Unfortunately, people currently associate Muslims with terrorism. It’s not a new phenomenon. The Irish had the same problem in the 1980s. And Muslims are blamed for terrorism at the moment more than any other group.
‘Love for all, hatred for none’ is the Ahmadi motto and central tenet of their faith. Ahmadi Muslims swear allegiance annually to their faith, their Caliph who is their worldwide leader and to the country in which they live now, not their country of origin. They are pillars of the communities where they live and as yet, no Ahmadi Muslim has ever been tried or convicted of terrorism charges.
Their central challenge is how they turn around perceptions about Islam, not least perceptions in the media. As several people remarked over the Jalsa Salana, if a white person massacres people, his background is immediately investigated. If a Muslim does the same, the media think terrorism first.
The media don’t always call out white perpetrators as racist and they have protection if they suffer from schizophrenia or another mental health condition. I don’t recall hearing about the background of Muslim terrorists, only their deadly intent and how they were radicalised.
I caught up with the Ahmadi Muslims at their annual convention which is known as the Jalsa Salana. It takes place at Oaklands Farm, Alton in Hampshire. 38,000 Ahmadis flock from all over the world and 5000 of them serve as volunteers to ensure the smooth running of the event. It’s an example of the Ahmadis commitment to service. But it doesn’t stop there.
They hold an annual walk for peace in every region of the UK raising money for the Poppy Appeal and British Heart Foundation as well as much smaller local charities. Non-Ahmadis are invited to participate and there is no joining fee. As a community, the Ahmadis are inclusive and outward looking.
Humanity First enables the Ahmadis to travel the globe and provide disaster relief. A lot of the doctors give up their annual leave to travel at short notice and help when disasters strike. A team went to the Tsunami and are active in many parts of the world reaching out to people of many faiths and none. Humanity First is a disaster relief charity set up by Ahmadis but operated independently and “serving all of mankind” (their motto).
Guests at the Jalsa said they were impressed by the Ahmadis because they put their faith into action, they walk their faith. They demonstrate God’s love through charitable works and humanitarian aid and let this love speak for itself.
It’s not commonly known that the root of the word Islam means peace. Ahmadis preach and live this message of peace led by their Caliph, Mirza Masroor Ahmad. Declan Henry believes the Caliph’s leadership is one reason that this community is so strong and peaceful. Mr Henry is a writer and social worker who has written a book called voices of modern Islam. Mr Henry is an Irish Catholic but he thinks it is worse to be a Muslim at the moment because they can be targeted and face discrimination.
Mr Henry believes other Muslims distrust the Ahmadis because of theological differences about whether the Messiah has arrived or is yet to come and he said many sects of Islam lack true leadership. He said: “Other Muslims envy the Ahmadis who have the Caliph, a holy and honourable man. The Ahmadis are the most integrated of Muslims in the UK.”
Set up after the Paris attacks, Ahmadis have led the campaign ‘United Against Extremism’ that counters the rhetoric and ideology of terrorism. They quote from the Qu’ran for their inspiration: “Whosoever kills a person, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind.” (5:33)