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.
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.
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.