UK: Ahmadiyya Muslim Ladies from Carshalton visit Saint Hill Church of Scientology to improve Interfaith relations

Scientology might be well known in the US and in East Grinstead but in the Ahmadiyya Muslim community very few people know about it. So when my friend Amelia Cavanagh invited me to visit her Church I arranged a group tour for Muslim ladies to see what they have to say. I was baffled before I even got out of my car as I beheld a giant mansion with beautiful paths lined with wide flower borders, surrounded by a feeling of calm and bliss.

We were welcomed with warm hugs and offered a place in the chapel to say our afternoon prayers before the welcome tea was served. A lot of attention was paid to ensure Islamic customs were respected. The drinks and the sandwiches were all halal and a female tour guide was arranged so we would feel more comfortable. Though the question answer session was supposed to be the last thing on the agenda the friendliness of the hosts encouraged even the shiest of our ladies to speak up and enquire about the views of scientology on different topics.

The tour started at the mansion which was the residence of the founder of Scientology, Mr L. Ron Hubbard. Each room was filled with history and antiquities and had beautiful views onto the 60 acre site that was kept in immaculate condition. We visited the winter garden, the library and the monkey room (why it’s called that you will have to find out for yourself). Every room was beautifully arranged and kept true to its original design. Even all items on the desk in the office of Mr Hubbard were kept exactly as he had left them, including a 1966 magazine. We continued the tour to the castle which houses several study facilities and counselling rooms. Walking through the long galleries made me notice that every person I came across had a very calm expression on his face. Not only was everyone very polite and welcoming but it seemed like they were all in tune with themselves and had an aura of serenity. My friend Jilly also noticed this, saying “the whole atmosphere around the estate was peaceful. There was so much I learned and facts which opened my mind to a different thought dimension. The hospitality was outstanding and I felt very welcomed, something I have not experienced at a place of worship before (apart from our own Mosques). I have understood the mysticism of Scientology more”.

To conclude our tour we were offered a second tea and creamed cakes in the pavilion where we spoke about the philosophy of Scientology in more depth. Soon everyone realised how many things Islam and Scientology have in common. The role of religion is to help make us better people. I met good people on this tour who are good because they follow the teachings of their founder. I do not understand it when Scientologists are spoken ill about by followers of main stream religions only because their faith has a different structure. It is unacceptable in 21st century Britain to be judgemental about matters of faith. As my colleague Madiha commented “it was a great opportunity to build an interfaith relationship. We were pleased that they allowed us to pray in their chapel. And we were pleased to hear that we were the first group from the Ahmadiyya Muslim community who ever visited them”.

I organised this trip to a church of Scientology because we know so little about it. My religion teaches peace – and dialogue is a key component for the establishment of peace. We welcome people to visit the Baitul Futuh Mosque in Morden for that same reason – so they can ask questions and understand our beliefs and hopefully draw the same conclusion that we drew today: we’re really not that different after all.

USA: Bill to toughen hate crime laws spurred in part by Meriden Ahmadiyya mosque incident

HARTFORD — Democrats are pushing a bill to toughen the state’s hate crime law and expand the number of groups protected, saying a series of high-profile incidents shows the changes are needed.

The bill would make the commission of a hate crime a felony, increasing potential penalties that could come with a conviction. Currently, hate crimes are classified as a misdemeanor by the state.

It would also make violence and threats based on gender prosecutable as a hate crime and make threats against houses of worship or other religious facilities a more serious felony charge.

Democrats have pointed to several recent high-profile events, including threats against Jewish community centers around the state, but Rep. William Tong, D-Stamford, said during an appearance Tuesday on WNPR’s “Where we Live” that incidents as far back as gunshots fired at a South Meriden mosque in 2015 highlight the need for the bill.

Zahir Mannan, outreach director for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Connecticut at the Baitul Aman mosque in South Meriden, said the community supports efforts to toughen hate crime laws.

“It just shows more solidarity,” he said Tuesday, adding support from public officials, religious leaders of other faiths, and community leaders has helped the Ahmadiyya community broaden its reach to share its message of peace. “It certainly propels our peace-loving message into demographics that we cannot reach.”

