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Ahmadiyya Muslim celebration
September 13th, 2010
12:32 PM ET

Trying to define Islam as a religion of peace

Editor's note: CNN's Tricia Escobedo spoke to the leaders of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Atlanta, Georgia, at their Friday prayer service and celebration marking the end of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.

Ahmadi Muslims across the United States began taking to the streets earlier this year to spread their message that Islam is a religion of peace.

They've been showcasing their message in pamphlets, advertisements on city buses, and in face-to-face conversations with fellow Americans.

Hazeem Pudhiapura is asking his Atlanta, Georgia, congregation to personally hand out pamphlets with that message in a nationwide effort to reach two percent of all Americans this year. 

He admits that the campaign probably won't receive as much attention as, say, the planned Quran burning on 9/11.  But he said that anti-Islam sentiment is why their message needs to be heard now, more than ever.

"The main goal is to remove the stereotypes," said Pudhiapura, president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Atlanta.   "Islam got introduced to this country in a very bad way on 9/11. And it's unfortunate.

"[But] we cannot be a closet Muslim. We cannot afford to do that. If we don't do it today, my kids ... their identity will be lost.

"It may take a long time, but it will be the right way to do it."

Ahmadi Muslims are in a unique position to speak against Islamist extremism. Their sect has been persecuted for years, particularly in Pakistan, where the movement was founded in the late 19th century.  In May, militants with ties to the Taliban targeted their mosques in Lahore, Pakistan, killing more than 80 Ahmadi Muslims.

In addition, Pakistan's government does not recognize the sect as legitimate.  The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has cited Pakistan as imposing "the most severe legal restrictions and officially sanctioned discrimination" on the Ahmadi Muslims.  

Pudhiapura said those restrictions include forcing Ahmadis to either lie about their religion or declare that they worship a "false prophet" when applying for a Pakistani passport.

The sect also faces persecution in Indonesia, where they can be criminally charged for their religious beliefs. 

Ahmadi Muslims believe that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who lived between 1835 and 1908, was sent by God as the Messiah that other Muslims are still waiting for.  Most mainstream Muslims - Sunni and Shia - say Ahmadis are not Muslim because they do not regard the Prophet Mohammed as the last prophet sent by God.

“Pudhiapura praised freedom of religion in the United States during his sermon marking Eid al-Fitr, the end of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.

"This is an awesome country," Pudhiapura said, noting that a large part of the Ahmadi faith is the belief in the separation of church and state.

However, Ahmadis are often not welcomed by fellow Muslims.

"It's not as bad as in other countries, but it's not very good," Pudhiapura said.   "We have a couple of plans to have interfaith forums with other Muslim imams, but normally we get left out."

The Ahmadis' worship center outside Atlanta has also received threats, he said.

Nevertheless, the group is still pushing forward with taking its message of peace to the farthest reaches of rural Georgia.

"We are the foremost community who is championing the cause of Muslims for peace," Pudhiapura said.   "And that is to make the American citizens understand the true message of Islam is peace.  To put a face on the people who are loyal citizens who are true American Muslims."

- CNN.com Senior Producer

Filed under: Islam • Persecution • Ramadan

soundoff (310 Responses)
  1. Mark from Middle River

    Northern the problem is that man (& woman) is not totally of peace. It is silly to think that religion is what makes evil and hatred in the world. Sorry kid but it was with us from the begining of this exisitance. What happens is that religion can be used for good and it can be used to harm.

    It seems that folks only want to see the side they want to see. For example a gun.... If they disappeared folks would still kill each other. Some would grab a rock to defend some to assualt. It makes no real defferance.

    September 13, 2010 at 10:53 pm |
  2. My2Cents

    Well......I've listened to the ranters of the far right and the apoligists of the far left, and everyone in between. I've tried to sift fact from fiction and figure out just what is the aim of the Islamic religion. Unfortunately, all I can conclude from the actions (notice I say actions not words, we all know the truism here) of members of the religion in general is that they really do not want peace with other religions or peoples, they want them gone, violently if necessary. The actions of terrorists are so horrific and evil that it drowns out the voices of those who say Islam is a peacful religion. I don't beleive that the "peaceful" Muslims do nearly enough to fight the evil in their own religion. They are eerily silent or VERY soft voiced about terrorist's actions.

