Say to the average westerner the words “Islam” and “camp,” and his or her mind will immediately jump to images of Al-Qaeda terror camps. It’s not necessarily his or her fault—in the years following the 9/11 attacks, every major media outlet has done its part in promulgating the fabled stereotype of the modern terrorist navigating sandy, windswept dessert obstacle courses. It is this very preconception, according to Dominic Casciani at the BBC, that Dr. Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri has been working vehemently against. Not only has he issued a fatwa against terrorism, he has now founded the United Kingdom’s first anti-terrorism camp.
Drawing around 1,300 delegates, mostly English and European, the camp—called “The Guidance”—preaches the tenets of love over aggression and global integration and understanding over hard-line Islamist conquest. “The majority have always been against extremism and terrorism,” Dr. Qadri tells his audience, “but unfortunately they have always been silent.” The camp, held this year at Warwick University, is meant to break that silence. According to followers, both Qadri’s camp and the fatwa that inspired it are the first of their kind not to contain any exceptions for instances in which terrorism would be a valid course of action.
At it’s heart, however, the camp’s message is one of acceptance:
The Islamic solution is integration. Get integrated into British society. It’s not against your religion. Has the word Pakistan been revealed in the Koran? If you can be Pakistani and Muslim, why can you not be Muslim and British?
Qadri’s camp is a shining example of what religious movements can do in favor of religious tolerance, rather than to its denigration. In particular, such endeavors may benefit not only Muslims but adherents of other faiths as well: consider, for instance, a scene from the movie Jesus Camp, which shows Minister Becky Fischer explaining the purpose of her summer camp:
I wanna see young people who are as committed to the cause of Jesus Christ as the young people are to the cause of Islam. I wanna see them as radically laying down their lives for the Gospel as they are over in Pakistan and Israel and Palestine and all those different places, you know, because we have… excuse me, but we have the truth!
To be sure, Dr. Qadri’s vision of a world in harmony, not clashing civilizations, is one which everyone of every faith can embrace.
To read more on his organization, Minhaj-ul-Qur’an, click here.