Category Archives: Ahmadiyya

Ahmadi Muslims gather in Hampshire to pray for peace

More than 38,500 Ahmadi Muslims from 115 countries poured into Oaklands Farm near Alton in Hampshire. They gathered to hear their leader’s message about true Islam, to recommit themselves to working for the good of humanity and to promote peace, tolerance and unity at home and abroad. This message is best captured by the motto of the Ahmadiyya Community which is: “Love for all, hatred for none.”

Paul Scully who is MP for Sutton and Cheam has a lot of Ahmadi Muslims in his constituency. He has known them since he was a councillor. He said: “The motto does just run through everything they do.”

Ahmadi Muslims
Paul Scully MP for Sutton and Cheam

Mr Scully remembered that after the massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, the Ahmadis threw open their Mosque in spite of the cartoons of the Prophet. They were among the first at the vigil in Trafalgar Square after the Westminster terror attack. He said: “It is practising what they preach, especially now in these febrile times. Anti-semitism, Islamaphobia, regional conflicts. Despite being a community that is persecuted, they still reach out to achieve their motto which is peace around the world… All they want is the ability to worship freely with respect.”

Ahmadi Muslims believe in the Messiah and accept Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, a 19th century spiritual reformer from India, as the Messiah awaited by all major religions. Other Muslims disagree.

Ahmadiyya
Farooq Aftab is the UK Vice President of the Ahmadiyya Youth

Farooq Aftab is the UK Vice President of the Ahmadiyya Youth. He said: “There is no contradiction between being Muslim and being British. There is no religious freedom in Pakistan, the UK is more Islamic than Pakistan because the foundations of society are more in line with true Islam. Islam teaches tolerance, respect for others and serving humanity. No Ahmadi has ever been radicalised anywhere in the world.”

Ahmadi Muslims
Bernadette Khan, Mayor of Croydon and Mr Khan

Councillor Bernadette Khan is the Mayor of Croydon. She has worked with Ahmadi women as a social worker and has friends in the community. Mrs Khan said: “I think we (human beings) create the barriers in any town, village or setting (workplace etc.) Croydon is very diverse, it’s also very rich, and it benefits from the diversity, all of our communities benefit. For us diversity is a way of life.”

Anthony Williams is the Chairman of East Hampshire district. He has lived in Hampshire for 42 years, been a parish councillor for 21 years and is the longest serving councillor in the district at the moment but he had not visited the Muslim convention called the “Jalsa Salana” until he became chairman.

It feels as if the Jalsa is one of Hampshire’s best kept secrets, now in its 13th year. Entry to the convention is open, you don’t need to be an Ahmadi Muslim nor wait for an invitation to attend. You do need to register your details and let the organisers know you are on site.

Williams
Anthony Williams, Chairman of E Hampshire District

Mr Williams said: “Everyone is welcome, there’s no trouble. It’s so well organised, more than 35,000 people, it’s delightful to be able to see it from the inside. I wish more people knew about the Ahmadis. It’s not well known, we hear about the controversy but you don’t hear the good news. It’s an uphill struggle because the media like drama.”

Councillor Mike Parsons, Mayor of Guilford, said he was impressed by the amount of charitable work the Ahmadiyya Community do including finding water in Africa. He said there is a widespread lack of understanding of Islam. Mr Parsons said: “It was a no brainer to come along. The Ahmadis are kind hearted. They volunteer from such a young age and take a pride in it. People realise how humble you should be. The work is absolutely amazing and delegates remembered my name.”

Ahmadi Muslim Councillor and former Mayor of Runnymede, Iftikhar Chaudhri was the first non-Christian mayor ever in that area. He talked about his motivation: “My father said change hearts and minds and work for communities that make the world better.”

He worked hard to organise 5000 Ahmadi Muslims and non-Ahmadi people in a walk for peace which raised £1 million for charity including St Peter’s hospital.

Councillor
Councillor Iftikhar Chaudhri, former Mayor of Runnymede with Mayor of Rushmore, Steve Masteron

Explaining his approach to his work, he said: “I never thought I was better than anyone else as mayor. I raised money for the Red Cross. Islam is everything I do and it only teaches good and respect for others. There is a major problem with the portrayal (of Islam) in the media. We have no other Muslim councillors. People that opposed me, later shook my hand. Whatever we do should be good for society.”

Leader of Runnymede Councillor Nick Prescott said the Ahmadi Muslims raised more money for charity than all the others put together. When there was a flood in the area, the Ahmadis provided food and distributed sand bags alongside a group of Hindus.

Derek Gardner, Mayor of Alton, said: “It’s absolutely enthralling. This is my first visit, it will not be my last.”

Mayor
Derek Gardner, Mayor of Alton with Atif Malik

Nasser Ahmad Khan, an Ahmadi Muslim convention delegate volunteers with Humanity First, the community’s disaster relief programme. He believes that the UK is one of the greatest countries in the world, even post Brexit, because of the level of diversity, thought and tolerance. He said: “Our home countries would not allow it.”

