"Muslim Camp" draws teens to combat extremism

Mon Aug 10, 2009 9:43am EDT
 
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By Luke Baker

COVENTRY, England (Reuters) - Like any rousing Islamic preacher, Muhammed Tahir ul-Qadri's voice rises to a shout and his index finger jabs as he hammers home a point.

But rather than angry calls for jihad (holy war) or a vitriolic denunciation of the West and its aggressions against Islam, Qadri's message, equally forcefully delivered, is about moderation, peace, inclusion and understanding.

Addressing a packed auditorium from a raised platform, his words beamed on to large screen behind him, more than 1,000 young followers hang on his every word, even as his lecture moves into its fourth uninterrupted hour.

"Islam is not a religion of seclusion, it is not a religion of detachment," he thunders from the dais, occasionally pausing to wipe the sweat from his brow or adjust his spectacles.

"Any killer of a non-Muslim citizen, he will go to hell. Those who are committing terroristic acts from Pakistan and Afghanistan and claiming it is jihad -- they do not know what jihad is. It is forbidden. There will not be janna (paradise) for them," he hollers, to shouts of approval from his listeners.

Qadri, 58, who was born in Pakistan but now lives in Canada, is a renowned scholar of Sufism, a long tradition within Islam that focuses on spirituality, emphasizing peace and moderation.

The author of more than 400 books on Islamic scholarship and law, Qadri travels the world delivering sermons to Sufis, while his organization, called Minhaj ul-Quran, has spread to 80 countries, from Greece to Fiji, since its founding in 1981.

In Britain, he is the main draw at a three-day retreat for young Muslims called "Al Hidayah" (Guidance), which over the past five years has grown into the biggest spiritual camp of its kind, with more than 1,200 attendees from a dozen countries.   Continued...

 
<p>Preacher Muhammed Tahir ul-Qadri addresses muslims during Al Hidayah, a youth camp at Warwick University in Coventry, central England, August 9, 2009. REUTERS/Kieran Doherty</p>