The Rev. Johnnie Moore, a commissioner with the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, speaks at the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community's Jalsa Salana event in Alton, Hampshire, England, on Aug. 4, 2018. Photo courtesy of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community

Fighting intolerance, Ahmadi Muslims have won unlikely allies

ALTON, United Kingdom (RNS) — Johnnie Moore, one of President Trump’s evangelical advisers, stood before the Ahmadi caliph and tens of thousands of his Muslim followers on Saturday (Aug. 4) and celebrated the phrase “Allahu akbar," Arabic for “God is the greatest.”

“I grieve at the defilements of God's name to promote (acts of terrorism and murder),” Moore said in a short speech at the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s annual Jalsa Salana convention in Alton. “God truly is great, and he is a God of peace, and you are a symbol of it.”

The Jalsa, billed as the U.K.’s largest Muslim convention, was presided over by Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the caliph and leader of the world’s minority Ahmadi Muslims. The denomination’s members, estimated to number 10 million to 20 million, face often-deadly persecution from hardline clerics who consider them apostates.

Moore, whom Trump recently appointed as a commissioner on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, has drawn criticism from many in liberal and Muslim activist circles for his alignment with Trump. But for Ahmadis, an alliance with a political conservative like Moore is nothing unusual. Their strong advocacy of religious freedom and vocal condemnation of religious extremism have gained them several unlikely allies in the West.

“Sometimes the religious freedom space isn’t packaged neatly,” Amjad Mahmood Khan, AMC’s U.S. public affairs director, told Religion News Service. “We believe in religious freedom for all, and not as a partisan or political issue.”

Muslim advocacy groups have long noted that it's difficult to move in Western religious freedom circles. Muslim activists and researchers told Deseret News in 2016 that, particularly because of perceived ties to extremism, their contributions in the space were not valued. On top of that, many Muslim civil rights advocacy groups have shunned conservative politicians and organizations because of their ties to anti-Muslim policies. And Muslims themselves feel disconnected from the idea of religious freedom because of how they say it has been politicized by the Christian right.

But Ahmadi officials say they are happy to work with any nongovernmental organizations or politicians who share their goals. Ahmad told reporters during a news conference after the Jalsa that his community will join a secular organization working toward good. “When the purpose is not religious, we can work together for humanitarian work,” he said.

In 2014, Reps. Peter King, R-N.Y., and Jackie Speier, D-Calif., became co-chairs of the 32-member Congressional Ahmadiyya Muslim Caucus for religious freedom. Before that, King made headlines for chairing a controversial 2011 hearing about radicalization among U.S. Muslims — a hearing many Muslims criticized as an Islamophobic witch hunt. But one prominent U.S. Ahmadi wrote a letter to the editor in The New York Times at the time: "There should be no reason to blindly accuse the Muslim-American community of noncooperation. But if the government thinks that Congressional hearings will improve homeland security and help expose those exploiting Islam, I assure full cooperation.”

At the AMC’s annual Jalsa in Canada, too, speakers have included conservative former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who was branded an Islamophobe by many Muslims and liberals after, among other comments, his attempt to call for limitations on wearing the face-covering niqab shortly before the elections. (Many Ahmadi women worldwide wear the niqab.)

Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the international leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, speaks at the group's 52nd annual Jalsa Salana event in Alton, Hampshire, England, on Aug. 4, 2018. Photo courtesy of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community

Speakers at this year's Jalsa U.K. included Sara Khan, head of the U.K.'s new Commission for Countering Extremism. Her appointment drew criticism because of her support of policies that some claimed damaged government relations with Muslim communities.

“It is the Ahmadiyya Community’s defiant rejection of extremism often in the face of abuse, intolerance and persecution that brings me to today’s Jalsa,” she said. “I am here today to extend my hand out to you in friendship, solidarity and partnership in our common cause of countering extremism.”

In an age when many critics accuse moderate Muslim leaders of standing silent in the face of Islamist terrorism, the AMC is quick to send out press statements condemning acts of deadly violence. The denomination's founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, whom members believe to be the messiah, urged a “jihad of the pen” to defend the faith. Every year, the caliph keynotes a National Peace Symposium the AMC organizes in London for a crowd of 800 dignitaries and civic leaders, where he denounces terrorism as well as the governments that enable and sponsor such discord. He has also corresponded with heads of state and delivered speeches on establishing world peace before Congress and the parliaments of Canada and major European nations.

