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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. ADK

    Well this is just tough to digest, the common denominator in all the wars around the world is 'ISLAM / Muslims' against everyone else from Eastern to Western Hemisphere. So this is just a joke nothing else!!

    September 16, 2010 at 3:58 pm |
  2. NotBuyingthePropaganda

    Take a close look at how Islamic countries treat their women, children and general populations as a whole, and their form of government. If you really look, recognize and acknowledge what is staring you in the face rather than believe what is being propagandized... ("Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes"!), how could ANY reasonably intelligent person say that, in practice, Islam is a religion of peace?

    September 16, 2010 at 10:09 am |
  3. Amy

    Ok... Peace does NOT count if it's only with people within your own religion, race etc. Peace means EVERYONE and I mean everyone. If you really want to show peace, try stepping outside your comfort zone and mingling with people a different culture, and seeing things from a different perspective. Islam can claim peace when they start making peace and mingling with; the Jews, the people in India and the Catholics down in Indonesia and Malaysia, etc. instead of causing issues.

    September 15, 2010 at 10:37 pm |
  4. Xugos

    Go Kate; no one can respond to her solid arguments, so they have to dissect trivial parts of her post to look like they are leading a rebuttal against her.

    September 15, 2010 at 9:48 pm |
  5. naina oad

    hi i feel that we should be postive about Islam i think we must respect every religion and give equal rights

    September 15, 2010 at 9:48 pm |
  6. Hate the word KILL

    this is sad. I mean really sad. Dude i am a syrian muslim american high schooler who happens to be on here for Homework. And dont go and say that im a fake, because im not. I live in maryland ... like a half hour away from dc. anyway i see this and was like "Yay! finnaly people are understanding." And thank god, some people are! but others just cant remeber that 1. muslims worked in the world trade center. 2.Muslim americans, Arab americans love america. I know that. i love it here. Its my home. But sometimes it feels like im being kicked out! How would you feel if you and your race were being pushed out of the place you call home? Not too good right?
    I go to syria every other summer, and there are tons of christans and jews there. No one says anything. they respect them, and become friends, and sometimes even fall in love. Lebenon where i go for vacation.. while im at vacation 🙂 is filled with TONS of cultures and languages and religons. No one says anything.

    Christians kill muslims all the time. Christians kill jews. Christians kill Christians, Christans kill chinese and hindus Jews kill Christians. jews kill jews, jews kill muslims.Jews kill chinese and hindus too. Muslims kill muslims, muslims kill christans, muslims kill jews, and chinese and hindus.

    I hate that word. kill. even righting it makes me get angrey I hate killing and hate that people kill each other.
    being muslim doesnt mean your evil. Neither does being jewish or christan or hindu or Buddhist or not having a religon at all. There are just bad people out there. So stop blaming it on us.

    September 15, 2010 at 7:37 pm |
  7. Pete

    Islam does not mean Peace. That's a poor translation. It means submission to the will of Allah. The only people who translate it as peace are misguided liberals and Muslims not living under Sharia law trying to influence people via deception. It's much more informative to look at places which have established Muslim rule and see how the live Truth is islam is based on the creed of a WARLORD. It's about as far from "peace" as you can get.

    It's the same old tricks from the Muslims in this article. They quote from early passages of the Koran knowing full well those passages are abrograted and not relevant for Muslims. Others point to the huge numbers of "peaceful" Muslims. But the Koran urges Muslims to struggle for world domination. It doesn't matter to Allah if its via immigration and voting or war or terrorism – what is important is the world wide domination of Islam.

    This is why there isn't widespread hatred of the terror attacks – but in fact alot of love from even the "peaceful" Muslims worldwide. Just because not everyone is willing to kill themselves for the cause or loves the methods – there is widespread support for the goal. It's just like how I support our troops in Afganistan even if I personally didn't volunteer to fight.

    It takes a bit more indepth reporting to uncover the true nature of Islam. CNN needs to stop with these half baked articles. These reporters gloss over the important concepts in Islam like the Hadith's, Sharia Law, and abrogation – when understanding this is FUNDAMENTAL to understand why the so called 'extremists" act the way they do..

    After studying Islam some I am convinced that the extremists are interpretting the texts correctly (especially if you buy into the ideas of modeling your life after Muhammed and abrogation) and its actually the so called "moderate Muslims" that are the radical outsiders.

    September 15, 2010 at 6:37 pm |
  8. voice

    Here is an interesting article from MuslimsVoiceofAmerica.com/Blog

    5 Reasons to build / not to build the Mosque near ground zero
    http://www.muslimsvoiceofamerica.com/blog/2010/08/5-reasons-to-build-not-to-build-the-mosque-near-ground-zero/

    September 15, 2010 at 3:54 pm |
  9. Amused

    Every religious nut thinks THEIR version of ideology is the only truth, the only peace and the only path to elightenment! If you would all just throw away your ancient books written in ancient times and and actually look at each other as fellow human beings you might be able to create some real peace! But, as long as you keep arguing about these pointless ideologies, the more war and hatred will abound! Wake up people...

