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Islamic sect has appealing message for U.S. politicians but has global enemies
Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, presides over a sermon to his followers in suburban Washington, D.C.
July 7th, 2012
01:00 AM ET

Islamic sect has appealing message for U.S. politicians but has global enemies

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) – You’ve almost certainly never heard of him, but Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad drew some serious star power at a recent Capitol Hill reception in his honor.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Republican Sen. John Cornyn were among the many lawmakers who showed up to meet Ahmad, a Muslim leader who was in town last week on a rare U.S. visit from London.

At a time when the United States is struggling with its views about Islam – as Islamists gain power in the Middle East and with ongoing concerns about Quran-citing terrorists – it’s not hard to see Ahmad’s appeal to both parties. As he said in his Capitol Hill speech, he has “love for all, hatred for none.”

It’s a sentiment that Sen. Robert Casey, Democrat of Pennsylvania, echoed in introducing Ahmad, praising the “leadership you have shown to tolerance and to peace.”

It’s not just Ahmad who espouses his can’t-we-all-get-along read on Islam. The 61-year-old is the spiritual leader of the global Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, whose friendliness toward the West and whose criticism of other Muslims has earned the sect allies at the highest level of the U.S government, even as it faces mortal enemies in other parts of the world.

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Unlike most Muslims, Ahmadis believe that the 19th century founder of their sect was the metaphorical Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

It’s because of that belief that Sunni and Shiite Muslims do not regard Ahmadis as true Muslims. The rift has provoked Egypt to charge Ahmadis with blasphemy, Saudi Arabia to deport them and Pakistan to pass a law that designates Ahmadis as non-Muslims.

Persecuted abroad

On a sweltering recent Friday, a long line of people sat patiently in a mosque on the outskirts of Silver Spring, Maryland, just outside Washington. Despite the heat and humidity, they seemed happy to be there, waiting for a chance to meet the leader of their faith.

Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, who leads an international Ahmadi community is the sect’s fifth Khalifa, or leader. The group claims tens of millions of followers around the world, but outside experts say the number is smaller, in the millions.

For Ahmad and his followers, their relatively small sect is the real face of Islam, which has more than a billion followers around the world.

“It is time that we, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, should give the real and true picture of Islam,” Ahmad said in an interview inside the Silver Spring mosque. “I will always be talking about peace. That peace is not from myself or some new teaching but it is the true, real teaching which I gather and get from the holy Quran.”

That emphasis, says Ahsanullah Zafar, the leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA, is rooted in a belief that the only jihad worth practicing is against one’s own self – a jihad of self-improvement. The word jihad is often translated as struggle or war.

“Even more important than prayer, which we talk about a lot, is how you behave as a human being,” Zafar said. “It is not physical fighting that accomplishes anything. It is dialogue and the progressivism that leads somewhere.”

Founded in 1889, the Ahmadiyya Muslim sect is the only Islamic group that believes that a second prophet has come, in the form of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. Ahmad lived at a time of great religious upheaval, said Akbar Ahmed, chair of Islamic Studies at American University.

“In India, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad said that he has the message of the renewal of Islam,” Ahmed said. “Slowly it began to build momentum - it is a kind of spirited, modern version of Islam.”

Ahmed characterized the makeup of the Ahmadis as “very scholarly, very prominent leaders in Pakistan.”

But when the Jamaat-e-Islami, an Islamist political party in Pakistan, began to push the country to a more orthodox view of Islam in the 1970s, the Ahmadis were cast out.

Jamaat-e-Islami argued that the Ahmadis did not conform to a key tenet of Islam – the finality of the prophet Mohammed. “That is the elephant in the room for the Ahmadis,” said American University’s Ahmed. “The Ahmadis say that there are two kind of prophets. One is the lawgiver. Then there are messengers who come with a message and not necessarily a new book.”

In light of the crackdown, many Ahmadis began to leave Pakistan, some as religious refugees. Large numbers of Ahmadis now live in Germany, England, Ghana, Canada and the United States, where the Ahmadis claim tens of thousands of followers.

But persecution persists.

In 2010, almost 100 people were killed when two Ahmadi mosques in Lahore, Pakistan, were attacked by men armed with hand grenades and AK-47s.

In the U.S. government’s 2012 International Religious Freedom Report, the plight of Pakistan’s Ahmadis was front and center.

