Freedom of worship for Ahmadis
Tuesday 8 December 2009
Here we go again. The Wolverhampton Express and Star reports that an "application to build a mosque" has been refused by a town council, this time Walsall council. The proposal to convert an empty town warehouse into a place of worship was rejected by planning officers on the grounds of it being an "unsuitable location" and that it would cause "traffic congestion". In addition, more than 800 complaints were received from local residents.
But wait – what's this? Those doing the complaining appeared to be mainly Muslims. A photograph in a local paper shows Muslims demonstrating against the plans and holding up placards saying "Listen to police advice" and "No more congestion". What's going on? The news report quotes a local Muslim as saying "There are enough places of worship in the area." Another added: "We are happy the right decision has been made. It would have been a public nuisance and is a relief." What's going on?
Well, it turns out that the planning application had been submitted by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association UK. The Ahmadis derive their name from the 19th century Indian figure Mirza Ghulam Ahmad who claimed to be the incarnation of the promised Messiah. Jesus – according to the Ahmadis – survived the crucifixion and went to live in India to administer to the lost tribes of Israel. The overwhelming majority of Indian Muslims rejected Ghulam Ahmad's claims and to this day his followers, the Ahmadis, are regarded as being non-Muslims by a consensus of Islamic scholars across the world because their beliefs contradict the Islamic teaching on the finality of Muhammad's prophethood. The Ahmadis themselves, of course, see it differently.
The Ahmadis have faced persecution in Pakistan and other parts of the world for their beliefs. And at a time when far-right groups in the UK are becoming increasingly emboldened and are openly demonstrating – as we saw in Nottingham at the weekend – against Muslims, not to mention the Swiss decision last weekend, it is crucial that British Muslims work with other faith groups in wider society to uphold the freedom of religion and not unwittingly assist those who seek to undermine it.Here's a shocking quote from the original article:
Rather than demonstrating against Ahmadi plans to build a place of worship, British Muslims could do better by learning from the organisational skills of the Ahmadi community and the commitment and dedication shown by their members towards financially supporting the growth of their community.
Resident Zia-ul-Haq, aged 56, of Hart Street, said: “It is a victory for the people, there are enough places of worship in the area. There was not a single person who supported it.I fully recognise that sometimes Muslims ought to protest against other Muslims. The obvious example is the protests by the British Muslims For Secular Democracy and Muslims4UK in opposition to the extremist group Islam4UK (which is a spin-off group from Al Muhajiroun). However, the Ahmadi's are simply asking for a place of worship in a disused building. By objecting to their request for a place to worship simply because they don't agree with Ahmadi beliefs, they are opening the floodgates for the right-wing bastards currently expressing the same sentiment towards Islam as a whole. There are measures being taken in both Jordan and Egypt to undermine Shias and Ismailis. Not only is that kind of bigotry not acceptable, but in the UK where Sunni Islam does not have the same priveledged position that kind of sentiment is liable to backfire badly. Religious groups often fear heretics more than non-believers and it seems that despite the message of unity one would hope the Hajj to teach, this is still true in Islam.
“Something like that should be to serve the community but none of the local residents were going to benefit from it. It is great that common sense has prevailed.”