    September 15, 2010 at 2:54 pm |
    • SomeTruth

      @Amused:

      I agree. There are pearls of wisdom in every religious ideology, but there is no reason to swallow the attendant myths in order to accept these gems. They see a truth or six or seven in a religion and sign their whole lives over to it.

      People seem to be so needy of a super-hero who will save them now and forever, amen. They seek a tidy little package with the "answer to everything." It seems harsh, but we are on our own, to live life on this earth as best as we can.

      September 15, 2010 at 3:10 pm |
  10. Amused

    This amusing collection of self-righteous opinions is an excellent demonstration of the real problem with religion in general. You people are more concerned with petty arguments about ancient books written by ancient people than you are with the survival of humans on this small planet. We are all humans with feelings, needs and emotions and we must work together to solve the issues of this world. John Lennon was so right when he wrote the song "Imagine". Disagreements over religious ideology is the main cause of war, violence and hatred around the world. There will never be peace in this world if we keep obsessing about religion! Think about it! ...

    September 15, 2010 at 2:41 pm |
  11. peace2all

    @Annoyed

    Sounds like you need some serious therapy if.....Kate ends her postings with Just(verbin')......

    Doesn't annoy me..... and actually you will find quite a few bloggers now using Just sayin' after their posts.... Keeps it kind' funny, and not tooooo overly serious.

    But, to disagree with everyone of her statements on 'general principle'...... Wow.... that says it all about you @Annoyed.

    Just laughin' 🙂

    Peace.....

    September 15, 2010 at 1:42 pm |
    • Kate

      @peace2all

      I'm guessin' that the taglines I use are hitting home with someone. I might not be Bill Engvall, but ... here's their signs 🙂

      Just laughin'

      September 15, 2010 at 2:39 pm |
  12. Scruce

    biblebelievers.org.au/moongod.htm Learn the truth about islam and stop being blind and ignorant

    September 15, 2010 at 1:26 pm |
  13. *^*

    mitworld.mit.edu/video/729 You made moral decisions long before you ever old enough to chose a religion.

    September 15, 2010 at 12:12 pm |
  14. Molly

    What did they expect from a physics major that goes to church five times a day? Religion as a weapon. Go figure.

    September 15, 2010 at 12:07 pm |
  15. Molly

    What did they expect from a physics major that goes to church five times a day? Religion as a weapon. Duh.

    September 15, 2010 at 12:05 pm |
  16. Karengp

    I am with Kayen. The quran preaches peace for the muslim believers to each other. But not for us. If you read the quran you will see just how they really feel towards us. I will never trust them. If any of them would come forward and acknowledge the parts of the quran that speak of killing nonbelievers and of smiling at us but really hating us I would feel a tiny, tiny bit more easy. But they never explain that, do they? And so I will not trust them or any thing they say about being so called peaceful.

    September 15, 2010 at 11:15 am |
  17. Mina79

    The ISLAM Muhammed brought is different from how it is practiced today. The Christianity Christ brought is different from how it is practiced today as well. Did you know that Joel Osteen just gave a sermon on why Christians should not eat pork?? We are more alike than we tend to believe and it is time we respect each other for our differences and focus on our similarities.
    The Ahmadiyya movement in Islam is going back to Islams peaceful roots. The muslim majority is not peaceful because of politics and economics, NOT because of religious teachings! Look at the Christians in South Central...they are violent too! Violence comes from worldly frustrations, not from doctrines.

    September 15, 2010 at 10:37 am |
  18. Johnny

    Muhammed and indeed the whole Muslim was founded on violence. Here are just a few examples.

    http://www.faithfreedom.org/debates/PaymanSaqib.htm

    September 15, 2010 at 9:02 am |
  19. caroline

    Thing with Islam is that there is no room for disbelief. Americans understand that religion has it's place. In Islam believing in Allah and truth are the same thing. They don't accept non-believers. Now American Muslims aren't going to go around saying kill the infidels, but as shown with the Ahmadi Muslims, Islam is not a tolerant or accepting religion. Islam is a religion where EVERYONE has to accept whatever flavor of Islam is in power. In the US, Muslims are a minority, so they keep themselves separated, build schools and community centers along with Mosques so their kids don't integrate. I met Muslim kids when I was in school, their parents didn't have any issues with them going on interfaith field trips with the Christian Academy kids, who their parents absolutely didn't want their kids to have anything to do with were the kids who were atheist or agnostic. They don't want their kids to say they don't believe in all this nonsense.

    September 15, 2010 at 6:54 am |
    • Mina79

      This is not true. Islam teaches "there is no compulsion in religion" Google Muhammed's last address and you will see what he said about living in harmony with others. Very progressive for that time. He freed the slaves, made them citizens and adopted an African boy who was previously a slave. He was full of peace and love. He even stopped the branding of animals on their foreheads, and Europeans followed his lead in this. He loved humans, animals, nature, everything. he was incredibly peaceful and loving.

      September 15, 2010 at 10:41 am |
  20. Carl

    ALL one needs to do is to read the English Version of the Koran...to realize that ISLAM....IS NOT a Religion of peace

    September 15, 2010 at 3:27 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.