GLEN ELLYN – When Qasim Rashid was in fifth grade, he took a school bus ride that would stay with him for many years to come.
Rashid was sitting with a neighborhood boy when one of their peers began to taunt them with racial and religious insults that singled them out for being “different.”
Although Rashid responded physically in defense of his friend, he knew that wasn’t the way. His dad explained that sometimes people would treat him poorly out of fear for what they don’t understand, but there was a different path Rashid should take.
“You try to win his heart,” his dad said.
Although 10-year-old Rashid didn’t understand what his dad meant at the time, an appreciation for those words has come with age, and the author and human rights activist now dedicates himself to their pursuit.
“The opposite of love isn’t hate: It’s apathy,” said Rashid, who grew up in Glen Ellyn as a member of its Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
The story of that bus ride is the opening vignette of Rashid’s book, titled “The Wrong Kind of Muslim,” which published earlier this year. The book recounts the untold persecution and perseverance of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Pakistan and champions the pursuit of freedom of conscience for all people.
Rashid recently shared his message during a visit to his hometown, stopping at his alma mater, Glenbard South High School, and Baet ul Jama’at Mosque, the home of the Ahmadi Muslims in Glen Ellyn.
Rashid presented his book to an audience of about 60 people at the mosque, many of whom practice other religions, said Kamran Khan, the mosque’s youth director, who grew up with Rashid.
“Ultimately, the message of his book is about peace,” Khan said.
Rashid spent years researching “The Wrong Kind of Muslim,” traveling all over the world to speak to victims and witnesses of persecution.
In Pakistan, religious minorities, including Ahmadi and Shia Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Jews and atheists, are regularly victimized for their beliefs.
Ahmadi Muslims become the “wrong kind of Muslim” because they believe that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian is the Messiah. More than 125 Ahmadi Muslims have been killed in the last three years in Pakistan, Rashid said in his book.
After an attack in 2005 that left eight people dead and 20 injured, Rashid visited the mosque where the carnage occurred, sparking the research for his book.
“Seeing a bullet hole, seeing a blood-splattered wall, seeing blood-stained carpet, broken windows, seeing handprints of blood on the ground – it’s shocking, horrifying, angering, infuriating, so many emotions at once – but they culminate to leave a permanent reminder, a permanent scar on your mind of what happened,” said Rashid.
Despite all the terrors Rashid has seen and heard, he still believes there is hope to combat the hatred and violence.
That belief is shared by many of the victims Rashid has met who are rising up against their persecution, by refusing to deny their beliefs or continuing to do good for others, despite the harm that has been done to them.
“Whether you’re Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Atheist, that ability to serve humanity, that ability to win the hearts, transcends all those things,” Rashid said.