In the German state of Hesse, there lies a small town a relatively short distance by car from Frankfurt. The town is called “Florstadt” and is home to a number of Ahmadi Muslims. This year they finally got a mosque to pray in and, what’s more, it’s going to be officially opened by the Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba).
The local Ahmadis feel truly privileged and blessed, but many non-Muslims also expressed joy. Some of these guests were interviewed and asked how they felt about the inauguration of the new mosque and the keynote address delivered by His Holiness. This is what they had to say:
“You belong here … so be open and come and meet us.”
I’m in close contact with Islamic culture because my mother is from Iran and she’s Muslim… I’ve also been in contact with the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at for a couple of years due to professional reasons. I’m in closer contact with the women’s organization.
So, I’m very happy that Florstadt is now a place where you can meet and where you have built a mosque which is for peace and for coming together and showing each other that we are close with each other in friendship and in peace. So, I haven’t changed my point of view regarding Islamic culture.
You grew up with the Islamic culture, your mother’s a Muslimah also. So therefore, there’s no new experience you would say. What was your impression of Your Holiness? Have you met him before, or is it the first time? Or what impression do you have?
I was lucky to meet His Holiness in 2015 while he was here in Florstadt and when we had the first steps for building the mosque. So, I’m very happy that he honored us to come here and to have the honor again. Unfortunately, I couldn’t meet him in person, although it was said there would be a possibility to meet him.
So, I’m happy that I have the opportunity to tell him via this medium that it’s very inspiring to hear the leader of a religious organisation who is solely there to preach freedom and understanding towards each other. So, it’s very, very, important to have someone like him and for all of you to encourage people to live in peace.
Hate can’t happen if you know somebody and if you meet someone in person, so I always say that to everyone from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at here in Florstadt, they can’t hear it anymore because I’m repeating it all the time. Go out there, go and meet people. Go into the sports clubs, go into all of the places. You belong here. You belong to all of these, so be open and come and meet us. And you don’t have to drink beer to be part of a party. I’m not drinking alcohol as well, so it’s not a sign of not belonging, so just go out and meet us and be open.
“Very pleasant atmosphere. You always had someone at the table to talk to.”
My name is Thomas Runkel from Wetterau District. I am Chairman of the party “Die Grunen” and I am a candidate for public office.
You came for the celebration of the inauguration of the mosque. What did you think of Islam before you got to know our community? How does your image look like now? What do you think about our community?
I wasn’t really involved in the construction of the mosque because I come from the district town of Friedburg. But I know the situation of your community there and I’ve been dealing with Islam a lot, since 40 years, because I travelled to Turkey a lot. The image of Islam has suffered for me as well as for other Europeans in the past years, because from certain groups of Islam, a lot of violence emanates which goes against Europeans as well as against their own brothers and sisters, which is utterly disturbing to us. It irritates our people and that has caused many people of our country to oppose Islam. I definitely don’t.
I appreciate an open Islam and fundamentally support all cultures and religions living together in peace without pushing away somebody. This is very important for me. So my image of Islam hasn’t changed because I had a wonderful celebration here.
Have you ever seen or met the Caliph?
I have met him once at a similar event 5-6 years ago, but I have never heard him speak at that length. He is a charismatic spiritual leader. A religious leader. That is undeniable.
What I did not know before is that even in your community people fear other Islamic religious communities. So, you have to hear that first before you feel it, when you talk to people. And I talked to young members. It was hard to talk because the fear was big, and they didn’t want to talk about it.
And the second subject is, I am busy with ecology, natural reserves, change of climate, etc. I liked it very much that His Holiness said that it is a shared responsibility for every person and every Muslim is responsible for the environment and nature.
I was surprised how perfectly and elaborately everything is organized. You did a good job. Everything is organized right down to media support, and good food of course. Very pleasant atmosphere. You always had someone at the table to talk to. I have rarely seen something like that…
“He spoke clear words, which he stands for. I liked that very much.”
Which message of this evening are you taking back home?
[Husband] I never really occupied myself with Islam. But today it became clear to me, what His Holiness said, that Muslims and Christians stand for peace. That’s the biggest lesson I took from this evening. Yes, that’s true. I can only confirm.
What do you think about His Holiness, the Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Community (aba)?
[Wife] I never saw him before, but he said it very nicely.
[Husband] I haven’t seen him yet, only through pictures. Because I am a roofer, and I covered the roof of the mosque. I think it’s good. He spoke clear words, which he stands for. I liked that very much.
One always has prejudices. Every person has prejudices. But none of them have come true. This is a peaceful union.
[Wife] Actually, everything is one, if I am allowed to say that. I thought it would be organized differently from us, but it was not. Very nice. That it’s the same belief. That became clear to us today at the event.
“I felt the hospitality. A very nice event.”
My name is Axel Pfarrer and I am from Nieder-Mockstadt. I am a city council representative from “Bündnis 90” for the Green Party.
This evening I really felt, it’s a very open event. Before, I have known the members as “locked in” but I am working in Frankfurt. I met a lot of Muslims on the train and bus. But I feel it’s open today. I felt the hospitality. A very nice event.
The message, that he is also against violence, was impressive. Also, that he has actually the same status like the Pope for the Christians. During the talks, I would like to emphasize that it was very open, and I have made up my mind that I want to see and visit the mosque at Florstadt.
“… many young people who are very active.”
