Keynote Address at the 9th Annual Peace Symposium, 2012
On 24th March 2012, the 9th Annual Peace Symposium was held at the Baitul Futuh Mosque—the largest Mosque in Western Europe—in Morden and organised by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at (Community) in the UK. The event attracted an audience of more than 1000 people, including government ministers, ambassadors of state, members of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the Mayor of London, various other dignitaries, professionals, neighbours and guests from all walks of life. The theme of this year’s Symposium was ‘International Peace’.
In his welcome address, Rafiq Hayat, the National President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association UK, said that under the leadership of its Khalifa, the Ahmadiyya Community was constantly engaged in promoting values of peace, tolerance and loyalty to one’s country.
Siobhain McDonagh, MP for Mitcham and Morden and Chair of the UK All Party Parliamentary Group for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, said that though progress had been made, there was still much to achieve in terms of making sure that all people around the world were granted religious freedom.
Rt Hon Ed Davey MP, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, said that Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad(aba) was a “great leader for peace.” He also spoke about the risk of climate change and its effects on food and water security in the world.
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, thanked the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at for “contributing in so many ways” towards promoting peace and tolerance in London and bringing people together. He pledged to always support the Community and its charitable work.
Stephen Hammond MP read out a message from Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, in which he praised the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at for promoting tolerance throughout Britain’s communities.
Andrew Stunnell OBE MP, said the UK Government greatly appreciated the efforts of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community towards promoting charitable works and community cohesion. He said it was his first visit to the Baitul Futuh Mosque and found it to be a “very impressive building.”
Lord Eric Avebury said that not enough was being done to prevent wars and conflicts. He said to simply walk away from such challenges would be “morally wrong.” He said that despite being a victim of persecution in a number of countries, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at was leading the way in striving for peace throughout the world.
Councillor Stephen Alambritis, Leader of Merton Council, said that the Council was “proud of the Ahmadiyya Mosque and proud of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.”
The 3rd Annual ‘Ahmadiyya Muslim Prize for the Advancement of Peace’ was presented by Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad(aba) to the charity, ‘SOS Children’s Villages UK,’ in recognition of its continued efforts to alleviating the suffering of orphaned and abandoned children around the world and towards fulfilling its vision of “a loving home for every child.” Accepting the award on behalf of the charity was its UK President, Dame Mary Richardson DBE, who said it was essential to always put the welfare of children first and that she was “deeply moved, honoured and privileged” to receive the prize. Other guests in attendance included:
- Rt Hon Justine Greening MP (Secretary of State for Transport)
- Jane Ellison MP (Battersea)
- Seema Malhotra MP (Feltham and Heston)
- Tom Brake MP (Carlshalton and Wallington)
- Virendra Sharma MP (Ealing and Southall)
- Lord Tariq Ahmad (of Wimbledon)
- HE Wesley Momo Johnson (The Ambassador of Liberia)
- HE Abdullah Al-Radhi (The Ambassador of Yemen)
- HE Miguel Solano-Lopez (The Ambassador of Paraguay)
- Commodore Martin Atherton (Naval Regional Commander)
- Councillor Jane Cooper (The Worshipful Mayor of Wandsworth)
- Councillor Milton McKenzie MBE (The Worshipful Mayor of Barking and Dagenham)
- Councillor Amrit Mann (The Worshipful Mayor of Hounslow)
- Siobhan Benita (Independent Mayoral Candidate for London)
- Diplomats from several other countries including India, Canada, Indonesia and Guinea.
We present below the keynote address of the evening, delivered by Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad(aba), Khalifatul Masih V, Head of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
After reciting Tashhahud, Ta’awwudh and Bismillah, Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih V(aba) said:
“All our guests, Assalamo ‘Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahe Wa Barakatohu – peace and blessings of Allah be upon you all.
Today, after a period of one year, I once again have the opportunity to welcome all of our distinguished guests to this event. I am extremely grateful to all of you, as you have spared your time to come and attend today.
