The Hyderabad-based Islamic Academy for Comparative Religion (IACR) has been working for the past 15 years to spread the message of Islam in India, removing misconceptions about the divine religion and bringing followers of different religious faiths closer to promote communal harmony.
IACR is also working to confront the massive campaign of missionaries in Andhra Pradesh to convert Muslims into Christianity, said Asifuddin Muhammed, president of IACR. “The missionaries have been exploiting poverty and economic difficulties of Muslim families,” he told Arab News.
He called upon all Muslim organizations in the state to set out a joint strategy to protect the Islamic faith. “Not only the poor, but also many educated and rich Muslims including doctors and engineers have been converted to Christianity,” he pointed out.
Muhammed, who holds MBA and LLB degrees, introduces himself as a student of comparative religion. He was inspired by the dawah works of Sheikh Ahmed Deedat and Dr. Zakir Naik. As a result of his organization’s work across Andra Pradesh, hundreds have embraced Islam. IACR has a special section for women.
“Muslims in India are facing a serious challenge from Christian missionaries,” he said, adding that the missionaries have been receiving full support from politicians. “In some remote districts of Andhra Pradesh, especially coastal areas, as many as 1,000 families are being converted every year. We have documented proof for that,” he said.
Missionaries have six TV channels in the state while Muslims do not have even a single one, Muhammed said, emphasizing the need for launching a television channel as early as possible for the propagation of Islam, with the support of Muslim businessmen and philanthropists.
IACR intends to hold a series of lectures and workshops in various districts after training some 700 preachers, each of them taking the message to at least 50 people in a year. “This will help 35,000 non-Muslims to receive the message of Islam every year,” he said.
“We’ll also establish a network to take care of Muslims all over the state. If any person needs any kind of help including money or medical aid we’ll provide them,” Muhammed said. More Islamic lectures are to be given in Telugu being the language spoken by the majority, especially in the remote areas of Andhra Pradesh.
“Qur’anic Arabic course is a unique program being held by our organization to teach Arabic as a language to schoolchildren as seriously as math and science,” Muhammed said. IACR has designed a set of books and trained several teachers for the purpose. “The nine-year course will help students understand the Qur’an and Hadith without any translation.”
IACR has published a book on Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), compiling what has been stated by prominent dignitaries like Mahatma Gandhi, George Bernard Shaw, Thomas Carlyle, Leo Tolstoy and Michael Hart about the last prophet.
The book quoted Gandhi as saying: “I wanted to know the best of life one who holds today an undisputed sway over the hearts of millions of mankind…I became more than ever convinced that it was not the sword that won a place for Islam in those days in the scheme of life. It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of the Prophet, the scrupulous regard for pledges, his intense devotion to friends and followers, his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and in his own mission.”
The organization intends to distribute copies of the book among media persons, politicians and other influential people as well as TV channels and newspapers to remove the misconceptions about Islam and its Prophet. “Many non-Muslims have responded favorably after reading the book, saying they never knew that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was a multifaceted personality known for his kindness and tolerance.”
He pointed out that a substantial number of Muslims are not interested in listening to Islamic lectures, including Jumah sermons, a reason that makes them ignorant about their religion and easy prey to missionaries. “Other religions spread their message through films, TV serials, dramas and other attractive programs. We should also follow the same methods to make Islamic teachings more popular and appealing,” he explained.
According to IACR, there are many reasons for the growth of Christianity in the state: The support of prominent Christian politicians, negligence of Muslims toward their poor, Muslims are not well organized and lack good network and capable scholars. “We have lot of Muslim businessmen, professionals, engineers and doctors but we don’t have a vision to bring these resources together to make an impact and change our situation to the better,” the president said. “IACR is not associated with any Muslim groups and tries to bring together all Muslims together on the basis of Islamic principles,” he added.
Speaking about strategies to be followed for the propagation of Islam in the country, Muhammed said: “We have to address individual and regional concerns about our religion by removing their misconceptions, and change the general feeling that Indian Muslims are not patriotic. Some fascist forces try to create a fear psychosis among the Hindus about Muslims in order to provoke them to attack Muslims and we have deal with such situations in a reasonable and convincing manner.”