Bill Birtles Interviews His Holiness for ABCNo Comments | February 2014
B: Can I first of all ask you about the Ahmadiyya Community. In Australia I would say it is not particularly well-known. There is not a great deal known about the Ahmadiyya Community outside of the Community. So you can introduce a little bit for an audience who doesn’t know a great deal, what are the most important aspects of your faith?
H: If the Ahmadiyya Community has not been known up until now then I admit it is our fault. It should have been known by now. Although the Ahmadiyya Community is a very small Community, our activities for the creation of peace and love in the society are more than any other community. So they (the Ahmadiyya Community Australia) should have been known by now. They should make some programme and I will guide them as to how to become known in the society here in Australia.
In other parts of the world we organise charity walks and donate to so many local and national charities. In the United States we had a blood drive where we collected more than 12,000 bags of blood and one of these camps was held in Capitol Hill. So quite a number of people and politicians know us there. Even now, newspapers have started writing that the Ahmadiyya Community is the only Muslim Community which is very peaceful and wants to create love and harmony in the society. So through you, now I give the message that people should know us as the peace-loving and law-abiding community. And we also believe in the saying of the Prophet of Islamsa that love of one’s country is part of your faith.
B: What is the main message you are bringing on this trip to Australia?
H: My main purpose of coming here is to see my people, the members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, and to hold meetings with officials, apart from the gathering we are holding nowadays with common Ahmadis. This is the main purpose. Other than that if I am ever given the chance I would extend my message of love and peace to the society, to the people of the country and the world at large, that nowadays the prevailing conditions of the world are getting worse. If we do not take action now and if we do not take measures now, the way the world is going you will see a great havoc is going to develop.
B: What is your assessment of the situation in Syria in particular and also in the wider Middle East in regards to the Arab Spring protest? Now it has been a couple of years since they began. So what is your assessment of this situation?
H: When this so-called Arab Spring started I delivered a sermon at the time, more than two years ago. I have been advising off and on, wherever we can reach to the people and governments, that they should behave in a manner through which (the conflict) can be solved amicably between two parties. Even just recently three or four weeks ago, I delivered a sermon. My sermon is translated into 7-8 or even more languages of the world. It is heard widely by Ahmadis and through the Internet and other media and by other people also. Some other people who have interest in the Community do listen to the sermon – therein I explained clearly that both parties in the Syrian situation, the government and the public, should behave in a way which is human; otherwise they have already ruined the peace of the country, they are just going to make their country doomed. Moreover this will spread to the region. And there is a fear and I am scared that it can spread even all across the world and it can be the cause of a third world war.
B: Tell us a little about the situation of Ahmadis abroad in countries like Pakistan. I understand there are huge levels of persecution. In recent times what has the situation been like for them?
H: In Pakistan during the Bhutto regime a law was enacted against Ahmadis in 1974. That law says that Ahmadis are “not Muslims” for the purposes of the law and constitution. Later on when the Bhutto regime was overthrown, Zia-ul-Haq, the Army Chief, came into power. He further reinforced the law by saying that if an Ahmadi says “Salaam” to anybody – which is the normal greeting of “Assalamo Alaikum…” that you must have heard – everyone is allowed to say this but if an Ahmadi says this he can be imprisoned for three years in rigorous imprisonment and plus a fine. If you say “Bismillah”, or if any of your actions are in accordance with practices of common Muslims, you will be held responsible and in the eyes of the law you will be punished.
Since then, the Mullah has been given a free-hand to do whatever he likes. Of course, the Mullah has no political power up until now in Pakistan, but he has such a pulpit which has ‘nuisance power’ on the street. And people and politicians fear the Mullah, because of that one reason, and because of also giving totally and completely false allegations against us that we are, God forbid, undermining the status of the Holy Prophet of Islamsa. Because of this, the situation has now become even worse than before. In 2010, in two of our mosques almost 90 people were killed and hundreds of them were injured. And every now and then after every one or two weeks, I receive the news of one or two Ahmadis being murdered or martyred.
B: So this is ongoing?
H: Yes it is an ongoing process. And it can never stop until that obnoxious law exists.
B: What about in other parts of the world, particularly in countries like Bangladesh and Indonesia. What is the situation there?
