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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. Aleksandr

    I do not grant any belief the respect simply becouse it is a religion. One first must evaluate that belief and see if it deserves the respect. Let us see: dogma which puts women to be subservient to men, promotes conversion by force, threatens death if one abandons the 'faith' , forbids free speech if it contradicts its scriptures, and produces by far the largest terrorist subgroup isn't somethign I can respect nor treat the same as ,let's say, pasifist buddism or other non-sence like christianity. Don't even start with crusades. They ended long ago- while muslims still occupying Constantinople- the center of easter Orthodox including former christian lands of asia minor and egypt.

    September 14, 2010 at 9:03 am |
  2. stevie68a

    All religions are a lie. Whatever good there is in religion, can be had without it. Teach ethics. There's not a speck of evidence
    that heaven and hell exists. It is time for the human race to grow up.
    In part 2, i'll offer proof that there is no Santa Claus!

    September 14, 2010 at 8:55 am |
  3. frogman

    NEW YORK (TheStreet) - The debate over whether to build a proposed mosque and Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero in lower Manhattan raged on over the weekend as the U.S. marked the 9th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
    On Friday, Donald Trump tried and failed to quell the drama surrounding the potential center. The real estate billionaire offered to buy out investor Hisham Elzanaty's stake in the development property, saying he would pay a 25% premium to whatever Elzanaty paid for his portion of the real estate partnership that controls the site.

    September 14, 2010 at 8:50 am |
  4. sportycuss

    To define any religion as being one of "peace" is nothing but an exercise in faulty semantics and over-generalization.

    In this article, they are "trying" to define Islam as being peaceful, but are failing miserably and probably on purpose. Everything in the article points towards the physical and emotional violence that Islam is known for.
    You cannot ignore the elephant in the tent forever.

    September 14, 2010 at 8:15 am |
  5. VetTeacher

    Ever notice how the "rest of the Muslim world" didn't jump right up and condemn the Muslim terrorist faction? Oh, that's right. They still haven't, have they. And by the way, my interpretation of the Koran doesn't allow for suicide bombers murdering innocent women and children. Any religious text can be perverted for the benefit of extremists. So the point is still, are the Muslims cleaning their own house?

    September 14, 2010 at 7:44 am |
  6. Natch

    Perhaps if the Islamic community and leadership came out, every time an extremist commits some heineous act, and publicly (and loudly) denounced that person or persons as being evil (like the rest of us have already figured out), as well as not being true followers of Islam, then the rest of the non-Islamic world would believe them when they speak of peace.

    Instead, it almost appears that while they might not approve of the actions of the extremists, they are instead hedging their bets, just in case the extremists win. Then they can say, "I never raised my voice against you". And in today's world, you can be just as guilty by omission as you are by comission.

    September 14, 2010 at 7:39 am |
    • Bruce

      Exactly.

      September 14, 2010 at 7:59 am |
  7. John Snider

    Islam means "Submission to God" It also means peace, If it claims a peaceful religion thensurely Muslims are not following it so they are not realy Muslim. Only sect which is non violent that I know is "Ahmadiyya Muslim Community" Therefore automatically must be following Islam. But how 72 sects of Islam are violent and one sect is non violent. Moreover all the 72 sects in Pakistan are pesecuting Ahmadi Muslim in Pakistan. How can then Muslim claim their religion is "Peace". So 72 sect are struck out. Let's examine Ahmadiyya, They have a great site http://www.Alislam.Org. They claim clearly Messiah has come but all 72 sects rejected him and like jesus the followers of this messiah are also being persecuted or declared criminal in Pakistan, Indonesia and Bangladesh. Only crime they have is accepting the messiah and preaching peace and love. They have free online book called" Philosophy of Teachings Of Islam". Written by Messiah. I would say it is most amazing book on earth explaning secrets of God which no Christian or Jew has dare to answer. True purpose of creation of man, Life after death very detailed, How soul is created and what is a soul, Every Jew and Christian must read it or you would miss out gratest book. It would clarify all the questions you have about God and all the religions of the world. I strongly recomend it

    September 14, 2010 at 4:13 am |
    • (B)iraq Hussein Osama

      you are obviously very illiterate about the various sects of Islam! Jamate-Tableegh, one of the biggest islamic movements in the Muslim world with over a hundred million adherents is a non-violent missionary movement with a following in virtually every part of the world where there are muslims to be found.

      September 14, 2010 at 4:34 am |
  8. honestanon

    I'm still digesting all this VERIFIED information. Thank you, Canada. I need to go up there and spend some money.

    READ THIS, FOLKS. It's happening. NOW.

    http://www.canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/25941

    September 14, 2010 at 2:51 am |
  9. Haroon Sarfraz

    @Down Under i agree with you and would like you all to read 5 verses before and after the reference given by @john5434

    Here is an online copy
    http://www.quranexplorer.com/

    I think you all are here a intellectual people and will give a reasonable reply. I would love to ask just one question from all of you. Just open your mind and think.

