By Atif Rashid, Journalist in UK
Ahmadi Muslim leader says his community is immune from radicalization
The leader of the oldest and largest organised Muslim community in Britain has said hundreds of thousands are joining his community because of their peaceful teachings.
The comments, made at the annual Peace Symposium of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community this year, came after renewed fears of radicalisation in the aftermath of the London attack.
The Caliph of the community, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad said: “You will never find any case of radicalisation in our community.
“Hundreds of thousands are joining the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community because of our teachings of love, peace and harmony. Just last year, 535,000 joined us.”
He explained the reasons why members of his community are never radicalised.
He said the teachings and fundamentals of the religion are made clear with guidance directly through the Caliph in any points of dissension. For example, he explained Islamic terminology like Jihad is often misunderstood and misrepresented.
He said: “The true Jihad is the one where you strive for self-reformation”.
This is in stark contrast to many other Muslim organisations who still have to provide such a distinct interpretation of commonly misunderstood Islamic concepts.
The Ahmadiyya community has been clear on this interpretation since its founder began the organisation in 1889. It has published thousands of books and leaflets on the matter.
He further explained that according to him, integration did not mean abandoning the principles of one’s faith. Rather, he said it meant you should love one’s nation and work for its betterment.
The community’s organised structure and extensive work with its young is another factor preventing radicalisation.
The youth branch of the organisation – the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association engages its members in various activities like tree planting, homeless feeding, workshops, sports days and spring retreats.
However, many Muslims do not consider the group to be true representatives of Islam.
Divided by a contentious theological point, it has caused rifts between mainstream Muslims and Ahmadis often resulting in persecution and ostracization of the latter.
Mainstream Muslims say Prophet Muhammad was the final Prophet and none can come after him. However, Ahmadi Muslims say their founder Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was the awaited Messiah and a subordinate Prophet to Muhammad.
This has led Ahmadis to be labeled as heretics and non-Muslims and even resulted in persecution in the UK and abroad.
Algeria has begun a recent crackdown on the community, arresting its national president in February as human rights groups call on the government to uphold religious freedom.
The government says arrests were for individual crimes and not targeted at the community.
Likewise, last year an Ahmadi shopkeeper was murdered in Glasgow by a man from Bradford who was radicalised by hate-speech against the group.
The community was forced to migrate from Pakistan to London in 1984 after the dictator General Zia outlawed the group and cracked down on its followers.
Since then, they have been headquartered in Wandsworth, London.
They are spread in over 200 countries with tens of millions of members.