Too often we associate moderation with the supposedly weaker qualities of leadership: compromise, pragmatism, process over substance. In the context of the theological and public relations battles fought over the essence of Islam in recent times, it is hard to disagree that the extremists have been most effective in promoting their brand of violent fundamentalism.
But the battle is not over. In fact, for the moderate majority, the secret weapon may have arrived. He is Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, the Islamic Shaykh and PhD holder who I was fortunate enough to hear speak recently at a US Institute of Peace event in Washington DC. He rose to prominence in March 2010 when he published his ‘Fatwa against Suicide Bombings and Terrorism’, though in fact his entire life has been one of public service and religious devotion – driven by a rigorous commitment to the peaceful tenets of his faith.
His resume is inspiring: Pakistan’s leading Islamic scholar with over 400 books published; a world renowned Islamic jurist and adviser to the Supreme Court of Pakistan; Chairman of the Board of Governors of Minhaj University in Lahore. Most consequential is his founding of Minhaj-ul-Quran International, whose educational branch has established over 570 schools and colleges in Pakistan, and whose humanitarian wing has sought to spread the message of peace around the world by building centers in more than 90 countries.