    Muslims believe Jesus and Moses both as the Prophet from Allah almighty, but Jews and Christians do not consider Muslims as Jew or Christian, they call them Muslims as they believe in another prophet who came after Jesus and Moses. So how could Ahmadis be called Muslims? as they believe in an other (so called) prophet who they think came after Muhammad (S.A.W.W)?

    Just one thing is the cause of the dispute between these three religions. That is Jews of that time planned to crucify Jesus. and Jews were also against Muhammad (S.A.W.W) just because he was not from Bani-Israil tribe but he was from Quraish tribe; the blood line of Prophet Ismail (son from second wife of Prophet Ibrahim).

    September 14, 2010 at 2:28 am |
  10. kriefsa

    Facts are speaking for themselves. There is not a day when Muslims do not kill (other Muslims, their own daughters or mothers, Christians and others, whoever disagree with them). The standard reaction of a Muslim is first to kill. Where is the peace, where is the tolerance? Maybe they should start thinking about it and understand that this is not acceptable in a modern world. It does not take long for atrocities to be known and this is not good publicity for Muslims.

    September 14, 2010 at 1:45 am |
  11. Just_Wondering

    I am curious as to how Muslim's regard Joseph Smith, who founded the Mormon religion? If he was visited by an angel and consequently wrote a book, which millions of people follow... was it the wrong angel?... wrong message?... misguided followers? Their angel disagrees with your angel. What now?

    September 14, 2010 at 1:41 am |
    • Just_Wondering

      No answers for this?

      September 14, 2010 at 1:09 pm |
    • honestanon

      They don't care – There's not enough of you. For now, I'm sure that they consider you fractional Christians, guilty by association and location.

      September 14, 2010 at 8:43 pm |
    • Just_Wondering

      Moi, honestanon?.... No.

      In the absence of an answer from anyone involved, I am left with this hypothesis:

      J. Smith was just another of many bogus 'Prophets', who claimed a personal interaction with a bogus supernatural being, and then concocted some bogus dogma, sprinkled with just enough 'peace', 'love', and 'life everlasting' to make it palatable to the masses.

      September 14, 2010 at 10:56 pm |
    • Just_Wondering

      In case I wasn't clear enough, I am referring to ALL bogus 'Prophets' throughout history... from Abraham to Moses to Jesus to Muhammad to Joseph Smith and all of those in between.

      September 14, 2010 at 11:09 pm |
  12. Amsterdam 1

    About religion: No doubt there is nothing evil in all religions preaching, the evil exists in the mind of the ones pretending the existence of it.
    About Terrorism: no doubt that terrorism is not the exclusivity of a nation or a race , any nation and any race put them for certain period under pressure they will produce their terrorists.

    September 14, 2010 at 1:39 am |
  13. john mex

    It is most unfortunate that most Americans still see Islam as religion, to me it's just like a cult. Obama once said that America is not at war with Islam, but the truth is that Islam is at war with America.Islamic center in WTC should be disapproved.Who told you that one day some one will not walk into the said center with a bomb in a pocket all in the name of prayers? Americans should think of this.

    September 14, 2010 at 1:36 am |
  14. Gabe

    So much for freedom of religion......people need to blaze up a spliff and relax....

    September 14, 2010 at 1:01 am |
  15. IaCheNeHe

    ALL religion point bank is a deterrent to peace! When you have one ...you must exclude the rest as ignorant, and thats not a way to have peace. Frankly I'm tired of the game, if they believe their souls are fixed ...can they do something to straiten out the body while its alive and residing with other humans on this planet. All I hear is arrogance about whose religion is better and my god is bigger than your god...sound like children to you?

    September 14, 2010 at 12:47 am |
  16. ep

    Peaceful? Most of the moderates, perhaps, but they are just "weekend believers" – a lot like "week-end christians". Sadly, the Quran is filled with instructions to kill in its name. Until the book is updated and modernised – probably a few hundred years, it is what it is. In fact, I would say a fair measure of Islams progress toward achieving peacefulness could be gauged by a visit to Mecca every decade or so and see how many Churches and Temples are mixed together with Mosques, much like you have in America and Europe and see how people of various faiths interact and respect each other. For now however, as the saying goes "you can't make a silk purse out of a pigs ear".

    September 14, 2010 at 12:18 am |
  17. mona

    Hi everyone,
    I am Muslim and Arab women....I love all human being including Jews who are not in Palestine and I wish you peace and love
    (sorry my English is not good; I wrote alto of thinks then deleted coz of my poor English ). And I hope non-Muslims to read Quran and find out about Islam through their own search and reading and please read about Prophet Mohammad then judge the ISLAM.

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

      mona said: "I am Muslim and Arab women....I love all human being including Jews who are not in Palestine and I wish you peace and love
      (sorry my English is not good; I wrote alto of thinks then deleted coz of my poor English ). And I hope non-Muslims to read Quran and find out about Islam through their own search and reading and please read about Prophet Mohammad then judge the ISLAM."

      @mona: peace and love to you too. I agree with you that people need to read and discuss things on their own too without someone telling them what they should think. But I would add that people need to meet some muslims as well. If we have friends who are different from us, it is hard to hate people who are different.