    I also have concerns about the "cultural center" in NY. If they really want to create cultural understanding they would voluntarily move the center from the proposed site. They would be sensitive to the fact that the evil of that tragedy was done in the name of their religion and that it is an affront to the victims and families. Why do they insist on putting it there. I'm all for their civil right to do so. But this is not about civil rights, it is about doing what is right. Could they not say "we understand" and move the center? Wouldn't this be a fitting olive branch to those who fear them?

    I'm all for tolerance as long as it doesn't involve people trying to kill the ones I love. That is where my tolerance ends and rightly so. I will never willfully take any harmful action against anyone without severe provocation, but I do reserve to right to protect myself and my family.

    September 13, 2010 at 10:43 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Good honest post. Peace

      September 13, 2010 at 10:56 pm |
    • Frogist

      The thing is have the muslims in NY assoc with the center ever attacked you or your family? Have they attacked anyone? No. Were they the ones who flew planes into buildings? No. So by saying muslims should not build near ground zero, we as a nation are saying, "We don't care that you as an individual had nothing to do with this horrible act. But you are not welcomed anyway."
      A question: If we as a people said, "OK white families. You are uncomfortable because black children want to go to your children's schools. Well we'll just ask them not to go out of sensitivity for your feelings," would that be ok? And if those black people aren't caring enough to give up their rights so whites feel comfortable, do we call them heartless or underhanded? No. We must recognise that these people are not harming anyone by putting their center in a place where they have every right to be and have been for years. People might feel uncomfortable. But the right thing to do is almost always the thing that is most uncomfortable. We cannot treat all muslims as criminals because some of them committed crimes.

      September 13, 2010 at 11:14 pm |
    • My2Cents

      Frogist you have completely missed the point. I harbor no ill will toward the Muslims wanting to build in NY, as individuals I wish them well if they are peaceful.. However, not havng the opportunity to meet each one and judge their intent I am left with basing my judgments upon the actions of the group they are assoicated with. As much as they are different from the terrorists they strill espouse the same religion. I really hacvev not seen very much from them in the way of condmentaion of terrorists. I may be completely wrong in my judgements and would love to be proven so. Why? It would mean the opportunity for real peace.

      It is curious to me that you did not directly address the issues I raised regarding the cultural center. If I am expected to be sensitive of them, should they not be expected to be sensitive to others?

      September 14, 2010 at 12:25 am |
    • Frogist

      Well don't you think that since you have no experience of muslims other than by association with a fringe group of terrorists, shouldn't you then seek some out if you truly are looking to gather info about muslims? Why just go with the stereotype? I've read quite a few commentaries and speeches and just reponses here on the Belief blogs by muslims who say they are anti-terrorism. How much is enough condemnation of terrorist acts? Maybe you could search for some of these anti terrorist muslim reactions, and you can read them. Then you will have a better inderstanding of who they are.
      Also I think I did address your thoughts about sensitivity with my analogy. The "sensitivity" that is being asked for is an unreasonable request. Muslims should not have to give up their right to religious freedom because it makes other people uncomfortable. Much like blacks should not have to give up their rights to make whites comfortable. People are punishing all muslims as if they were terrorists, even though they are not.
      So your question of if you are to be sensitive to them shouldn't they be sensitive to others is answered like this: You are equating their alleged insensitivity to feelings with you honoring their rights. The two are not the same. And even if they were the same, how is a group of people who are not terrorists hurting someone else who was hurt by terrorists?

      September 14, 2010 at 12:52 am |
    • Nonimus

      "However, not havng the opportunity to meet each one and judge their intent I am left with basing my judgments upon the actions of the group they are assoicated with."
      @My2Cents
      First, if you have not had the "opportunity" or even the intention of doing any research, then why should anyone care what you think.
      Second, exactly which "group[s] they are assoicated with" did you base your enlightened "judgement" on? Al-qaeda? Al-Shabab?
      The group proposing the NYC Islamic center is the Cordoba Initiative which has no links to Al-Qaueda, but is associated with: American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA), United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, and Search for Common Ground based on their web site. Are these terrorist organizations?

      I think you have over-valued Your2Cents.

      September 14, 2010 at 11:25 am |
  3. Barry77

    "Trying to define Islam as a religion of peace" – It's called lying.

    September 13, 2010 at 10:27 pm |
    • Northern

      Trying to define any Religion as a Religion of peace is called lying.

      September 13, 2010 at 10:30 pm |
    • Sigh..

