Wednesday marked the end of a tumultuous week in London when Parliament was attacked by a lone terrorist, women stood together on Westminster Bridge to remember the victims and a young Muslim woman was vilified in the press.
Meanwhile, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, hosted the 14th National Peace Symposium last Saturday 25 March and the fifth Khalifa (Caliph), His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad delivered the keynote address.
More than 1000 people, from 30 countries, including over 600 non-Ahmadi guests and dignitaries of many faiths were invited to the Baitul Futuh Mosque in South London. This year’s theme was global conflict and the need for justice.
Caliph Masroor Ahmad began by condemning last week’s terrorist attack in London as a “barbaric atrocity” and described all forms of extremism and terrorism as a complete violation of Islamic teachings. He reminded delegates of the sanctity of life enshrined in the Quran: ‘To kill a person, is to kill all of humanity but to save a single human being, is to save all humanity.’ (Quran 5:32) No matter what terrorists may claim, under no circumstances are indiscriminate attacks or killings ever justified.”
When speaking to the press, the Caliph was very clear about extremism: “Love of your country is part of your faith. That is what I believe. You give services so that you can be a good asset to the country. Integration does not mean you force a lady to remove the hijab or force people to drink alcohol, that is not integration. Be an asset to the country. Be law-abiding, never break the law.”
He urged Muslims to understand and follow the Quran, and said: “The first jihad is to reform yourself and then to love and respect one another. Follow the system within your community. You have to follow the law of the land. Try to be a peaceful citizen of the country where you live.”
Fathe Din, a member of the Ahmadi community explained this further: “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.”
If an Ahmadi member breaks the law, the Caliph said, he or she will be ex-communicated.
But he told delegates research suggested that some Muslim youths had been radicalised because they felt their religious beliefs had been mocked and ridiculed in the Western world.
He said: “In no way does this justify or excuse them and they remain culpable and responsible for their actions. Yet common sense dictates that we should not pour petrol on an open flame. Rather, we should seek mutual understanding, respect the beliefs of others and try to find common ground.”
However, disenfranchised young people are not the only people at fault: “Regrettably, we often hear politicians and leaders making needlessly inflammatory statements that are beholden not to the truth, but to their own political interests.”
He cited the arms trade as a clear example of how business interests and wealth take priority over peace. According to the Caliph, this is often because of vested interests of politicians, businesspeople and the media. He said the arms trade fuels warfare and has trapped the world in a perpetual cycle of violence. A survivor of Hiroshima, Ms. Setsuko Thurlow was awarded the Ahmadiyya Muslim Prize for the Advancement of Peace because of her lifelong campaign for nuclear disarmament.
An ardent campaigner for peace and reconciliation, the Caliph 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.
“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.”