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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. shakeel

    love for all hatred for none.and thanks CNN.and usa.nation

    July 8, 2012 at 6:42 am |
  2. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    July 8, 2012 at 6:40 am |
  3. lololol

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Koresh

    http://www.seattlechatclub.org/urandir.html

    http://www.nobeliefs.com/hitlerchristian.htm

    http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_did_Hitler_think_of_himself

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yahweh_ben_Yahweh

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirza_Ghulam_Ahmad

    http://www.directessays.com/viewpaper/27878.html (Charles Manson thought he was the Messiah also)

    And then there was jesus who claimed to be the Messiah, just about everyone worships him and completely ignores the fact that G-d said in Exodus 20 vs 2-3 :2 "I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me." I hear people thanking jesus everyday almost and yet hear not one word thanking G-d, I have heard no mention of this jesus in the Old Testament, not one word, yet mysteriously he comes about in the New Testament and the "church" mysteriously changes the day of rest into sunday, if you get out your calendar and you count from the first day (use your fingers) to the seventh you will see that the Sabbath and the day of rest is SATURDAY. I have yet to see where Our F-ther gave anyone the authority to change it to sunday. Read the requirements of the Messiah, not one has managed to fulfill the requirements, not one..... When you see peace among all people (this means no wars) then you might start to see a Messiah, there are a few other requirements you might want to read:

    There will be no more hunger or illness, and death will cease (Isaiah 25:8)
    is one, please see the following page and you will understand what those requirements are:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_messianism

    Funny how every few years you get someone claiming to be a savior and never meets the requirements to fulfill the position huh? All you have to do is look to G-d.

    July 8, 2012 at 6:39 am |
    • HeavenSent

      I'll give you scriptures from Genesis regarding Jesus. He's written throughout the OT for those that have eyes to see and ears to hear.

      Genesis 3:15 (The first prophecy in the Bible, Jesus was to be that seed of the woman)

      15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. (KJV)

      Genesis 22:18 (Jesus was the promised seed of Abraham)

      18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice. (KJV)

      Genesis 26:4 (In Jesus, the seed of Abraham through Isaac, the whole world is blessed)

      4 And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; (KJV)

      Genesis 49:10 (The sceptre [scepter] denotes King, Shiloh means Peace; Jesus is the King of Peace)

      10 The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. (KJV)

      Amen.

      July 8, 2012 at 7:44 am |
    • TR6

      @HeavenSent:”I'll give you scriptures from Genesis regarding Jesus. He's written throughout the OT for those that have eyes to see and ears to hear.”

      Or minds schizophrenic enough to imagine it. The name jesus does not appear once in all of the old testament. And for all the times god talks to people in the OT he never once directly mentions he has a son. You would think that an all knowing god would remember to mention something about it

      July 8, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • Salim_Ahmadi

      For those who await the second coming a simple litmus test would be .....
      The base teaching of the first and the second time would be in alignment.
      For the atheist it should be the same coolaid and for the believers a message of Love and Peace must be repeated. Anything else is illogical.

      July 8, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
  4. Newyorker

    So Ahmadi's are like the Muslim equivalent of Mormons. Maybe they can move to Utah to avoid persecution, or we can give them Nevada.

    July 8, 2012 at 5:57 am |
  5. Khalid Mahmood

    It is sad that Pakistan is committing worst atrocities againt a very peaceful community. Many of its leaders have taken refuge in other countires such as USA and UK.. United Nations charter gives freedom of religion to all , but in Pakistan, blood thirsty Mullah can use Islam as pretext to kill any innocent human being. I urge Capitol Hill, White house and State Department to take action, and ask Government of Pakistan to protect the rights of all its Citizens. The only way Pakistan can live in peace is by destroying the menace of extremism an Mullahism.

    July 8, 2012 at 5:30 am |
    • MA

      Khalid looks like a Qadiani Mulla

      July 9, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
    • MA

      Khalid looks like a Qadiani Mulla.

      July 9, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
  6. Fareed

    Well written article. Just saddens me to see many comments by people who realy have no thinking of their own – Brainwashed – give your opinions but not lies handed over to you by so called mullas. Do some research of your own first. Finally anyone commenting against Ahmadiyya – please tell us if you support the killing of Ahmadies? As they are Wajb katal, right?

    July 8, 2012 at 4:38 am |
    • 007isalive

      Khalid mehmood and Fareed
      You both are liars, as killing of ahmadies is not a state policy. dont try to gain cheap sympathy from the americans. Majority of Pakistanis mostly punjabis are boors muslims. you are wise people so you know what ignites them. if your teachings and studies are better than these janglies, than why you fled and could not defend yourself,you should have better influence on them you should have fight for your cause ,you should have taken stand that you were right. but instead you cowardly fled the country and involved your people weakening the foundation of pakistan. dont be in illusion, america and britain will not allocate you a piece of land anywhere to establish an "ahmadiya state" like "israeli state'. You should justify the mass by your calibre that only "you" are right.Begging to non muslims to help justify your cause is also shameful and embarressing.

