The Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at United Kingdom hosted its 8th Annual Peace Symposium at the Baitul Futuh Mosque in Morden, Surrey on Saturday, 26th March 2011. The event attracted an audience of more than 1000, including government ministers, MPs, Lords, diplomatic officials representing nine countries and senior members of the army and navy. Faith and civic leaders; professionals including doctors, lawyers, writers and teachers, as well as residents from local communities were all in attendance.
In his welcome address, Rafiq Ahmad Hayat, President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama‘at UK, said that the Ahmadiyya community was at the forefront of removing misconceptions about Islam. It was a religion that advocated peace and understanding and therefore the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at promoted integration and dialogue at all levels.
Siobhain McDonagh, MP for Mitcham and Morden and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, quoted a verse of the Holy Qur’an which advocates justice and fair dealing in all circumstances. She said that justice and tolerance were fundamental to a peaceful society.
Lord Eric Avebury, who last year won the inaugural Ahmadiyya Peace Prize for his continued efforts to promote human rights across the world, said that intolerance was the root cause of the recent conflicts in the world. He said that existing UN mechanisms required reform, and that he felt that the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama‘at was very well placed to play a key role in that process.
Ed Davey, MP for Surbiton and Kingston and Minister of State for Employment Relations, paid tribute to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama‘at for ‘championing the cause of peace worldwide’. He said that the Jama‘at’s motto – ‘Love for All, Hatred for None’ – was a truly inspiring message.
Maqsood Ahmed OBE, Senior Faiths Adviser, Department for Communities and Local Government, read a message from Andrew Stunnel MP, the Minister for Communities.
The Right Honourable Dominic Grieve QC, MP for Beaconsfield and the Attorney General, said that in the past year the world had witnessed many examples of intolerance; such as the attacks on Ahmadi Muslims and on Christians. The world faced constant challenges; the biggest was ensuring that each person was free to exercise his own conscience and free will. If this principle was observed then people in conflict ridden countries would have the same rights that are taken for granted in countries such as the UK.
At the event, Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (may Allah strengthen his hand), Khalifatul Masih V – Head of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim community – awarded the 2nd Ahmadiyya Muslim Peace Prize to Abdul Sattar Edhi, founder of the Edhi Foundation, in recognition of his outstanding work for social welfare and humanitarian relief. It was accepted on his behalf by Mr Tariq Awan, Head of UK and EU Operations of the Edhi Foundation. Accepting the award via a video message Mr Eidhi said:
“I do not believe in differences. I believe in humanity. I never ask those in need what religion they practice, I just see that they are human and that they need my help. The best means for achieving peace is humanity; we all must have love for our fellow mankind.”
Amongst the other notable guests who attended the Peace Symposium included:
Paul Burstow MP (Sutton and Cheam), Minister of State for Care Services.
Stephen Hammond MP (Wimbledon), Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.
Jane Ellison MP (Battersea).
Matthew Offord MP (Hendon).
HE Mr Miguel Angel Solano Lopez, the Ambassador of Paraguay.
Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon.
Rt. Rev Bishop Paul Hendricks, the Auxiliary Bishop of Southwark.
Mr Tamba M Ngegba, the Deputy High Commissioner of Sierra Leone.
Representatives from diplomatic missions of Iran, Russia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Indonesia, Sudan, Uganda, Zambia.
Nezir Karabas MP – a Member of the Turkish Parliament.
We present below the transcript of the keynote address of the Peace Symposium delivered by his holiness, Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (may Allah strengthen his hand), Khalifatul Masih V, Head of the Worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim community.
After reciting Tashhahud, Ta’awwudh and Bismillah, Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih V (may Allah strengthen his hand) said:
“All distinguished guests, Assalamo ‘Alaikum Wa Rahmatullah – peace and blessings of Allah be upon you.
Today, we are gathered here again after a period of one year in accordance with our now annual tradition. This gathering has now become a permanent fixture in the calendar of the Ahmadiyya community and the majority of people who attend are our dear friends from outside of the community.
This event has just one purpose, which is for us to come and sit together in a friendly environment, to talk about that one goal and shared objective that we hold. And this shared objective is to promote love, affection, brotherhood and peace.
Even though we are Ahmadi Muslims who organise this Peace Conference, and although we are not liked all that much by some Muslim communities or some other sects of Muslims, we have among our audience quite a number of Muslim friends, who happily attend this function. Similarly, our Christian friends, Jewish friends, Hindu friends and Sikh friends are in attendance and have been attending this function. Even some atheists come and attend.