In the U.K., Ahmadis have become well-known for the “human chain” of solidarity they formed last year on the Westminster bridge after a Muslim man drove his car into a crowd there, killing four in what officials called an act of terrorism. Ahmadis' anti-extremism campaigns in the Western world are wide-ranging: True Islam clarifies that terrorism has no place in Islam, Muslims for Peace shows that the faith revolves around tolerance and justice, Stop the CrISIS and United Against Extremism work against youth radicalization, and Pathway to Peace identifies the requirements for moving toward a lasting world peace.

Amjad Khan said his experience engaging with the Obama and Trump administrations shows that it’s not always the case that progressives enact policies that help Muslims. Under Obama, the role of the international religious freedom ambassador remained vacant during much of his administration, and Khan said there were long stretches where the administration would ignore AMC’s efforts to engage.

While many leaders were skeptical that Trump would prioritize Muslim religious freedom, Khan said, the president appointed Sam Brownback to the empty ambassador position in a matter of months, and Brownback's office now holds weekly roundtables with global stakeholders. And last month, not only did Brownback speak at the AMC’s Jalsa in America, he invited representatives from AMC and a Pakistani Ahmadi victim of persecution – Farooq Kahlon, who was shot five times the day after his son’s wedding by anti-Ahmadi extremists in 2012 – to speak at the State Department’s first International Religious Freedom Ministerial in Washington, D.C. 

Brownback’s first international trip once in office was to a camp for persecuted Rohingya Muslims. And his first public appearance was his speech at an event hosted in February by the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, where interfaith leaders signed the Washington Declaration that called for respect for U.S. Muslims and affirmed the rights of religious minorities in Muslim-majority nations.

Regarding largely liberal critics who accuse Moore and Brownback of only caring about religious freedom for Christians, Amjad Khan said: “I always expect commissioners to naturally be passionate about issues they’re personally connected to. That’s why you need a diverse group to bring in their own experiences and interests.”

As a USCIRF commissioner, Moore promised Ahmadis that he had a “personal commitment to make sure that you’re not forgotten, because I believe that the answer to the worst of religion in our world is the best of the best of faith.” He pointed to a recent RNS op-ed he co-wrote calling for international pressure to be placed on the Pakistani government to undo its blasphemy laws against Ahmadis.

That personal commitment is partly because of behind-the-scenes advocacy efforts from Ahmadi representatives.

“I would like to see (Vice President Mike) Pence tweeting about Muslim prisoners of conscience instead of only Christian ones,” Amjad Khan said. “But the principle I advocate is that you must meet with anyone and everyone who will listen to you advocate your cause. Our job is not to dictate the political winds.”

But that doesn’t mean cowing into silence or praise when those people miss the mark, he said. “I’ve told Sam Brownback that when it comes to Islam, he needs to educate himself on this issue or that issue.”

And while many Muslim leaders announced that they would refuse to attend Trump’s controversial White House iftar dinner, held this summer during Ramadan, Ahmadi officials say they would have gladly attended had they received an invitation.

“We would never boycott an event,” Khan said. “It’s not in our DNA. It’s critical for us to have a seat at the table and discuss our concerns.”

Comments

  1. stating that the Ahmadiyyas are Muslims is tolerating a lie and spreading it. The reason Ahmadiyyas are disliked so strongly in the Muslim community is because they insist on a lie. There is a basic definition of what a Muslim is. Ahmad Ghullam and his followers are outside of that definition…..they need to develop a tolerance for the truth.

  2. I guess fundamentalists of all stripes make the same argument. “I determine who is a true ______”.

  3. Where can I find this basic definition of what a Muslim is?

  4. Sunnis believe that everyone who isn’t Sunni is a heretic. Shias believe that everyone who isn’t a Shite is a heretic. Yes, yes, we’ve heard it all before.

    Orthodox Jews believe the same about other Jews.

    Christians of many brands say the same of other Christians.

    Begone, you aren’t likely to get much sympathy here for your biases.

  5. pseudo intelligent snarky is not smart. Who is a Muslim? If you can tell me, then you can tell me I am wrong. You do NOT know. So why are you trying to tell me what I am, when you don’t know what I know?

  6. the answer is at your local mosque. Ahamdiyya follow a heretic. It’s like when a Jehovah’s Witness comes to your door and says they believe in Jesus and they are Christian. They don’t. It’s a common lie they tell to fit in and they shouldn’t do it. Ahmadiyyas follow a guy named Ghullam. If I said I was your mother, and I was serious, you would take offense that I try to stand on the ground of the woman who raised you. As Muslims we are taught to think like this about Muhammad (sws). Violence is wrong, but when someone starts insulting your mother, and insists on it, It’s like boiling a pot and constantly trying to make sure it does not boil over.