Indeed, most of you are well acquainted with this event which has come to be known as the ‘Peace Symposium’. This event is organised each year by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and is just one of our many efforts to try and fulfil our desire for peace to be established in the world.
In attendance today are some new friends, who are attending this function for the first time, whilst others are old friends who have supported our efforts for many years. Regardless, all of you are well-educated and share our desire for peace to be established in the world, and it is due to this desire that you are all attending this event.
All of you are here today with the heartfelt wish that the world comes to be filled with love, affection and friendship. It is this very attitude and these very values that the vast majority of the world longs for and which it stands in need of. In view of all of this, these are the reasons why all of you, who come from different backgrounds, nations and religions, are sitting in front of me today.
As I have said, we hold this conference each year and on each occasion, the same sentiment and hope is expressed by all of us, which is that peace in the world comes to be established before our very eyes; and so each year I also request all of you to endeavour to promote peace wherever you have the opportunity and with whoever you have contact. Furthermore, I also request all those who are linked to political parties or governments that they should also convey this message of peace within their circles of influence. It is essential that everyone is made aware that, for the establishment of world peace, there is a far greater need for high and principled moral values than ever before.
As far as the Ahmadiyya Community is concerned, wherever and whenever the opportunity arises, we openly express and declare our view that there is only one way to save the world from the destruction and devastation that it is heading towards, and that is that we must all endeavour to spread love, affection and a sense of community. Most importantly, the world must come to recognise its Creator, Who is the One God. This is because it is the recognition of the Creator that leads us towards love and compassion for His Creation, and when this becomes part of our character, it is then that we become recipients of God’s Love.
We constantly raise our voice calling for peace in the world, and it is the pain and anguish we feel in our hearts that inspires us to try and alleviate the suffering of mankind and to make the world we live in a better place. Indeed, this very function is just one of our many efforts towards achieving this goal.
As I have already said, all of you also hold these noble desires. Furthermore, I have repeatedly called on politicians and religious leaders to strive for peace. Yet, in spite of all of these efforts, we find that anxiety and turmoil continue to spread and increase throughout the world. In today’s world we find so much strife, restlessness and disorder. In some countries members of the public are fighting and waging wars amongst themselves. In some nations the public is fighting against the government, or conversely the rulers are attacking their own people. Terrorist groups are fuelling anarchy and disorder to fulfil their vested interests and so they are arbitrarily killing innocent women, children and the elderly. In some countries, as a means to fulfil their own interests, political parties are warring with each other rather than coming together for the betterment of their nations. We also find some governments and countries are continuously casting their glances enviously in the direction of the resources of other nations. The major powers of the world are consumed by their efforts to maintain their supremacy, and leave no stone unturned in their efforts towards pursuing this goal.
Bearing all of this in mind, we find that neither the Ahmadiyya Community nor the majority of you, who are members of the public, have the power or authority to develop policies to bring positive change. This is because we do not hold any governmental power or office. In fact, I would go as far as to say that even the politicians, with whom we have developed friendly relations and who always agree with us when they are in our company, are also unable to speak out. Instead, their voices too are being drowned out and they are prevented from forwarding their views. This is either because they are forced to follow party policies, or perhaps due to external pressures from other world powers or political allies, which are weighing them down.
Nevertheless, we, who take part in this Peace Symposium each year, undoubtedly hold a desire for peace to be established and certainly we express our opinions and feelings that love, compassion and brotherhood should be established amongst all religions, all nationalities, all races and indeed, amongst all people. Unfortunately though, we are powerless to actually bring this vision to light. We do not have the authority or means to achieve the results that we long for.
