Terrorism and Peacemaking in Pakistan (Part One)

by Rick Love

I was standing in line at the airport in Thailand on my way to Nepal when an American woman next to me asked my purpose for going. I replied, "I'm attending an important peacemaking gathering called the Interfaith Leaders Network (ILN) where we'll be meeting with Muslims from Pakistan." She blurted out, "They hate us!"

Her response is typical of many, if not most, Americans. And of course she is partly right. Some Pakistanis do hate us for these reasons:

• the war in Afghanistan

• the invasion of Iraq on false pretenses

• decades-long support for oppressive regimes in the Muslim world

• bias in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

• the killing of thousands of innocent Muslims described as “collateral damage”

• the practice of torture

But as I said, she was only partly right. Meet Mossarat Qadeem. She illustrates the side of Pakistan that most Americans never hear about.

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Mossarat, the only Muslim woman present at the gathering, is a force to be reckoned with!

She leads an organization called Mothers for Change, a women’s group unlike any other I’ve heard of. The goal of Mossarat’s organization is to identify mothers whose sons are being radicalized - young men who are being drawn into Taliban or Al Qaeda type terrorist organizations.

What she does is work with mothers to help them understand indicators of radicalization. For example, she helps them analyze their sons' schedules and lifestyles. “Where is your son going every Tuesday and Thursday nights after dinner? Who is he meeting with?"

One young man who was being radicalized got a cell phone worth a month’s wages, but he had no job. Mossarat helped the mother realize that this did not make sense. “Where did he get that much money for a phone like that?”

Once the mothers realize their sons are in fact being recruited to join extremist groups, Mossarat helps them develop practical steps to rescue their sons, and she has programs that counter the violent message of the extremists, offering a practical and peaceful alternative.

Mossarat, in partnership with these mothers, has helped rescue over 400 young men from becoming terrorists! This takes a lot of guts, because these violent terrorist groups don’t exactly like this! But her story is not uncommon, and other Pakistani Muslims who work for peace have had multiple death threats.

There are many Pakistanis who don’t hate Americans and are willing to risk their lives for peace. I just met with ten of them.