A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

journey-begins2

It is fair to say that I am a cynical person and that I do not trust easily or quickly. On the other hand deep down I really do want us all to get along, to find common ground, and to live and let live.Both of these feelings were uneasily swirling around inside of me when I visited New Zealand’s largest mosque with Pete.

Before the visit I had decided that since I was there at their invitation I would spend most of my time listening. I did ask the questions I had come to ask but I focused on listening and observing. I learned a lot and it cannot be summed up in just one article.

Of the three gentlemen that I met,two of them gave me the impression of being typical Kiwis because of their appearance and manner.I felt comfortable talking to Iqbal Mohammed ( National President ) and Eqbal Khan (General Secretary and Secretary of External Affairs of the community Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Nz inc ) by the end I was joking with them. Shafiq ur Rehman who is the Missionary In -Charge was more formal and serious in his manner and speech but he too dressed like a Kiwi.

We talked for a long time and at the end it was clear to me that they are as concerned about extremism and terrorism as I am. In fact they gave me a pamphlet entitled ‘Eradicating Extremism’ and a book titled, ‘World Crisis and the Pathway to Peace. I will read them and give my review to readers when I am able.

The back of their business card says ‘Muslims for: Loyalty, Freedom. Equality. Respect.Peace’

It makes sense that the Ahmadiyya community shares our concerns as in Pakistan you can murder an Ahmadiyya Muslim and take all his possessions and you will not be punished.They know what it is like to be persecuted. Britain has imported some of this hatred and it is not something that we want brought to New Zealand. This video illustrates the unbelievable lengths one Ahmadiyya mosque in Britain has had to go to in order to protect their community from Muslims who do not consider them to be following the correct version of Islam.

Iqbal Mohammed sent me the video to show me how imported extremism is getting worse in the UK. Muslims who are not tolerant of the Amadiyya Muslims and show their intolerance with death threats, violence and murder are Muslims who will equally be a threat to our New Zealand way of life. Iqbal said that extremism is something we must all stand together against in order to safeguard the future of our children irrespective of their colour creed and beliefs and I heartily agree with him.

While they (Ahmadiyya ) are not always made welcome and are in fact rejected by other branches of Islam, anyone from any religion ( including Judaism ) or branch of Islam is welcome to visit their Mosque. They believe that their branch of Islam is ‘true Islam,’ and from what I can tell it follows the peaceful and tolerant verses of the Koran.

Like me, they are  sceptical about the stated reason for the Sunni Egyptian Imams visiting New Zealand. They assured me that they would not allow an Egyptian Imam to take control of their mosque. They do not believe that there is yet a problem with radicalisation in New Zealand and wondered why these Imams aren’t taking care of the problem in their own backyard. This confirmed my suspicion that the Imams aren’t here to ‘reduce radicalisation’ at all but to promote their version of ‘ true Islam.’  I could be wrong but it smells to me like a hostile takeover.  We have already seen an attempt in New Zealand (with violence) to take over the Avondale Mosque when there were two different versions of ‘true Islam’ at play.  Both in Avondale and now with the Egyptian Imams it is Muslims from Sunni Islam that are attempting to take control.

Now before I go any further I know that there are are a few questions you all are dying to ask about the visit.  I packed a scarf inside my bag in case I was asked to cover my hair. I was not asked to cover my hair. The mosque had separate entrances for male and female and separate prayer rooms. Pete and I were taken through the same entrance. I was shown through the male areas as well as the female areas. I was even shown inside the male toilets so we could see the ablution area for washing feet.

When Pete invited himself along I wondered if conversations would be directed towards him rather than me and whether eye contact would be made with him and not me. Shafiq ur Rehman gave me most of his attention and addressed most of his explanations to me.  I did not feel  in any way excluded.  There was one difference however and one that I expected because of my knowledge of Islam. Pete was offered a handshake by the men and I was not.  I was treated with respect by all three men in every other way.

I left the mosque with one clear thought in my mind and that is that I want to be part of the solution. I have spent a lot of time alerting our readership to the dangers as I see them but now I need to focus on solutions.  The men I met at the mosque want solutions as much as I do. They feel very much the meat in the middle. On the one hand they cannot get any traction in the media when they condemn terrorist attacks and talk about what they feel ‘true Islam’ is ( peaceful, tolerant ) and  on the other hand they are on the receiving end of all the negative feeling caused by the actions of Muslims that they do not believe are following ‘ true Islam ‘

The Ahmadiyya  branch of Islam started less than 200 years ago in India. They consider themselves a revival of Islam. Just as the Catholic Church has a democratically elected spiritual head, they too have a democratically elected spiritual leader. This makes them very different from every other branch of Islam. It makes what they believe consistent all over the world. An Imam cannot form a breakaway group with different ideas and still claim that they are practicing Ahmadiyya Islam.

This structure gives me confidence that when they say this is what Ahmadiyya believe, that is what they all believe, not just one Imam’s view or interpretation.  The fact that their spiritual leader is democratically elected also speaks volumes. They explained that anyone who seeks power or who expresses a desire to be leader  will not be considered.  Prospective leaders are nominated by others and it is seen as a position of service that is a burden, not something that one would actively seek out.

I may not believe what the Ahmadiyya  believe but I do accept that they want to protect New Zealand from extremism and what they see as the actions of Muslims who are not following ‘ true Islam.’  We can work together to discuss solutions to protect New Zealand and to help them get heard when mainstream media are only interested in controversy or glossing over the very real dangers. While I may not agree with their version of ‘true Islam’ their actions tell me that their version is not about causing conflict. We have taken the first step by meeting and talking. It was a scary step for both sides I think but one I am glad we took.


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If you agree with me that’s nice but what I really want to achieve is to make you question the status quo. Look between the lines, do your own research. Do not be a passive observer in this game we call life.

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