Tong and other Democrats said during a press conference last week that a number of recent incidents show why the bill, which is before the Judiciary Committee, is needed.

Along with the threats to the Jewish Community Centers, they also referenced a swastika that was painted on a Danbury home in November and a racial slur painted onto the Stamford home of an interracial couple last month.

In the Stamford incident, the family refused to clean the word from their garage in protest of the police department’s inability to catch a suspect, saying it was not the first time their home was vandalized.

Tong said the U.S. has a “tragic experience with hate,” and referenced both slavery and the Japanese internment camps during World War II, but Democrats also said the bill is a response to actions and rhetoric nationally.

“In the current climate nationally, it’s unacceptable,” Sen. Paul Doyle, D-Wethersfield, said.

The change to a felony means a conviction can carry up to five years in prison, up from the one-year maximum allowed under state statute for misdemeanors. For offenses that are raised to a Class C felony, the maximum prison sentence is 10 years.

The bill would make the November 2015 incident in which a neighbor fired gunshots at the Baitul Aman mosque in response to the Paris terrorist attack a Class C felony. Ted Hakey, who fired the shots, was prosecuted by federal authorities, not at the state level.

The hate crime legislation quickly became the subject of partisan bickering after Democrats took several shots at President Donald Trump and didn’t reach out to Republicans prior to their press conference last week.

“The best way to combat hate is to show unity,” Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven said in a statement last week. “That’s why it’s so disappointing that Connecticut Democrats from the beginning chose to turn a certainly bipartisan issue into a completely partisan press conference today. Instead of working with Republicans to show a united front against hate crimes in our state, Democrats chose political theater. Instead of making today about standing together, Democrats made it about standing apart. Divisiveness cannot fight hate.”

Adam Joseph, a spokesman for Senate Democrats, responded by questioning Republicans’ desire to address hate crimes. He pointed to Republican proposals to cut education funding to sanctuary cities, require women to undergo transvaginal ultrasounds, among others, as indicators of his stance.

“Protecting people from hate crimes does not appear to be a priority for the Senate Republicans,” he said. “They should stop complaining and start working.”

UK: Ahmadi women of Barking send ‘message of peace’ to domestic abuse survivors

Siemah Ahmad, fourth from left, says Barking Ahmadi Muslims see it as their duty to donate to women’s refuges

A minority Muslim group donated more than 100 food hampers to nine women’s refuges.

The women’s Barking branch of the Ahmadiyya Muslims Association sent the food to secret locations across east London throughout last week.

Volunteer Siemah Ahmad, 38, said it was vital to reach out to domestic abuse victims as International Women’s Day fell on Wednesday.

“We’re helping women who are vulnerable in society,” she said. “The women in our community want to share a message of peace and show we care about everyone in our community.

“Islam means peace and looking after all members of the community.”

She said this year’s donations amounted to a hamper for each woman recovering at east London’s refuges, following on from last year’s donation of 57.

USA: Area Muslim group decries hate crimes

Hate crimes in the United States have increased in the months following the 2016 election. A hate crime is defined as abuse against a group or an individual based on religious views or racial ethnic background. This increase includes heinous acts against people belonging to Jewish and Muslim communities, as well as people with Middle Eastern backgrounds.

On Feb. 26, a Jewish cemetery in Frankford, Pa., reportedly had more than 100 headstones damaged. Just hearing this news sends a chill down my spine. How could someone have the audacity to topple headstones and vandalize a cemetery?

As always, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and the religion of Islam condemn all such attacks that target and disturb the peace of society.

I urge everyone to try and maintain the peace in our atmosphere so we all can live together in a hospitable environment.

Arsalan Ahmad Khan Woodbridge

UK: Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Peace Conference coincided with International Women’s Day

To coincide with International Women’s Day, the Carshalton branch of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association (AMWA) held a Peace Conference, inviting women from local churches, synagogues, temples and other places of worship to discuss how interfaith harmony could be spread in the Borough.

Delegates from the Carshalton Beeches Baptist Free Church, Wallington United Reformed Church, Saint Hill Church of Scientology and London Church of Scientology participated. The women exchanged ideas on how barriers between people of different faiths could be eliminated through dialogue and joint projects.