Furthermore, people of different countries and nations come to attend this event. I am told that today we have the representation of almost ten countries. Thus, this gathering is a demonstration that good natured people come together to sustain and develop their human values, irrespective of religious, cultural, political and national differences and viewpoints, and so prove their humanity. People come here to try and adopt that shared value through which peace and harmony can be established in the world. In other words, this is a small example of a multicultural and multinational gathering for the same cause.
Although this gathering cannot immediately improve the peace of the world, but nonetheless, by mutually coming together we can enhance the human values within us.
Nowadays, many countries of the world have multicultural societies and are home to various religions. By listening to each other’s views and opinions, and by regularly meeting one another, doubts and suspicions are naturally eliminated and it also increases tolerance. When you become acquainted with others even to a limited degree, then very minor and small matters are not made an issue of, in fact they are ignored. Further, when we interact with one another, it naturally leads us towards being more openhearted and generous.
The UK is one of those countries that has become home to people of many different nations, cultures and religions of the world. Although in comparison to many larger countries, the UK is relatively small in size, the broadmindedness of its people has made it like a world in itself.
In general, some European countries hold significant reservations regarding the teachings and traditions of Islam. Indeed, some countries have placed certain restrictions on its teachings and traditions, whilst others are considering how to do so. However, in the United Kingdom this is not the case. Due to the open-minded and progressive nature of the UK public, there is a positive influence here, which means that whichever political party comes into power, it does not toy with the sentiments of religious followers when discussing religious issues. It is my prayer that this desire for justice remains their guiding principle.
At the time when the British ruled India, the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community (peace be upon him) appreciated the British nation’s desire for justice and he repeatedly praised them for this. In particular, he praised the Government for not interfering with the principle of religious liberty. If the Christian Missionaries had full freedom to preach their faith, then so too did the Muslims similarly have full freedom to practise and propagate their religion. During that period a number of court cases were filed against the Founder of the Ahmadiyya community (peace be upon him).
The main reason underlying these allegations was the active religious opposition of other sects of Muslims, Christians and Hindus, towards the Founder of our community (peace be upon him). These cases were presided over by Christian, British Judges in the Court and some of the cases were filed by Christians themselves. But the British judiciary adopted justice and issued judgements against those people who belonged to their religion. Thus, under the British Government, every citizen was granted equal rights. It is only through such integrity that peace can be established in a society. I hope and expect that the British nation will continue to hold onto this precious trait and that even in the current world situation they play their role in the same manner.
I have just mentioned that this gathering is a meeting of different nations and its purpose is to try and strive for peace, and to foster love and brotherhood. But we can only strive in our own societies and environments. Tonight the guests here have come from many different segments of society. For instance, some are linked to politics, some with the Government and some have come from diplomatic circles. Others hail from organisations and groups that are trying to achieve world peace, such as our esteemed friend, Lord Eric Avebury, who is always at the forefront of promoting human rights.
Similarly, we have with us our local MP, Siobhain McDonagh, who is fulfilling the rights of both friendship and justice. I should also mention the Right Honourable Dominic Grieve MP, and Ed Davey MP. They are all helping us in promoting peace as much as we can. Sometimes it becomes very difficult to discharge the rights of friendship, whilst at the same time to discharge justice with justice. But I appreciate all of these friends and political leaders who are discharging both of these duties.
I truly believe that if all our distinguished guests strive for this common objective of peace in their respective circles, then – with the passage of time, they can expand and indeed go further and play a role in establishing peace in the entire world.
In terms of the role of our community, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama‘at, we hold a passionate desire to establish peace and to end cruelty in light of the true Islamic teachings. Unfortunately, however, in practical terms we cannot achieve this because we do not have any power in worldly terms. We are a relatively small religious community who, for the time being, is not considered significant by the world. Nevertheless, our elevated goals will ultimately lead us to playing a true role for peace, whose foundation is based upon the real teachings of Islam. The world will come to recognise the name of “Islam” itself as a beacon of peace and security.
Islamic teachings instruct us to help both the oppressor and the oppressed. When the Companions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) were taught this, they asked him: how could a cruel oppressor be helped? He responded simply, by saying that you can help him by stopping his hand, which means preventing him from wrongdoing. The oppressor thinks that through force he can subjugate his opponent, but those who are religious minded believe that God Almighty is the possessor of all powers, and that He will surely punish the cruel. Thus, the way to help an oppressor is to stop him from his cruelty, and therefore save him from God’s Wrath.
Despite the fact that currently our Jama‘at does not have the apparent means to stop the cruel from their cruelty, by virtue of which the rights owed to both the oppressor and oppressed would be discharged, we continue to try and stop all forms of cruelty by guiding others to whatever extent possible, by drawing the attention of those in power or through our prayers.
If governments and organisations in power, or indeed international organisations do not fulfil their roles to establish peace in the world, then despite holding power, such powers are ultimately rendered useless.