MP for Kingston and Surbiton Ed Davey said: “I have had many Ahmadi Muslim friends over many years. I am privileged to work and campaign with them. They represent the best of British society.”

As a visitor to the Jalsa Salana for the second time, I was struck by how much Ahmadi Muslims contribute to the economy and yet how humbly they serve as volunteers. It takes a team of 7,000 people to organise, and staff the convention but I was told firmly that no one is indispensable. And volunteering is not confined to the Jalsa. Their disaster relief charity, Humanity First, is also run by volunteers who give up annual leave and pay their own air fares to travel and help communities in need around the globe. Ahmadi Muslims know what it means to serve humanity, not just their own people, and they are always on the lookout for ways to contribute positively to society.

You can find out more about the Ahmadiyya Community in the UK here or by tuning into Voice of Islam Radio and by following events on social media @jalsaUK, #jalsaUK or #jalsaconnect.

Extracts from this article were published by the Alton Herald.

Education sets Ahmadi Muslims apart

For Ahmadi Muslims serving humanity means being an active citizen in society and honouring the government in their host country. I was invited to find out more at their annual convention, “the Jalsa Salana” in Hampshire, which welcomed more than 38,500 people from 115 countries.

Ahmadi Muslims
Press team at the Jalsa Salana 2018

Many of the people I met are British born: second or third generation and very grateful for the freedom of religion and freedom of speech which Britain affords, given their experience as a persecuted minority at home.

His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the worldwide leader of the Ahmadiyya Community, had to leave Pakistan and move his headquarters to London in the 1980s because theological differences set him at odds with the majority of Muslims in Pakistan.

Some sects of Islam do not recognise Ahmadi Muslims as Muslims because Ahmadis believe the awaited Messiah has already come in the person of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908) of Qadian, India.

But in Britain the Ahmadi Muslims have prospered through hard work and respect for the country they now call home. Many are investment bankers, traders, property developers, IT consultants, even Nobel Prize winners, leaders in their field, because education is of paramount importance to them. If the government analysed the economic contribution of the Ahmadiyya community I think they would be amazed.

Nasser Ahmad Khan volunteers with Humanity First which is the Ahmadis’ disaster relief charity. He believes that the UK is still one of the greatest countries in the world, even post Brexit, because of the level of diversity, thought and tolerance. He said: “Our home countries wouldn’t allow it.”

education
Nasser Khan with his son

He agreed that the secret to the Ahmadis’ success is education. He said: “Our religion compels us to further our knowledge for the benefit of humanity. The Prophet Mohammed himself said every piece of knowledge is the lost property of a Muslim.”

Abdus Salam is perhaps one of the best examples of an Ahmadi Muslim serving humanity. I met his son, Ahmad Salam and grandson Osama Abdus Salam. They told me their father/grandfather was a physicist who studied in Cambridge where he became a fellow of St John’s College and he was appointed as the first professor of theoretical physics at Imperial College, London. He won the Nobel Prize for physics by proving that the weak nuclear and electromagnetic forces were actually one. He also worked extensively in hisnative Pakistan as chief scientific adviser to the President from 1961 until 1974.

Abdus Salam
Ahmad Salam, son of the late Abdus Salam

Mr Salam was appointed to head up science and technology at the United Nations and he was tasked with setting up an incubator to bring together the best brains in the world. As a result, an institute (ICTP) opened in Italy in 1964 which has trained 300,000 scientists from around the world including Vietnam, Brazil and Rwanda. It was founded on the conviction that without science and technology countries can’t grow and prosper economically.

serving humanity

Others volunteer with Humanity First which is a charity set up by the Ahmadiyya Community originally to provide disaster relief. However, its purpose has evolved and it now also focuses on longer term sustainable projects. It’s registered and active in 52 countries promoting healthcare, education, vocational training, water and safeguarding orphans. It builds and runs secular schools in disadvantaged areas where literacy is low and provides equal access irrespective of gender or social standing. The charity provides an opportunity for Ahmadi Muslims to use their skills and knowledge to serve humanity.

Faith leaders including the Ahmadi Caliph pave the way for peace (radio interview)

I am the first speaker on a live drive time programme considering the impact of faith leader Caliph Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad who is leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslims. The Evening Standard has identified him as the most inspirational faith leader in London in 2017 after the Queen and I try to explain why.

The Caliph had a very strong message for terrorists and any other extremists that love of your country is part of your faith. He said integration was about being an asset to your country, it was not about the hijab or alcohol.

Fathe Din, a member of the Ahmadiyya community explained to me what the Caliph meant. He said: “The jihad is misinterpreted by mullahs and extremists. The jihad is a fight within yourself. It is a fight to be good human beings. Give up your time to do something good. Not everyone is prepared to do that.”

