Muslims ‘must change perception about West’
JEDDAH: P. K. ABDUL GHAFOUR
Thursday 31 January 2013
Last Update 1 February 2013 4:49 pm
Muhammad Robert Heft, a Canadian convert to Islam who became well known through his “Stop Terrorism” online campaign, has called upon Muslims not to treat people in the West as their enemies. “There are many Abu Talebs among them, they stand by us and do not support some of their governments’ foreign policies,” he said.In an exclusive interview with Arab News, he also urged Muslims living in Western countries to make substantial contributions to their societies. “I have never heard of a Muslim group building a hospital in Canada,” he pointed out.
Heft, who is involved in bridge-building between government agencies and Muslim groups in Canada, said Muslims should live the message of their religion in order to change the stereotypes against them and impress other communities.
“We should be living the message. Not just giving the message. We should also think about how others look at us, and change ourselves to become good citizens and role models,” said Heft, who is president of P4E Paradise Forever support group.
“Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had an uncle named Abu Taleb,” Heft said. “He was not a Muslim but was a staunch supporter of the Prophet. There are lots of people in the West who are just like Abu Taleb. We should not consider them as enemies and should not disappoint them through our wrongdoings.”
Asked about growing Islamophobia in the West, Heft said it could be contained by establishing strong contacts with governments, media organizations and people.
“Muslims should be involved in constructive activities, like building hospitals and protectingenvironment, in order to mobilize public support.”
Heft, who is engaged in deprogramming of extremists, was all praise about the Prince Muhammad bin Naif Counseling Center that was instrumental in changing the mindset of hundreds of Saudi militants, and said he was looking forward to meet with its officials to exchange ideas and expertise.
Many Muslims have moved to America and Canada just to benefit financially and do not contribute to society, Heft said.
“When we come to a society we should be like a beautiful flower spreading fragrance in its surroundings.”
Heft called upon Muslim leaders and NGOs to engage non-Muslim politicians, intellectuals and media persons, explaining to them their cultural values and removing their misconceptions.
“When they know who we are, they will surely stand up for us,” he said.
Heft emphasized the need for Muslims to establish good relations with non-Muslim communities. “First, they are human beings and belong to the same creator. Second, there is a possibility that they may one day embrace Islam like me.”
A Protestant Christian of Irish origin, Heft embraced Islam in 1998 after which he studied the religion with qualified scholars for over seven years.
Since 2003, he has been taking part in a variety of government and community initiatives. He established P4E in 2005. A non-profit organization, P4E provides support to new Muslims, educates people on true Islam and challenges anti-Islam media campaigns. In 2008 he started “Stop Terrorism,” a global online cause with over 20,000 members.
Heft said it was the belief in the oneness of God that attracted him to Islam.
“I had a feeling that the concept of Jesus being God does not make any sense,” he said. “I could not perceive God in the form of a human being, eating and drinking like us. God should be great and beyond all human features and weaknesses.”
It was a Palestinian named Hosam Taha who ignited Heft’s mind to think about Islam. After watching a cross on his neck, Taha told him that Jesus (peace be upon him) would not be his savior. “I went back and
spent three days of thinking to convert him to Christianity. This led me to study more about Islam,” he explained.
Heft added: “Ours is the only religion that does not put God inside something. We don’t need God in a statue. Believe in God’s existence is the most important thing and it is quite reasonable. We don’t need to see God to believe in Him. God is beyond our comprehension and imagination. It was the glory of God that attracted me to Islam.”
Every product will have an owner’s manual and the Qur’an is the manual for man. When I was wrong trying to justify my desires, the Qur’an came to reassure me and guided me in the right path. Qur’an taught us the need to keep away from alcohol, by pointing to the fact that its demerits are more than its merits.
He said the number of Muslim families in Milton has increased from six to 1,000 during the past 10 years. “We are now in the process of building a mosque in the city.”
The International Association of New Muslims, an affiliate of the Makkah-based Muslim World League, is supporting the project. Heft was instrumental in connecting Canadian government agencies and Muslim groups. In December he arranged a meeting between the Royal Canadian Mounted Police with Muslim groups, which was attended by more than 25,000 people. It helped Muslims to express their concerns on issues such as arrests of youths, Islamophobia and tapping of information from phones and e-mails.
Heft advised Muslim groups in other countries to establish similar contacts with government agencies to exchange views and concerns, saying it would have a great impact on security and community welfare.