Now, if we assess and examine the United Nations, then we see that in its history – apart from a few occasions, it has never fulfilled the requirements of justice and therefore has failed to fulfil its role properly. This is because factors such as materialism, the forming of blocs and alliances, vested interests, personal enmity and grudges, have all proved obstacles to acting with due justice. And so the United Nations has not been able to establish peace, because it has not displayed true impartiality and fair dealing.
As I have said, even the majority of us who are seated here today, cannot bring peace to the world because we have neither the power nor the resources to do so. Despite this, we are not disheartened by the current state of affairs in the world. At every level we try our utmost and will always continue to do so. If in small areas we can influence others to desire and work for justice, then we will never miss such an opportunity. That is why we hold this Peace Symposium each year, and why in general terms whenever the opportunity arises, we call for peace in society.
Therefore, one day even people in large areas will come to desire justice, because the basic lesson that the Founder of the Ahmadiyya community (peace be upon him), has given us is that peace cannot be established without justice. And justice cannot be established without forming a relationship with the Higher Being. A relationship with the Creator of this world is a prerequisite for justice.
God Almighty has granted us countless blessings of all kinds. And He has taught us that, apart from establishing a relationship with Him, the most important duty is to fulfil the rights due to our fellow men and women.
Indeed, the Founder of the Ahmadiyya community (peace be upon him) has instructed us that in certain circumstances, the rights owed to mankind are even more important than those owed to God. We find many examples of this in the life of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), where the rights owed to mankind were fulfilled before the rights owed to God; for example, obligatory prayers (worship) were offered at a later time and the service to humankind was given preference.
We Ahmadis believe that in this era, the Founder of the Ahmadiyya community (peace be upon him), who we believe is the Promised Messiah and Mahdi, has been sent by Allah the Almighty to re-establish the true teachings of Islam. He has written in one of his books:
‘The task for which God has appointed me is that I should remove the malaise that afflicts the relationship between God and His creatures and restore the relationship of love and sincerity between them. Through the proclamation of truth and by putting an end to religious conflicts, I should bring about peace and manifest the Divine verities that have become hidden from the eyes of the world.1’
Thus, if mankind grasps this principle that it needs to develop a loving relationship with God, and if you understand that God is He who loves His creation, then man will naturally develop love for others without concern for his own vested interests.
Another extremely wise exhortation made by him is that by manifesting the truth, religious wars will come to an end. Indeed, not only will religious wars come to an end, but in fact, the foundation for peace and reconciliation will be laid.
Although in the world we find that there are some efforts made towards peace and reconciliation, yet certain grievances continue to simmer. As a result, the grievances that are removed or the peace that is established is not based on honesty. The real foundation for peace is honesty which emanates from the heart.
Although we observe that in today’s world religious wars do not really occur, yet vindictiveness and ill-will are meted out against each other. As I mentioned earlier, one unfortunate consequence of this weaponless war is transpiring in some countries, where certain completely harmless religious practices and traditions of Muslims are being restricted or prohibited. It is then claimed that these measures have no connection to religion but are necessary restrictions to assist Muslims to integrate into the local society.
Anyway, this is a lengthy debate which I do not wish to enter at this time. In response to these measures however, some Muslims indulge in activities that are completely against the teachings of Islam. So on both sides honesty is not being displayed.
Mutual love is developed though exhibiting honesty. And honesty entails that there is no difference between what is in your heart and the way you act to the outside world. A person should not give a false account of himself. Such high standards of truth are not usually found at either a national or international level. For example, observe how in certain countries of the world today there is domestic, political turmoil. The people have stood up against their government leaders and rulers. We find examples of this in certain Arab, Gulf, North African and even West African countries, where we see internal discord and strife.
This could be a threat to international peace and security and that is why the wider world is very concerned. International organisations are putting pressure on governments to fulfil the rights of the public and to stop the rulers from oppressing their people in order to sustain human values. But a real expression of integrity requires that if you wish to help the people of a country in order to save them from the oppression of their rulers, and you wish to save the world from major disorder, then it is necessary that the public too should be advised that they should not partake in violent disorder, or proceed with acts that will damage the nation’s economy. Once peace is established then it should be maintained by following this principle. However, true virtue and honesty is not shown. This is why there may be two different countries facing exactly the same circumstances, but in one instance, the international community supports the government, and in the other instance they are firing missiles on the government forces, on the pretext of liberating the people.
A few days ago, a BBC journalist interviewed a White House representative about the current state of affairs in the world. The journalist posed the question that he could not understand why the US was taking such a different approach to Libya in comparison to Bahrain, Yemen and other countries. The spokesperson had no clear or proper answer to this question.