“Among Pakistan‘s religious minorities, Ahmadis are subject to the most severe legal restrictions and officially sanctioned discrimination,” reads the report. The same report outlined violence against Ahmadis in Indonesia, where it said that at least 50 Ahmadiyya mosques have been vandalized.

A unique view of Islam

Harsh treatment in various corners of the world has instilled a deep Ahmadi appreciation for life in the United States.

“In America, all these small Muslim communities are flourishing, they love being in America,” said Ahmed. “They are 100% Muslim and they are 100% American.”

Ahmad, the Ahmadis’ current leader, was in the United States for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s annual convention, which drew 10,000 to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, last week.

“Wherever I go I have one goal … to meet my people,” Ahmad said.

But he was also here to meet politicians and journalists. For the Ahmadis, the scrutiny of American Muslims in the decade since 9/11 has been treated as an opportunity to discuss beliefs and answer questions.

Many in the community came out in favor of Rep. Peter King’s, R-New York, insistence last year on holding congressional hearings on radicalization within American Islam, even as other Muslim groups blasted the hearings as anti-Muslim.

“If the government thinks that congressional hearings will improve homeland security and help expose those exploiting Islam, I assure full cooperation. I, too, aspire to have a more secure America,” wrote Kashif N. Chaudhry, the director of an Ahmadi youth program in the United States, in a New York Times letter to the editor.

Chaudhry was hardly the only Ahmadi Muslim to speak up.

“You need to be with other people, you need to talk about your ideas and in that conversation and discussion, new things arise,” said Zafar. “It is like throwing the seed and putting water on it, you need the seed and you need the water for it to sprout.”

“We need to come together with the people around us in the United States, we need to do that and see how it flowers,” he continued.

The split between the Ahmadis and other Islamic sects is also apparent in how Ahmad, the sect’s leader, talks about extremists.

“Nowadays, Islam is being targeted only because of so-called Muslim groups who claim themselves to be Muslims but are not following the true teachings of Islam,” Ahmad said, speaking of what he calls “fundamentalists Muslims.” “If it is that Islam that is being portrayed by those orthodox Muslims, then I don’t think there is any chance in spreading Islam.”

Using terms like “so-called Muslims,” to refer to some outsiders has not endeared Ahmadis to other Muslims. Leading Sunni and Shiite groups are reluctant to even talk about the Ahmadis.

CNN contacted the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Islamic Society of North America, two major Muslim groups, and neither responded to requests for comment.

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A future in America

Zafar, the leader of the Ahmadis in the United States, said his sect is looking to grow.

The group has an organized media operation and operates three 24/7 satellite-television channels under the name Muslim Television Ahmadiyya International.

The initial purpose of the channels was to broadcast the sermons of the Khalifa, but it also provides other programs in different languages. The Silver Spring mosque is surrounded by large satellite dishes that beam the shows around the world.

In addition to satellite television, the Ahmadis run Islam International Publications, a publishing outfit.

Many Ahmadis are concerned about the version of Islam being portrayed in the media, which they say is too focused on the radical elements of Islam and not focused enough on peaceful Muslims.

“Right now there is a caricature of Islam,” said Zafar. “The biggest challenge I believe in the United States is for Muslims to get out of that image of extremist behaviors which are so popular in the press.”

Ahmed of American University sees the future of the Ahmadis as a bridge between Islam and the West.

“On the American side, they [the Ahmadis] are acting as a positive bridge to Islam and the Americans need that right now,” he said. “And then for Muslims, if they do link up and join mainstream Muslims, they are able to give Islam a link to the world and also help them work out these polemics that are tearing the world apart.”

For now, Ahmadis are stuck in between those two worlds.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Ahmadi Muslims believe their founder was the Second Coming of the Prophet Mohammed. They believe he was the metaphorical Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Islam

soundoff (1,074 Responses)
  1. letsallBeGrateful

    Obama is a muslim, admittedly so too. Muslims are ignorant fools.

    July 7, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
  2. aysha85

    Muslims are not allowed to drink and have drugs and any other sort of intoxinations. Logic: it causes so many diseases, accidents, and so much more bad things in society. Every DOS AND DON'TS in the HOLY QURAN have reasoning in the basis of physical and spiritual well being.

