At Oaklands Farm in Hampshire last weekend over 39,000 Ahmadi Muslims from 155 countries met for their annual convention , the ‘Jalsa Salana.’ 355 new mosques have been built including one in Tilford. The reported reach of the event coverage was 59.3million in TV, radio, print and online.
David Harmer, County Councillor for Waverley Western Villages in Surrey said: “If the rest of the country was as well organised as the Jalsa is every year, we wouldn’t have any problems.” Mr Harmer said he was fascinated by the motto, ‘Love for all, hatred for none’ and even more impressed that the Ahmadis live to it. All members of the Ahmadiyya Community pledge allegiance to their faith, the Caliph and to the country where they live.
It’s important to notice, they pledge allegiance to the country they live in, not their country of origin. In my experience, Ahmadi Muslims speak impeccable English and contribute significantly to Britain’s net worth and GDP. Their faith requires them to integrate into the very fabric of British society and to become pillars of the communities they live in.
An example of this is when the Ahmadiyya Community built their mosque in Morden they were committed to open communication. Councillor Peter Southgate of Merton said they ‘anticipated planning resistance but the mosque is a force for good. The impact on the ward and the social cohesion is very positive. There are new businesses in the Morden area. Without the Ahmadis, the retail units would be empty.”
Doing charitable work is central to the faith of the Ahmadis. Doctor Chaudhury Ljaz Rehman is the President of the UK Ahmadiyya Muslim Elders Association: “There’s an ethos to our charitable work. Every year we support the Poppy Appeal and British Heart Foundation.
“We have a national walk for peace in every region of the UK every year. Schools are asked to join in. We don’t charge an admin fee. Religion teaches us to serve people regardless of creed, colour or religion. The British are a charitable nation, we want to do the same. The world needs more people committed to charitable work based on their faith in God. Without God, the work is rarely sustainable.”
Sue Carter, Mayor of Rushmoor, said she had never heard of the Ahmadis until she became Mayor. She said: “As soon as a bomb goes off, it’s all news and then we dissect it.” She works with a lot of young people including ex-gang leaders to help them transform their communities and said: “Life changes, sometimes it’s a struggle but you can get through it.”
Councillor Richard Billington, Mayor of Guilford, said: “It’s almost bewildering in its scale, the scale of the operation, the attraction of the Ahmadis is worldwide. The problem is press presentation. They tend to write about the bombs and the bullets, you don’t hear about the gentle, charitable work. It breaks the hearts of the Ahmadis. They are polite, kind, Westernised but in a slightly Islamic way.
“I worry that some immigrant communities are not as confident of themselves to integrate but the Ahmadis are confident. They integrate without feeling they are losing their identity.”
While visiting the Surrey Police stall I recognised this drive to integrate while speaking to Farhan Hayat, an Ahmadi Muslim. He explained his role as a Positive Action manager in Surrey Police and appealed to others from under-represented groups to join the force. Reflecting on his visit to the Jalsa Salana, Robin Perry who is a Councillor in Camberley was “fascinated” by his visit. “It was a real education,” he said, “In the SE of England people are reserved and share the same sense of humour as the Ahmadis.”
Colonel James Sunderland is head of Army Engagement. He travels the country talking about the work of the army and promoting collaboration. He said: “The Ahmadis are warm, hospitable, they care about the communities where they live. What’s nice about the Ahmadi community, they are always reaching out. I am always made to feel very welcome. They are apolitical just like the army. They are interested in family and shared values. I wear my uniform for a reason, it’s important to extend the hand of friendship.”
Wang Jen Zhen likes the Ahmadiyya Community because of the learning the community affords. She said: “The Jalsa is brilliantly organised. Brilliant exhibition. I like the fact you just learn a lot. I am there to learn about people’s beliefs.”
Dignitaries have come to the Jalsa from across the world, King Yahaya Abubakar Etsu Nupe is the King of Niger State in Nigeria. He said: “Love, peace, unity, this is the best thing.” He likes the Ahmadis because they build schools and hospitals and try to help people.