He said he had received an invitation from the US to advise its agencies on community outreach programs.
Heft called upon Muslims to get rid of their preconceived notions about Western people.
“We should not look at others with a preconceived notion, whether they are in Canada, US or Israel. There are good people everywhere. The vast majority of people in the world are in the middle ground.”
The Canadian Muslim leader opposed wars and conflicts and called upon Muslims to work for global peace. “War will not take us anywhere. War is a loser for both sides.” Heft, however, would not consider American attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq as crusades. “America aims to protect its national interests. Some people say America has no friends, only interests.”
He said a number of proxy wars are going on around the world. “Look at Syria it’s like a war between Russia and US. In this proxy war more than 60,000, mostly civilians, have died in Russia’s attempt to protect its last stronghold in the Middle East. It appears Muslim blood is cheap.”
Heft opposed prayers against non-Muslims at mosques. “By doing that we are condemning human beings, who are either potential Muslims or Abu Talebs. We should know that Omar bin Khattab, who had buried his own daughter, embraced Islam and became the second Caliph. So, there ispossibility that people may change. We think that we have a special relationship with Allah but we should understand that we are far from God and His teachings. If we were close to Him we would have spent more time on how to improve ourselves,” he pointed out.
Heft added: “We have to change ourselves and work together as a community. We should think about the Prophet’s saying, “An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action. These are great words and a lesson for Muslims in the Middle East. We talk about implementing Shariah, at the same time we do not treat our women properly and do not pay wages to our workers. Just being born in the religion will not serve the purpose and will not take us to the Paradise. We should practice our religion.” He also criticized some Muslim clerics for wrongly interpreting the Qur’an and Hadith to suit their extreme views.”
He urged Muslims to improve themselves before criticizing other communities. “When we criticize the Western society, we should know whether we have a 100 percent best Islamic society to show them. We are more than a billion Muslims and they ask where is our example? We don’t have anything to show them. That is how they are judging and it’s fair enough and they are right. So before we tell them all the wrongs they are doing, we should change ourselves from our children, home, neighborhood and society.
Heft stressed the importance of explaining to Western people some of the Islamic values and teachings to avoid embarrassment and misunderstandings.
“Many Muslims do not shake hands with other women. It will be embarrassing for a Western woman if she does not know Islamic teachings, so we should explain to her why you did not shake hands with her. We should tell her that we honor her as a woman and that Islam has a principle that we should not touch other women. If we tell her this in a nice way it will have a big impact and she will understand our culture.”
Heft also spoke about his efforts to deprogram extremists. “Many Muslim youths feel emotional about what is happening to their brethren around the world including Syria and Afghanistan, Iraq and Chechnya. They are also very passionate about many things like education and we have to engage them and channel their energy to something productive. We should not look at world on a micro level and take the world as whole and try to accommodate others and listen to their views. Our interfaith dialogue forums have been instrumental in bringing people of different faiths closer and remove their misunderstandings.”
Islam has been claimed to be the fastest growing religion in the world and many Muslims feel proud of this. Some may even boast about this claim. However, many Muslims are ignorant of the hardships faced by new Muslims and their many challenges and obstacles.
What makes Islam appealing?
Everybody is searching for success and has a role model either consciously or subconsciously; it may vary from a celebrity to a world leader. Islam is appealing for those that seek success as it teaches that the Prophets are the most successful of all mankind as they not only will enter Paradise forever, but they have helped people, tribes and nations enter paradise forever.
Islam teaches that this life is short and temporary in comparison to the life hereafter. This life is a test and the one who was able to please his Lord by following the Prophets is the successful person in both worlds.
Allah (God) says in the Quran (the last testament and Muslim holy book):
“Indeed in the Messenger of Allah (Muhammad, peace be upon him) you have a good example to follow, for him who hopes in (the Meeting with) Allah and the Last Day and remembers Allah much.” (The Quran 33:21)
Many people find success and solace in Islam as it is a simple way of life and not just a religion of doctrine and dogma.
With that in mind, when new converts enter the fold of Islam, they need support and that is where P4E support group comes in (P4E logo pictured Top left). P4E is derived from the phrase ‘Paradise Forever’.
What is P4E support group and why was it started?
P4E is a non-profit organization support group funded and run by people committed to helping those in need. P4E is based primarily in Canada and supports new Muslims with learning Islamic knowledge, finding employment, counseling and many other services. Its main goal is to educate people regarding true Islam.