  7. Dear Ms. Khan,

    The first day in your new life begins now:

    From the studies of Armstrong, Rushdie, Hirsi Ali, Richardson and Bayhaqi————–

    The Five Steps To Deprogram 1400 Years of Islamic Myths:

    ( –The Steps take less than two minutes to finish- simply amazing, two minutes to bring peace and rationality to over one billion lost souls- Priceless!!!)

    Are you ready?

    Using “The 77 Branches of Islamic “faith” a collection compiled by Imam Bayhaqi as a starting point. In it, he explains the essential virtues that reflect true “faith” (iman) through related Qur’anic verses and Prophetic sayings.” i.e. a nice summary of the Koran and Islamic beliefs.

    The First Five of the 77 Branches:

    “1. Belief in Allah”

    aka as God, Yahweh, Zeus, Jehovah, Mother Nature, etc. should be added to your self-cleansing neurons.

    “2. To believe that everything other than Allah was non-existent. Thereafter, Allah Most High created these things and subsequently they came into existence.”

    Evolution and the Big Bang or the “Gib Gnab” (when the universe starts to recycle) are more plausible and the “akas” for Allah should be included if you continue to be a “creationist”.

    “3. To believe in the existence of angels.”

    A major item for neuron cleansing. Angels/devils are the mythical creations of ancient civilizations, e.g. Hittites, to explain/define natural events, contacts with their gods, big birds, sudden winds, protectors during the dark nights, etc. No “pretty/ugly wingy thingies” ever visited or talked to Mohammed, Jesus, Mary or Joseph or Joe Smith. Today we would classify angels as fairies and “tinker bells”. Modern devils are classified as the demons of the demented.

    “4. To believe that all the heavenly books that were sent to the different prophets are true. However, apart from the Quran, all other books are not valid anymore.”

    Another major item to delete. There are no books written in the spirit state of Heaven (if there is one) just as there are no angels to write/publish/distribute them. The Koran, OT, NT etc. are simply books written by humans for humans.

    Prophets were invented by ancient scribes typically to keep the uneducated masses in line. Today we call them fortune tellers.

    Prophecies are also invalidated by the natural gifts of Free Will and Future.

    “5. To believe that all the prophets are true. However, we are commanded to follow the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) alone.”

    Mohammed spent thirty days “fasting” (the Ramadan legend) in a hot cave before his first contact with Allah aka God etc. via a “pretty wingy thingy”. Common sense demands a neuron deletion of #5. #5 is also the major source of Islamic violence i.e. turning Mohammed’s “fast, hunger-driven” hallucinations into horrible reality for unbelievers.

    Walk these Five Steps and we guarantee a complete recovery from your Islamic ways!!!!

    Analogous steps are available at your request for deprogramming the myths of Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Paganism..

  8. Jehovah’s Witnesses are Christian, because they follow Christ.

  9. racism is a pretend expert doctor who has never been to a hospital or studied medicine. Have you ever even set foot in a mosque?

  10. Trump is able to rule America today because of a malpractice that is common on the internet. There used to be a time when you actually had to have proven knowledge of a subject before you went spouting off about it. The terms quack and hack were in common usage as Americans and Western people to encourage those without the proper training that they refrain from being pretend experts. No “I” do not determine who is a true______” But since your unstudied self, who is too lazy, lacking courage and openness do real study with real Muslims wants to be an expert anyway, you give a cheap answer that says everything is subjective. Sorry most of the world is objective (even religion), despite your disinclination to see otherwise. please learn how not to be a Trump person.

  11. yes…..I am a Muslim who goes to a mosque and spends hours studying Islam in a mosque with Muslim teachers….can you say the same? You know more than I do….because?

  12. see!?!? This is FALSE. but if you say it enough….on the internet and it becomes a meme….then you and Trump…rule the day?

  13. “There used to be a time when you actually had to have proven knowledge of a subject before you went spouting off about it.”

    LOL! Already getting into the realm of fantasy here.

    “But since your unstudied self, who is too lazy, lacking courage and openness do real study with real Muslims wants to be an expert anyway, you give a cheap answer that says everything is subjective”

    Flinging poo and doubling down on the very behavior being criticized here. “Real Muslims” being entirely defined by you of course.