      July 8, 2012 at 7:32 am |
  7. Aberejo issa

    You guyz should stop dragging the issue and make thorough research on Ahmadiyya...love for all,hatred for none.

    July 8, 2012 at 4:33 am |
  8. GBfromOhio

    Religious dogma ... be it sourced from Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism ,,, or Christian Scientists or Wiccans ... is both annoying and amusing. I believe in a higher power but these divisive fairy tales that have caused so much death over the centuries is appalling, primitive and silly.

    July 8, 2012 at 3:00 am |
    • i12bphil

      And yet there is the belief that man created God. If you believe that and yet attribute the guilt to religion instead of man, you are the epitome of a fool.

      July 8, 2012 at 3:54 am |
  9. aysha85

    For all the ones who like to spread Hatred around the world and among people, Please go on with you mission cause we will never be with you. Ahmadiyya Muslim Community motto: Love For All Hatred For None.

    July 8, 2012 at 2:58 am |
    • AliMB

      Arguing with ignorance is a futile madam. We ahmadi Muslims are required to inform others about the truth, but as the Quran states 'there is no compulsion in religion.' so if non believers turn into bitter opponents or worse into transgressors than we are not to engage in their banter.

      July 8, 2012 at 4:09 am |
  10. aysha85

    No serious blogger is here with intellectual views. Only the ones who are making up about others belief and values. Shame on you guys.

    July 8, 2012 at 2:49 am |
    • The Real Talk

      Arent you late for your weekly strategy meeting? There are tons of you leaving the cult because more and more people are finding the cult rules ridiculous. You're suppppsedly a sect of Sunni but can't marry one right? Cut out the I'm so intellectual game. You're just brainwashed.

      July 8, 2012 at 2:54 am |
  11. desi

    Ahmedi's are not muslims,they are a cult.Someone woke up one day and decided to fool a bunch of idiots into believing in him,hanging a big photograph of him.i'm here to see my people lol.please.He's a 5th generation Ahmed.This is not a royal family,you can't keep handing down your prophecy,To become important,they call themselves muslims,and the real muslims on top of that.Drean on.

    July 8, 2012 at 2:45 am |
    • The Real Talk

      Exactly. They probably have someone assigned to monitor this quickly to defend themselves to "disprove" everyone. Have to lie to go to hajj. Really good Muslims lol

      July 8, 2012 at 2:51 am |
    • Salim_Ahmadi

      Please define a 'muslim' and if you can expand on what would be a 'real muslim'. Please read the Hadith about calling a faithful a non-believer before you reply. Remember not to be among the transgressors as you compose an answer.

      July 8, 2012 at 5:52 am |
    • Ravi K

      Are you talking about the guy in Arabia from the 7th century?

      July 8, 2012 at 6:55 am |
    • 007isalive

      Yoiu are infinite times right,so true! my good wishes.

      July 8, 2012 at 10:19 am |
  12. Politically Correct

    Everybody has their own opinion on religion. Some hate it, some love it. We are all probably going to die from a WW3 before Jesus makes a return to earth.

    July 8, 2012 at 2:39 am |
  13. Golden Girl

    I'm glad this religious group has some appealing beliefs. It's clear they won't be influencing the general Muslim population, though.

    July 8, 2012 at 2:36 am |
  14. The Real Talk

    Why do ahmadi people keep quoting a book written by their own leader? The only book needed if you're a Muslim to reference is the Quran. Why do ahmadis hide away from other Muslim gatherings? Why aren't you at Isna? Cair? How do you call yourself a sect of Sunni just so you can go to Saudi? If ahmadi is SO right, why don't you debate it out with real Muslim scholars instead of trying to portray yourselves as the real deal to non Muslims? You believe in a guy from the 1800s that looks like a Sikh punjabi. Your cult was created in order to divide the Muslims when someone else was looking to conquer. Sums paid by the Brits to do this. If it was the second coming of Jesus, where's the rest of the things that were to follow very soon after that he was to do when he's here. Your guy died? Not real Muslims. Keep trying to gain your traction and divide the Muslim people. It's written that this is to happen before the day of judgement.

    July 8, 2012 at 2:30 am |
    • aysha85

      Because we are the true followers of Holy Quran, and Holy Prophet saw. If we would start following all of those so called Muslims out there there will not be any distinguish between us and the rest of "72" sects. Our teachings and beliefs are what have been practiced by Holy Prophet saw and sahaba ra and our guidance is our Holy Book. Sadly, for others they are still waiting for their reformer of this age. The Reformer of this Age and time has come which is Promised Messiah according to Ahadith. Please go and research on this before coming here and writing about others.

      July 8, 2012 at 2:38 am |
    • The Real Talk

      Sumun, bukmun umyoon.

      July 8, 2012 at 2:40 am |
    • I wonder

      This is like arguing about how many buttons are on a Leprechaun's vest, and is it green or brown? Or, what do Unicorns like for breakfast.

