Putting the Muslim Bogeyman to bed: The “Ummah” must open its eyes

The shahadah – the testimony of faith in Islam – states that Allah is (the only) God and that Muhammad is His Messenger. This is one of the five foundational pillars of Islam, along with fasting the month of Ramadan, undertaking the holy pilgrimage (hajj), giving Zakat (obligatory charity) and offering salat (daily prayers).

By declaring this and accepting the Qur’an as the message of God given through Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), we acknowledge the six articles of faith. We declare belief in:

  • Allah as the One and Only God
  • The angels
  • Allah’s books (e.g. Qur’an)
  • Allah’s prophets (e.g. Muhammad (pbuh))
  • The Day of Judgement
  • The unknown and pre-destiny

If you believe in these articles then you are Muslim. But there is a large group of Muslims -around 25,000 here in the UK – that are predominantly shunned, ignored, discriminated against and denied the right to be recognised as Muslims. Who? The Ahmadiyya Muslim community.

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La ilaha ilAllah, Muhammad al Rasool Allah

There is no God but Allah (the One God) and Muhammad (pbuh) is His Messenger

Love for all, acceptance by none

Ahmadi Muslims are known for their motto: Love for all, hatred for none and are an incredibly peaceful group dedicated to interfaith and charity work. However, they are shunned by the mainstream Muslim community as many scholars have declared them to be “non-Muslim”.

Now I’m no scholar but I know the fundamentals of Islam and I keep an open mind. The myth that declares Ahmadi Muslims as non-Muslim is based on the wrongful assumption that they believe that their caliph is a prophet, when Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is declared as the Seal of the Prophets in the Holy Qur’an.

Well I have spoken to Ahmadi Muslims and would like to clarify:

  • They do believe that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is the Final Messenger/Prophet
  • They do not believe that their caliph is a Prophet but instead the Mahdi/Messiah(redeemer) who has come to reform Islam

In any case, they believe in the shahadah and the six pillars of faith and regardless of the above: they do not deserve to be shunned and excluded.

From isolation to persecution

I’ve spent time in many interfaith circles and often witnessed great diversity within Christian and Jewish circles. Whilst there is great diversity in Islam, such diversity is not often recognised or “tolerated”.

The dangers of excluding an entire group of Muslims are far-reaching. Firstly, this give a negative perception to outsiders and whilst we’re not here to simply please others, there is a gross contradiction between propagating interfaith relations when there is a lack of intrafaith unity within the Muslim community itself.

The more worrying issues however are two-fold. Firstly, they highlight a tendency to propagate a discourse around a singular “true Islam” without recognition or room for diversity of belief. This in itself is dangerous and can and does lead to extremism. It mirrors those who monopolise a faith according to one’s own beliefs despite evidence or beliefs stating otherwise.

Secondly, this actively promotes the exclusion and “othering” of Ahmadi Muslims. “Othering” leads to violence and the tragic murder of Asad Shah in Glasgow in 2016exemplifies this. This was an explicitly religiously motivated attack towards an Ahmadi Muslim by a Sunni Muslim. For this to happen here in the UK is quite frankly terrifying. Please let us not slide into the murky reality of normalised religiously aggravated discrimination and the violation of human rights in countries such as Pakistan – a nation with the worst example government sanctioned persecution of the Ahmadiyya community.

In Pakistan, Ahmadi Muslims are expressly and legally forbidden from calling themselves Muslims. If an Ahmadi Muslim makes the azan (gives the call to prayer), recites from the Qur’an in public or greets people with “Assalam aleykum!” and is found guilty, then could not only face three years in prison but more shockingly also the death penalty according to current blasphemy laws. Thankfully no such executions have yet taken place.

Here in the UK, I have spoken to Ahmadi Muslims who have recounted the abuse that their fellow brothers face in Pakistan and it is here in the UK and USA that many are taking refuge and bringing up new generations in peace and safety. For such intolerance and quite frankly bigotry to spill over onto British soil is heartbreaking. Only recently a historic Ahmadi mosque was desecrated by a mob in Pakistan, not that long after an Ahmadi billboard here in the UK was removed after a backlash from non-Ahmadi Muslims. Yet the lack of mainstream coverage of the “controversy” in the media was shocking. No one wanted to talk about the double standards at play here. Freedom of belief and speech is for all, yet the reactions received seem to show a different concept of freedom – a selective right for only “approved minorities”.

Here we can see that “othering” and discrimination leads to the abuse of human rights including the right to free speech, freedom of religious practice and even the right to life. Whilst no doubt, 99% of British Muslims from outside of the Ahmadiyya community wish no harm and simply disagree with Ahmadi teachings, the community as a whole still refuses to acknowledge that they are Muslim. No one can force belief or a certain teaching on another person but what harm is there in “agreeing to disagree”? Ahmadi Muslims pray daily to Allah and follow the Qur’an. They are Muslims, whether quite frankly everyone else likes it or not.

Furthermore, whether they are “Muslim” or not is no one’s business but Allah’s. So I ask the non-Ahmadi Muslim community (to which I belong): when will this “bogeyman” be called out for what it is? When will “the Ummah” – billions of Muslims across the world in fact – open their eyes and acknowledge that this bogeyman is in fact an invented “otherised” demon reflective of our own community and the intolerance, simmering hatred and indifference within?

So, let’s put this bogeyman to bed and instead welcome our brothers and sisters, showing love for all hatred for none– without exception.

Credits and acknowledgements

Article written by Elizabeth Arif-Fear, first published by Faith Matters (28/06/2018).

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