At the Jalsa Salana which is the community’s annual convention, the Caliph told delegates that Islam is the guarantee of security in the world. Without exception, without any discrimination, all of the people are equal. It’s when people think they are superior, that they disturb the peace.

The Caliph told us there is no superiority as a human being. A white person is not superior to a black person, nor is a black person superior to a white.

He said it is when people think they are superior, that they disturb the peace of the world. Lawlessness comes from a feeling of inferiority. Terrorists may take God’s name in vain, and they are not the only ones to do so, but they act in their own strength, cut off from God.

At the annual Peace Symposium last March the Caliph said the arms trade was a very clear example of how business interests and wealth take priority over peace. He said the arms trade fuels warfare and has trapped the world in a perpetual cycle of violence. Last year the peace prize was given to  Ms. Setsuko Thurlow because of her lifelong campaign for nuclear disarmament.

He gave a solemn warning: “Always remember that if we seek to pursue our own interests at all costs, the rights of others will be usurped and this can only lead to conflict, wars and misery. We must all reflect and understand the precipice upon which we stand.”

But he concluded: “My message to the world is to look at tomorrow, and not just today.  Let us leave behind a legacy of hope and opportunity for our children, rather than burdening them with the horrific consequences of our sins.”

The Ahmadi motto is “Love for all, hatred for none.”

This extract was broadcast live on Voice of Islam radio channel on Monday 23 October and you can listen to the full podcast below.

Opinion: “Islam is the guarantee of security in the world” (Caliph)

On a cold, wet July day I joined the international Ahmadiyya Community to discuss peace, justice and security while wading through mud in our wellies at East Worldham (previously Oaklands Farm.) The event was the Ahmadi Muslim’s annual convention known as the “Jalsa Salana.” Unsure what to expect, I set off on an adventure.

My first stop was lunch masterminded by Head Chef Rafi Shah who produced 300,000 meals for 38,000 people. Chefs worked around the clock, making 10,000 chapattis per hour and using three tonnes of rice and nine tonnes of meat. Volunteers, 5000 of them, made this event great.

I witnessed a reunion of two old friends, Councillor Mukesh Malhotra, Deputy Mayor of Hounslow and Asif Ali Parvez. “Mr Parvez runs the marriage bureau, he is our very own love professor”, Councillor Malhotra joked. This means he makes introductions and helps families to resolve disputes. But seriously, I was told, in South Asian culture, a marriage is between two families.

Councillor Mukesh Malhotra, Mayor of Hounslow and Asif Ali Parvez

At 6pm I headed over to the Voice of Islam studio to take part in a fascinating live discussion about representations of Islam in the media and literature.

Sunday was a day of prayer and the mood was more sombre.

Delegates pledged allegiance to the peaceful teachings of Islam under the guidance of the Caliph Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad who is the worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Community. They made a century-old pledge of peace and loyalty and formed a human chain.

Pledge of allegiance

Islam is the guarantee of security in the world, the Caliph told delegates. Without exception, without any discrimination, all of the people are equal. It’s when people think they are superior, that they disturb the peace.

As a Christian, I was struck by this message of peace and reconciliation. In our secular society the temptation for the media is to turn to religions for a negative comment. But these journalists are missing a trick.

Editors should not be afraid to publish good news stories about religions that promote peace and human rights.

In an age of global insecurity and terrorism, spiritual leaders may have the answer and the reach as they urge people to pray for peace and to respect one another.

The Caliph told us there is no superiority as a human being. A white person is not superior to a black person, nor is a black person superior to a white.

He said it is when people think they are superior, that they disturb the peace of the world. Lawlessness comes from a feeling of inferiority. Terrorists may take God’s name in vain, and they are not the only ones to do so, but they act in their own strength, cut off from God.

“Love for all, hatred for none” is the Ahmadi motto.

Some sects of Islam do not recognise Ahmadi Muslims because Ahmadis believe the awaited Messiah has already come: Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908) of Qadian, India.

Ahmadi Muslims condemn violence and pledge to be “servants of humanity” at their Jalsa convention

Ahmadi Muslims poured into Oaklands Farm in Hampshire in their thousands for the biggest annual Muslim convention in Britain called the “Jalsa Salana” last weekend.

Fifth Caliph and Worldwide Head of the community, His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad reminded his community that peace, brotherhood and loyalty to one’s country are the essence of Islam. He explained that Muslims should respect people of other religions and none because God loves all nations equally and no nation or group is superior.

Delegates then pledged allegiance to the peaceful teachings of Islam under the guidance of the Caliph.