My name is Zetsewitsch, I am a contractor. We did the shell of the mosque. Also the one in Raunheim. That is why we were invited by Mubaris Javed.
My image of Islam hasn’t changed. I am from Bosnia and grew up in Frankfurt… The conversation was normal, a good conversation. The thing that is interesting is the fact that there are many members who actively serve the community. For example, Sahib Kessler, Hamad Ahmad, and Mubaris Javed. But not only them. At every table there was a supervisor. And there are many young people who are very active. It is very interesting to observe, and they all do it on a voluntary basis.
“Very structured, organised, and very welcoming.”
My name is Sarima. I’m the deputy, so I’m responsible for fire protection for the Florstadt Fire Brigade and we were very happy to accept the invitation.
How did you enjoy the evening, what did you know about Islam before this event? What new things did you learn today, if any?
Well, first of all I was very enthusiastic about the organization here. Very structured, organised, and very welcoming. Really warm welcome. We have a host sitting at the table with us and he was able to explain a thing or two about Islam beforehand, I think the general knowledge that everyone has of course, for the Ahmadiyya side you know the flyers that we had in our mailboxes and a work colleague of mine is here, who is a community member from here, so I already heard one thing or the other.
What did you notice about the media image of Islam and what you heard today from His Holiness’s speech?
A very good question. Of course, one has to say that the media portrays Islam, I think, here in our area, as being characterized not so beautifully. I would like to put it this way, that was also part of the speeches today, that there are various interpretations that you can either share or not. I think today I experienced the same as it was described to me before, with a very warm welcome. I also found the speeches themselves very pleasant, that a mosque will then also be for everyone and that all people are valued, and you don’t say, okay, only our faith and everything else is rubbish. Which therefore paints a very positive picture tonight, but of course to the initial question, what you often perceive is of course not necessarily congruent with it, it’s clear.
How did His Holiness, the Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Community (aba) affect you, what did you feel or perceive?
So actually it hasn’t changed much since the last time. I was at the foundation stone ceremony which was in 2015 or 2016. Exactly actually very calm. Very level-headed. As I said, I also found his speech very, very, pleasant, in terms of content, so as I said, an all-around successful evening. The community of Florstadt should be very proud of this, that it has worked out like that, and you can, of course, see how many people accepted the invitation.
“… he’s a very special man who really follows the idea of peace and freedom…”
My name is Horst Wismar, I come from Nieder Florstadt. I was born in Nieder, Florstadt, and had property in Florstadt, which the Ahmadiyya Community bought to later build the mosque on it.
Why did you sell it to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community?
I’ve been dealing with the Ahmadiyya people for years. 35 years ago, some came to Florstadt, then they came to us. I had an occupation in agricultural operations and bought agricultural products and that’s how we got in touch and later the children came to us. They learned the German language from us and I always taught a little bit during school education and helped the children so that they learn the German language better.
How did you enjoy the evening, what did you know about Islam before this event? What new things did you learn today, if any?
I didn’t actually learn a lot that was new, so I already know a lot about the Ahmadiyya community and that they approach people a bit, that they look for peace, that they build relationships with people, and that’s actually what is very close to my heart, to speak to people and make relationships with them.
What impact did His Holiness have on you? What did you notice about him, and what would you perhaps particularly take away from his speech?
Well, I think he’s very calm, that he’s a very special man who really follows the idea of peace and freedom, which is actually not that normal in our world anymore. We’re trying to do that in Germany too. To make a little peace and freedom, but we are not really succeeding in that. Our government is not really following this. That’s the problem.
At the Foundation Stone Ceremony, we had a conversation with him and he really had very good thoughts and everything for freedom and for the relationship between people, so that really convinced me.
“I’ve really liked seeing the discussions between people and the interactions.”
My name is Rebecca Fuller. Hello. I am from the Press.
How did you enjoy the evening, what you knew about Islam beforehand, the picture the media paints of Islam versus what you saw today and perhaps anything new that you learned today.
Much of what I learned about Islam was at school, and in terms of what the media portrays, I mean I myself work in the press. In the media Islam is portrayed negatively unfortunately, but I think today for me personally it has changed. I have had many conversations today and have seen an openness. I’ve really liked seeing the discussions between people and the interactions.
As you sat at the very front, what is your perception of His Holiness, what impact has he had on you?
He seemed very, very, sublime to me. I noticed that the mood was very different when he entered. He has made a very calm and authoritative impression on me.
What will you take away from this evening and what did you like the most?
I really liked the address of His Holiness; it was very inspiring and what will I take away? I will take away that communication and openness lead to conversation with each other and we can only benefit from talking to each other.
“Very convincing, very authentic; shining, respectful, clean conscience.”
My name is Brigitte Thomas. I come from the Protestant town church community in Oberroßbach and we were happy to receive your invitation.
What do you think about the portrayal of Islam in the media versus anything new you learned today?
I have to say that I learned a lot. I was very impressed, especially with the address of His Holiness, and I have to say that if all of this were to be implemented, we would be living in a wonderful world.
What impact did His Holiness have on you? How did you perceive him?
Very convincing, very authentic, shines, respectful, clean conscience. He has impressed me.
What will you take away home personally for this evening and what did you like the most?
It’s a difficult question. I never really had contact with Muslims, and I only ever visited a mosque. But what I take away is that a lot of what was said today, I accept even though I am a Christian. It is agreeable.