Muslim Migrants and Integration
In the last few years, wars in the Middle East and the subsequent rush of immigration to Europe has spawned a resurgence in hate-filled far-right groups. In September 2018, His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad(aba), the worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, delivered a historic address to over 1000 dignitaries and guests at the annual convention of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Germany.
After reciting Tashahhud, Ta’awwuz and Bismillah, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V(aba) said:
In recent times here in Germany, and in several other Western countries, the far-right has gained prominence and seen its membership rise. The root cause for this distressing trend is that the indigenous citizens in these nations are becoming increasingly resentful and frustrated. They are feeling neglected and as though their rights are not being protected by their leaders and governments.
Unquestionably, a major factor fuelling their anxiety has been the influx of immigrants to many Western nations in recent years. This has certainly been the case here in Germany, which has taken far more refugees than any other European country in recent times. As a result, many local people are afraid that their societies are changing beyond comprehension and they feel that their nation’s resources are being disproportionately utilised in favour of immigrants.
Whilst the term “immigrant” is used, the real issue for most people is “Islam” and the fact that the vast majority of immigrants to Europe are Muslims fleeing from war-torn countries in the Middle East. Thus, when the far-right and their supporters raise rallying calls against immigration, their actual target is Islam and their objective is to stop Muslims from entering their nations. They view Islam as incompatible with Western values, and strive to propagate their belief that Muslims are unable to successfully integrate into the West and are a threat to other citizens.
Further, many non-Muslims believe Islam to be a religion of extremism and imagine that those Muslims who immigrate will be extremists or religious fanatics, will spread poison in society, incite division and disturb the peace and well-being of their nation. Certainly, this sense of alarm has spread to some parts of this country, especially in Eastern Germany. Thus, there have been moves and campaigns to ban the building of mosques.
We, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, have not been immune to such opposition, whereby some groups here in Germany have actively campaigned against us and endeavoured to stop us building new mosques. They have campaigned against us, even though our motto is “Love for All, Hatred for None”, and despite the fact that for almost 130 years, our community has been at the very forefront of promoting peace, brotherhood, love and compassion in all parts of the world.
Our history testifies to the fact that wherever we have built mosques or become established the fears of the local people have soon evaporated. Those who initially viewed us with suspicion have quickly become our loyal friends and sincere supporters. Throughout the world, our neighbours happily attest to the fact that Ahmadi Muslims are people who promote peace in society and who spread only a message of love, compassion and human sympathy. Yet, due to the dire state of the Muslim world at large, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has also had to suffer the consequences.
Another charge raised by those opposed to widespread immigration is that immigrants are prone to sexually abusing or harassing women. Sadly, a recent report suggested that a high proportion of rapes or attempted rapes, in one Western country, were committed by immigrants. God knows better if the figures are accurate, but when such reports are made public, it affects other nations as well and the concerns and fears of local people continue to rise.
Another point that many parties and politicians have focused upon is the tax burden required to re-settle immigrants. Aside from their day-to-day living expenses, infrastructure costs resulting from large-scale immigration are vast and so the financial burden on the state is considerable and it is ultimately taxpayers who fund this. People who have lived their lives and paid their taxes in a country, are justified to ask whether it is fair that their contributions to the state are spent on resettling foreign immigrants, as opposed to funding projects that are beneficial to existing citizens.
I do not dispute that these are valid issues and real causes of concern and, if they are not dealt with wisely, tensions in society will continue to increase. Additionally, wherever there is large-scale migration, it inevitably leads to security issues. Indeed, it has been proven that hidden amongst the genuine refugees are immigrants who have the potential to cause great harm. For example, just a few days ago, a female refugee living in Germany, who in the past had been kidnapped and kept as a slave in Iraq, was interviewed.
She told how she was shocked and horrified to see that her captor, a member of a terrorist group, was now also living freely in Germany, having come here under the pretence of persecution. This is something I have warned about in the past that each case should be carefully analysed to ensure that extremists or criminals posing as refugees are not allowed to enter. Anyway, these issues mean that a fear of mass immigration from Muslim countries is to some extent justified.
