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The White Minaret and Ahmadiyya flag in Qadian, India: Symbols of the Ahmadi movement, which many Muslims reject as heretical (Ceddyfresse)

 The Waltham Forest Community Faith Forum in east London is an umbrella body promoting religious harmony among Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, pagans — and more. Theoretically, each group has equal representation and powers. In reality, this does not seem to be the case and the issues experienced there are indicative of a wider problem affecting the ability to promote values of cohesion and tolerance. A call to a local MP by an aggrieved Ahmadi-Muslim imam gives us an insight into the problem: “We do not have equal voting rights on the forum. It is discrimination. I thought we were afforded equal rights in this country. It is why we fled here from persecution in Pakistan.”

Ahmadis see themselves as Muslims who follow the Koran, but that is not how orthodox Islam regards them. Many Muslims — both Sunni and Shia — regard the Ahmadi movement as heretical because it does not believe that Muhammad was the final prophet. The result has been decades of persecution, especially in Pakistan, where more than 250 Ahmadis have been killed and many imprisoned under blasphemy laws. Many Ahmadis have sought refuge in the UK. However, the organisations that press for their death have followed them. Leaflets calling for the death of Ahmadis have circulated in south London. Glaswegian Ahmadi-Muslim Assad Shah was murdered for his beliefs by a man who screamed: “Praise for the Prophet Muhammad, there is only one Prophet.” This ideology of hate and intolerance has, in pockets, affected other sections of the Muslim community, resulting in discrimination in a multi-faith forum in the UK. In effect, Waltham Forest Council has colluded in this sectarianism for the sake of a quiet life.

At a glance, the government’s Counter-Extremism strategy, launched in 2015, provided a strong approach to building a more cohesive nation. It aims to promote values of democracy, rule of law, individual liberty, mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs. It would therefore follow that my role, as counter-extremism coordinator for Waltham Forest, would involve ensuring that the local authority did not support organisations that were discriminatory and thus in conflict with those values. But I was informed that the Faith Forum’s constitution barred Ahmadis from having equal voting powers: only those belonging to certain faiths could hold such rights and under the constitution the imam could not stand as a Muslim representative or as an independent. As he began to gather support for a change in the constitution allowing him equal rights, I congratulated him. Consequently I was aggressively confronted by a forum trustee. She told me that Ahmadiyya were not Muslims and if they were given equal powers, she and her Muslim colleagues would boycott the forum.

Shockingly, my simple act of acknowledging the imam’s commitment to fight for his community was considered “not in line with the position held by the council” and I was threatened with disciplinary action. The council’s Head of Community Safety told me I was a “square peg in a round hole”, I did not understand the sensitivities around election times, and I should consider looking for work elsewhere. While my work with the forum was being obstructed, the anti-Ahmadi organisation Dawat-e-Islami — linked with glorifying the murder of Assad Shah — was hosted in a local mosque, with neither officials nor elected members batting an eyelid.
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July 12th, 2018
10:07 AM
I am ever more convinced that Muslims are their own worst enemies because they complain about not being treated equally but what do they expect when their form of religion creates barriers between themselves and the country they live in? In my experience, Muslims tend to be very insular and go around with the belief that they are superior in terms of religion but if one actually takes the time to weigh what they believe and practice against the Hebrew and Greek scriptures you get to see that they are very much misguided and divided against themselves. In fact what they do is in line with the roman catholic church that professes to serve God but when you examine what they do and teach alongside the bible you notice that they are also misguided and equally puffed up with the self-assurance that they have the backing of God even though the scriptures themselves expose their apostasy and hypocrisy day and night.

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