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Where is the Muslim Mandela?

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Feb. 7, 1977: South African President Nelson Mandela gestures during his state of the nation address at the opening of Parliament in Cape Town. Mandela concentrated on crime and the economy, the country's two major problems at the time after nearly three years of democracy. (Reuters)

This week we watched as world leaders and South Africans bid farewell to Nelson Mandela. The iconic peacemaker and liberator lived under and eventually triumphed over apartheid. He became the first black African to lead his country. At the same time, on the same continent the Central African Republic has become the latest place to feel the wrath of radical Islam.

Events this week beg the question: where among the 1.56 billion Muslims is our Mandela? Where is our Mahatma? Where is our Madiba? Where our liberator?

Instead of rearing a mandela, someone who could bring people of different faiths together to build a more peaceful world, Muslims attempt to assassinate a Malala before maturity. We are undeserving of such great souls and yet the need has never been greater.

Where among the 1.56 billion Muslims is our Mandela? Where is our Mahatma? Where our liberator?

Presently, there is no apartheid more destructive than the gender and religious apartheid perpetrated by the modern day radical Islamist. These misguided Muslims see themselves as the definitive Muslim, distinct from all others (both Muslims and non-Muslims). They believe those who do not believe as they do should not be allowed to exist.

We have encountered him repeatedly in recent years until we know him well.

  • The radical Islamist is the perpetrator of attacks through religious selection in shopping malls in kenya.
  • The radical Islamist beheads the British soldier on a London afternoon.
  • The radical Islamist executes women for their existence and blinds schoolgirls for their efforts to seek education.
  • The radical Islamist assassinates those who vaccinate the vulnerable against polio.
  • The radical Islamist drives Christians out of their native countries; he burns their churches and raises residential homes in Joseph Colony rendering hundreds of Pakistani Christians homeless.
  • The radical Islamist immobilizes women and girls and entombs them in shrouds, denoting them legal minors all in the name of a manmade Islam.
  • The radical Islamist seeks out Muslim minorities and murders in shrines scared to sufis; executes pacifist Ahmadi Muslims while in worship and exhumes their bodies, desecrates their gravestones, exercising apartheid even in death.
  • The radical Islamist accuses all others of blasphemy precisely as he blasphemes his way to more death, destruction and desecration.
  • The radical Islamist oppresses, represses, suffocates, blinds, decapitates, dismembers, silences, intimidates -- his form of religious apartheid is unwavering as it encompasses all who are ‘other’. The ‘other’ is myriad: the Egyptian Coptic Christian child of 8 leaving church with her family, the 14-year-old Pakistani Muslim schoolgirl demanding books and pens for boys and girls, even the Israeli Jewish soldier sleeping on a Jerusalem bus on the way home from leave. There is no reprieve in the apartheid of the radical Islamist – he seeks his separation from and the cleansing of us all.

While gender apartheid has long been the focus of news stories in countries like Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Somalia in particular we must acknowledge the greater and all too often underreported global crisis is in fact faith apartheid.

The radical Islamist exercises it in its many forms -- by encouraging the exodus of Christians across the Middle East, their systematic intimidation and persecution in Muslim democracies such as Pakistan, and these last weeks their hunted executions in the Central African Republic.

Almost unnoticed we can see the open expungement of non-Muslims even from the birthplace of Christianity -- Bethlehem -- where Jesus’ own role is being contested in the observation of Christmas.

All this is a form of apartheid far more heinous than the colonial apartheid of South Africa.

But just as apartheid stained the name of South Africans before her rescue from infamy, so too is the apartheid of radical Islam soiling the name of every Muslim. Whether we accept this or not, the actions of the radical Islamist are now defining every Muslim, the actions and policies of radical Islamist governments are now defining the meaning of Muslim nationhood.

Be warned fellow Muslim. We will surely answer for these days, and like the present atrocities, the blame for silently standing by without protest will be collective and catastrophic.

Because we lack a Muslim Mandela to show us the way to peace and reconciliation, we Muslims must each look to ourselves for ways to defy the radical Islamist, to protect the vulnerable among us, to shelter our fellow Christian and Jew, our fellow minority Muslim. 

We must strive to preserve the meaning of Jesus for our fellow believers, we must make sacred the places of worship and burial of men and women of other faiths and we must expose the radical Islamist for what they are -- lethal imposters of our faith who subscribe to the most obscene of all apartheids -- the apartheid of belief.

Action not words are required of us. And to act we must emulate the courage Mr. Mandela gave the world. We must do as he did. We mustremain unbowed despite the bludgeonings of the brutal Islamist, we must remain the masters of our fate. And in the face of fear and intimidation, by striving to be captains of our own Muslim souls, we must answer the call of justice to protecting the vulnerable and commit ourselves anew to our moral obligation to defeat the radical Islamist.

Qanta A. Ahmed, M.D., is Associate Professor of Medicine, State University of New York, and Honorary Professor Glasgow Caledonian University, School of Public Health. She is currently a Ford Foundation Public Voices Fellow with the OpEd Project. She is the author of "In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor's Journey in the Saudi Kingdom." You can follow her on Twitter@MissDiagnosis.