Yet, on the other side, it is necessary for a fair-minded, intelligent and wise person to look at both sides of the story and not just base his or her impression of Muslims and Islam upon hearsay. Merely because someone brands Islam a religion of extremism or claims that all Muslims are terrorists does not make it true; rather, it is vital to assess the facts rationally and objectively before reaching a conclusion. Hence, before reaching a definitive conclusion about whether Islam’s teachings are of an extremist nature, you should investigate and see what the truth is. Analyse, whether the wicked acts of some so-called Muslims are motivated by the teachings of Islam?
Consider, whether Islam really does permit extremism? Or does it prescribe severe punishments for those who spread disorder and hatred? Does Islam permit Muslims to break the laws of the land in the name of their faith? What expectations does Islam place upon Muslims in terms of their conduct in society? Does Islam encourage Muslims to burden the State? Or does it encourage them to work hard, to be loyal and to contribute positively to the society in which they live?
If it is proven that Muslims who do wrong are motivated by their religion, it can be said that the concerns of the far-right are justified. Yet, what if their actions have nothing to do with Islam? What if anti-Islamic groups are spreading hateful myths that are based only on fantasy rather than fact? In the short time available, I will mention a few points that I hope will help answer some of these questions and enable you to understand the true essence of Islamic teachings.
Firstly, a basic Islamic principle is that where a Muslim aspires to live peacefully, he must also endeavour to provide peace and security to others. People often speak of the wars fought in early Islam and suggest that they prove that Islam is a bloodthirsty religion that permits force and compulsion. Yet, in reality, the early Muslims endured thirteen years of brutal and sustained persecution without retaliating in any way.
Only after that long period did Allah the Almighty permit them to defend themselves and this permission is mentioned in chapter 22, verses 40 to 41 of the Holy Qur’an. In these verses, Allah the Almighty said that those who had been persecuted and driven out of their homes were permitted to defend themselves from further cruelty and oppression. However, the Holy Qur’an further states that if the Muslims did not defend their religion then churches, temples, synagogues, mosques and all other places of worship would all be in grave danger. So, permission was granted to protect the rights of all people to live their lives freely and according to their beliefs.
In chapter 10, verse 100 of the Holy Qur’an, whilst addressing the Holy Prophet of Islam(sa), Allah the Almighty states that if He desired He could have enforced His will and compelled everyone to accept Islam. However, instead, Allah the Almighty preferred free will to prevail. Likewise, in chapter 18, verse 30 of the Holy Qur’an, Allah the Almighty states that Muslims should openly preach their message and proclaim Islam to be a truthful religion, yet at the same time the Qur’an also states that every person is free to accept or reject it. The verse states:
“Let him who will, believe and let him who will, disbelieve.”
In the Holy Qur’an, Allah the Almighty also refers to those non-Muslims who admitted that Islam was a peaceful and benevolent religion, yet they refused to accept it because they feared that embarking upon a path of peace and compassion would harm their material interests. Chapter 28, verse 58 of the Holy Qur’an states:
“And they say, ‘If we were to follow the guidance with thee, we should be snatched away from our land’.”
This is the true picture of Islam. It requires every Muslim to live peacefully and to contribute to their society. Unquestionably, those Muslims who claim Jihad means to attack non-Muslims or to forcefully convert them, are manifestly wrong. Such beliefs and attitudes have nothing to do with the teachings of Islam. Another accusation levelled at Islam, which I mentioned earlier, relates to the treatment of women. Some non-Muslims fear that if Muslims migrate to the West they will prey upon the local women and abuse them.
Indeed, some immigrants have been guilty of such crimes and their shameful conduct has perpetuated such fears and anxiety. Given this, let me make it categorically clear that any Muslim who violates the honour of a woman or abuses her in any way is acting entirely against Islam’s teachings. Islam considers such behaviour as evil and has mandated exceptionally strong punishments for those guilty of such immoral and reprehensible crimes.
For example, Islam decrees that if a Muslim is guilty of such a crime, he should be openly flogged in a public setting. Thus, if you truly wish to root out such behaviour, then Muslim men guilty of such abhorrent crimes should be punished according to Islamic law. Although, I am sure Western governments would frown upon this idea and human rights activists would certainly object.
