Yesterday at the Penistone Town Council meeting, our town mayor was presented with a cheque for £500 by members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. It was a wonderful gesture from, at face value, some wonderful community minded individuals.
I’m ashamed to say that part of me thought why? Was there some ulterior motive? At this point I realised that the scum that peddle hate on both sides of the Muslim argument had affected me. When I say I felt ashamed, I really mean it. The people at the meeting were incredibly warm, welcoming, honest, well-spoken and clearly community minded individuals who had raised a lot for charity. They asked for absolutely nothing yet gave such a lot.
When I got to work today I spoke with a colleague who is himself a devout Muslim and someone I have the greatest respect for. I could tell he was a little uncomfortable talking about them. He did mention there was controversy surrounding them but that they were clearly doing good work. I didn’t push it because whilst he is not the sort of person to speak ill of anyone, he clearly wasn’t happy talking about them.
I’ve since done a bit of research online about the Ahmadiyya branch of Islam. I’m blown away. I’m blown away at the work these people do for their communities, for their beliefs but also at the persecution they receive not just at the hands of the bigoted and senseless Islamophobes which unfortunately seem to be growing in number but also at the hands of fellow Muslims. These people get it from both sides.
I’ve just read an outstanding piece from the Huffington Post by Kashif Chaudhry in which he compares to moronic utterances of Donald Trump and other examples of perceived Islamophobia in the West. It really is worth reading in its entirety. In essence…
We cry out when Donald Trump suggests Muslims carry special identification badges, yet overlook the fact that for four decades, our own Ahmadi citizens have been forced to carry such discriminatory IDs…
We scream out in anguish when Trump suggests some mosques be closed. Yet, we ignore the fact that we are responsible for closing down, sealing, torching, or occupying over 100 Ahmadi places of worship in the last few decades.
We urge bigoted politicians in the West to be more accepting of Syrian refugees. But we forget the fact that every year, numerous Ahmadis leave Pakistan to seek refuge…
Even as almost 100 Ahmadis were mercilessly gunned down in Lahore in 2010, the media in Pakistan blacked out the Ahmadis… is there any television channel that has taken the Ahmadi point of view on air?
Of course any ‘orthodox’ Muslim reading this now will probably be correcting me and I now understand the reticence of my colleague in entering a discussion about the Ahmadiyya as many other branches of Islam don’t consider them Muslim at all but heretics and because of this they are persecuted in Pakistan, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia (where they aren’t even allowed to enter Mecca to complete the Hajj) and of course in Western Europe by other Muslims.
I’m not going to get into the religious arguments surrounding the views of other Muslims – as an agnostic myself and certainly knowing virtually nothing about Islamic scripture I’m not qualified to do so. However I measure people on their words and their deeds. From what I’ve read and seen so far in both these aspects the Ahmadiyya should be lauded not persecuted. I think their motto of how they live says everything about this group of people, “Love for all, hatred for none”.
I’m minded of the Chinese proverb…
Watch your thoughts, for they become your words.
Watch your words, for they become your actions.
Watch your actions, for they become your habits.
Watch your habits, for they become your character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.
From what I have seen and heard the Ahmadiyya keep this proverb in mind. Their positive message should be heard and recognised not just to counter the shallow, lazy and negative attitude to Muslims across the world but as a message the whole of humanity should follow. Instead of persecuting these people we should use them as role models and the level of persecution they face across the world should be better know and challenged particularly where it is enshrined in law like it is in Pakistan. These people came to Penistone and asked for nothing yet gave a great deal. How many of us can say we do that?