British Parliament debates about Ahmadiyya Muslims

“I understand that this is the first ever parliamentary debate specifically to discuss the Ahmadiyya faith, and it is a great honour to be leading it.” [Siobhain McDonagh]
UK Parliament – Westminster Hall
Meeting started on Wednesday 20 October at 2.30pm – ended at 5.45pm
Private Members’ Debate: Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan
Read transcript here:  Ahmadiyya Community [Annette Brooke in the Chair]

Siobhain McDonagh (Mitcham and Morden, Labour)

Britain’s Ahmadiyya Muslims work hard and contribute greatly to this country. Their belief in peace and religious tolerance is an example to us all, and is to be expected from a community whose motto is, “Love for all and hatred for none.” Their fifth spiritual head, Mirza Masroor Ahmad, [] lives in the United Kingdom, and their headquarters are in south London. Indeed, one of the world’s biggest Ahmadi mosques is in Morden. It has capacity for 10,000 people, which means that I have many Ahmadi constituents, as do many neighbouring seats. I am pleased to say that we now have the backing of enough parliamentarians to start up an all-party parliamentary group for the Ahmadiyyan community, and we will hold our first ever meeting in the next few weeks.

In my experience, my Ahmadi constituents are well-educated, cultured and have a sophisticated and peace-loving approach. I am therefore delighted to be granted this opportunity to talk about the Ahmadiyyan community. I understand that this is the first ever parliamentary debate specifically to discuss the Ahmadiyya faith, and it is a great honour to be leading it. However, I am extremely sorry to bring this community’s concerns to the House at this particular time. The circumstances that led me to ask for a debate are extremely sad. On 28 May, nearly 100 Ahmadiyya Muslim worshippers were brutally murdered in two separate attacks in Lahore. However, what makes the story especially poignant is not just the fact that the Ahmadi are so peaceful but that their murderers were also Muslim. What I hope to do today is to examine why the attacks took place, then ask whether there is anything that we in Britain and the wider community can do to prevent such atrocities happening again in the future. Finally, I want to assess what the implications are for Britain of how the Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan is treated and what we can do about it.

To begin, I need to say a few words of introduction about the Ahmadiyyans. Despite the fact that they have translated the holy Koran into more than 60 languages, span 195 countries and have more than 15,000 mosques and a membership exceeding tens of millions, theirs is a faith that is little known outside their community. The Ahmadiyya Muslim community was founded in 1889 and arose out of the belief that the long-awaited.

Messiah had come in the person of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian. [] Ahmad claimed to be the metaphorical second coming whose advent was foretold by Mohammed. Obviously, that contradicts the view of mainstream Muslims who believe that Mohammed is the last prophet. Nevertheless, the Ahmadiyya Muslim community is a very peaceful religion. They believe that there are parallels between Ahmad and Jesus, as God sent both to end religious wars, contend bloodshed and bring peace. For instance, they reject terrorism in any form. Ahmad declared that jihad by the sword had no place in Islam. Instead, he wanted his followers to wage a bloodless, intellectual jihad of the pen to defend Islam.

In a similar vein, Ahmadis believe that theirs is the only Islamic organisation to endorse a separation of mosque and state and to champion the empowerment and education of women. Ahmad also warned his followers not to engage in irrational interpretations of the Koran or to misapply Islamic law. In Britain today, we regard such attributes as modern and tolerant. However, those values are not shared by some other Muslim traditions, particularly those with a more fundamentalist view point. For such fundamentalists, belief in a false prophet is heretical enough, but for the Ahmadiyya Muslim community also to follow teachings that fundamentalists believe are wrong is adding insult to injury. Consequently, Ahmadis have long faced persecution. Their first martyr was killed in custody in 1901, and it is estimated that there have been about 200 deaths in total. Of course, religious disagreements have cost countless lives over the years throughout the world. Religions have a long and very unhappy history of attacking each other for worshipping the wrong prophet, even much closer to home than in Pakistan.

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