As I said earlier, another major concern for existing citizens is that hosting refugees is a huge financial undertaking by the state. In this regard, no immigrant should enter another nation with a sense of entitlement; rather, they should ponder over what they can offer the local society. I have said many times before that immigrants should consider themselves indebted to the nation that has accepted them. They owe gratitude to both the government and the public and the way to repay this favour is that they should not waste time seeking only benefits and allowances from the state; rather, they should seek to contribute to the society as soon as possible. They should work hard and strive to enter employment, even if the only job they can get is basic labour work. Where this will enable them to maintain their personal honour and dignity, it will also be a means of relieving the burden on the state and removing the frustrations of the local people.
Certainly, every Muslim should keep in mind that the Holy Prophet of Islam(sa) said that the giving hand is far greater than the one that takes. On many occasions, people sought to help his companions, but they refused to accept and preferred to earn a living for themselves. As I said, even if refugees are forced to do menial or basic jobs, which they consider themselves over-qualified for, it is better than remaining idle and expecting the state to cover all their needs. Otherwise, immigrants who fail to contribute to society will be a means of increasing restlessness amongst the wider population. Furthermore, if governments do provide some benefits or financial aid to immigrants they should ensure that they do not neglect the needs of the local people. In some countries, immigrants received better benefits than tax-paying citizens and this led to a natural agitation amongst the public.
Such frustrations do not dissipate on their own because where there is frustration there is always a reaction. Therefore, every government should implement sensible and fair policies that keep in mind the rights and requirements of citizens and immigrants alike, rather local citizens should be given better treatment and benefits.
A few days ago, it was reported that the German Government was considering a new policy whereby asylum seekers would be required to do a year’s community service upon settling in Germany. Some critics are already claiming that this is merely a form of ‘cheap labour’ and will not help the integration process. However, in my view, any person who is serving his local community is integrating through that very service. Indeed, the term ‘community service’ is positive because it instils a belief that it is the duty of each person to serve their society and to help the members of the community. Accordingly, the German Government deserves praise rather than criticism for this policy.
Nevertheless, the responsibilities of a host government are not limited to arranging community service; rather, they should also guide the immigrants in a way that they are able to start contributing as quickly as possible to society. If the immigrants do not have the skills to enter the job market they should be provided with some form of training or apprenticeships so that they can soon develop those skills. Any costs incurred in such training will be a valuable investment for the future of the nation.
In terms of security, if there is any doubt or suspicion raised about the character or backgrounds of certain immigrants, the authorities should be vigilant and monitor them until they are satisfied that they do not pose a risk to society. Some may consider this an intrusive policy, yet protecting society from danger and maintaining the peace and security of the nation are paramount objectives for any government. Certainly, if there are any immigrants who come with the intention of spreading mischief or creating disorder, they are directly contravening Islam’s teachings. Indeed, chapter 2, verse 192 of the Holy Qur’an states that whilst murder is a truly heinous crime, to spread disorder and to provoke hatred is a crime of even greater magnitude.
Of course, this does not mean that to kill someone is a small or insignificant crime; rather, it signifies that the ramifications of fuelling the flames of disorder in society are higher still. Ultimately, provocation and incitement can cause huge damage to a society and lead to conflicts and wars in which scores of innocent people are targeted or oppressed.
The Holy Prophet Muhammad(sa) also said that a true Muslim is he from whose tongue and hand all others are safe.
How then can it be said that Islam is a religion that promotes violence or radicalism?
How can it be said that Islam spreads disorder in society?
How can it be claimed that Islam seeks to violate the honour of women?
How can it be said that Islam permits its followers to usurp the property or wealth of others?
Anyone who is guilty of such crimes, whether they justify it in Islam’s name or not, is far-removed from its teachings and will stand accountable for their atrocities. In every respect, Islam requires Muslims to display the highest standards of integrity and virtue. For example, in chapter 2, verse 189 of the Holy Qur’an, Allah the Almighty has admonished Muslims that they must never acquire wealth or property through means of deception; rather, Muslims are taught to be honest, trustworthy and to uphold the truth in all respects.
Similarly, in chapter 83, verses 2 to 4, Muslims are taught the importance of fair dealing in matters of business and trade. Allah the Almighty states:
“Woe unto those who give short measure. Those who when they take measure from other people, take it full. But when they give by measure to others or weigh to them, they give them less.”
