Pennsylvania Real-Time News
Updated Jul 14, 2019
Known in our area as the “peace Muslims,” the Ahmadiyya are a sect of Islam that differs from Sunnis and Shias in some basic beliefs. They are meeting this weekend at the Farm Show in Harrisburg.
By Joyce M. Davis | firstname.lastname@example.org
Thousands of followers of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community in the United States are meeting this weekend at the Farm Show, having found a safe haven in Harrisburg to celebrate a religion for which they are persecuted in their native lands.
Known in our area as the “peace Muslims,” the Ahmadiyya are a sect of Islam that differs from Sunnis and Shias in some basic beliefs. Ahmadiyya Muslims believe the Messiah has already come, in the person of their founder, Mirzah Gulam Ahmad, who died in 1908. They are led today by Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, who lives in London.
For the past 71 years, the Ahmadiyya have held an annual “Jalsa Salana” in the United States to renew their commitment to peace and to advancing human rights around the world. For at least the past 10 years, anywhere from 8,000 to 10,000 Ahmadiyya Muslims have chosen Harrisburg as the site for the U.S. convention.
They disavow violent jihad, advocate global peace and promote the motto “love for all, hatred for none.” All of this has made them a target for Muslim extremists who consider them heretics.
In Pakistan, hundreds of Ahmaddiya Muslims have been killed in pograms that are widespread and persistent. In other parts of the world, they are also persecuted and face brutal discrimination. Even in the United States, Ahmadiyya face ostracization and rejection from many mainstream Muslims.
The Ahmadiyya also find themselves the targets of anti-Muslim hostility in this country from home-grown extremists who don’t know the difference between a Shia and a Sunni, let alone an Ahmadiyya Muslim.
Rasheed Reno, a white American convert to the Ahmadiyya, spoke Saturday afternoon at the convention and decried the rampant ignorance that he says breeds division and hatred.
“We’ve witnessed growing intolerance around the world,” Reno said, describing the hostility he experienced from members of his own family against his adopted religion. He talked about his constant battles on social media to counter misinformation, stereotyping and downright disdain of Islam.
“Ever since Sept. 11, Muslims have faced hostility and hatred in this country,” he said, and that hatred has even been directed against the Ahmadiyya, who are known around the world for rejecting extremism.
They also are known for their charitable work around the world through the non-governmental organization Humanity First, and for advocating for persecuted peoples throughout the world, including the Uighur minority in China.
The local Ahmadiyya community participated in an advocacy day on Capitol Hill to call attention to the plight of the Muslim minority in China’s northwestern Xinjiang province.
And at the Ahmadiyya meeting on Saturday, Rushan Abbas, executive director of the Campaign for Uighurs, described the “most tremendous atrocities of our time,” that she says are under way in China, with millions of people in her ethnic group “facing persecution, humiliation and extermination.” Over 200 Uighurs are attending the convention.
“These are crimes of humanity,” she said, “that threaten all of us.” But too many people in the world are remaining silent as men, women and children are being detained, tortured and killed, she said.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim’s 71 Jalsa Salana concludes with religious ceremonies today.