31 PRESS CONFERENCE IN SIERRA LEONE (During his recent West African tour, Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, Head of the World- Wide Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam, held a press conference in Sierra Leone at which he invited questions from the press). Hazrat. Gentlemen! I am at your disposal; any questions you wish to ask regarding anything I am here to answer. Q. Your Holiness! You have been here in Sierra Leone for about seven days now and have had an opportunity to see your Community and the country and to observe the extent of the implementation of the policies of the Community. What are your impressions so far? . Ans. During my visit to the country-side and different Communiti- es, I have been meeting various Government officials and Central and Local Community officials. The Press media also accompanied us. I have been attending many functions and ceremonies in schools, hospitals, and also receptions given to me by city councils. All along I have been expressing my views on various things which impressed me and the various suggestions which have been covered by the Press representatives who travelled along with me. It is a long story and difficult to repeat everything again. In fact during the last six days I spoke to gatherings, on the average of four times a day and some functions lasted for two to three hours. In a nutshell I can say that I am ,very satisfied with what I observed. The co-operation between the Community workers in various fields and the Government officials of all ranks and file is ideal and nothing better could be wished; and’tbe co-operation from the public extended to our schools, medical centers and missions is superb. All the people of this country are responsive to good things. A boycott movement was launched by some organisation which was patronised by Saudi Arabia. They distributed a pamphlet by post and by hand to homes which I read. In it they appealed for a large scale and total boycott of not only me but also of all the Ahmadi missions, schools, and hospitals so that there should be absolutely no communication between the Muslims of Sierra Leone and the services we are rendering here for this country; but 32 PRESS CONFERENCE it is a compliment to the people that they boycotted the boycott appeal totally. There was nowhere any sign of people being influenced by this boycott. Instead, wherever I went I found people standing in lines on both sides of the streets waving with pleasure, so naturally expressed, and small children dancing with joy. The experience was so moving, so touching that seldom have I gone through such intense emotions during my tour of the countryside in your country, Sierra Leone. So as far as I am concerned I have nothing to complain about. I have only to be grateful. I have only to express my gratitude for whatever your country has done to make my visit very successful. Thank you all. Q Your Holiness! I believe your organisation is spreading in the southern part of the continent and you are quite aware of what your Movement is doing there. How do you think the problems of that part of the continent can be solved? Ans. In South Africa there is a large community of Africans and also of immigrants from India, Pakistan, and other countries of Asia. They are leading a very miserable life under aparthied and totally segregated from meaningful participation in any phase of government or even in the affairs of the town councils. The situation is worsening to such a degree that now the very mentors of South Africa are getting worried. We have a mission there for preaching and also for looking after education and instruction in Islamic values and ways of life for the local people, but unfortunately there are many strong missions of non-Ahmadi communities who are very hostile to the Ahmadiyya approaches and to the Ahmadiyya wishes to serve the cause of the people in general. That is the reason I sent a medical doctor from London to find out the possibilities of introducing medical services which is another area of co-operation, not with the Government because we have no discussion with the Government at all. It is only Community to community contact which we are maintaining there and I emphasize this because sometimes the presence of Ahmadiyya Missions there is totally misunderstood by the Third World countries in particular and they think that we have a Mission with the Government. There is no relation whatsoever with the Government at all; no dialogue on any level. We tried to effect REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 33 communication with other Muslims and non-Muslims alike so that we could jointly render meaningful service, as we are doing in other parts of Africa, but it was completely rejected. On the contrary, instead of offering us a receptive hand of co-operation, the missionary I sent was jeered at and, if he were not an old man, he would have certainly been beaten. That was the atmosphere created against him being a very old man (now deceased) he was spared manhandling, but every other thing short of manhandling was done to him. So these are our limitations there. We can only teach and educate those who have accepted Ahmadiyyat and they are spreading the message and undergoing some sacrifices of course. But it is a small Community and we do not have a proper missionary posted there from outside. What we mean by mission there is that local Ahmadis do the work honorarily. No missionary from Pakistan or from any other. part of Africa has been posted there to represent us but the local people are honorary office-bearers to represent the Community there. Of course, in that case you can understand the limited possibilities of services. Q You feel your Mission could come in conflict with the desires and ideas of the Capitalist world? Secondly, how do you see the future of your Mission, which is