Now both you and I are well aware of the fact that vested interests are given preference to honesty and justice, time and time again. The powerful countries of the world desire to maintain easy access to the wealth and resources of certain countries, and wish to avoid competing countries from having complete access to these same resources. That is why decisions are made on the pretext of helping the people, or on the pretext of establishing world peace.
It may seem as though the two major blocs that existed in the world in the past have broken up, but in reality they never broke up, but instead became dormant. In the current emerging political and economic landscape of the world we find that, once again, these blocs are very clearly shaping into formation. In reality, a major factor underlying the political circumstances of these countries is the current international economic situation, which is pulling us towards another world war.
If truth was really being displayed then these countries would derive benefit from each other in a just way, by forming proper industrial and economic ties based on fair dealing. They should not try to derive illegitimate benefit from the resources of one another, but instead should seek to come together and mutually assist one another. The Holy Qur’an teaches us about the wealth of other countries or others, in verse 132 of Chapter 20, where it states:
And strain not thy eyes after what We have bestowed on some classes of them to enjoy for a short time – the splendour of the present world – that We may try them thereby. And the provision of thy Lord is better and more lasting.
This commandment is given because restlessness within a country, and jealousy and enmity between countries is created mainly as a result of the wealth and resources of each other. Due to this greed quarrels break out which can have grave consequences. One of the biggest causes of the past world wars was such envy.
So, in an effort to avoid such acrimony the commandment is given that those with less resources should not cast their eyes jealously towards the resources of others, and similarly it is commanded that those with plentiful resources should look after those in need and less well off. Nations have been taught to follow the principle that they should derive benefit from the resources of others, in a legitimate manner.
Anyway, this topic is such that it cannot be covered fully in a limited time. In short, the disorder taking place these days in the world, whether on a national or international scale, is based upon just one factor – and that is a complete lack of justice, which is causing anxiety and restlessness to develop.
The question arises that how can the present situation in the world be resolved? I have given the answer to this earlier when quoting the writings of the Founder of the Ahmadiyya community (peace be upon him), in which he advised us to establish a relationship with God and exhibit the truth.
It is with great regret that I have to say that, leaving aside the materialistic people, some of those who claim to follow religion, and in fact those who claim to represent Islam, are actually spreading religious fanaticism. However, in spite of this, it does not follow that having a relationship with God is not the solution.
The Ahmadiyya community claims, and indeed those who are closely associated with us are witness to this, that not only do we raise a slogan for peace, but in fact, we make practical efforts to establish tolerance, peace and patience, so that the true teachings of Islam are correctly followed and so that attaining God’s pleasure is given precedence.
Whenever our community is caused emotional suffering or pain we exhibit patience and tolerance. When we are deprived of our due rights as citizens, we display patience and tolerance. When financial harm is purposely inflicted upon us, we display patience and tolerance. When our properties and possessions are looted or destroyed, we display patience and tolerance. Even when our lives are taken, we display patience and tolerance.
In Pakistan we are forbidden from practising our religion, but despite this we do not create any disorder. In May last year 86 Ahmadi Muslims were martyred whilst offering their Friday prayers. We bore this tragedy with patience. In Indonesia, our Ahmadis were recently martyred in the most barbaric and cruel manner. We did not respond violently nor did we conduct any covert attacks.
Nevertheless, the Ahmadis living in Pakistan, Indonesia and in other countries are still citizens of those countries. The Ahmadis are also from among the same local people and groups. Those Ahmadis are from the same societies where all of this terrorism is taking place. If not openly, then secretly some of our members could have carried out undesirable or unpleasant activities. But we have never displayed a harsh reaction or wrong response of any kind, because we have been taught to adopt patience and tolerance.
We have always implemented the teaching of Islam that you should never take the law into your own hands, and always keep the best interests of your country in view and never create disorder, because this is a requirement of true love for your country. Wherever in the world Ahmadis reside, no matter which country they originate from, be they Asian or African, Arab, European or American, their behaviour is always the same. For the sake of attaining Allah’s Pleasure they always steer clear of all forms of disorder. And this is the conduct that one day will not only save the world from anarchy, in fact it will be the guarantor for world peace.
Today, the world is in desperate need that it should adopt this attitude at every level, of recognising its Creator and fulfilling the rights due to His Creation. The people of the world should not only be concerned for their own rights, but should also look at their own obligations and be concerned for the welfare of others. This principle should apply at an individual level, a national level and an international level. It should be adopted by national leaders and should also be observed by the major nations of the world. Without this any effort that takes place will only have a temporary effect, and will not guarantee permanent peace.
It is my prayer that the desire both you and I hold for peace to be established in the world, is soon achieved.
At the end, I would like to once again thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for having enlightened this evening and for listening to my words.
1. Lecture Lahore, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol.20, p.180