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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. Noman

    well seeing some of the comments say that they are not Muslims!

    OK
    But the reality is these are the only people defending Islam today around the world!
    We see their pamphlets with big headings: "Don't blame Muhammad (SAWW)"

    we see them changing the minds of western world.
    In Australia after Qur'an Burning incident Muslims protested in the middle of the streets and spread the anachy which increases the hatred against Muslims.

    What they did was unique but according to the Teachings of Prophet Muhammad.
    they organized a Qur'an exhibition and distributed thousands of free copies of Qur'an with English translation around Australia.

    AND CHALLENGED PEOPLE TO FIND THE TEACHINGS OF TERRORISM IN IT!

    NONE OF OTHER MUSLIMS HAVE EVER DONE THIS> The thing other Muslim sects do is protest and protest.

    Wake up Muslims:
    The Promised Messiah Has Come!

    July 8, 2012 at 1:29 am |
    • The Real Talk

      Theyre not spreading Islam. They're spreading ahmadi cult. Quran is different and they're passing out fliers with a mugshot of their leader looking to win the hearts of everyone. Not looking to have Islam in the hearts of others, just ahmadis. If it were Islam, it would say that. Not say ahmadi with a picture of the punjabi guy from 1800s.

      July 8, 2012 at 2:36 am |
  2. Yasser Latif Hamdani

    As a Pakistani, I have always been grateful for the extraordinary role that Ahmadi Muslims have played in the creation and the progress of my country. It is a tragedy that Pakistan now mistreats a community which has always selflessly helped it. (Disclaimer: I am not an Ahmadi Muslim – this is necessary to point out because one is suddenly open to such accusation if one tells it like it is). Ahmadi community I am sure will help bring peace to a chaotic world. More power to them.

    July 8, 2012 at 1:21 am |
  3. Abu Omar

    Aysha 85,
    You are absolutely right. All those who are writing against Islam, or specifically against Islam Ahmadiyyat, they have not read any thing from the original books. They have just heard the rumors from the ones who have not read the books even themselves.
    Abu Omar

    July 8, 2012 at 1:19 am |
  4. aysha85

    I see people here are only attacking others values and beliefs and writing whatever they desire about others because this forum is not being monitored. No serious bloggers is here with intellectual views without disrespecting others Holy books, and Holy Prophets. This is a Shame for all those who commented so utterly.

    July 8, 2012 at 1:14 am |
    • godisimaginary.com

      Religion should not be respected, for religion preaches intolerance and lacks logic.

      July 8, 2012 at 1:25 am |
      • aysha85

        Islam teachings are based on tolerance, justice, peace and have reasoning and logic for every single belief that's why I am fond of it. It gives answers to my why logic.

        July 8, 2012 at 1:30 am |
  5. llɐq ʎʞɔnq

    Islam developed from the moon-god cult. Ilah was a phase of the moon god.

    July 8, 2012 at 1:12 am |
    • Kyle

      That is an interesting fact.

      July 8, 2012 at 7:17 am |
  6. aysha85

    Love for all Hatred for None is the way to go to create world peace. If you will not desire to do that you will go on an on attacking others, which will never in return is the way to create peace and harmony around the world and among people.

    July 8, 2012 at 1:11 am |
    • Tell me

      Do you want or wish that the entire world be Muslim?

      July 8, 2012 at 1:20 am |
    • Commenter

      - seems like very telling **crickets** here...

      July 8, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • MA

      Peace comes only through justice not making attractive slogans.Take this slogan with you to the American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and see what they do with you.

      July 9, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
  7. aysha85

    Love, peace, compassion and tolerance is the way to go around world peace. If you will not desire to do that you will go on an on attacking others, which will never in return is the way to create peace and harmony around the world and among people.

    July 8, 2012 at 1:10 am |
    • Ahmad Mustansar

      Ayesha! You are absolutely, absolutely right. I cannot see why someone cannot support a message of peace, love and harmony. Biased people will always find excuses to malign anything good. They are intellectually blind. Ahmadiyya are the best of Muslim sects in that they preach love, peace and brotherhood and condemn all forms of violence, extremism and jihad by the sword. What else a reasonable person needs in this world to live happily?!

      July 8, 2012 at 3:19 am |
    • MA

      Peace comes only through justice not making attractive slogans.Take this slogan with you to the American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and Israeli forces in Palestine , in Gaza srip and see what they do with you.Preach this slogan to the Israeli Armies if you really mean it.

      July 9, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
  8. Abu Omar

    justice 786,
    Mirza sahib is actually telling the Christians what is written in their books. He is not writing or blaming Jesus (peace be upon him) himself.
    How can he criticise him when he is saying that he like unto him (Jesus peace be upon him).
    Abu Omar

    July 8, 2012 at 1:08 am |
    • llɐq ʎʞɔnq

      Why do you people keep saying "PBUH" ? Are you afraid it isn't already, or that your saying that actually has some sort of effectiveness? If he is dead, it's too late. God, in a timeless/spaceless dimension is powerless to act, as acting requires time, and refutes his eternal nature, if "something" happens.