generally unaccepted in developing countries, and also, for instance, in Pakistan? Ans. Now the fact is that the Ahmadiyya Community is not an agent of any-ism be it Capitalism, Scientific Socialism or whatever it is. We are only working for Islam and Islamic systems to be introduced to the world to make them understand them well and then to put them into practice. This is why whenever we come across poverty and misery anywhere in the world, we are deeply moved, not by any Marxism or Leninism motivation, but entirely moved by the spirit of Prophet Mohammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, who was so dedicated to the cause of the poor for the sake of Allah and for the sake of His creatures. He loved both. This is why he was titled in the Holy Quran as ‘Rahmatul-lil-Ala- meen’ (Blessing for all the worlds). We are the representatives of the Holy Prophet who was declared for the first time in religious history to be a source of blessing for the whole of mankind. Never before was any prophet referred to as such. How could we ignore the cause of the poor, and suffering humanity? When we 34 PRESS CONFERENCE do that we do it only to serve Islam and Allah’s creation. We have no leftist idealogy to back us. So as such there is no confrontation with any system of the world. On the other hand we also speak of human liberty, individual liberty, his right to personal property, his right to participate in the economic development personally as well. So here we may be appearing siding with the capitalist world, while it is not so. Hence our aim is not just one sided. It is two sided. As we understand Islam it stands in the middle with total guarantee of human freedom and individual freedom and with every possibility extended to individuals to participate in the making of the economic field to the best of their ability and also to possess it personally. Islam imposes restrictions· on how to spend your money. You can earn alright, but only as long as that earning is further channelled to develope the country there is no harm. In fact that capital which is re-cycled repeatedly without being monopolised is also alright. No cheating would be permitted. No tax evasion would be permitted. No smuggling of diamonds or of other things into the country or out of the country would be permitted. So such a capitalism which is run under Islamic values is no danger to any society or to poverty at all. In fact it is promotive of welfare everywhere. Islam places restrictions on how to spend that money. It would not permit luxurious ways of life. It would not permit artificial pleasures as we see being persued in the modern world today. Wine is prohibited, gambling is prohibited, womanising is prohibited. So what else of capitalism is left? In fact the Islamic teachings, in detail, are so wonderful that there is no time for me to have discourse on them. But ultimately that freedom becomes a boon and a blessing for society. A class creation is strongly discouraged in Islam. There is oneness and homogeniety of society, free intermixing of the rich and the poor, so much so that the Holy Prophet once said that those feasts in which the poor people are not represented are cursed by God who instructed that whatever you eat give to your servants and to your slaves out of that. Feed them as you feed your family. Hence when there is no class-distinction in the manner of living style then there is no question of any bad effect on the society by the Islamic way of life. Q Your Holiness! I would like to know what is your reaction to the massacre of pilgrims in Mecca on the 6th day of Zul-Haj last year, particularly concernig the victims and also to the outbreak of carnage? What would be your message to the Muslim REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 35 world? Ans You know that if you love your brothers, sisters and children then whoever of themkills others you suffer. It does not give you any pleasure if one of your children kills those of the other one. So either way you suffer. So this was my reaction which I made known to the whole world during the 1987 Annual Conference at Islamabad, U.K. It was a mad thing to have happened there, as if the Islamic world already was not divided enough. That was the culmination of those deep-rooted rifts in the Islamic society of today and these rifts and misunderstandings are now being given a free display in these mad incidents that happened at Mecca and in the war between Iraq and Iran and so on and so forth. The Ahmadiyya Community is always saddened by such happenings, but that is not all. The fact is that whenever in their past struggles in the world they are not satisfied with the areas in which those struggles are taking place they always try to extend them to other territories. That was the meaning of Imam Khumaini when he said that we are going to export that revolution to other countries. And that is also the meaning of the attempts by some Muslim governments to reach Africa and spend on religious education and on constructing big mosques, colleges, and schools and preparing a class of clergy of their own choice, employed by them from outside and not from local funds as the Ahmadiyya Community raises funds of its own. Every Ahmadi who belongs to Sierra Leone participates in all the good works we are undertaking here but it is impossible for us to conceive our Ahmadiyya Community anywhere being entirely funded by any government from outside. When these things begin to happen the future becomes very uncertain and very unstable, because Iran is also very active. I have evidence that all over Africa, Iranians are also taking a deep interest in counter-propagating the Saudi efforts to capture the imagination of the African people. For instance no matter what the intentions may be behind, the result would be that your country will become an arena of a great struggle which is bound