It was started in 2005 by Mr. Muhammad Robert Heft, himself a new Muslim.
P4E was started because there was, and still is, a lack of support for new Muslims from Muslim communities in Canada, USA, Britain and several other countries. P4E aims to redress this issue.
There is also a massive misunderstanding of Islam about the true nature of this way of life amongst not only non-Muslims, but also many Muslims. P4E support group also seeks to educate the masses about Islam and challenge the negative propaganda in the media. IT IS NOT JUST ANOTHER MASJID (MOSQUE).
It is incumbent on every Muslim community to try to provide every new Muslim with accommodation, employment, Islamic knowledge and a spouse. Failure to do so may lead to a new Muslim leaving the fold of Islam due to the lack of support, making the Muslim community culpable before Allah.
What is the vision of P4E support group?
The main vision of P4E support group is to share the traditional knowledge of Islam, which has been proven to be timeless. If this is applied with a sincere intention and wisdom, it will provide solutions and answers to all of contemporary life’s situations and questions.
P4E support group recognizes that ignorance is the greatest weapon that is facing the world today (just as it was in the time of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him) and believes that the light of true Islamic knowledge, practice and propagation is the only solution.
P4E support group’s aim is to pass on the skills individuals need in order to live a life of guidance and adherence to sacred teachings. This will revive and restore true scholarship to its proper place as a top priority for Muslims.
Who is Muhammad Robert Heft (the President and founder of P4E support group)?
Mr. Heft was born on November 4, 1972, in Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada. He is a young white Caucasian male of German and Irish ancestry. Having spent his childhood and the majority of his life in Canada, Mr. Heft was raised a Christian, but later embraced Islam in 1998.
What are P4E support group’s future plans and how can P4E be supported?
Speaking to “Islam Online”, Muhammad Robert Heft said, “P4E caters to the needs of new Muslims since approximately fifty per cent of New Muslims leave Islam within the first 2 years due to a lack of support from divided Muslim communities”.
“Guiding someone to Islam is easy; keeping them Muslim is hard work, P4E helps new Muslims become well balanced productive members of Society. It is extremely important that we cultivate new Muslims into Ambassadors for Islam”.
“Our Dawah is winning one heart at a time. We would like to have our service centers in Canada, USA and Britain and then become the leading Organization in New Muslims Services Worldwide Inshallah (God willing)”.
He added, “If you want to help then please become a member at thep4e.com. In terms of support, we are looking for your Heart NOT your Wallet”.
“1000 Members at $25 per Month is our goal for our operational budget per Center”.
Allah, the All-Seeing, tells us in the Quran in relation to assisting those in need:
“For those who give in charity, men and women, and loan to Allah a beautiful loan, it shall be increased manifold (to their credit) and they shall have (besides) a liberal reward“. (The Quran 57:18).
“By no means shall you attain righteousness unless you give freely of that, which you love, and whatever you give, Allah knows it well.” (The Quran 3: 92).
Mr. Heft has travelled around the Islamic world (United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait to name a few) and observed first-hand the spiritual and social condition of Muslims. He has seen the condition of new Muslims and non-practicing Muslims. There does seem to be a lack of support for new Muslims and this is mainly due to the fact that Muslim communities do not understand the needs of new Muslims and what responsibilities a new Muslim has over his fellow Muslim. Simply providing them with a translation of the Quran is not enough, but it is a step in the right direction.
Muslims must seek and use Islamic knowledge to address the real needs of the new Muslims in order to achieve a better Muslim community and environment. P4E support group is doing its bit to help, but much more needs to be done.
P4E support group, along with its volunteers, is helping the Muslim world by helping new Muslims. By the grace of Allah, new Muslims will have a positive effect on all Muslims they encounter as a whole and together they shall become a good example to people all over the world and not just in their communities.
Through efforts by the Muslim community of Canada, P4E support group will continue to help provide new Muslims with finding employment, securing accommodation, and education on the fundamentals of Islam.
P4E support group believes the problems facing this generation are those very problems that existed at the time of our Messenger, Muhammad (peace be upon him); some of these problems being, poverty, ignorance, inequality and immorality. P4E seeks to educate the public about Islam and what it has to offer. This can only be done with sound and true knowledge. It is P4E’s goal to acquire and spread that knowledge.