      July 8, 2012 at 1:11 am |
    • 007isalive

      What a hypocritic justification,by the way if mirza saheb is genuine in his belief ,then why he would need non muslims to endorse his belief? does his belief need an approval of christians and jews to be declared right.? Its really embarrasing for ahmadis.

      July 8, 2012 at 9:28 am |
  9. Abu Omar

    Justice 786,you have written that Mirza sahib has written
    In his book Maktoohat Ahmadiyya, Mirza (pp 23-24) writes the following:
    about Jesus (PBUH):

    "What was the behavior of the Messiah? He liked to eat and drink, he was ]
    an alcoholic, a materialist, .... he did not like the truth, he was proud of....
    I would say that please read his book your self. You are quoting the words from a Maulvi who has not written correct and full reference. Mirza sahib is writing what New Testament has mentioned about Jesus peace be upon you. He telling Christians that the Jesus according to your book is of this type. He is saying this himself. Read the full reference. Thanks.
    Abu Omar

    July 8, 2012 at 12:55 am |
  10. mmi16

    All religions are man made tools to control populations.

    July 8, 2012 at 12:49 am |
  11. Abu Omar

    Justice 786,you have written that Mirza sahib has written
    In his book Maktoohat Ahmadiyya, Mirza (pp 23-24) writes the following:
    about Jesus (PBUH):

    "What was the behavior of the Messiah? He liked to eat and drink, he was ]
    an alcoholic, a materialist, .... he did not like the truth, he was proud of....
    Again I will say that you have not read his book your self. You are quoting the words from a Maulvi who has not written correct and full reference. Mirza sahib is writing what New Testament has mentioned about Jesus peace be upon you. Please read yourself and you will be in better position. Thanks.
    Abu Omar

    July 8, 2012 at 12:48 am |
    • honesty

      Abu OMar and Justice are your typical hatred filled bigots, who try to misinform the common public to conform to their bias views. These are the people that take writings out of context and present them in a skewed fashion. They are hate filled people, that impulsively hate the Ahmadi's; mainly due to their apparent jealousy. Anybody can take words out of context to support their negative views, I encourage all people to actually read the Promised Messiah's books for themselves, in entirety from start to finish – you will realize how these people play on the words to lie to the public.

      July 8, 2012 at 1:47 am |
  12. Aleem

    You are free to say what you wish ..... we dont FORCE any woman to cover herself. I know many Ahmadi woman who do not cover all their body, but wear such clothes who show dignity and do not make them look CHEAP. A feeling of respect arises instead of lust. So stop spreading your biased thoughts if you dont know anything. SEE first and then talk. Stop spreading hatred. Love for ALL hatred for NONE

    July 8, 2012 at 12:47 am |
  13. Seekingtruth786

    Dear American lawmakers and public, a true religion does not change its faith to fit the time...ahmadia movement is trying to act as muslims, when they have handpicked beliefs from all religions mostly islam...just to win favors, and they got what they wanted...love from lawmakers and money flowing in.

    July 8, 2012 at 12:45 am |
    • Mohammad Khan

      Sir, all of our beliefs are of Islam. Furthermore, our leader has delivered the same message of peace to all major world leaders other than that of the United States including Russia, Israel, Iran, and others. Lastily, we don't want any government's money, we are self-funded unlike most other groups which ask governments for support.

      July 8, 2012 at 1:25 am |
    • Ravi K

      @Seekingtruth786,

      A true seeker knows there is no end to discovery. No religion which claims a cap to all knowledge in the universe is a true religion. So what's wrong with having a messenger from God for different periods.

      July 8, 2012 at 7:05 am |
  14. Abu Omar

    Justice 786,
    It looks that you have not read any of the writings of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad sahib. I have read all his books. I have not found the very wordings which you have quoted. Have you read his book "Kitabul Bariyya"? I know you have not.
    Abu Omar

    July 8, 2012 at 12:37 am |
  15. Jose M. Pulido

    Any version of Islam is worthless, useless and harmful to the USA Israel and the rest of the world. This version of Islam who believes that the 19th century founder of their sect was the metaphorical Second Coming of Jesus Christ is even crazier than the other sects of Islam.
    Islam is in the USA todestroy it from within. Muslims and Islamists hate the USA but they still come here to establish terrorist sleeper-cell mosques. Every mosque is like a miliary Muslim base in the USA. Islam is not a religion but a deadly ideology designed to destroy the host country via Trojan Horse style; they are rapidly infiltrating the USA and in a given moment, they will take over our country; then there will not be any more freedom of speech, neither freedom of the press nor freedom for women, much less freedom to be a Christian.

    July 8, 2012 at 12:36 am |
    • A Muslim

      Mr. "Jose", you sir are wrong on all counts. Put down the science fiction books and actually talk to a Muslim before you start spewing stuff like that.

      July 8, 2012 at 12:49 am |
    • Seekingtruth786

      Your comments appears to be as if they are from another idiot ignorant fellow, who is blaming 1.2 billion muslims. If they were all bad, what can the 330 million people do against the 1 billion, idiot...stalin and hitler hated america, yet non muslims.