      July 8, 2012 at 2:42 am |
    • Rehman

      If Quran is the only book Muslims need for guidance then why they have books on Hadith?. Ahmedis do not shy away from debates on religious issues its the mainstream scholars who are scared of participating in open debates with Ahmedis after all its the muslim scholars of today who purport such ideas as Ahmedis are infidels and muslims need not listen or debate their beliefs. If Muslims of today are so confident about the strength of their beliefs and arguments then why do they not allow Ahmedis to openly express their religious views on electronic media etc. just like Hindu, sikhs and christians are in muslim countries. Why MTA which is a religious channel of Ahmadiyya community is banned in most Arab countries and many muslim countries world wide ? Is it not a proof of lack of confidence in muslim scholars?.

      July 8, 2012 at 6:31 am |
    • 007isalive

      I dont know whether it is a fact or not but some says mirza saheb died in a bath room ,a messenger of God does not die in a bath room. if someone can throw light on it .I take pity on these ignorants.who rant "we are the true followers of Islam" if you are true followers of Islam then what brought you here to beg white house and rich americans to get some funds and sympathy.why dont you go to prince Karim agha khan, why dont you go to mahathir mohammad, actually your mirza saheb needs to remove some flaws from the story. a new edition of this book will be soon in the market.

      July 8, 2012 at 10:39 am |
  15. Shahriarzadeh

    If someone converts into a Muslim or even is a Muslim, The first thing he has to say is (There is no God but one God and Mohammad (PBHU) is his Last Prophet). But they don't believe that Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) was the last messenger, and ccording to them the last prophet came on 19th century. Also according to Islam Prophet Jesus (PBHU) will return at the end of the world, which they don't believe in. Its hard to believe if they are a Muslim.

    July 8, 2012 at 2:26 am |
    • aysha85

      Sorry you don't know then who true Ahmadiyya Muslims are. They believe in One God, and kalima (There is no God but Allah and Muhammad saw is the messenger of Allah), they believe in Holy Prophet saw as the last prophet. I think you have not looked into the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahmadiyya_Muslim_Community. Please for next time do some research about others beliefs and then make statements.

      July 8, 2012 at 2:32 am |
    • abdurrahmanx

      Ahmadis are not Muslims. This is our only dispute. You do not follow our Prophet. You use our book. You steal our name. But you lie on our faith. And then you wonder why we have extreme dislike for you. You think you can disrespect us and beg after whites and they will save you. Your real fight is with God. Just quit lying. You are NOT Muslims. You can beg after the whites all you want and no one will hate you for it. You will not be the first to have sold your sold to the white world. Just leave Islam out of your sellout please....

      July 8, 2012 at 7:01 am |
  16. Malik

    For the record, by any definition the Qadianis (Ahmadi's) are not muslims. So call them anything dont call them muslims. The supreme court of Pakistan has declared this many years ago. So why does CNN insist on calling Qadianis as muslims. Very irresponsible and ridiculous article.

    July 8, 2012 at 2:24 am |
    • The Real Talk

      Finally. Thank you. And as the article says, Isna and cair not available to comment because it doesn't even warrant one. They're not Muslims.

      July 8, 2012 at 2:32 am |
    • Politically Correct

      So just because one terrorism supporting, America hating country declares somebody not Muslim. Does that mean the rest of the sand ni...... I mean Muslim people dont?

      July 8, 2012 at 2:44 am |
    • Ajibade Taofeeq

      @Malik what court in the WORLD has the power to declare one who calls himself Muslim a non-Muslim? Bring example from the life of the Prophet(saw).

      July 8, 2012 at 4:13 am |
    • Ahmad

      Because CNN doesn't care what supreme court of Pakistan thinks.

      July 8, 2012 at 5:41 am |
    • Ravi K

      @Malik,

      Anyone call himself anything, who are you or anyone else for that matter to tell otherwise. Stop being the agent of God, no one needs you.

      July 8, 2012 at 6:59 am |
  17. puppypumper

    Since when is religion peaceful?

    July 8, 2012 at 2:07 am |
  18. Wajeeh

    Now this is the real islam 🙂
    Love the quote
    "love for all, hatred for none"

    July 8, 2012 at 1:54 am |
  19. Fuster

    According to the HOLY QURAN (56:17), Muslims get to enjoy boys in heaven.

    July 8, 2012 at 1:50 am |
    • aysha85

      please open the Holy Qur'an first before writing your own make up translations: " here is the original translation of the verse [56:17] Reclining thereon facing each other.

      July 8, 2012 at 2:12 am |
  20. abdulrafiabdulqadir

    This is a wonderful piece trying to put into perspective the concept of freedom of religion as promoted by the UN, well for those who feel offended by this article and the belief it expounds I want to commend the writer for his dexterity.
    I think so many people are already satisfied with the concept of Bn laden Islam that they find it difficult to accept it when a person who claims to be a Muslim say "Love for all Hatred for none".
    If you want to criticize this concept of Islam then................

    July 8, 2012 at 1:36 am |
    • Politically Correct

      Go .... yourself. Sorry I had to finish your sentence for you.

      July 8, 2012 at 2:49 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.