to turn into a bloody struggle. Enough of Libiyan experience through which part of Africa has gone. What worries me is the future of Africa, when these struggles 36 PRESS CONFERENCE and differences are extended to your territories and they turn them into an arena of atrocious wars. Then you will not have to look to Mecca and Medina to see what is happening there. You will be concerned with what is happening in Free Town and other towns of Sierra Leone. Q Your Holiness! Talking about poverty and misery I would like to know what Jamaat Ahmadiyya can do for people suffering from misery and poverty in Africa? Ans The Ahmadiyya Community is a very poor Community with limitations on the capacity’ to spend in good causes. We are already involved in huge expenditures with our missions at present all over the world. The maintenance of those missions in 112 countries is not an easy job. It is impossible for us to immediately divert all the expenditures leaving all the missions high and dry in the absence of any financial support from the world-wide Ahmadiyya Community. So you must realise our limitations. Most of our expenditures are already committed as they are in Sierra Leone. If anything happens in, Africa it is impossible for us to withdraw all our commitments from Sierra Leone and shift them to other countries. What we did, therefore when we saw that the shadow of famine was falling on some African countries and advancing into others was that I took up the matter in my Friday sermons and told the Community to raise some fund just for this purpose. A fund was raised exclusively for the sake of helping to reduce suffering of humanity in the famine stricken area. Although, the funds were collected, the governments concernced did not encourage this offer of help when we contacted them. All they wanted was that we should put our drop into the ocean of the funds being collected from different governments and then forget about it. Our experience tells us that if we spend money ourselves for a good cause the result is ten times more satisfactory than if given to some agencies which are corrupt, indifferent and most of the money is directed to wrong channels. More over we have means of human sacrifice which coupled with the meagre financial resources makes a sizeable contribution. But without that sizeable human sacrifice the small financial contribution would not mean anything. For instance, in Sierra Leone if we go just by the financial budget, our REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 37 contribution would be very small if you consider how many youths have dedicated their lives on an extremely low salary. Many of them have been serving the Community for the past fifty years. You could not have bought the services of a person like that from the market even on ten times the pay. Then you realise the silent part of our contribution i.e. the human values coupled with the financial assistance we can offer. But this they refused by saying that we are not going to permit any Ahmadi worker to serve there and go to the suffering and look after their requirements. At this government level our efforts were resisted and we could not advance. What I did instead, therefore, was that I decided to spend that money on the poor people in all the African countries where we have such established organisations and that is exactly what we are doing not only in one country but also in Ghana, Nigeria and wherever people are suffering. I myself am dealing with such cases daily. Requests come to me from certain areas that they need special attention and that people, if not dying, are on the verge of dying of hunger due to various calamities. Some families suffer due to accidental emergencies. All. that money is not diverted to other channels. It is being spent on African poor people but in a controlled and organised manner. VOTE OF THANKS FROM THE PRESS. Your Holiness! Since you might have been exhausted from questions, I, on behalf of Sierra Leone Press, thank your Holiness for granting us an opportunity to benefit by your views. We followed your progress since you arrived here. We also followed the progress of the Ahmadiyya Movement in this country and we have seen what they have done and the Government is appreciative of this and the Press is quite aware of this. We are also thankful to you for being a leader who does not lead only by remote control but decides to visit these congregations, stops every where to see what their needs are and to determine the progress for the obstacles that control it. This is a very shining example, it may be in honour of the religion. We are very much appreciative of all this and for the precious time you spent with us this morning”, Your cont …… . 38 PRESS CONFERENCE Holiness! We wish you to complete your home work and wish you safe journey back home. Hazrat: Jazaku-mullah! I particularly enjoyed the remark about the remote control system. Allah bless you. Thank you so much. MAN OF PRAYER If you wish to bear adversities and the miseries of this life with patience, be a man of prayer. If you wish to acquire virtue and the strength to overcome temptations, be a man of prayer. If you wish to mortify your will in all its inclinations and desires, be a man of prayer. If you wish to live joyfully and travel with ease along the path of penance and labour, be a man of prayer. If you wish to know the wiles of Satan and defend yourself against his snares, be a man of prayer. If you wish to drive from your soul the importunate insects of vain thoughts and ancieties, be a man of prayer. If you wish to be sustained by solid devotion and keep your soul filled with good thoughts and desires, be a man of prayer. If you wish to fortify your heart on the road to God, be a man of prayer. If you’ wish to rid your soul of all its vices and plant in it flowers of the virtues, be a man of prayer. ( Louis of Grenada)