By Another Voice
Published February 12, 2020
By Amer Aziz
On Feb. 15, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community will celebrate its centennial in the United States.
Ahmadiyya is a revivalist movement in Islam founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in India in 1889.
Ahmadi Muslims believe that Ahmad was the symbolic second coming of Jesus in a sense similar to how the New Testament states Jesus of Nazareth spoke of John the Baptist as the second coming of the Old Testament prophet, Elijah.
Just as Jesus emphasized in the New Testament (Matthew 22:21) that it’s not a religious duty to fight Rome, Ahmad similarly preached that extremist violence and religious coercion is wholly un-Islamic. Throughout his life, he exhorted Muslims to focus on spiritual redemption rather than distorting the true meaning of jihad, which essentially is a moral striving to fend off sin, and serve humanity through peace, justice and charity.
The Ahmadiyya movement is rooted in a spirit similar to early Christianity, with a robust tradition of proselytizing, missionary work and charity. They are sometimes even referred to as the “evangelicals” of Islam.
The first Ahmadi missionary, Mufti Muhammad Sadiq, arrived in the United States in February 1920. Ahmadi missionaries began producing and distributing Islamic literature in the English language, which was unprecedented in the West. A message of racial equality and justice particularly resonated with the racial and social dynamics of the early 20th century in America, combating steep prejudices. Timothy Miller, in his book “America’s Alternative Religions,” speaks of Ahmadiyya Islam as a key influencer of the American civil rights movement.
Unfortunately, the Ahmadiyya movement has faced bitter persecution and oppression in some Muslim countries. As a result, Ahmadis sought refuge in the West and many migrated to the United States for its legacy of religious freedom following the tradition of the early Christian pilgrims who settled in America. Ahmadis are magnanimously grateful for the freedom of religion they enjoy in America.
In 2014, the United States Congress launched the Ahmadiyya caucus to highlight the religious and human rights abuses of persecuted communities around the world. Over the years, the caucus has highlighted the persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt, Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, Uighur Muslims in China, and Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan, among others.
In Buffalo Niagara, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community will be hosting a food and essentials drive for the needy to commemorate the centennial and to give back to the community where many Ahmadis have made their home. It will be held at noon on Feb. 15 at the Niagara Falls train station.
Amer Aziz is a writer and editor with the Muslim Writers Guild of America and vice president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Buffalo-Niagara.