to Islam is the Creator, Sustainer and Nurturer to all living things on earth, and towards them He is the most forgiving and beneficent. To convert to true Islam therefore means that one should discard any ego or malice towards others that one may possess, and make doing good to others the purpose of one's life. This is the basic message that Ahmad (peace be upon him) brought, and despite fierce opposition and slander, both from Muslim clerics who felt their power threatened by this growing movement and from other faith leaders for his theological beliefs, he never wavered in his commitment to peace. "I proclaim to all Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Aryas," he said, "that I have no enemy in the world. I love mankind with the live that a compassionate mother has for her children, even more so."
What of this movement today? Currently the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is established in over 200 countries of the world, and despite opposition from Muslim leaders, and even governments, it is still the fastest growing Muslim sect. The reason for this is simple. It provides an outlet for people to strive for a grand purpose, whilst still remaining completely in harmony with the beauty of the human conscience.
Unfortunately its many activities, such as humanitarian works, interfaith dialogues, and public pledges of peace have been less widely reported than the heinous acts of 'Islamic' terrorist groups. However, though under-reported, the events of the community generate regular interest from dignitaries, academics, journalists and world leaders. For example, just a few days after the horrific London-attacks, the annual "Peace Symposium" of the Ahmadiyya Community took place, with the keynote speech delivered by its worldwide head, Mirza Masroor Ahmad. In it, he addressed Islam's true teachings of peace, potential political solutions to preventing the spread of extremist groups, and highlighted the work and motives of the Community:
"..The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is, with the Grace of Allah, running various humanitarian projects in order to alleviate the heartache and adversity borne by deprived people, irrespective of creed, caste or colour. We have established hospitals, schools and colleges that are providing healthcare and education to some of the most impoverished and remote parts of the world.
We seek no praise for these activities, our only desire is to help such people stand upon their own two feet, so that they can fulfil their hopes and aspirations and hence live contentedly with dignity and freedom. In this way, rather than becoming frustrated and prone to extremism, they will grow to be responsible and faithful citizens of their nations. Where they will personally develop, they will also help their nation's progress and inspire others to follow in their footsteps."
Whilst bombs can destroy extremists, they cannot destroy extremist mentalities. It is only through penetrating the hearts of the world through love, and doing whatever one can to improve the lives of others, that a hateful ideology can truly be defeated. Whatever one's background or faith, the concept of love driving out hate must surely be one that is easy to endorse.