Ahmadi Muslims form a human chain and take a vow of peace, obedience and loyalty

During the weekend, delegates were reminded of the words of the Quran: “Whosoever kills an innocent human being, it shall be as if he has killed all mankind, and whosoever saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind.” Qu’ran 5:32

Barrister and QC Karim Khan explained what this means in practice. He said: “The divisions (in society) are artificial, we are bound together by that uniting “love for all hatred for none” (the Ahmadi motto). This is not an abstract concept. A smile is charity. You don’t need to be rich to be kind.”

He said the Prophet of Islam taught us to be kind to humanity because we are like servants of humanity. “How does the community manifest its love for God?” he asked. “By showing compassion and kindness regardless of religion, class and colour. That is the unifying message.”

Behind the scenes, 5,000 volunteers worked to make sure the event ran smoothly including Head Chef Rafi Shah who produced 300,000 meals for 38,000 people. Chefs worked around the clock, making 10,000 chapattis per hour and they used three tonnes of rice and nine tonnes of meat.

A special kitchen to make chapattis

Mayor of Waverley Simon Inchball attended the convention for the first time this year. He said the organisation was extraordinary and praised the Humanity First tent in particular. He said: “I had no idea that they were involved in so many areas (around the world.) “They want to put their hand to helping others. It has been a very inspirational visit.”

Councillor Marsie Skeete, who is the Mayor of Merton, came to the convention with her consort, Yeuton Crandon. She said: “It is very beautiful that we work closely with the Ahmadi Muslims. They are helping to fund, organise and publicise our peace walk on 17 September this year. At this convention, they preach a lot about peace.

“The togetherness that the Ahmadis bring into our lives is amazing. They don’t look at creed, colour, race or religion or anything. The highlight of my year is going to the peace symposium. I love the food but it is just the togetherness that is so special.”

Chris Thompson is the Community Sergeant in charge from Hampshire Police. He said it was a brilliant event that was exceptionally safe and well run.

Chris Thompson with a few of his team

Major Frankie Howell and Colour Seargant Phillip Eeren from the army came to experience the culture and to help people understand what the army has to offer. For example, during recent floods, Major Howell said the army were the first people on the scene and their vehicles are often deployed to help people in need. He said in the Welsh regiment they now have 22 Muslim soldiers.

Kaylie Smith from Basingstoke is a trainee RE teacher who came to the Jalsa with her son, Jackson. She said the convention was larger than she expected and she liked the open sense of community.

National President, Rafiq Hayat said: “Attending the convention strengthens our faith in God and our ties of kinship and fraternity. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community instils a strong sense of community, family and respect for wider society from a young age.

“Our children are raised with the understanding that ‘Love for All, Hatred for None’ is not just a motto, but a way of life and that is how we have successfully shunned all forms of extremism and will continue to do so. The call of the day is to be of service to our communities and as members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, we will exert every effort to be exemplary role models within society.”

Harry van Bommel was an MP in the Netherlands for nineteen years and spokesperson for foreign affairs. He said: “I am worried. We see a world moving in a different direction with violent extremism, governments acting in the wrong way, tension building up not reducing and enhancing this extremism.” However he welcomed the theme of this year’s convention which is peace and justice, saying it is exactly what is needed.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister of State for Commonwealth and the UN, including human rights, has been a member of the Ahmadiyya Community all his life. He said: “The flag of the community is side by side with the UK flag. It is part of your DNA to be responsible, there is no conflict between faith, community and devotion and dedication to the country. The UK is the best place to be a Christian etc. or a person of no faith. We need to protect that, protect other faiths.”

Ahmadi Muslims came to the convention from 100 countries

Guests came from many different faiths and countries including the Sikh Community, the All Faiths Network, Scientology and Mr Muhammad Sharif Odeh who is the head of the Ahmadiyya Community in Israel and Palestine.

Jane Donnelly from Atheist Ireland said they had formed an alliance with the Ahamdiyya Community because they are all minorities in Ireland fighting for religious freedom. Jim Shannon MP from the Democratic Unionist Party commended the Ahmadi Muslims for giving a voice to the voiceless. Eamon O’Cuiv is an MP from the Fianna Fail Party in the Republic of Ireland. He said: “The commitment to peace is something I very much relate to and their (Ahmadi Muslims) openness to dialogue with all religions.” He said he liked the very strong friendships forged at the Jalsa.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is the only Islamic organization to believe that the long- awaited messiah has come in the person of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908) of Qadian, India. Ahmad claimed to be the metaphorical second coming of Jesus of Nazareth and the divine guide, whose advent was foretold by the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad. The Community believes that God sent Ahmad, like Jesus, to end religious wars, condemn bloodshed and reinstitute morality, justice and peace. Ahmad vigorously championed Islam’s true and essential teachings of peace and self-reformation.

You can find out more about the Ahmadiyya Community in the UK here or by tuning into Voice of Islam Radio and by following events on social media @jalsaUK or #jalsaUK.

Delegates gathered to pray for peace ahead of the Caliph’s keynote speech