I recall that a couple of years ago, in this very hall during our Peace Symposium, I delivered a speech detailing the ways and means for world peace to be established, and I also spoke about how the United Nations ought to function. Afterwards, our very dear and respected friend, Lord Eric Avebury, commented that the speech ought to have been delivered at the United Nations itself. Nevertheless, this was a display of his noble character that he was so generous and kind in his remarks. However, what I wish to say is that merely delivering or listening to a speech or lecture is not enough and will not lead to peace being established. In fact, the key requirement to fulfilling this primary goal is absolute justice and fairness in all matters. The Holy Qur’an, in Chapter 4, Verse 136, has given us a golden principle and lesson, guiding us about this. It states that as a means to fulfil the requirements of justice, even if you have to bear witness and testify against yourself, your parents or your closest relatives and friends, then you must do so. This is true justice where personal interests are set aside for the common good.
If we think about this principle at a collective level, then we will realise that unfair lobbying techniques based on wealth and influence should be abandoned. Instead, the representatives and ambassadors of each nation should come forward with sincerity and with a desire to support the principles of fairness and equality. We must eliminate all forms of bias and discrimination, as this is the only means to bring about peace. If we look at the United Nations General Assembly or Security Council, we find that often statements or speeches made there receive great praise and acknowledgement, but such tributes are meaningless because the real decisions have already been predetermined.
Thus, where decisions are made on the basis of the pressure or the lobbying of the major powers, as opposed to just and truly democratic means, then such speeches are rendered hollow, meaningless and serve only as pretence to deceive the outside world. Nevertheless, all of this does not mean that we should simply become frustrated, and give up and abandon all our efforts. Instead, it should be our objective, whilst remaining within the laws of the land, to continue to remind the government of the needs of the time. We must also properly advise those groups who have vested interests, so that at a global level, justice can prevail. Only then will we see the world become the haven of peace and harmony that we all want and desire.
Therefore, we cannot and must not give up our efforts. If we stop raising our voices against cruelty and injustice, then we will become amongst those who have no moral values or standards whatsoever. Whether or not our voices are likely to be heard or have influence is irrelevant. We must continue to counsel others towards peace. I am always extremely pleased when I see that, irrespective of differences of religion or nationality, for the sake of upholding human values, so many people come to this function to listen, to learn and to speak about ways to establish peace and compassion in the world. Thus, I would request all of you to strive for peace to the best of your abilities so that we can keep the flicker of hope alight, that a time will come when true peace and justice will be established in all parts of the world.
We must remember that when human efforts fail, then God Almighty issues His Decree to determine the fate of mankind. Before God’s Decree sets into motion and compels people towards Him and towards fulfilling the rights of mankind, it would be far better if the people of the world should themselves come to pay attention to these crucial matters, because when God Almighty is forced to take action, then His Wrath seizes mankind in a truly severe and terrifying manner.
In today’s world, one terrifying manifestation of God’s Decree could be in the shape of another world war. There is no doubt that the effects of such a war and its destruction will not be limited to the war itself or even to this generation. In fact, its horrific consequences will be exhibited for many generations to come. Just one tragic consequence of such a war will be the effect it will have on new born children, both now and in the future. The weapons available today are so destructive that they could lead to generation after generation of children being born with severe genetic or physical defects.
Japan is the one country to have experienced the abhorrent consequences of atomic warfare, when it was attacked by nuclear bombs during the Second World War. Even today when you visit Japan and meet its people, you see an absolute fear and hatred of war visible in their eyes and from what they say. Yet the nuclear bombs that were used at that time and which caused widespread devastation, were much less powerful than the atomic weapons that are possessed by even very small nations today.
It is said that in Japan, even though seven decades have passed, yet the effects of the atom bombs are still continuing to be manifest on newborn children. If a person is shot by a bullet, then it is sometimes possible for him to survive through medical treatment, but if a nuclear war breaks out, then those who are in the firing line will have no such luck. Instead, we will find that people will instantly die and freeze like statues, and their skin will simply melt away. Drinking water, food and vegetation will all be contaminated and affected by radiation. We can only imagine what type of diseases such contamination will lead to. In those places that are not directly hit and where the effects of the radiation are somewhat less, even there the risk of diseases and illness will become much higher and the future generations will also bear much greater risks.
