Published in the Evening Standard
Date: Friday 2 October 2015
Author : Ed West
An e-mail I received recently began: “30,000 Muslims in London pledge allegiance to the caliphate”. Well, it certainly got my attention, but the caliph in question was not that rather humourless chap in Syria but Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the softly spoken leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community.
You may have seen their slogan — “Love for all, hatred for none” — or noticed their young men selling poppies outside Tube stations, an act of charity they carry out as a symbol of loyalty to Britain, but which also reflects older ties to our armed forces in India.
Morden in south London is the worldwide headquarters of the Ahmadi caliphate, home to Europe’s largest mosque, the Baitul Futuh, which last week almost burned down.
The sect began in British India after Mirza Ghulam Ahmad declared himself the promised messiah — the Mahdi — in 1889 and they see Christ, Krishna and Buddha as prophets. This mix of all major religions, or syncretism as it is called, is very attractive to modern people who find it arrogant that one ancient faith might claim absolute truth over another.
Many are also drawn to their embrace of education, free enquiry (they accept evolution) and tolerance, while also sharing the more attractive elements of Abrahamic religion. And yet their history has a sad undercurrent.
Over the past 40 years persecution has intensified in Pakistan, where they are considered heretics.
In 2013 a 72-year-old British Ahmadi doctor was arrested there for “posing as a Muslim” after quoting from the Koran; in 2010 in Lahore 80 people were gunned down in a mosque.
Sadly the mosque in Morden, like the beautiful Ahmadi Fazl mosque in Southfields (built in 1926 with money raised by women selling jewellery in India) also has airport-style metal detectors because of the threats they have received in Britain.
Ahmadis have been targeted and harassed at London universities, and leaflets have appeared on the streets encouraging violence; ignored by the authorities, they lament, because they are in Urdu. In fact the Ahmadi caliph was one of the first to warn of the dangers of allowing Islamist terrorists to slip into Europe alongside refugees.
This week German police were forced to separate Muslim and Christian refugees because of violence, reminding us that the great religious conflicts are being reintroduced to Europe. It is made worse because so many British people do not understand religion, while they are stuck in a 20th-century view of race relations which sees things almost literally in black and white.
In the next few weeks we’ll once again see the Ahmadis outside Tube stations raising money for former British servicemen. Perhaps Londoners could repay the favour this year with a whipround to help them rebuild their mosque.