    July 7, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • Reality

      For our sister and brother Muslims of any sect:

      - from the studies of Armstrong, Rushdie, Hirsi Ali, Richardson and Bayhaqi-

      The Five Steps To Deprogram 1400 Years of Islamic Myths:
      ( –The Steps take less than two minutes to finish- simply amazing, two minutes to bring peace and rationality to over one billion lost souls- Priceless!!!)

      Are you ready?

      Using "The 77 Branches of Islamic "faith" a collection compiled by Imam Bayhaqi as a starting point. In it, he explains the essential virtues that reflect true "faith" (iman) through related Qur’anic verses and Prophetic sayings." i.e. a nice summary of the Koran and Islamic beliefs.

      The First Five of the 77 Branches:

      "1. Belief in Allah"

      aka as God, Yahweh, Zeus, Jehovah, Mother Nature, etc. should be added to your self-cleansing neurons.

      "2. To believe that everything other than Allah was non-existent. Thereafter, Allah Most High created these things and subsequently they came into existence."

      Evolution and the Big Bang or the "Gi-b G-nab" (when the universe starts to recycle) are more plausible and the "akas" for Allah should be included if you continue to be a "crea-tionist".

      "3. To believe in the existence of angels."

      A major item for neuron cleansing. Angels/de-vils are the mythical creations of ancient civilizations, e.g. Hitt-ites, to explain/define natural events, contacts with their gods, big birds, sudden winds, protectors during the dark nights, etc. No "pretty/ug-ly wingy thingies" ever visited or talked to Mohammed, Jesus, Mary or Joseph or Joe Smith. Today we would classify angels as f–airies and "tin–ker be-lls". Modern de-vils are classified as the de-mons of the de-mented.

      "4. To believe that all the heavenly books that were sent to the different prophets are true. However, apart from the Quran, all other books are not valid anymore."

      Another major item to delete. There are no books written in the spirit state of Heaven (if there is one) just as there are no angels to write/publish/distribute them. The Koran, OT, NT etc. are simply books written by humans for humans.

      Prophets were invented by ancient scribes typically to keep the un-educated masses in line. Today we call them for-tune tellers.

      Prophecies are also invali-dated by the natural/God/Allah gifts of Free Will and Future.

      "5. To believe that all the prophets are true. However, we are commanded to follow the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him)
      alone."
      Mohammed spent thirty days "fasting" (the Ramadan legend) in a hot cave before his first contact with Allah aka God etc. via a "pretty wingy thingy". Common sense demands a neuron deletion of #5. #5 is also the major source of Islamic vi-olence i.e. turning Mohammed's "fast, hunger-driven" hallu-cinations into horrible reality for unbelievers.

      Walk these Five Steps and we guarantee a complete recovery from your Islamic ways!!!!

      Unfortunately, there are not many Muslim commentators/readers on this blog so the "two-minute" cure is not getting to those who need it. If you have a Muslim friend, send him a copy and help save the world.

      Analogous steps are available at your request for deprogramming the myths of Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Paganism..

      July 7, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
  3. panzerman13

    and what if I do not wish to follow your religion walid...what then?

    July 7, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
  4. william adamsen

    About 80% of muslims are sunnis and about 20% of muslims are shias.Shias have no problem leading and using or carrying the will of the shias by the sunnis.

    July 7, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
    • Reality

      Some added facts:

      Mohammed was an illiterate, womanizing, lust and greed-driven, warmongering, hallucinating Arab, who also had embellishing/hallucinating/plagiarizing scribal biographers who not only added "angels" and flying chariots to the koran but also a militaristic agenda to support the plundering and looting of the lands of non-believers.

      This agenda continues as shown by the ma-ssacre in Mumbai, the as-sas-sinations of Bhutto and Theo Van Gogh, the conduct of the seven Muslim doctors in the UK, the 9/11 terrorists, the 24/7 Sunni suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the 24/7 Shiite suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the Islamic bombers of the trains in the UK and Spain, the Bali crazies, the Kenya crazies, the Pakistani “koranics”, the Palestine suicide bombers/rocketeers, the Lebanese nutcases, the Taliban nut jobs, the Ft. Hood follower of the koran, and the Filipino “koranics”.

      And who funds this muck and stench of terror? The warmongering, Islamic, Shiite terror and torture theocracy of Iran aka the Third Axis of Evil and also the Sunni "Wannabees" of Saudi Arabia.