H: As far as Bangladesh is concerned, although the cleric and the Mullah are against us, the government until now is doing justice. We Ahmadis are considered the citizens of the country and we have all rights, unlike in Pakistan. In Indonesia in certain areas where the administrations is against us, they are creating problems and the Mullah there is also very furious. Whenever they get the chance, they raise a hue and cry. Not only a hue and cry, but they also raise arms and they can go to any extent. This is why some time ago, three of our Ahmadis were beaten to death in the mosque.
B: I would like to ask you some questions about the Muslim Community over here, particularly here in Western Sydney. As you are aware it is a very multi-cultural area with a fairly large Muslim Community. Do you think there are particular challenges for Muslim Communities living in Western societies such as Australia.
H: If Muslims are practising true Islam, then there should not be any challenge of absorbing, adjusting or living in any society, whether it is Western or Eastern. In a short sentence, we have made a slogan of the teachings of Islam; that is Love for All Hatred for None. If that message is there and as I have already said, that the love of your country is part of your faith, so both these slogans or messages are such that I do not feel we have any problem in adjusting ourselves in any society, whether Western or Eastern or whatever it is. We are law-abiding.
You see, we believe that Allah is not only for Muslims. Allah is for the whole Universe. And Allah especially loves His Creation. Wherever the rights of His creation are being denied, Allah is not happy with that. So when you are discharging the rights towards your fellow beings, and you want to live peacefully in the society and you spread the message of love and harmony, I do not think there should be any problem of adjusting Muslims into a society.
B: There was for example last year when there were the global protests again the American film that was offensive to Islam, there were also protests in Sydney. Now a small number of people involved in that protest ended up being arrested and charged for violence. So at the time there was a lot of media coverage of this here in Australia. Do you feel there are any particular reasons why some of those protests, not just here but overseas, did have a more angry element to them?
H: I don’t know what percentage of the Muslims was involved in that. I hope it was a very few percentage of the Muslims.
B: It probably was a relatively small proportion.
H. The Muslims living here were either indifferent or disliked it. During that time, I also delivered a sermon and I actually expressed my displeasure to this film; but I said that this is not the way; that we organise some protests or break the property of the country.
The right way is to answer the accusation in the same manner. And the best way is to preach the true teachings of Islam to the people and to tell the people of the world what the true picture of the Holy Prophet of Islamsa is and, his behaviour. He never asked (his followers) to act with such type of extremism, which is being practiced nowadays by the Muslims. So if we give the true picture and tell people how he lived, people would know. That is the true way of expression; to retaliate not by sword, not by power, not by protesting, not by breaking the law, but by presenting the beautiful teachings and how the Prophetsa spent his life.
B: Do you feel there is any fundamental chasm at the moment between the Islamic and Western worlds. It is a few years on from the Iraq War. The Afghanistan war is also winding down. What sort of feeling do you think there is between the two worlds?
H: This fundamentalism is always there, but they are not in the majority. But the question is that none of these organisations or Muslim countries has any arsenal or armament industry. Wherefrom are they getting it? Obviously, from the West. Either it is from Eastern Europe, or through other ways or underhand dealings – I do not know how. That is what I have been telling the politicians all of the time. So if you and the big powers want to, they can control these extremists. They don’t have oil money and so somebody who has oil money or some of the wealthier nations are helping them.
B: Just a final question, in Australia in recent years the issue of asylum seekers has been particularly prominent. And both the current government and the government that was just ousted, both took very hard-line policies of people who turned up on boats. Many of them are from Iran and parts of the world like Afghanistan. What are thoughts on what attitude Australians should have towards asylum seekers?
H: I gave a brief lecture in the European Parliament wherein I mentioned how the immigrants should be treated in the countries. So I think one thing is that you should read that, which we will provide. Secondly, Australia is part of the United Nations. And the charter says that those refugees who are, of course, being deprived of their rights in their respective countries should be absorbed in other countries and their problems should be solved. Either you should solve their problems in their respective country or at least if they are right, and not only because of gaining some benefit by coming here, if they are denied their rights then they should be absorbed. From both sides, honesty should be shown.
B: Thank you so much. I very much appreciate it.