An annual plan of action was drafted which includes:

• an interfaith dialogue event at the Baitul Futuh Mosque on 23rd September on the topic ‘Life after Death’
• offering interfaith dialogue sessions to the girls high schools in Sutton during Interfaith Week (12-19 November 2017)
• interfaith coffee mornings to be held 3 times a year

The evening included a report on the activities of the AMWA Carshalton branch, a short tour of the newly inaugurated Baitul Ehsan Mosque in Mitcham and discussions over tea, snacks and cakes about how the interfaith events being planned could be promoted.

To get involved contact Aisha Mirza at VoiceOfMuslima@Gmail.com

Bangladesh: New Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen ‘spiritual leader’ Kashem on fresh remand

Police’s counter-terrorism unit has been granted five days to interrogate New Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB)’s alleged “spiritual leader” Maulana Abul Kashem in a case filed over the busting of the militant group’s den at Kallyanpur.

The group eyes establishing Shariah Law in the country, and spreading its jihad to Myanmar’s Rakhine State and parts of India. It has claimed responsibilities for 26 attacks – on a Gulshan restaurant, Shia and Ahmadiyya mosques, and non-Muslims preachers – since 2015 that killed around 45 people.

Dhaka Metropolitan Magistrate Waez Kuruni Khan gave the remand order after CTTC Inspector Jahangir Alam produced him before the court Saturday.

He was arrested from Senpara Parbata of Mirpur on March 2 and produced before a court the following day.

New JMB’s military and operations commander Tamim Ahmed Chowdhury was killed in a raid on August 27 last year. Tamim used to visit the Kallyanpur flat where nine of its members were killed and another arrested during a raid on July 26 last year.

USA: ‘Meet a Muslim Day’ in Seattle a chance to display true face of Islam, young men say

Ahmad Bilal, Faiez Ahmad and Luqman Munir couldn’t have been better positioned to talk about being Muslims than the cultural crossroads of Fourth Avenue and Pine Street in downtown Seattle on Saturday.

The trio, all members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association, took part in the organization’s “Meet a Muslim Day,” an effort in cities around the country to dispel myths about Islam and put a human face on a population that’s been the subject of stereotypes, public suspicion and in extreme cases, threats and violence.

For three hours on a showery Saturday, the men stood among the throngs of tourists and St. Patrick’s Day parade spectators at a corner of Fourth and Pine with a sign that read, “I am a Muslim: Ask me anything.”

Young Muslims with similar signs fielded questions at Seattle’s Green Lake, University District and Pike Place Market, too.

At Westlake, 30 or 40 people stopped by to speak with Bilal, Ahmad and Munir, including people who’d come for the parade, making for a vivid, impromptu cultural exchange.

The men showed off mobile-phone pictures of them posing with smiling, green-clad parade revelers.

They said they even had a productive discussion about Islam and Christianity with a man standing a few feet away holding a sign imploring onlookers to “repent and believe the gospel” of Jesus Christ.

“He gave us some knowledge and we gave him some knowledge,” said Bilal, a 20-year-old student at South Seattle College.

They invited the man to visit their mosque. He agreed to come, Bilal said.

While concerns about Islamophobia and the need for greater Muslim outreach have run high since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the controversy over President Donald Trump’s original and recently revised restrictions on certain Muslim immigrants and refugees gave those issues new urgency.

Violence and threats with religious overtones have become a pressing issue for other faiths, too. A spike in threats and incidents involving Jewish community centers, synagogues and cemeteries has put the nation’s Jewish community on edge.

In Kent, police are searching for a suspect who shot a Sikh man in what’s being investigated as a possible bias or hate crime, and in Kansas, two Indian computer engineers were shot by a gunman who yelled “get out of my country.” One of the victims in that shooting died.

Recent studies by the Pew Research Center show that most Americans don’t personally know a Muslim and that Americans are generally “cooler” toward Islam than other religious faiths. But getting to know someone who is Muslim leads to warmer feelings and more positive attitudes, their research suggests.

For Bilal, Ahmad and Munir, participating in Saturday’s event served as an opportunity to show that true Islam is about people like them, not the violent extremists who tend to capture headlines.

