This Jamia Graduate is using religious scriptures to prevent youth from being misled by extremism


Basit Jamal
Basit Jamal | Image Courtesy: Ashoka India

At a time when people are ready to kill for religion, this Jamia Graduate is using true religious values to build peace

Basit Jamal was an ordinary Delhite who had a lot of friends from other communities. The schoolkid who excelled at sports went on to do his graduation in Social work. It was when he was 19yrs that Basit encountered some people propagating hate and extremist ideas. A set of people who had their agendas, who would pursue selective reading of the scriptures to induce hate. A sufficient force of it had infected Jamal before conscious-critical thinking hit him. Many of the problems spoken using religious scriptures to pedal hate apparently did not even exist.

Basit Jamal
Basit Jamal professing his revelations about religion, its scriptures and their interpretations.

He preferred reading the scriptures to learn for himself. “Everyone should read the scriptures before they form an ideology. I was shocked to know that the scriptures were in absolute contrast to what is preached to the gullible and misled youths when I read them myself. It disagreed with extremism – left, centre, and right. I recall a verse in the Quran which mentions – even if you kill me, I won’t. How can that not speak of peace? Then why is there a prevailing misconception that violence could resolve our problem”, says Jamal. It was an absolute no brainer of what he discovered – All shared the same values. 

Basit Jamal having a discussion with youth
Basit Jamal engaging in a discussion with youth

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Since then, it has been his conscious journey to share what he found in the scriptures with other young minds. A lot of people get swayed by the extremist ideology and it is wise to give them a chance to read the scriptures of their faith themselves”, quips Basit. He believes that religion or faith will always have subjective interpretations but will always be peaceful if guided by the right values. With time, he started an organization called “Brotherhood of Humanity”. It constantly facilitates spaces for the youth to engage and be receptive to different communities and religions. 

The organization conducts up to 4 retreats every year for students which are indeed an eye-opener for them. “It’s a very common notion among ordinary humans that we should hate or kill enemies, but in the retreat, I learned that the scriptures have always taught us to love our enemies and how to win badly with goodness.”, says Zertab Khan, an attendee of the Ladakh retreat. Another participant Areeb Abdullah added “I was unaware of the learning of the scriptures, but this retreat made me realize that it tells us about unconditional love. That we should love our fellow humans despite our disagreements”. 

When you don’t agree to disagree, you create space for extremism. Religion was never meant to be a roadblock and if it is interpreted in the right manner it can resolve conflicts in the most peaceful way.

– Basit Jamal

The organization already has 19 students who have enrolled for the 3-day/week program which mentors the trainers and facilitators of the retreats and other programs. Basit keeps travelling across the country to engage with thousands of people every year as part of a peacebuilding program. Although he modestly refrains from keeping a count, Basit has interacted with roughly 50,000 in-person in about 17 years. Basit was recognized with an Ashoka Fellowship in the year 2017 for his work. He is also a part of the world’s largest interfaith organization ‘United Religion’s Initiative’. Basit is a co-author in UNESCO’s Youth Waging Peace Manual. 

In his younger days had also worked in video production for a few television projects as a freelancer. His work has also spanned a few stints with the media. However, Documentaries remained his primary love, many documentaries he shot had won awards at prestigious levels. As part of his work for peace, Basit also works on documenting the videos of the retreats into short videos which could propagate the message of harmony further.

In the conversation, he mentions why it is important for everyone and not just youth to engage in reading the scriptures to understand a better way of living. “If the interpretation of any religion is not teaching you love and friendship, it is important to discard that interpretation. I repeat, discard that interpretation only and not the religion. Religion in its truest sense will never teach you to hate anyone” he said. As a young lad who doesn’t read scriptures a lot I had an inevitable question “What if I don’t fully understand what I read, how can I then follow the teachings?”

“It’s easy” Jamal answered “Look at how God’s creation follows him. Say the sun, it’s a true student of God. Its purpose is to shine. It does that, every day – on Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Atheists, Homosexuals or anyone alike. That’s what we need to do. Humans were purposed to profess love, if you do just that, you are a good follower of your faith”.

 

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