      All religions have their faults, mainly due to their members being human. I can only speak about one religion since it is the one I know the best. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is about peace. Those who make the Gospel into something less either do not understand it or willfully twist it to meet thier own purposes. Do I live this Gospel perfectly? No. Do I strive to? Yes. Why do I do this? Because I beleive it is the right thing to do. This is my "religion". Is it lying? No.

      September 13, 2010 at 10:55 pm |
    • yas

      What would you know? you're not islamic you dont know their beliefs. All you can see and hear is the bombings and attacks. You're just another one of those pigheads who never trys to look farther than what you hear on the news.

      September 13, 2010 at 11:12 pm |
  4. Greg G.

    It's ok to hate Islam. Islam goes against many of my values so therefore I dislike it. What people should of gotten from the civil rights movement that they don't seem to understand today is to treat all people as individuals and not stereotypes and also treat them kindly. CNN/media and a lot of these self righteous libs will treat me like a stereotype and call me names like racist just because I have a difference of opinion such as discussing my feelings in the open or believing innate ability is important and should be discussed. I get sick of their preaching when they haven't seen to grasped the main idea of what is important. I treat people as individuals better than I've seen CNN and most libs.

    September 13, 2010 at 10:07 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Greg G: Yes, I will call you a racist if in fact you prove you are one by discussing your feelings in the open and your feelings prove to be racist. Also by categorising all us "libs" negatively, you are proving that you are a hypocrite in your insistence that you treat people as individuals and that you treat people kindly.

      September 13, 2010 at 11:02 pm |
    • Greg G.

      Frogist: Racist is just name calling someone that has taken a scientific opinion on innate ability. It is childish as best. I did not characterize any one individual so therefore I didn't show any hipocrisy. I merely discussed a trend with the group.

      September 13, 2010 at 11:23 pm |
    • Frogist

      Frogist: Racist is just name calling someone that has taken a scientific opinion on innate ability. It is childish as best. I did not characterize any one individual so therefore I didn't show any hipocrisy. I merely discussed a trend with the group.

      @Greg G: No, "racist" is not just name-calling. It is a legitimate definition of someone who is biased against a race of people. And you prove my point when you characterize an entire group of people you call "libs" negatively while insisting that you only care about a person's individual abilities.

      September 13, 2010 at 11:47 pm |
    • honestanon

      * points at the racist *

      September 14, 2010 at 12:33 am |
    • Greg G.

      Everyone is biased against different groups of people. Whats important is the INDIVIDUAL! It is when you have a single person that you understand they have their own unique personality. You have failed to grasp the important meaning behind the civil rights movement.

      September 14, 2010 at 1:54 am |
    • honestanon

      @Greg – Not you.

      September 14, 2010 at 11:51 am |
    • Frogist

      @Greg G.: And you have failed to grasp the hypocrisy within your own statements.
      I sense you are trying to be sincere. But you are failing to make sense. If you truly did care only about individual abilities and ideas, then you wouldn't be throwing around blanket statements of negativity about groups of people.
      If you have any statements about the article, please post them and we can go from the hypothetical to your views in reality if you like.

      September 14, 2010 at 1:54 pm |
  5. Northern

    No Religion is a Religion of peace. Each has their fair share of followers who angrily oppose the other Religion. Each Religion claims that they are the truth. Religion has caused the deaths of people for thousands of years and continues to do so to this very day. Religion is out dated, boring and Religious folk can only be bothered practicing their beliefs on days that they can be bothered. Religion turns people against each other, Religion causes hate and violence around the World. Religions are at War with each other over some imaginary idiot up in the sky that no one can prove actually exists. Religion is pathetic.

    September 13, 2010 at 9:51 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Check out Jainism...

      September 14, 2010 at 11:02 am |
  6. makabayan81

    There is NO SUCH THING as a religion of peace. Most religions in the world have been responsible for directing its followers to commit atrocious, horrible acts to some extent. Christianity committing acts of aggression during the Crusades...Judaism cheating non-Jews in all matters of life...and now radical Muslims carrying out barbaric terrorist attacks against just about everyone.

    Humanity should get their act together by phasing out or abolishing all religions at some point in the future. Then this planet will see some real progress.

    September 13, 2010 at 8:33 pm |
    • VedicIndian

      Not true! Vedic culture is the oldest religion in the world and in its long history not once a sword was used to convert anyone. People were free to move in and out of it and also move across to others sects as their beliefs changed over time. In ancient time, all people of the world followed some form of vedic religion and happily co-existed.