“I’m here to say that our religion is for peace; Islam is for peace,” Bilal said.

The men’s bold act comes on the heels of a visit to that very intersection in February by U.S. Marine and Muslim-American Mansoor Shams, who traveled the country with his own “Ask me anything” sign to encourage conversation about Islam with non-Muslims.

Bilal, who is Pakistani, said he lives with a host family in Seattle that once harbored negative attitudes about Islam, but having contact with him has changed their views.

The men know they won’t be able to end Islamophobia by themselves, but Munir is optimistic that events like Meet a Muslim Day will make a difference.

“Time heals,” he said. “We’ve just got to stick with our message.”

The men’s provocative sign asked passers-by to “ask me anything,” which might have led to some pretty awkward conversations. But most people simply expressed support rather than take them up on that offer.

“One lady asked me, ‘Do you want a hug?’” said Munir, a 25-year-old recent engineering grad. He said yes and the woman gave him a warm embrace.

Earlier, as Bilal walked to Westlake, a different woman who noticed the sign called out “I love you,” so Bilal shouted “I love you back.”

“Most people don’t care about religion,” Bilal said, recalling the encounter. “They care about peace.”

USA: Ahmadiyya Muslim group builds understanding over coffee in Austin, Round Rock

Seated in a booth at a Round Rock cafe on a recent Wednesday, Susan Sneller asked the question she’d always wondered about the headscarf, or hijab, that some women wear.

“Don’t you get hot in the summer wearing something on your head all day?” Sneller, who had never met anyone of the Muslim faith, asked Nadia Ahmad. “I want to take everything off and fan myself in summer in Texas.”

But Ahmad welcomed the question. In the summer, Ahmad explained, she wears clothing made of lighter weight material with good ventilation. “Don’t worry; we’re fine. We’re not forcing ourselves,” she said with a laugh.

It’s exactly this kind of learning and relationship-building that Ahmad and other members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Austin had in mind when the group began holding “Coffee, Cake and True Islam” events on Wednesdays at coffee shops in Austin and Round Rock. The events, which have been featured by KUT and other media outlets, and others like them are being held by chapters throughout the country.

Their message? “We are here to stay and we are your neighbors; come talk to us,” Ahmad said.

Arif Mirza is director of outreach for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Austin, which has a mosque in Round Rock and draws members from as far away as San Antonio. He points to a recent statistic: Just 38 percent of Americans say they know someone who is Muslim, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center survey. And even if they do, he said, they might not feel comfortable sharing their curiosities with that person.

“The idea is to give Americans who otherwise do not know a Muslim a chance to come in and ask any questions they might have about Islam,” Mirza said. “We’re hoping that in the long term we can bring about a change in attitude that is going to last.”

The same Pew survey showed that 41 percent of Americans view Muslims more coldly than warmly. And hate crimes against Muslims are on the rise. Last year, the number of physical assaults against Muslims in the United States reached 9/11-era levels, according to hate crimes statistics from the FBI.

At first, Mirza said, he worried about the potential backlash of putting on such an event, but he turned out to be “pleasantly surprised” by its positive reception.

Mirza recalled that once, a woman who was offended by the event accidentally called him to complain, thinking she was contacting the owner of the coffee shop. Once he told her who he was, however, the two ended up talking for 20 minutes, and the woman changed her tune, saying she’d like to meet him for coffee some time.

“Having that one-on-one conversation with somebody and getting to know that they have similar struggles in life and they probably feel the same way about things that you do, it has a way of affecting people that watching something on TV or somebody giving a lecture just doesn’t,” Mirza said.

In one of Wednesday’s small group conversations, Deborah Harris asked Touba Khurshid and Aziza Faruqi why they wanted to participate in the event. Khurshid, who had spent years living in London, told a story about going to South Dakota for the first time and noticing that people were staring at her.

“I remember all the looks that I was getting, and that was the first time I was like ‘Oh my gosh.’ I had never thought that I would get such curious looks as if they hadn’t seen a woman with a scarf,” Khurshid said. “It kind of made me realize there’s a big need for people to know about Islam.”

