Yesterday saw the beginning of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting and I’d like to wish any observers of Ramadan best wishes for the month to come.
At this point there will be a certain type of person sighing and saying there goes another do-gooder liberal apologist for Islam. The point of this post is to try (and for some this is a difficult concept to accept because of inbuilt bias) to get across the difference between Islam and Islamic fundamentalism. Fundamentalism exists in all creeds and religion whether it is Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism or even Atheism.
To try to show this difference I want to highlight one branch of the Muslim world – the Ahmadi Muslims. I’ve now angered not only a particular type of (and I’m seriously stereotyping here) white working class Briton but also a significant portion of the Muslim world. You see the Ahmadi Muslims are persecuted not only by the ignorant bigots who believe every Muslim is an Islamic terrorist sympathiser, but also by their fellow Muslims. I wrote a post on my blog in 2016 about the Ahmadi Muslims when I became aware of them after a local group made a totally altruistic £500 donation to the Penistone Mayors fund. No strings, no conditions, just a hand of friendship. I’ve written and tweeted about them a few times since then but is about raising awareness of the Ahmadiyya community and the persecution they suffer around the world.
The Ahmadiyya community originated in northern India in the 19th century. They follow the teachings of the Koran and identify themselves as Muslims but other orthodox Muslims consider them heretics because they don’t accept that Mohammed was the final prophet. Their motto is “Love for All, Hatred for None” and they live this out in every aspect of their life. They totally repudiate violence and terrorism of any kind. In the words of the fourth Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community…
“As far as Islam is concerned, it categorically rejects and condemns every form of terrorism. It does not provide any cover or justification for any act of violence, be it committed by an individual, a group or a government….. I most strongly condemn all acts and forms of terrorism because it is my deeply rooted belief that not only Islam but also no true religion, whatever its name, can sanction violence and bloodshed of innocent men, women and children in the name of God”
This is a branch of Islam which does much good public work – raising money for charities, supporting local organisations, helping local communities, irrespective of religion, hence their totally selfless donation of £500 to the community of Penistone in 2016.
As I’ve said, they are considered heretics by orthodox Muslims and because of this are persecuted by their fellow Muslims. This persecution is enshrined in law in many Islamic countries and the Ahmadi practice their religion in fear of their life across the world. For example, in Pakistan where the headquarters of the Ahmadi faith is based, it is illegal for an Ahmadi to call themselves Muslim, refer to their faith as Islam, refer to their place of worship as a Mosque, make the call to prayer, say the Islamic greeting “As-Salaam-Alaikum” (Peace be upon you), preach or propagate their faith. Any Ahmadi doing any of these in Pakistan risks 3 years in prison and anything considered blasphemous could be punishable by death. They are forbidden to enter Mecca and perform the Haj in Saudi Arabia.
In Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Indonesia, Bangladesh, India, Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries Ahmadi Muslims are hounded, persecuted, killed and their places of worship attacked, debased and destroyed just like the Jews and their Synagogues were in Nazi Germany.
Even in the supposed haven of religious tolerance that is the UK, the Ahmadi’s are persecuted. They are regularly abused and their Mosques attacked by not only the ignorant knuckle dragging morons who believe every Muslim is Osama bin Laden but by other Muslims. In 2016 a Scottish Ahmadi shopkeeper, Asad Shah, was killed in cold blood by a fellow Muslim because he was an Ahmadi. Appalling anti-Ahmadi literature has been found in other British mosques and hate speech videos by British ‘Muslims’ has been broadcast aiming to ferment anti-Ahmadi feeling.
The Ahmadi community is an example of what a religious community should be – about enriching the mind and body and good works in the community. We have Ahmadi communities near to us in Sheffield and Huddersfield (it was the Huddersfield branch that donated the money to Penistone). Their work, their beliefs and most importantly their persecution needs to be better understood and known. I try in my own little way by publicising them on my blog and through twitter but we need to do more. If a community existed to highlight the positive, beneficial side of religion and Islam in particular it is the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. I’m not saying that other Muslim communities do not practice the same level of tolerance and good work (I know from experience they do) but how many of these communities are persecuted by their own?
On behalf of the Ahmadi Muslims I’d like to put on record that I consider them devout Muslims, their places of worship are most definitely Mosques and at the beginning of the Holy month of Ramadan, I would like to say to all Muslims but particularly Ahmadi Muslims “As-Salaam-Alaikum”.