      September 13, 2010 at 9:04 pm |
    • Amy

      Agreed. Religion only claims peace within it's own sect.. Anyone on the outside, they don't care about.

      September 15, 2010 at 10:41 pm |
  7. upnorth

    It is clear that all of the Abrahamical religions have the same hatred for those not following their version of the religion. Only the Confucian, Buddhist and Hindu religions from the far east can help people to live their lives without hatred for others. None of the religions of the East, say this is the only way to God. Unless the followers of Christianity, Judaism and Islam understand this, they will continue the cycle of killing each other to force their beliefs on to others. Hopefully in a 1000 years, we will not need ancient books to help people live their time on this planet without promises of heaven and fear of hell to live in peace with each other and in harmony will all beings (plants, animals, birds etc). Until then keep fighting and shouting louder than the other person.

    September 13, 2010 at 8:17 pm |
  8. Freethoughtvlog

    In this vlog a Dutch MP quotes the 18th century French thinker Voltaire about this issue:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mV9aLlwKLvo

    September 13, 2010 at 7:55 pm |
    • honestanon

      The Dutch will be all but gone within 50 Years.
      You want another viewpoint? Go to Youtube and type in
      Wake Up Sweden
      These are authored by Swedes.
      Sweden, Norway, and the Netherlands, i.e., The "Dutch" – That's you, Mr. MP.
      March on – No One Is Stopping You Over There.

      September 14, 2010 at 12:32 am |
    • honestanon
      September 14, 2010 at 1:03 am |
    • honestanon

      Here's a better one.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfNhw6yNyCw&feature=related

      September 14, 2010 at 1:05 am |
  9. yasiera

    Just wanna clear that Ahmedi people are not muslim........

    September 13, 2010 at 7:55 pm |
    • Mina79

      who are u to say that?

      September 15, 2010 at 10:32 am |
  10. atifCA

    Thank you CNN for coverage of normal, regular American-Muslims, who stand for peace and tolerance in the same way all Americans want to. Despite prejudices that I grew up with in Pakistan, I found the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community as the true followers of Islam – it is a community that is an embodiment of what true religion everywhere is supposed to be – care for humanity.

    September 13, 2010 at 7:44 pm |
  11. Bushra

    Thank you Tricia for writing this piece. It is heartening to see the debates that ensue after any piece written on Islam these days. when I moved to US 10 years ago I was surprised by the lack of international knowledge that the people in the US had, a lot has changed since then. The media has to take their role of educating seriously, as without an informed electorate I am afraid the US will go the way of all the countries that are spouting terrorism. Peace is the only solution, and to all the haters of Islam, please take the time to educate yourself from the source and not from the hate groups that are abundant over the internet. http://www.alislam.org would be one such choice. peace be with you.

    September 13, 2010 at 7:36 pm |
  12. TheRationale

    Keyword: Trying

    Islam, like all religions, is full of garbage. If anybody were interested in the truth about anything, they'd use evidence and logic, not dogma and authority. Two hands working is worth more than a thousand clasped in prayer.

    September 13, 2010 at 7:14 pm |
  13. Taylor

    "They are sometimes not welcome by other Muslims because they do not consider Ahmadiyya Muslims to be true believers of Islam."

    So the captions in this very article says that other Muslims reject the Muslims who want peace. Okay.

    September 13, 2010 at 6:25 pm |
    • asif

      Taylor, this goes to show you that the face of Islam today is not the face of Islam as it was when Muhammad (pbuh) taught principles of peace, tolerance, and harmony.

      As an Ahmadi Muslim, I think the world needs to look more at the Ahmadiyya sect (www.alislam.org) and how this revival sect has clarified the teachings of Islam as it applies to our modern world today.

      September 13, 2010 at 6:36 pm |
    • Normon

      @Taylor,
      Blatant anti-Muslim rhetoric. I'm not Muslim, but even a quick review of Ahmadiyya history and beliefs shows that the area of disagreement is centered around the founder's claims and not, as you portray it, "Muslims who want peace".
      Go build another straw-man.

      September 14, 2010 at 10:58 am |
  14. Kashif Chaudhry

    Islam requires man to think of themselves. It asks us to reflect on the universe and excel in knowledge and education and use it for the common good of the universe. This is the message of the Koran.