Contrary to that experience, Faruqi said she has never felt out of place during her 25 years in the U.S. because embracing differences is what America is about.

“That’s the America that we live in. That’s what we cherish,” Faruqi said. “So what disturbs us is the fact that living in such a multicultural, multireligion country, how can people still have fear of one faith or unwillingness to learn about other faiths?”

Faruqi said she wished more people outside of these events would feel free to ask her questions about Islam.

At the events, Mirza said questions range from personal (“How did you learn about Islam?”) to theological (“What does Islam say about God?”) to political (“How do you feel about President Donald Trump’s travel ban?”).

Politics and the new administration are what drew Sneller and Austin couple Jack and Barbara Bresette-Mills to recent coffee shop events. All are part of Indivisible, a national anti-Trump network with Austin origins.

“Because of this election, we both feel we have to stand up for people of color and minorities,” Jack Bresette-Mills said. “It seems to be a racist move in our government.”

“A lot of people have been cut down, and horrible things were said the whole campaign about all different kinds of people, be it women, be it Muslims, be it African-Americans, be it indigenous,” Barbara Bresette-Mills said.

“It’s simply wrong. It’s not American. (To be) American (means) everybody’s welcome,” Jack Bresette-Mills said.

On a basic level, he said, just as the members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community came to show them that not all Muslims are terrorists, he and his wife came to show them that not all non-Muslims are Islamophobic.

“We also just like to meet people,” Barbara Bresette-Mills said. “And I feel like that’s the best way to change things is to have human interaction. Talk to each other.”

At one point in the conversation with Ahmad and another woman, Maliah Ahmed, Sneller asked them what they would say if they could talk to Trump.

“We would invite him to ‘Coffee, Cake and True Islam,’” Ahmad said. The group laughed.

If you go

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Austin hosts “Coffee, Cake and True Islam” events from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesdays at two locations:

• Caffe Medici at 2222 Guadalupe St. in Austin

• Corner Bakery Cafe at 110 N. Interstate 35 in Round Rock

Source :http://www.mystatesman.com/

UK: Inside Britain’s largest mosque, Baitul Futuh, in Morden

The Standard has gained exclusive access inside Britain’s largest mosque to find out why security has been stepped up, how the mosque is recovering after fire damage, and who prepares behind the scenes for the arrival of 6,000 Muslims during Friday prayers.

The Baitul Futuh Mosque in south London belongs to the capital’s Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, which believes the “promised messiah has come”, explains National President Rafiq Ahmad Hayat.

“We believe he came in India over 100 years ago, and he came really – not to bring a new faith or a new teaching – to re-establish the true teaching of Islam. He actually promoted the message of peace to the people of the world and he wanted to bring the communities together under a peaceful umbrella.”

Vice President Naseer Khan, who is highly involved the everyday runnings of Baitul Futuh Mosque, says it’s a safe refuge for Ahmadiyya Muslims.

“In Pakistan, our community has been persecuted. The laws were brought in that considered us non-Muslim in Pakistan and for us to declare ourselves Muslims or use any of the Muslim literature or declaration of faith – that there is only one God and Muhammad is messenger – carries a three-year prison sentence for any of our members.

“So most of our mosques have been closed down, our members can’t practice their faith and in fact, that seems to be spreading around some of the extremists around the world.”

Also known as Morden Mosque, it was damaged in a large fire in 2015, which left one building in total disrepair. Reconstruction has begun, and volunteers arrive early on site to ensure Friday prayers don’t cause a traffic pile up for local residents.

As Naseer tells the Standard, it’s a busy operation running a mosque which serves several thousand people every day.

“Today is a school holiday so we’re expecting about six, maybe seven, thousand people here today. We’ve got lots of car parks covered by our stewards to make sure they don’t come here and cause traffic jams,” says Naseer.

“Demolition is going on at the moment because we had that fire back in September 2015 and, of course, we’re now in a massive rebuilding programme to build something quite spectacular.”

Besides being a space for prayer, Baitul Futuh Mosque also has its own 24-hour radio station, TV studio providing a live feed of Friday prayers, and space for the wider community to meet.

Upstairs in the kitchen, a team of chefs prepare meals for everyone who visits – today 250 people have been for lunch.

