Nothing can move you quite like seeing it in person.
Almost immediately after the Dec. 16 massacre of a reported 150 people at a school in Peshawar, Pakistan by gunmen representing the Taliban — many of the victims were children — welterweight boxing contender Amir Khan pledged to donate the gold-laced shorts he wore in his most recent ring victory to the school’s rebuilding and recovery efforts. The shorts were worth approximately $47,000.
A couple of weeks later, Khan, a Muslim Englishman of Pakistani descent, visited the Peshawar school himself. He was accompanied by Pakistani cricket stars Younis Khan and Imran Khan. While there, Amir Khan announced that in addition to his initial donation, he will also open a boxing academy in Pakistan.
“There is so much boxing talent in Pakistan,” Khan was quoted by One India. “I have a desire to build a boxing academy here to discover talent and impart training of international standards.”
Khan, who won a silver medal at the 2004 Olympics in Greece when he was just 17 years old, stressed that he wanted to show the world the Pakistan is at its core a peaceful place full of law-abiding Muslims. He also urged the Pakistani government to help eliminate Islamic extremist terrorism by promoting education and sports among the youth.
Khan has the right idea. While outsiders, critics and bigots alike are constantly blaming the Muslim community for not doing enough or speaking out “loud enough” to stop Islamic extremist terrorism, their unrealistic expectation of Muslims citizens taking up arms against trained fighting forces like the Taliban and Boko Haram are clearly not something that can happen.
The truth is that the Muslim community probably can’t stop the terrorism being committed in the name of Islam today. But we can stop it in the future. I believe — and what I think Amir Khan is driving at is — that the most effective way for the Muslim community to stop terrorism in the future is to reach the youth before they can be swayed by the extremists and criminals who might recruit them later in life.
Show Muslim kids what Islam is really about. Expose them to positive role models, whether it’s celebrity athletes like Amir Khan and Yaya Toure, or the men and women at their own masjids. Show them that they have better options. That is how this fight can be won.