Inshallah (God willing) with the support of the Muslim Ummah (nation), we can grow and strengthen our communities to combat these problems.
P4E support group strives to see Muslims live their lives in accordance to the way of the Prophets and especially the Prophet Muhammad and his Sahaba (Companions) as they learnt, practiced and propagated full Islam. As a result, by the time of the death of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) at the age of 63, the Sahaba were an example for mankind to follow because they were free from spiritual maladies. Subsequently, Islam rose and spread throughout the four corners of the world during the Prophet’s life and continued to do so after his death.
P4E support group wishes to see the Muslims return to the time of Islam’s Golden Age (632-732 AD or 10-110 After Hijri (Hijri year used in the Islamic calendar honoring the emigration of Muslims from the city of Medina to Mecca)). This was when the first three generations of Muslims spread Islam from Spain to India through a combination of trade, exploration, migration and military conquest/defense.
During Islam’s Golden Age, Muslims and Islam led the way in fashion trends, ethics, manners, trade, science, invention, exploration, culture, jurisprudence, governance and legislation. The decline of this Golden Age started when Muslims stopped spreading Islam and migrating for the sake of Allah, but instead started competing against one another for the luxuries of this temporary world.
P4E is just what the Muslim and Non-Muslim world needs and must be supported by the Muslim Ummah if it is to continue to thrive and offer its much needed help to new Muslims.
The Prophet Muhammad, (peace be upon him), said: “Sadaqah (charitable donation) appeases the anger of the Lord and wards off the agony of death.”
What is P4E?
The P4E (Paradise Forever) is not just another muslim centre! It is an approach ; it is a visionary way of providing needed services to our community. We have a modest community centre in its early stages aspire to fulfill and provide support, knowledge, a place for refuge, classes (halaqas), social gatherings and events for Muslims new and old. P4E is at the forefront of building bridges and cooperating for peace and justice by working with CSIS, the RCMP, Members of the Government of Canada and local Police.
The Main vision of the P4E is to share the traditional knowledge of Islam, which has been proven to be timeless. If applied with sincere intention and wisdom, will provide solutions and answers to all of contemporary life’s situations and questions.
P4E’s vision is to sincerely disseminate Traditional Islamic knowledge and its application, in order to provide solutions and answers that Muslims encounter on a daily basis. By utilizing Media, Da’wah and Islamic literature to spread the message of Traditional Islam. Our ambition, by the grace and mercy of Allah ( The Most High ), to rid the world of its ignorance towards Islam and to counter the dual infections of terrorism and radicalization.
So what has P4E been up to?
P4E welcomes in and assists new Muslims, and Muslims in need during periods of their lives where they may be facing various difficulties, drug and alcohol addictions, poverty and homelessness, alienation or estrangement from family after accepting Islam…to name a few. Essentially, P4E is providing services at different levels to both Muslims and Non-muslims on an ongoing basis.
P4E Services are as follows:
Extended stay in P4E Shelter
Distribution of Islamic literature
Crime Prevention, Safety and Awareness
Martial Arts Instruction
Assistance with Basic living needs
Employment and Re-integration into the workforce
Access to Medical Clinic
Musallah ( 5 daily prayers )
General and Specific Religious Knowledge
Qur’an study and Fiqh Classes
“6 minutes for Allah”
Anti – Terror / De-Radicalization Program
Drug and Alcohol rehabilitation
The Great Challenge of P4E
To sustain these basic and other services requires continual problem solving, creative thinking, cooperative learning (mentoring), leadership, traditional understanding of Islam through the four schools and much more. Whether, via an educational platform, cooperating for Justice or spreading the message of Islam, the value and necessity of an entity such as the P4E Support Group Inc. on a Governmental, Non-Governmental, National and International level cannot be emphasized enough. In our present society – P4E is needed more than ever.
As always the core focus remains on turning New Muslims into productive members of society and equipping them with sound traditional knowledge of Islam through educational programs but at the same time helping fellow muslims to stay away from dubious or questionable ideologies that encourage gangsterism, terrorism and radicalization – Islam has never been spread by ignorance, but rather by those who possess a sound base of knowledge.
P4E Strategic Action Plan
In order to keep its forward momentum P4E will be preparing a Strategic Action Plan (SAP) for the next 5 years, covering the following aspects: P4E Values, P4E Mission, 5 year vision, Skills, Business approach and Daily Actions to help us achieve our goals
Muhammad Robert Heft