By Leah Hansen
A third world war isn’t necessarily inevitable, guests told Ryerson students March 22, but we all have to work to make the world more peaceful.
A local imam was invited to Ryerson to talk to students about war last Friday night as part of the Is World War III Inevitable? seminar presented by the Ahmadiyya Students’ Association. The imam and missionary, Muhammad Afzal Mirza, spoke for about an hour, using examples from the Quran, the Bible, and the work of Nostradamus.
Mirza began his speech by recitation a part from the Quran, with the English translation for members of the audience who did not speak Arabic — prayer was included in his closing remarks as well. Mirza used religious texts and examples to talk about past wars, the possibility of a third world war and how to prevent one from happening.
“But watch thou, from the day when the sky will bring forth a visible smoke that will envelope the people. This will be a painful torment,” said Mirza, quoting from chapter 44 of the Quran. “When you look at society today, it seems like this [verse] is indicating the atomic bomb era.”
Usman Javed, University of Toronto president of the Ahmadiyya Students’ Association, described the importance of the event, and religion in particular, as getting people to make small, positive changes in their lives that prevent conflict. Religion is inherently peaceful, he said, and if individuals follow the true teachings of their religion, there should be little cause for conflict.
“Islam does teach these things of justice and equality and if someone does not follow these teachings, he’s not following the teachings as laid down by the Quran or as laid down by the Prophet of Islam,” Javed said. “All religions say the same thing. They tell you not to lie, they tell you not to cheat, they tell you to live in harmony, and that’s the main thing.”
After Mirza’s speech and time for meditation during the closing prayer, audience members had a chance to ask questions — however many of the attendees preferred to stay anonymous. When one student asked if he thought events like this one could directly reduce the possibility of a third world war, Mirza laughed and said no. But he said “it has to start somewhere”.
“If we all get together and work for the cause of a peaceful future, I think we can raise our voices and make a difference,” Mirza said.
Another audience member asked what role Islam could play in stopping or preventing violence and war in the world.
“The teachings of Islam that are given in the Holy Quran are perfectly balanced teachings. It does not speak of a particular race or nation. It speaks of humanity,” Mirza answered. “We believe, since Islam speaks to us as naturally as possible and addresses us as human beings, those laws will help us establish peace and tranquility.”
While many attendees anticipated the symposium’s focus on religion, other audience members were looking forward to a political analysis of current world events.
“It was different than what I thought it was going to be,” said Matthew Johah, a politics and governance major at Ryerson. “As a political science student I was coming to this event expecting to see it more from a secular, political point of view but it was very religious-based, which I’m not opposed to. I actually thought it was really good because I don’t know a lot about Islam.”
Jonah said there are connections to be made between the religious arguments for the possibility of a third world war and the political arguments.
“Samuel Huntington’s a big political theorist,” he said. “He wrote that the post-cold war period was going to be defined by clashes between religions and cultures, so I thought that was a really interesting tie-in.”
After the questions period, Mirza gave his take on the political state of the world today and its implications for an impending third world war.
“For anybody who watches what is happening in the world, North Korea is the place where you can see the smoke,” Mirza said.
He also highlighted the Middle East as a problem area that is likely to add fuel to the potential fire. He said competition for resources among countries will eventually contribute to conflict.
“Oil, water, and now the exploration of more minerals in the world,” Mirza said. “This greed from the political side will bring the third world war, guaranteed.”