Therefore, as I have said, the devastating and destructive effects of such warfare will not be limited to the war and its aftermath, but will pass from generation to generation. These are the real consequences of such warfare, and yet today there are selfish and foolish people who are extremely proud of their invention and describe what they have developed as a gift to the world.
The truth is that the so-called beneficial aspects of nuclear energy and technology can be extremely dangerous and lead to widespread destruction, due to either negligence or due to accidents. We have already witnessed such catastrophes, such as the nuclear accident that occurred in 1986 in Chernobyl, in what is now Ukraine, and just last year after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, it too had to contend with great danger and the country was placed in fear. When such events happen, then it is also very difficult to repopulate the affected regions. Due to their unique and tragic experiences, the Japanese have become extremely cautious and indeed, their sense of fear and terror is fully justified.
It is an obvious statement that people die in wars, and so when Japan entered the Second World War, its Government and its people were well-aware that some people would be killed. It is said that approximately 3 million people died in Japan, and this came to about 4% of the country’s population. Even though a number of other countries may have suffered higher proportions of deaths in terms of total numbers, yet the hatred and aversion to war that we find in the Japanese people remains much higher in comparison to others. The simple reason for this is certainly the two nuclear bombs that were dropped on Japan during World War II, and the consequences of which they are still witnessing and having to bear even today. Japan has proved its greatness and resilience by being able to repopulate and rehabilitate its towns relatively quickly. But let it be clear that if nuclear weapons are used again today, then it is quite possible that parts of certain countries could be completely wiped off the map. They could cease to exist.
Conservative estimates put the death toll of the Second World War at about 62 million and it is said that around 40 million of those who were killed were civilians. Thus, in other words, more civilians died than military personnel. Such devastation occurred despite the fact that apart from in Japan, a traditional war was fought with conventional weapons everywhere else.
The United Kingdom had to bear the loss of around half a million people. Of course, at that time, it was still a colonial power and so its colonies also fought on its behalf. If we include their losses then the death toll rises to millions.
In India alone, around 1.6 million people lost their lives.
However, today the situation has changed, and those very countries that were colonies of the United Kingdom, and who fought for the British Empire, could today fight against Great Britain if war breaks out. Moreover, as I mentioned earlier, even some small countries have acquired nuclear weapons.
What causes great fear is the knowledge that such nuclear weapons could end up in the hands of such people who either do not have the ability or who choose not to think about the consequences of their actions. In truth, such people do not even care about the consequences, and are trigger-happy.
Thus, if the major powers do not act with justice, do not eliminate the frustrations of smaller nations and do not adopt great and wise policies, then the situation will spiral out of control and the destruction that will follow is beyond our comprehension and imagination. Even the majority of the world who do desire peace will also become engulfed by this devastation.
Thus, it is my ardent wish and hope that the leaders of all major nations come to understand this dreadful reality, and so instead of adopting aggressive policies and utilising force to achieve their aims and objectives, they strive to adopt policies that promote and secure justice.
Recently, a very senior Russian military commander issued a serious warning about the potential risk of a nuclear war. It was his view that such a war would not be fought in Asia or elsewhere, but would be fought on Europe’s borders, and that the threat might originate and ignite from Eastern European countries. Though some people will say that this was simply his personal opinion, I myself do not believe his views to be improbable, but in addition, I also believe that if such a war breaks out, then it is highly likely that Asian countries will also become involved.
Another news item that was recently given widespread media coverage was the views of a recently retired chief of Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad. During an interview with the well-known American television channel, CBS, he said that it was becoming apparent that the Israeli Government wished to wage war on Iran. He said that if such an attack took place it would be impossible to know where or how such a war would come to end. Thus, he strongly advised against any attack.
In this respect, it is my opinion that such a war will end with nuclear destruction.
I recently also came across an article in which the author stated that the situation of the world today is similar to the situation in 1932, both in economic terms and also politically. He wrote that in certain countries the people held no confidence in their politicians or their so-called democracies. He also said that there were many other similarities and parallels which were combining together to form the same image today that was witnessed just prior to the outbreak of the Second World War.
