Imam Shamshad Nasir of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Chino, hosts a weekly radio segment on "Understanding Islam" on the KCAA-AM (1050) studio in San Bernardino's Carousel Mall. Imam Shamshad Nasir believes it's critical for Muslims to reach out to their communities to educate the public about their religion. (Al Cuizon Staff Photographer)
Ahmadiyya Times | News Staff | Source & Credit: Contra Costa Times
By Josh Dulaney, Staff Writer | May 28, 2010
SAN BERNARDINO - In the face of Islamic extremism, Imam Shamshad Nasir is a tireless champion for the religion and the cause of peace.
The spiritual leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Chino drives out to the Carousel Mall each Tuesday to host "Understanding Islam with Imam Shamshad," a 15-minute radio segment broadcast live at around 9:20 a.m. from KCAA 1050 AM's studio inside the shopping center.
"There is no room in Islam for terrorism at all," Nasir said. "There is no room in Islam to kill innocent people. There is no room in Islam to kill other people. We raise our voices against these things."
On Friday, those voices needed to be heard.
Two of the sect's mosques in Lahore, Pakistan, were attacked by terrorists, with early reports of more than 70 left dead and many more injured.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Punjab, a pro-Taliban group, claimed responsibility for the attacks on hundreds attending worship services.
Witnesses say gunmen armed with AK-47s and grenades attacked the two mosques almost simultaneously, indiscriminately shooting children, the elderly and anyone else in sight.
The Ahmadiyya sect claims their founder - the 19th-century Indian-born Muslim cleric Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad - is the messiah mentioned in the Quran.
Nasir said the community, which has members in nearly 200 nations and conducts missionary work around the globe, is often the target of severe persecution by Muslim
extremists, especially in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Idonesia and Egypt.
Nasir, a 60-year-old native of Pakistan, blamed his homeland's government for allowing extremism to flourish in the country.
"The first step the government of Pakistan should take to address the problem is to repeal the anti-blasphemy laws and allow sects with moderate views to freely practice their faith," he said.
Nasir believes it's critical for Muslims to reach out to their communities to educate them about the religion.
Americans too often believe only what the media feeds them about Islam, said Nasir, who has served as a spiritual leader in Texas, Maryland, Michigan and Ohio since coming to the U.S. in 1987 after stints in Pakistan, Ghana and Sierra Leone.
"We are trying to remove misunderstandings and misconceptions about Islam," Nasir said. "First is jihad. Jihad does not mean to harm or kill anyone. Jihad means struggling for the good cause."
Nasir said the good cause is transformation of self into a peaceful person, then spreading the message of peace to others. Jihad can include self-defense, but never does it mean to attack someone without provocation, he said.
Paul Lane, the bureau chief and morning host for the radio station, said reaction to the program has been mixed, with an occasional angry message to the station.
"Sometimes listeners don't agree with it, but sometimes their disagreements are not rooted in the facts," Lane said. "Everybody has a voice at our station, whether we agree or disagree."
He encourages listeners to call the program and discuss Islam with Nasir, whom he described as "really down to earth."
His mosque has launched a campaign of peace with signs on about 200 Omnitrans buses in the Inland Empire.
The banners read "Muslims for Peace, Freedom, Loyalty and Justice for all ... Love for all - hatred for none."
"Our message of peace should reach everyone," Nasir said. "Whatever we can do just to convince the people of this area that Islam is a religion of peace."
The campaign began in 2009 in London after the group's Caliph, or spiritual leader, Mirza Masroor Ahmad, directed followers to spread the message.
"Each country, each president, each prime minister is talking about peace, but there is no peace," Nasir said. "Because peace cannot be brought by people. It can only be brought through a divine person and a divine community."
The Ahmadiyya Muslim community mosque in Chino is the largest in the southwestern United States for the sect.
The mosque is located at 11941 Ramona Ave.
Information: www.alislam.org or 1-800-WHY-ISLAM