      July 8, 2012 at 12:50 am |
    • 007isalive

      Well said Jose!
      Where are the Red indians? their belief?either you killed them all or forcefully converted them to christianity,which one is right?

      July 8, 2012 at 9:39 am |
    • Mahid

      and your opinion is valid because..? lol this communities spreading love and peace what are you spreading ...

      July 10, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
  16. Politically Correct

    Why don't people learn to keep their religious beliefs to themselves. If your religion has you going door to door, their is something seriously wrong. If you believe God doesn't exist or the Bible is fake. Please keep your bigoted ignorant comments to yourselves and stop trying to force your beliefs on the rest of the world. The world does not care what you think.

    July 8, 2012 at 12:29 am |
    • Answer

      Boy aren't you seriously upset at something..

      July 8, 2012 at 12:33 am |
    • DeadGuy

      No need for you to listen. Please go stick your head in the sand. In this country, at least, we have something called freedom of speech. If you don't like something someone is saying plug your ears. And in the meantime, please, by all means, get over yourself.

      -Dg

      July 8, 2012 at 12:36 am |
  17. Abu Omar

    This is my humble request to those who think Muhammad (peace be upon him) is wrong and Islam is false religion, please read a book "The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam" by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, which is found on (alislam.org). This book is will help you to understand humanity, religion and God Almighty.
    Good luck,
    Abu Omar

    July 8, 2012 at 12:19 am |
    • Answer

      Your religion will vanish – time allows for a minute existence.

      July 8, 2012 at 12:27 am |
    • Commenter

      Islam, like Christianity and Judaism, may have few bits of practical advice for polite, civilized behavior (advice which can be also gleaned by other methods). There is not a whit of verified evidence for the supernatural beings which they wax rhapsodic about.

      July 8, 2012 at 12:29 am |
    • Sal

      In the Mid 1800’s both the Muslims and Christians expected the second coming of Christ. These are based on the Old Testament (e.g. Book of Daniel) and the New Testament (e.g. Book of Mathew). There are many references to in the Quarn as well. Joseph Smith, Seventh Day Adventist are examples of this kind of activity on the Christian side. Ahmadis and Shaykhees on the Muslim side.

      Could He have come “like a thief in the night”? Could you have recognized Him the first time if you were there. The learned Pharisees did NOT! Open your heart and you may know!!

      July 8, 2012 at 1:04 am |
  18. Jack

    There isn't a chance in hell even moderate (or mainstream) Muslims will accept Ahmadis as anything but heretics. Ahmadis are to Muslims what Mormons are to Catholics.

    July 8, 2012 at 12:14 am |
    • Justice786

      CLAIM #2: Mirza claimed he was God.

      Kitabul Bariya, Published by Ashir Katul Islamiya ltd, Rabwa, 17
      September 1898:

      In a very long and bewildering series of accounts,
      Mirza describes how once when he was in a cave, he suddenly realized that
      he himself was in fact God, and that he had created the world.

      [Note: No other prophet ever claimed to be God, but Mirza apparently does.]

      CLAIM #3: Mirza is above all other prophets in rank.

      July 8, 2012 at 12:24 am |
    • Justice786

      CLAIM #6: Mirza claims that Jesus (PBUH) was an alcoholic.

      In his book Maktoohat Ahmadiyya, Mirza (pp 23-24) writes the following:
      about Jesus (PBUH):

      "What was the behavior of the Messiah? He liked to eat and drink, he was ]
      an alcoholic, a materialist, .... he did not like the truth, he was proud of
      ^^^^^^^^^
      himself, selfish and he used to proclaim himself God."

      July 8, 2012 at 12:26 am |
    • Sakeena

      You are absolutely right, because these are not Muslims.

      July 8, 2012 at 12:57 am |
    • aysha85

      First learn what are the teachings of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, merely writing two sentences on a blog will not a proof about a certain religious beliefs. For those who are serious would go and research instead attacking on others religious beliefs.

      July 8, 2012 at 1:05 am |
    • Looking at Clouds

      It's a cow.

      No, it's a pirate.

      No, it's castle.

      No, it's a dinosaur.

      No, it's Thor riding a whirlwind.

      No, it's "God" with a long white fluffy beard.

      No, it's "Allah" and his horse.

      Got any more...?

      July 8, 2012 at 1:10 am |
  19. godisimaginary.com

    Quoting the bible or any religious book for that matter, as truth or as something that actually happened is a idiot. why do people allow themselves to be drawn into that brainwashing. Its an addiction, just like any other addiction.

    July 8, 2012 at 12:10 am |
    • ogre

      Yes, the euphoria is quite seductive (as is the fantasy of eternal bliss).

      July 8, 2012 at 12:15 am |
  20. George

    Wow, the radical right wing pretend again "Christians" are really on a roll tonight. The only difference between them and the Islamic radicals is that these fakers hide behind an anonymous name.

    July 8, 2012 at 12:09 am |
    • Júrgen

      Boy are you barking up the wrong tree. It's obvious to everyone that mainstream Muslims are offended by this splinter group and they're denouncing them left and right. Meanwhile you're still stomping your feet and crying about right-wingers. Nice attempt at deflection.

      July 8, 2012 at 1:39 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.