These verses state that those who are exploitative in business transactions, seeking unjust benefit for themselves at the expense of others, are those who are cursed and will ultimately be humiliated. The truth is that Islam has safeguarded society from all forms of cruelty and injustice and protects the life and property of every single person. It is therefore a cause of deep regret and grief that people continue to make false allegations against the blessed character of the Holy Prophet Muhammad(sa), when he was the one who brought about a unique spiritual and moral revolution in society. Indeed, never in the history of humanity have such examples of moral integrity been seen as were displayed by the early Muslims. If his companions quarrelled, it was not to take advantage of each other; rather, it was to ensure that the rights of the other party were fulfilled.
For instance, once a companion of the Holy Prophet Muhammad(sa) came to the market to sell his horse for 200 dinars. When another companion of the Holy Prophet(sa) came forward to buy the horse, he told him that 200 dinars was far too low and that a fair price would be 500 dinars. He said that he did not wish to take charity and wanted to make a lawful and fair purchase and so he would pay 500 dinars. Upon this, the Muslim seller said that he also did not wish to take charity and wished to make a fair sale and so he only wanted 200 dinars. Hence, their argument was for the sake of protecting the rights of the other person, in spite of the personal cost to themselves.
Imagine, if all members of society were able to live by and uphold such values.
How magnificent a society would that be!
A society in which every citizen prioritised honesty and strove for the common good.
In other words, an Islamic society.
If anyone wishes to know what Islam represents they should look at such noble examples, rather than those who sow division and intolerance falsely in its name. Certainly, today it is the need of the time that we all, Muslim or non-Muslim, pause and contemplate upon the consequences of our actions. With great pride, we speak of how the world has developed into an inter-connected global village and marvel at the speed of communication and travel.
Yet, alongside such advancement, we should realise that our responsibilities to the world have also increased. In terms of the migration crisis, wherever there are people subject to cruelties and brutalities in their home countries, it is up to the international community to help them. The priority should be to try to reconcile the peoples of those nations and to end wars and to bring about sustainable peace; however, if that is not possible, it is our moral duty to open our hearts to those who are genuinely suffering.
Society should not reject genuine refugees who are suffering through no fault of their own. Society should not cast aside innocent people who only want the opportunity to live in peace and who desire to be good citizens and follow the laws of the land in which they live. Instead, we should be there to give a helping hand to those whose lives have been broken, who have been tormented and who are utterly helpless, vulnerable and defenceless.
Let us prove our humanity.
Let us show our compassion.
Let us be there to shoulder the burdens of those who are in desperate need.
On the other side, immigrants also have great responsibilities in their new countries. As I have said, they must seek to contribute to their new society and strive to integrate. They should not isolate themselves or cut themselves off from the local community, but should serve their adopted home and work towards its continued development and progress. Together, we must seek to find ways in which people of different backgrounds and heritages can live together harmoniously.
As I said, the world is now like a global village and so we are not living in those bygone eras where what happened in one country, only affected the local community or, at most, the neighbouring nations. Rather, we now live in a time where a disturbance or conflict in any country has ramifications and consequences for the rest of the world. Thus, instead of fearing one another, we should strive to solve problems through mutual dialogue and with a spirit of tolerance and compassion.
Our goal and objective should be nothing less than to establish peace in every village, town or city of every nation in the world.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has always strived to fulfil this objective and to this end, we propagate what we consider to be the key ingredient to peace, which is a firm belief that we are all the creation of God Almighty and He created mankind so that they would recognise Him and fulfil the rights of one another.
We are certain that if mankind comes to this realisation, true and long-lasting peace can prevail.
Sadly, we are witnessing quite the opposite.
Rather than coming together and seeking peace through the existence of God Almighty, mankind is embroiled in striving for peace through material means alone.
Day by day, mankind is moving further away from religion and spirituality and the results are terrifying.
It is my firm conviction that belief in God Almighty is the only means of salvation and the only way to bring about true peace both at a national and international level.
And so, it is my deepest desire and ardent prayer, that the world comes to recognise its creator and comes to follow His true teachings.
Instead of pursuing personal or political objectives, I pray that today’s leaders fulfil the rights of all people irrespective of caste, creed or colour.
With all my heart, I pray that the gulf that exists between mankind and God Almighty is eliminated and that we come to see with our own eyes true peace prevail throughout the world.
I thank you all very much. Thank you very much.’