      Current crises:

      The Sunni-Shiite, global blood feud and the warmongering, womanizing (11 wives), hallucinating founder

      July 7, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
  5. Matt

    Oy Vay Zmir, Meshugganah's

    July 7, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
  6. aysha85

    Islam teaches to respect every religion and not ridicule others.

    July 7, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
    • paul

      are you on drugs???

      July 7, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
      • aysha85

        no i have not even seen that.

        July 7, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
  7. martin

    All these Abrahamic religions, Muslim, Jew, Christian, need to do humanity a BIG favor and go self destruct.

    July 7, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
    • Unknown

      Atheists will get pleasure off of that..too much pleasure.

      July 7, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
  8. Saleem

    I am very happy to see that the message of True Islam which is Love, Tollerence, Peace & Justice is now reaching to west and inturn reaching to all over the world.

    I pray to God that all Nation come together and live together in peace.

    July 7, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
    • paul

      which god would that be?

      July 7, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
    • Sorry, but we have some fabulous parting gifts for you.....

      You seem to be a reasonable person, but when it comes to believing these stories as fact, no matter which religion of
      "Abraham" you belong to, it is a lie. Do you really need this invented god to protect you? Do you really need to be comforted in thinking you will go to some sort of eternal Disneyland if you do what any one of these various gods expect of you, according to these books that claim they were written by gods, but MEN wrote? Please, for the sake of humanity, get off of your knees. Thnere are no gods to appease or fear. Be the change you desire to see in others. Free your mind.

      July 7, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
    • Commenter

      Saleem,

      Thank you. I hope that your prayer works.

      July 7, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
  9. aysha85

    Well for the serious people go read this book "JESUS IN INDIA" http://www.alislam.org/library/books/jesus-in-india/index.html for others Good luck on spreading hatred around the world.

    July 7, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
  10. PRISM 1234

    It is so sad to see so many Muslim people stake their hopes on religion that has no life in it, and their lives and their immortal souls on the words and claims of a sinful, fallible man! This is a true tragedy!

    July 7, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
    • TR6

      Yes! You finaly understand! This is how most atheists feel about christians and all other theists

      July 7, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      Only problem with you, atheists, is that you don't understand what we Christians do (understand)!

      July 7, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
    • Commenter

      PRISM 1234: "Only problem with you, atheists, is that you don't understand what we Christians do (understand)!"

      We understand that your fantasy has not a whit of verified evidence for being true.

      July 7, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
    • Dj

      evidence is given through an obedient lifestyle..Gods holy spirit cant be given to unrepented sinners, unbelievers, murderers

      July 7, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
    • ogre

      Dj,

      Sorry, that "holy spirit" that you FEEL is simply emotion. There is no-one up/out/under/over there.

      July 8, 2012 at 12:13 am |
    • PRISM 1234

      @ogre
      Yeah, keep telling yourself..... till you open your eyes in Christ-less eternity. Then you'll demand for no evidence, becaue satan's demons will shove it at you ceaselessly.
      Think that's hate speech? You'll be begging to go back and have a chance to hear the warnings from those who you call fools now!
      How do I know that? No man has convinced me of it, but God Himself. And I don't want to be in such shape again that He has to convince me again! But such as yourself will have to find out THE HARD WAY! Just don't blame God then for the outcome of your own ways!

      July 8, 2012 at 10:11 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Translation of Prissy's drivel: I hate you because you don't obey a God I believe in. I can't prove He exists, but I have met him. He's gonna burn you and I'll be laughing the whole time.

      There. Now everyone can see what you said.

      July 8, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • Dj

      Ogre..that spirit is not emotion buddy.personally.im not an emotional person...that spirit alone has saved many lives spiritually and physically..i dont expect you to understand,,you are looking on the outside in...personally its like looking through Gods eyes..seeing things b4 they happen ..hearing things before they are said, revealing what is not meant to be revealed...and praying for the righteous b4 their enemies are destroyed.

      July 8, 2012 at 11:49 pm |
  11. Dj

    reminds me of the tale: the scorpion and the frog

    July 7, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
  12. walid

    to all close minded people islam is a religion of peace they are over a billion muslims in this world a few bad apples ruined it and you have to understand there are alot of blonde hair blue eyed muslims in this worl ... islam is fastes growing religion as well as the 2nd largest after christianity being the 1st ... so open your eyes and evolve we are all human! we are semetic like other christianity and judiasim ... if you wanna be anti muslim then dont do algebra and dont put gas in your car matter of fact dont buy tires or even count .. muslims are normal people that have alot going for them ... leave them alone and focus on your life ... if a pile of shyt doesnt stink why would you poke at it ? your just gonna end up smelling it 🙂

    July 7, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
    • Unknown

      Christianity may be the "largest" but many people won't ever realize..the true number will never be known.Its hard being what you claim 24/7..for anybody.