Some may disagree with his analysis, but on the contrary, I agree with it and that is why I believe the world’s governments ought to be extremely worried and concerned at the current state of affairs. Similarly, the unjust leaders of some Muslim countries, whose only objective is to hold onto their power at any means and at any cost, should come to their senses. Otherwise, their acts and their foolishness will be the means of their demise, and they will lead their respective countries towards a most terrifying predicament.
We, who are members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, try our utmost to save the world and humanity from destruction. This is because in this era, we have accepted the Imam of the Age, who was sent by Allah as the Promised Messiah, and came as a servant to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), who himself was sent as a Mercy for all of Mankind.
It is because we follow the teachings of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) that we feel extreme pain and anguish in our hearts at the state of the world. It is that pain which drives us in our efforts to try and save humanity from destruction and suffering. Therefore, I and all other Ahmadi Muslims are striving to fulfil our responsibilities towards achieving peace in the world.
One way in which I have tried to promote peace is through a series of letters that I have written to certain world leaders. A few months ago, I sent a letter to Pope Benedict, which was delivered to him in person by an Ahmadi representative of mine. In the letter I said to him that as he was the leader of the world’s biggest religious denomination, he ought to endeavour to establish peace.
In similar vein, more recently and upon observing that hostilities between Iran and Israel were boiling over to a very dangerous level, I sent a letter to both Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Iran’s President, Mahmud Ahmedinejad, in which I urged them to forsake all forms of haste and recklessness when making decisions, for the sake of mankind.
I have also recently written to President Barack Obama and Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, calling on both of them to fulfil their roles and responsibilities towards the development of peace and harmony in the world.
I am also planning to write and warn other Heads of State and leaders in the near future.
I do not know if my letters will be given any value or weight by the various leaders I have written to, but whatever their reaction, an attempt has been made by me, as the Khalifa and spiritual leader of millions of Ahmadi Muslims worldwide, to convey their feelings and emotions about the perilous state of the world.
Let it be clear that I have not expressed these sentiments because of any personal fear, but instead, I am motivated out of a sincere love for humanity.
This love for humanity has been developed and instilled in all true Muslims by the teachings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who, as I have already mentioned, was sent as a means of mercy and compassion for all of mankind.
Most likely you will be very surprised or even shocked to hear that our love for mankind is a direct result of the teachings of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). The question may arise in your minds, that why then are there Muslim terrorist groups that are killing innocent people, or why are there Muslim governments, who in order to protect their seats of power, are ordering the mass killings of members of their public?
Let it be absolutely clear that in reality, such evil acts are completely contrary to the real teachings of Islam. The Holy Qur’an does not give permission, under any circumstances, for extremism or terrorism.
In this age, according to our beliefs, God Almighty sent the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at, Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian (peace be upon him) as the Promised Messiah and the Imam Mahdi, in complete submission to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The Promised Messiah (peace be upon him) was sent to propagate the real and true teachings of Islam and the Holy Qur’an. He was sent to establish a bond between man and God Almighty. He was sent to identify and recognise the rights owed by man to one another. He was sent to end all forms of religious warfare. He was sent to establish the respect, dignity and honour of every Founder and every Prophet of any religion. He was sent to draw attention towards attaining the highest standards of moral values and to establish peace, love, compassion and brotherhood throughout the world.
If you go to any part of the world, you will find these very qualities embedded in all true Ahmadi Muslims. For us neither terrorists nor extremists are examples, nor are the cruel Muslim dictators examples to us, nor are Western powers examples to us. The example that we follow is that of the Founder of Islam, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and our guiding instructions are the Holy Qur’an.
Thus, from this Peace Symposium, I send a message to the entire world, that the message and teachings of Islam are of love, compassion, kindness and peace.
Sadly, we find that a small minority of Muslims present a completely distorted image of Islam and act upon their misguided beliefs. I say to all of you, that you should not believe this to be the real Islam and thus use such misguided acts as a licence to hurt the sentiments of the peaceful majority of Muslims or make them a target of cruelty.