    September 13, 2010 at 5:44 pm |
    • Sonal

      No offense.But Buddha said the same. Self-reflection and universal harmony is an original patent of Buddhism

      September 13, 2010 at 5:50 pm |
    • Kashif Chaudhry

      Sonal, all prophets said the same. This is evidence of the same source of the message of all religions. They all originated from God.

      September 13, 2010 at 6:04 pm |
    • peace2all

      @Sonal

      While I am a fan of some of the particulars of Buddhism, and certainly The Buddha was big on self-reflection and universal harmony..... But..... I am going to have to call you on the "original patent" part of that.

      Citing the Hindu Veda's which predate the Buddha by a few thousand years for one, often contain writings about Self-reflection and harmony.

      Gotta call it like I see it...

      Peace to you.....

      September 13, 2010 at 6:07 pm |
  15. Rick

    Honestly, if people would give up religion and simply think for themselves this world would be a better place. Some would just find another reason to blow stuff up but at least they would be thinking for themselves.

    September 13, 2010 at 5:38 pm |
  16. Legion

    What Islam and the Muslims are so carefully not saying is that 'Islam' isn't a religion. It's a way of life - and it spells doom to anyone who thinks differently and can't escape from them. America is safe from the insidious, pervasive influence ONLY because there aren't enough Muslims in one place yet. God willing, we never will.

    September 13, 2010 at 5:34 pm |
  17. Kashif Chaudhry

    Islam is not the Muslim world. It is the teachings of the Koran and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad [pbuh] who taught love, peace and tolerance. http://kashifmd.wordpress.com/2010/08/31/identifying-the-real-enemy/

    September 13, 2010 at 5:28 pm |
  18. Sam

    Islam isn’t in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant. The Qur’an should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on earth"

    –Omar Ahmed, Chairman of the Board of CAIR (Council of American Islamic Relations), San Ramon Valley Herald, July 1998

    Nice wish but will never become true. If you look at many islamic countries they are uneducated and they dont even know thier own bloody history. All they know is what they are taught in mosques. Websites are banned and even other country books are banned from reaching them. They think everything is being invented by them including the algebra whereas in truth Algebra was only established by them. Geometric and arithmetic algebra had been long established by greek and indian mathematcians. They also seriously beleive in thier relgion's superiority wihtout even reading any other outside scriptures as they are also banned

    September 13, 2010 at 5:18 pm |
  19. kdub23

    Islam is continually tauted as "a religion of peace", yet the Qur'an itself does not call for peace. "Islam" does not mean peace, but rather submission. Western Muslims only speak of peace because they do not know what the Qu'ran truly says, or they do not presently have "the upper hand".
    The Qur'an itself commands this – "So do not be weak and do not call for peace when you have the upper hand. And Allah is with you, and he will not leave from you [for] your work." (Qur'an 47:35)

    September 13, 2010 at 5:01 pm |
    • The Liberal-Socialist Truth Police

      You cannot learn anything about Muslims or Christians by reading their silly old holy books. If you want to understand Christians and Muslims, you have to study Christians and Muslims.

      One thing for sure, fundamentalist Christians have a lot in common with fundamentalist Muslims.

      September 13, 2010 at 5:09 pm |
    • peace2all

      @The Liberal-Socialist Truth Police

      You know, I have been posting on these blogs for months and have not had the opportunity to meet.

      I think we have 'very' wicked and scathing opinions about things..... Nice to meet you...!

      Looking forward to more postings with ya'

      Peace.....

      September 13, 2010 at 6:02 pm |
  20. Nonimus

    Are there any Ahmadi Muslims on here? I just wanted to know if the wikipedia article is generally correct for "Ahmadiyya".

    September 13, 2010 at 4:53 pm |
    • The Liberal-Socialist Truth Police

      Yes, and if there are any Christians online, could you please explain the difference between transubstantiation and consubstantiation?

      September 13, 2010 at 5:10 pm |
    • Kashif Chaudhry

      Hi, I just read the article. I am an Ahmadi Muslim myself.

      September 13, 2010 at 5:11 pm |
    • Normon

      Hi Kashif,
      I'm just curious if it is a reasonable accurate depiction of Ahmadi Islam, if that is the correct name.

      September 13, 2010 at 5:15 pm |
    • Kashif Chaudhry

      It is largely true except for a few places. You can ask me personally about the community and its beleifs.

      September 13, 2010 at 5:23 pm |
    • Mina79

      I too am an Ahmadi Muslim. The write up is somewhat but not completely correct.

      September 15, 2010 at 10:30 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.