FROM today until Sunday the Ahmadiyya sect of Islam is holding a Jalsa Salana near the Hampshire village of East Worldham, population 310. It is expected that 35,000 Muslims from over 100 countries will turn up for the formal three-day annual convention of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Although Ahmadis constitute only 1 per cent of the world’s Muslims, this will be the UK’s largest Muslim gathering.

The main theme of the Jalsa Salana is the concerns of the Ahmadiyya at what they see as the widespread increase in Islamophobia in the UK. According to a new poll by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and ComRes, 48 per cent of Britons believe that Islam is incompatible with British values, whilst 29 per cent of us believe that Islam encourages violence against non-Muslims.

Unfortunately, if the Ahmadiyya face rejection, persecution and physical attacks it is usually at the hands of Muslims. The Ahmadiyya are themselves largely a peaceable people who seek to live in harmony with their neighbours. They are persecuted, but it is mainly by other Muslims.

The Ahmadi differ from the majority of Muslims in that they believe the Prophet Muhammad was not the final Prophet. The majority of Muslims say that claiming there may be a prophet after Muhammad is inconsistent with Islamic belief. Sunni and Shia may differ greatly but they are of one mind when it comes to the Ahmadi: they are considered non-Muslims.

Since the beginning of the sect in 1889 they have been subjected to recurrent persecution by ‘orthodox’ Muslims. Ahmadis face continuous harassment, threats, employment termination and social ostracism.

The constitution of Pakistan states that they are not to be considered true Muslims. Under Pakistani law, a ‘place of worship’ for Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan cannot be called a mosque. Ordinance XX not only prohibits Ahmadis from practising Islam but also ‘posing as Muslim’. 

Ahmadis are frequently the victims of terrorism and incarceration, most notably during the 1953 Lahore riots, the 1974 Anti-Ahmadiyya riots and the May 2010 attacks on Ahmadi mosques in Lahore in which 94 Ahmadis were murdered by suicide attack. More than 250 members of the community have been killed in Pakistan by anti-Ahmadi terrorist groups. 

Attacks on Ahmadis occur nearer home than Pakistan. In March 2016 Tanveer Ahmed, a Sunni Muslim taxi driver from Bradford travelled to Glasgow for the express purpose of confronting Ahmadi shopkeeper Asad Shah. Shah’s family had originally moved to Glasgow in 1990 to escape state-sanctioned religious persecution in Pakistan. 

Ahmed subjected the shopkeeper to a frenzied attack, described in the High Court in Glasgow by the judge, Lady Rae, as an ‘appalling display of merciless violence’ and a ‘barbaric, premeditated and wholly unjustified killing of a much-loved man’. 

Tanveer Ahmed’s justification for the murder was that ‘this all happened for one reason and no other issues and no other intentions. Asad Shah disrespected the messenger of Islam the prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him’. Lady Rae sentenced him to 27 years in prison.

That 29 per cent of us believe that Islam is incompatible with British values is hardly surprising. The values of a community are those beliefs and understandings which develop through time and are an expression of what a particular cultural community holds true.

The culture which formed the community we call Britain was largely formed by Christians according to their understanding of Christian teaching. It is inevitable that this culture and its values will differ from one which has been formed by Muslims based on Islamic teaching.

The theology of the Bible and the theology of Koran are incompatible and therefore the culture and values which emerge from them are going to evidence major differences. To point this out is not Islamophobic any more than saying that a culture formed from Christian principles will differ from any formed from Hindu or Buddhist or communist principles is Hindu-phobic, Buddhist-phobic, Marxo-phobic or any other invented term.

That an imam would argue that an Islamic culture is better than a Christian-based culture is not Christophobic, merely a statement of his judgment and belief. Neither should it be Islamophobic to hold that a Christian-based culture is better than an Islamic-based culture. The population of Europe generally believe a Christian-based culture is preferable. We do not see floods of people risking their lives crossing the Mediterranean to escape France and Germany for the delights of Libya and Algeria.

Once a crime becomes a matter of subjective opinion it loses touch with reality and becomes a handy stick with which to beat one’s opponents. Islamophobia is a sin in the eye of the beholder which can be trotted out whenever anyone criticises Islam, whether or not that criticism is justified. All too often the object of the exercise is to silence the critic of Islam.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims attempted to define Islamophobia as ‘a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness’, and as ‘cultural racism’. Defining ‘Islamophobia’ as ‘cultural racism’ would in effect make it unacceptable to criticise Islamic culture or practices.

In this view, describing a culture that gives fewer rights to women as inferior to one where women have more rights would be Islamophobic. Saying that it is culturally better for women not to be forced to cover their faces would be Islamophobic. Arguing that polygamy should be outlawed because it is bad for society would be Islamophobic.

The term ‘Islamophobia’ has no place in any democracy. Those who force the ‘Islamophobia’ agenda are determined to resist any attempt to put Muslims on equal ground with all other faiths. This is to seek a superior position in society by wielding an invented victimology narrative, all the while covering up the gross abuses committed in the name of Islam globally.

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