  14. Why no infidel should ever enter a mosque:

    “Believers, take neither Jews nor Christians for your friends.” (Surah 5:51)

    “Believers, when you encounter the infidels on the march, do not turn your backs to them in flight. If anyone on that day turns his back to them, except it be for tactical reasons…he shall incur the wrath of God and Hell shall be his home…” (Surah 8:12-)

     ”Make war on them until idolatry shall cease and God’s religion shall reign supreme.” (Surah 8:36-)

    “…make war on the leaders of unbelief…Make war on them: God will chastise them at your hands and humble them. He will grant you victory over them…” (Surah 9:12-)

    “Fight against such as those to whom the Scriptures were given [Jews and Christians]…until they pay tribute out of hand and are utterly subdued.” (Surah 9:29-)

     ”It is He who has sent forth His apostle with guidance and the true Faith [Islam] to make it triumphant over all religions, however much the idolaters [non-Muslims] may dislike it.” (Surah 9:31-)

     ”If you do not fight, He will punish you sternly, and replace you by other men.” (Surah 9:37-)

     ”Prophet make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites and deal rigorously with them. Hell shall be their home.” (Surah 9:73)

     ”Believers, make war on the infidels who dwell around you. Deal firmly with them.” (Surah 9:121-)

     ”Say: ‘Praise be to God who has never begotten a son; who has no partner in His Kingdom…” (Surah 17:111)

    “‘How shall I bear a child,’ she [Mary] answered, ‘when I am a virgin…?’ ‘Such is the will of the Lord,’ he replied. ‘That is no difficult thing for Him…God forbid that He [God[ Himself should beget a son!…Those who say: ‘The Lord of Mercy has begotten a son,’ preach a monstrous falsehood…” (Surah 19:12-, 29-, 88)

     ”Fight for the cause of God with the devotion due to Him…He has given you the name of Muslims…” (Surah 22:78-)

     
    “Blessed are the believers…who restrain their carnal desires (except with their wives and slave-girls, for these are lawful to them)…These are the heirs of Paradise…” (Surah 23:1-5-)

     
    “Muhammad is God’s apostle. Those who follow him are ruthless to the unbelievers but merciful to one another.” (Surah 48:29)

     ”Shall the reward of goodness be anything but good?…Dark-eyed virgins sheltered in their tents…They shall recline on green cushions and fine carpets…Blessed be the name of your Lord…” (Surah 55:52-66-)

    Quran (8:12) – “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them”

    Quran (9:5) – “So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captive and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them.”

  15. not “flinging poop” citing unstudied talk that is totally not backed up by objective fact. There is a simple theological definition of what a Muslim is. You don’t know it. And when I point out your ignorance, you say hey! you’re “flinging poop!” HAVE YOU EVER SET FOOT IN A MOSQUE?

  16. Well, no, they actually don’t follow Christ. They are a self-effort “works” religion; you gotta score high enough (including knocking on all those doors every week!), or you don’t get to your reward (and even THEN it’s still possible for you to slip up and fall out!). They do not believe in the Bible’s clear John 3:16 message of simply trusting Jesus Christ by faith as one’s personal Lord and Savior.

    Now some of them are good people, folks you certainly wouldn’t mind getting to know and becoming friends. But no, the Jehovah Witness doctrines seriously does NOT follow Christ.

    https://www.jesus-is-savior.com/False%20Religions/Jehovah%20Witnesses/jw-comparisons.htm

  17. As I said, you don’t know what I know.

    To which Muslim sect do you ascribe?

  18. “The sect that does not patronize pretend experts on Islam.

  19. Just another intolerant fundamentalist jerk. We have Christians, Jews and now Muslims such as yourself posting here.
    It’s strange that in every posts you are arguing that you are correct and everyone else is wrong. I wonder why that is?

    Move on, you have no power or influence here.

  20. not that “everyone” is wrong. As Muslims, we know what are the requirements to honestly call ourselves Muslim. Ahmadis know the truth, but LIE…and you support them out of good motives and a lack of knowledge. Me knowing what what a Muslim is and not allowing you to lie about it does not make me a bigot….as I have stated else where on this thread, classic Trump think is you get to say anything and it’s right because ignorance is a good defense.

  21. Move on, you have explained your bigoted position more than once and we all understand what it is and where you stand. There aren’t any excuses.

  22. They just aren’t your kind of Christian. Just as the Ahmadi Muslims aren’t these guys kind of Muslims.

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