PERSPECTIVE: Time for Muslims to Lose Ghetto Thinking; New Statistics Suggest Muslim Children Are Increasingly Underachieving in School. Today, Waqar Ahmad Ahmedi, Chairman of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association in Birmingham, Calls for Youngsters to Return to the Very Core of Their Faith - Learning

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Byline: Waqar Ahmad Ahmedi

It is not easy being young and Muslim these days.

Not only do Muslim youth feel uncomfortable with suggestions they are tomorrow's terrorists, they are increasingly under pressure to perform better at school.

It is an unenviable position, but one which many from Islamic communities - not least here in Birmingham - find themselves in.

During a recent visit to the city, Rafiq Ahmad Hayat, national president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association, expressed grave concerns that children of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin are among the main underachievers in British schools. For any parent from these backgrounds, Birmingham's latest Examinations and Assessments Results Annual Report does make for depressing reading indeed.

Can this be the same ummah that gave birth to such outstanding thinkers of the Aver-roes and Avicenna mould, and without whose intellectual brilliance the Renaissance era in Europe may never have taken place?

Islam, too, was destined to enter its own Dark Age, one we can still observe certain features of today.

Currently, many Muslims are characterised by an indifference towards education, disregard for authority and militant attitudes - and that's just adults.

There seems also to be a lack of ambition, motivation and drive amongst our children, who without any real goals in life become easy prey to various addictions and habits that are of no service to society.

Whilst these problems are universal and not exclusive to any one group, the fact that this is seen consistently among Muslim pupils is surprising and ironic, for no faith gives quite as much emphasis on seeking knowledge as does Islam.

Both the Qur'an and the sayings of Prophet Muhammad - which form the basis of Islamic thought - are replete with injunctions relating to both religious and secular learning.

The very first revelation received by the Prophet was "Iqra" (literally, "Read") and several Qur'anic verses urge readers to study, make critical inquiries and reflect on creation. There is even a prayer dedicated to this purpose: "Oh my Lord, increase my knowledge" (20:115). Surah Al Zumar also states: "Say: 'Are those who know equal to those who know not?' Verily only those endowed with understanding will take heed" (39:10)

Additionally, the Prophet famously said:

"Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave." "Seek knowledge, even if you must go to China." "Seeking knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim, male and female."

"The ink of a scholar is more sacred than the blood of a martyr." "For one who follows a path for seeking knowledge, Allah will ease the way to Heaven."

He also likened places where knowledge is sought to Gardens of Paradise.

The Prophet did not speak of only theological matters. …