      September 14, 2010 at 12:25 am |
    • My2Cents

      Thank you Mona. Peace to you.

      September 14, 2010 at 12:30 am |
  18. deepwater805

    Just one question about this "peace" religion: I wonder what the percentage of suicide / homicide bombers are, who scream "allah akbar", right before they detonate, killing as many innocent people as possible?

    September 14, 2010 at 12:10 am |
  19. john

    Eid Mubarik to All Muslims... please dont mind senseless comments from some users here.... wishing peace and harmony to all the Muslims world.

    September 13, 2010 at 11:53 pm |
    • Frogist

      @John: Eid mubarak to you too...Hey you don't have to be muslim to enjoy a good meal and a good party!

      September 14, 2010 at 12:28 am |
  20. MySay212

    The article makes clear that this group is not representative of mainstream muslims. And as such, how peaceful they are is irrelevant to the general muslim picture. It's good that this group is peaceful, but they do not speak for the other branches.

    September 13, 2010 at 11:00 pm |
    • Frogist

      But they are muslims and they are peaceful. Therefore, we cannot say that all muslims are violent.

      September 13, 2010 at 11:15 pm |
    • RT

      MaySay212, the point of Ahmadis striving for peace throughout the world is not to show necessarily how peaceful Muslims are, the main point is to show that Islam teaches peace. The very meaningi of 'Islam' is 'Peace'. Every religion has different sects within and they all consider each other to be 'unbelievers' in one way or the other whether that be Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, etc. Every religion has a few bad members who run their own business on the sideline to gain political milege in the name of religion. So my firend, Ahmadis are not representatives of mainstream Muslims but they are the representatives of Islam...And I believe that's whats important.

      September 13, 2010 at 11:16 pm |
    • Reality

      For new members only:

      What drove the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon? The koran, Mohammed's book of death for all infidels and Muslim domination of the world by any means. Muslims must clean up this book removing said passages admitting that they are based on the Gabriel myth and therefore obviously the hallucinations and/or lies of Mohammed. Then we can talk about the location, safety of mosques and what is taught therein. Until then, no male Muslim can be trusted anytime or anywhere.

      August 9, 2010 Germany shuts 9/11 plotters' mosque in Hamburg

      Police raided the mosque on Monday and hunted for evidence of jihadist activities German police have shut down the Hamburg mosque where the 9/11 hijackers met before their suicide attacks on the US in 2001.

      Police said they believed the Taiba mosque was again being used as a meeting point for extremists.

      The cultural association that runs the mosque has also been banned.

      A German intelligence report last year said radical Muslims had travelled to military training camps in Uzbekistan after associating at the mosque.

      Then there is this:

      The "Koran burning" fiasco in Florida has opened the weak underbelly of all
      religions as all are built on the questionable if not mythical angels and
      legends. For example, without the angel (today's tinker bell or fa-iry)
      Gabriel, there would be no Islam. Without the deity, resurrection and
      ascension of Jesus "substantiated" again by Gabriel and other "angels",
      there would be no Christianity. And of course without the mythical angel
      Moro-ni, there would be no Mormonism.

      The followers of Judaism, at least the 1.5 million Conservative Jews and their rabbis, are a step ahead in
      foundation reviews as they have rewritten their Torah for the modern world.
      In this book, they have relegated Abraham (and his angel connections) and
      Moses (and his angel connections) to the myth pile.

      http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482

      September 13, 2010 at 11:34 pm |
    • Nonimus

      I wonder if this article actually counters it's own objective. Assuming it is attempting to show Islam as a religion of peace, by highlighting this one non-orthodox sect as 'peaceful' Islam, are they not implying that other sects are not peaceful?

      @RT,
      I thought "Islam" translated as "submission." Is that not correct?

      September 14, 2010 at 11:33 am |
    • RT

      @Nonimus

      I don't think so, what I understand to be the purpose of this article is to show that Islam in essence is peaceful and there are communities that are peace-loving. I don't want to give all the credit to the Ahmadiyya sect because I know there are many other non-Ahmadi Muslims who are peace-loving as well. But the difference with the Ahmadiyya community is that there is only one voice, the voice of the Khalifa (successor), who millions of people in over 190 countries follow instantaneously. SInce it's existence there has not been a single case where an Ahmadi blew himself up or commited acts of terrorism in the name of religion. In fact, the Messiah who founded this sect had greatly emphasized on 'Jihad of pen'. And all this is based from the Holy Qur'an.

      Your right, Islam also means submisson, submission to the WIll of God. The word Islam is derived from the arabic root word 'Salema' which means peace, purity, submission and obedience.

      September 14, 2010 at 12:11 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @RT,
      I can see your point about the article, just not sure if it plays that way to the readers.

      I suspect that this is one of the difficulties that Islam in general has both internally and externally, in that some say Islam is submission and some say it is peace. These are not synonyms in my mind, so it's not variations on the same meaning. Makes it difficult to understand even basic aspects of the religion. But such is the case with all religions I suppose.

      September 14, 2010 at 1:58 pm |
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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.