“There’s been a constant feeding of people as they come in. Every time they come here, they know they’re going to get served a meal,” Naseer tells the Standard.

“On the Friday and Tuesday nights, they prepare meals and package them and take them to feed the homeless in London. That’s been going on for many years now.”

On the other side of the site, visitors are queuing to get into the overflow prayer hall – but first they must walk through a body scanner.

“Because of the persecution of our community and attack on our mosques, in Pakistan in particular, security has been heightened,” Naseer explains.

“Generally it’s the same people who create havoc around the world are creating havoc for us – either extremists on the Muslim side, or extremists on the other side. So we get it from both ends and therefore we have to doubly careful.

“For us, it’s not just a perceived threat, it is a real threat and therefore we take security very, very seriously.”

The mosque also provides spaces for local schools to take exams and police officers to meet, and has its own library.

“We want to make ourselves as open as possible – as a mosque, as a complex, as a library – and we have some four thousand school children visiting the mosque every year,” explains librarian Waleed Ahmed.

“It’s something that we find the wider community being able to benefit from.”

Watch the video below to see inside the Baitful Futuh Mosque.

Canada: Lloydminster Ahmadiyya Muslim group looking to spread true message of Islam

‘Islam Understood’ the thrust of campaign

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association launched a nationwide campaign March 5 titled “Islam Understood” to provide Canadians with the opportunity to learn the true teachings of Islam.

At a local level, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at spoke with the Source about the campaign and the message that is trying to be portrayed.

Tariq Azeem, imam/missionary with the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at in Lloydminster, said in the world right now there are many misconceptions regarding the faith of Islam.

“We, our youth, has taken this challenge that we go door-to-door and we go town-to-town and remove these misconceptions,” Azeem said.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association became involved because they are the first ones that need to be educated, Azeem said.

“Youth are the strength of any community that can go out and convey the message,” he said.

Azeem explained sometimes people hear things through the media or through social media, which is not true, but people start believing them.

“Many times regarding our faith people have not met with Muslims or had not had proper interactions with the Muslim in their life, but they are believing things that they have heard from the Internet or social media,” he said, and added they believe it is necessary people get their knowledge from the right source.

On March 5, Muslim youth canvassed in more than 65 towns as well as several downtowns in Canadian cities to speak with Canadians about the Islamic faith.

Although canvassing did not take place in Lloydminster, Azeem said some of the Muslim youth from the Border City travelled to North Battleford, which does not have a large Muslim community, to speak with locals about the faith.

“It went quite well, there were different individuals, (and) majority were very happy and pleased to see that a Muslim group is going around spreading the message of peace,” Azeem said.

“Of course there are some people that are not always happy, but as mentioned it is necessary to give an opportunity to each individual to learn about different cultures and faiths.”

To further spread the message of the faith, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association will be sharing their message on social media and at exhibits in over 100 Canadian cities.

To date, more than 50 open houses have been held across Canada.

On March 13, an Islam Understood Open House will be held at the Lloydminster Public Library from 6 to 8 p.m., and Azeem encourages people to attend the event and chat.

There will be a small presentation on various aspects of Islam and will provide opportunity for resident to ask questions, Azeem said.

“What they might have heard through social media or through other means, may it be regarding the teachings of Jihad, maybe the status of women in Islam, or how does Islam promote charity, or any other aspect of the religion, we encourage people to come and visit us and ask questions.

“This is why we have held this event and we will not shy away from any answer. We encourage people that they openly ask any questions and they not be shy about it,” he said.

Azeem said he hopes to present the actual, true image of the Islamic faith.

“Our religion teaches peace, our religion teaches love for all, hatred for none. This is the message which we wish people will take away from this gathering at the library.”

Regarding recent incidents in Canada and neighbouring countries, Azeem said they find it necessary to get out and learn about other faiths.

“Islam is the largely most misunderstood religion in the world,” he said. “If somebody just thinks about it, there are 1.6 billion people in the world that adhere to this faith.

“So instead of assuming things towards 1.6 billion people in the world, we should give every culture, faith, (and) religion a chance and we should learn about it,” he said.