The Holy Qur’an is the holiest and most sacred Book for all Muslims and so to use abusive and foul language or to burn it will certainly grievously injure the feelings of Muslims. We have seen that when this happens it often leads to a completely wrong and inappropriate reaction by extremist Muslims.
Just very recently we heard of two incidents in Afghanistan, where some American soldiers disrespected the Holy Qur’an, and killed innocent women and children in their homes. Similarly, a merciless person shot dead some French soldiers in the South of France without any reason, and then some days later he entered a school and killed three innocent Jewish children and one of their teachers.
We find that this behaviour is completely wrong and can never lead to peace. We also see such cruelties regularly come to pass in Pakistan and elsewhere and so all of these acts are giving the opponents of Islam fuel to vent their hatred and a pretext upon which to pursue their goals on a large scale. Such barbaric acts carried out on a smaller scale are not conducted due to personal enmities or grudges, but are in fact the result of the unjust policies adopted by certain governments, both at a domestic and at an international level.
Thus, for peace in the world to be established it is essential that proper standards of justice are developed at every level, and in every country of the world. The Holy Qur’an has deemed the killing of one innocent person without reason akin to killing all of mankind.
So once again, as a Muslim, I shall make it absolutely clear that Islam does not permit cruelty or oppression in any way, shape or form. This is an injunction that is absolute and without exception. The Qur’an further states that even if any country or people hold enmity towards you, that must not stop you from acting in a fully just and fair manner when dealing with them. It should not be that any enmities or rivalries lead you to taking revenge or acting disproportionately. Another vital injunction given to us by the Holy Qur’an is that the wealth and resources of others should not be looked upon with envy or greed.
I have mentioned just a few points, but these are such that are crucially important because they lay the foundation for peace and justice in society and the wider world. I pray that the world pays attention to these key issues, so that we can be saved from the destruction of the world that we are being led towards by the unjust and untruthful people.
I would like to take this opportunity to apologise that I have taken up quite some time, but the truth is that the subject of establishing peace in the world is of truly vast importance.
Time is running out, and before it is too late we must all pay great heed and attention to the needs of the time.
Before I bring my speech to an end, I would like to talk about one important thing. As we are all aware, these days the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, is being celebrated. If we rewind the clock 115 years to 1897, the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria was also being celebrated. At that time, the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community sent a congratulatory message to Queen Victoria.
In his message, he conveyed both the teachings of Islam and he also sent a message of prayers for the British Government and for the long life of the Queen. In his message, the Promised Messiah (peace be upon him) wrote that the best quality of the Queen’s Government was that under its rule, all people were granted religious freedom.
In today’s world the British Government no longer rules over the Sub-Continent, but still the principles of freedom of religion are deeply entrenched in British society and its laws, through which every person is granted religious freedom.
Indeed, a very beautiful example of this freedom is being witnessed here tonight where the followers of various different faiths, religions and beliefs have joined together in one place with a common aspiration of seeking peace in the world.
Therefore, using the same words and prayers that the Promised Messiah (peace be upon him) used, I take this opportunity to offer heartfelt congratulations to Queen Elizabeth. As he said:
“May our congratulations filled with happiness and gratitude to our compassionate Queen be conveyed. And may the honourable Queen always be kept happy and content.”
The Promised Messiah (peace be upon him) further offered prayers for Queen Victoria, and so again I use his words to pray for Queen Elizabeth:
“O Powerful and Noble God. Through your Grace and Blessings keep our honoured Queen forever happy in the same way that we are living happily under her benevolence and kindness; and be kind and loving to her in the same way that we are living in peace and prosperity under her generous and righteous rule.”
Thus, these are sentiments of gratitude that are held by every Ahmadi Muslim who is a British citizen.
At the end I would like to once again express my gratitude to all of you from the depths of my heart, who by coming here have demonstrated their love, affection and brotherhood.
Thank you very much.”