      Fakers exist within everything.

      July 7, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
    • finkster

      While your at it give that same lecture to the extremists Muslims as well
      How they've got to stop killing people in the name of God

      July 7, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
    • Unknown

      "killing in the name of God"..Why do believe they are? Because they so say?!

      July 7, 2012 at 10:42 pm |
  13. Guest

    Ahmadiyyah is bogus.

    July 7, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
    • aftab from VB

      That's hardly an intellectual account of Ahmadies and has become the hallmark of mainstream Muslims. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad has authored about 85 works to defend the name of Islam and spread its image as a religion of peace. That is just one person. Have a look at how Ahmadies live their lives, what they teach their kids and compare that to 'bogus'. It's very easy to study Ahmadies, they love it and like to cooperate. And remember they like you to join them, so don't expect them to tell any thing that is not exactly the truth about themsleves.

      July 7, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
  14. jmchoudry

    Every God driven religion suffered from same kind of hardships as Ahmadiyyas are facings.

    July 7, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
    • MA

      True religion faces hardship but it does not mean that if a false religion is facing hardship , it is true.

      July 9, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
  15. aysha85

    AHMADIYA MUSLIM COMMUNITY MOTTO: LOVE FOR ALL HATRED FOR NONE

    July 7, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
    • MA

      AHMADIYA MUSLIM COMMUNITY MOTTO: LOVE FOR CHANDA MONEY AND HATRED FOR MUSLIMS

      July 9, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
  16. aysha85

    I agree the image of Islam which is out there is totally NOT what the real teachings of Islam. Unfortunately, Islam in this age has been forgotten. With many so called Muslims following whatever they want to follow and call it IN THE NAME OF ISLAM. That is not what the true ISLAM is. The unforgetable teachings of islam is being re-establish by the AHMADIYYA MUSLIM COMMUNITY around the world. They are not as big of a number in comparison however, their growth is in LEAPS AND BOUNDS. love it or hate it.

    July 7, 2012 at 10:06 pm |
  17. Realdirect

    Ahmadiyyah, ahkul bidah....people of innovation.Ridfidah, ( i.e. ) the Sufiyoon's too. True Islam....is Ahkul Sunnah wal Jammat a Salafiyyah...May Allah Azza wal jall guide them.....& the Kifiroon's.

    July 7, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
  18. doublereed

    Sounds kinda like the Mormon's of the Muslim World.

    July 7, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
    • Khan

      U got it right.

      July 8, 2012 at 12:41 am |
  19. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer change things,

    July 7, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
    • oodoodanoo

      No suicide bomber ever killed children in the name of atheism.

      July 7, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
  20. aysha85

    I agree it is the hated group NOW but soon it will be most loved religion of the world. With all this hatred, In canada alone Muslims are the only relgion with more growth every year then any other religion.

    July 7, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
    • Keith

      I don't think Religion has much hope of growing if we continue to educate people. Educated people usually do not believe in imaginary gods and places.

      July 7, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      @aysha85: If you mean this little sect will become most-loved in world, then they must get the word out and increase their numbers. They do sound like the better alternative to mainstream Islam.
      If you mean Islam in general will become the most beloved, then i guess that might be true if you only survey the Muslims who've not yet been flogged or had a hand cut off (or the family of a loved-one who was killed or maimed in the name of Allah).

      July 7, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
    • Pull My Finger

      Tell us, aysha, did it hurt when they cut your cli torus? How's that working out for you?

      July 7, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
    • Hez316

      I believe the President is a professing Christian if memory serves

      July 7, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
    • Unknown

      why do people believe "my god told me to do it"? You seriously that stupid to believe that?! Unless they have a mental issue,they no mattee what will believe they are..they can't help it because of their mental issue.But that's not always the case.Many atheists of course will deny it but..well they won't ever understand because they think the intention(s) are always religious ignoring the persons own intention.

      Islam does not preach "Death to Americans".Non-believers always accept the lies from them.

      July 7, 2012 at 10:10 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.