This weekend, I went to a gathering of extremist Sunni groups in Northern Virginia. I was horrified to see them openly glorify armed Jihad, label America "the land of the infidels” & condemn Muslims who ‘reject Jihad.’
American Muslims are often asked to apologize for religious extremism carried out in the name of Islam. I believe this is an unfair demand. What is fair though is the expectation that us Muslims be the first to call out the extremists whenever we see them. And this is why I am writing this piece. Because like any other community, there are nut-jobs within our wider community too.
This past weekend, two radical Sunni groups, ‘Idara Dawat-O-Irshad, U.S.A. Inc’ & ‘Khatme Nabuwwat Center, Inc.’ (both registered in Virginia) organized an event at the Holiday Inn Express in Springfield, VA. Interested in knowing what the groups were offering to American Muslim audiences, I drove down from Baltimore to attend.
Right at the entrance of the conference hall, extremist literature glorifying ‘Holy War’ and condemning the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community as ‘Kafir’ (infidels) and depicting them as ‘the greatest enemy of Islam’ was being openly displayed and distributed.
To provide some useful context, Ahmadi Muslims are Muslims who believe the long-awaited Messiah has come in the person of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (who claimed to be the Promised Reformer in the late 19th century in India). Ahmad said he had come to reform Muslims and usher in a renaissance of Islam. He clarified that the interpretation of Jihad as understood by his contemporaries was flawed and against the essence of the Islamic faith. Extremist clerics and ‘Jihadist’ groups have since passed numerous edicts of heresy against Ahmadi Muslims, many even calling for their death. To appease such extremists, Pakistan declared the Ahmadis non-Muslim through a Constitutional amendment, and has instituted specific blasphemy laws that punish Ahmadis caught reciting the Quran, identifying as Muslim or identifying their place of worship as a Mosque. Hundreds of Ahmadis have been gunned down by extremist groups like the Taliban since the passing of these laws.
Keep in mind, I identify as an Ahmadi Muslim too.
I greeted some of the organizers and sat myself quietly in the second row. Most speakers at the event were Pakistani American Imams who identified as “Ahle Sunnah Wal Jamaah” (Sunnis). The keynote speaker, Mufti Habibur Rehman Ludhyanvi, had flown all the way from Pakistan. The audience was also heavily Pakistani in origin, with tens of kids and youth in attendance. The event, titled “Final Prophet Conference,” was primarily a recruitment and fundraising effort, with a special focus on young Muslim Americans.
The director of Idara Dawat-O-Irshad, U.S.A. Inc, Imam Omar F. Khan, opened the event by welcoming the audience and introducing the speakers. Needless to say, no one at this point knew I was an Ahmadi Muslim. But.. wait for it.
Mufti Shazad Hussain, currently the Imam at Springfield's 'Masjid Noor’ Mosque took to the podium and glorified the notion of armed Jihad, condemning Ahmadi Muslims as infidels for rejecting the ‘Jihadist’ ideology.
"Most of the (Indian) people in the frontline against the British were Muslims," he claimed. But along came Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community) who forbade the Muslims from waging violent Jihad and preached that "this is something that should not be done." Hussain bemoaned that while Muslims were awaiting a Messiah who would wage wars for Islam, Ahmad instead said, “I am not going to do it through any bloodshed or wars, but through arguments."
In the literature that was passed out, repeated references were made to Ahmad’s prohibition of armed Jihad against a non-Muslim government, an “act of treason against Muslims.” Multiple speakers condemned the Ahmadis and held them responsible for discouraging Muslims from partaking in violent Jihad, a concept which they believed was widespread before ‘these infidels’ (Ahmadis) corrupted it.
During his rant against Ahmadi Muslims, Mr. Hussain also urged American Muslims to not cooperate with the Ahmadis on any forum, even if it be a matter of defending Islam or combatting Islamophobia. He said that the Ahmadis say “because Islam is being attacked from all corners, we as Muslims should work together. But glory be to Allah.. we have decided not to support anything they say.”
Mr. Shazad Hussain is a graduate of Pakistan’s Jamia Binoria seminary in Karachi, known for its bigotry and extremism. The principal of Jamia Binoria, Mufti Naeem, recently released a video message praying for the “complete annihilation” of the Ahmadis. The seminary has also issued edicts declaring the Shiites infidel and forbidding Muslims from wishing Christians and other non-Muslims well on their sacred holidays. According to a BBC report, the seminary is credited with producing several students who later took to terrorism.
Mr. Usman Ahsan, a graduate of Dar-ul-Uloom Canada, who currently gives sermons at Dar Alnoor Islamic Community Center in Manassas, Virginia spoke at the event too. After stating that the Ahmadis were followers of a ‘false prophet’ (referring to the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community), he elaborated on the punishment for following ‘false prophets.’ He related the stories of ‘false prophets’ after Prophet Muhammad’s demise, and stressed on how Islam’s first caliph waged a military operation and killed them and their followers. In reality, no one was killed by any Islamic caliph merely for their claims, but for armed rebellion.
“Do you know there was a man who claimed prophethood at the time of the prophet of Allah. His name was Musailma Kadhab. Hadhrat Abu Bakr (the first claiph of Islam) immediately gathered a crowd of the companions and formed an army and dispatched them to go and fight and put an end to this man. Keep in mind, Musailma believed in Allah and the prophet of Allah. Why did Hadhrat Abu Bakr decide to go and confront him? Because his beliefs were wrong."
"He (Musailma) claimed prophethood and that was enough to diapach an army." Mr. Ahsan then rhetroically asked, "Was this (war) all in vain? Of course not.” And to make sure the audience knew that this commandment was for all times, he added:
“And uptil today, that consensus of the Ummah (regarding the punishment of ‘false prophets’ and their followers) has been established and it is alive and it is thriving."
Mufti Qareeb ur Rehman, another graduate of Jamia Binoria Karachi, and currently an Imam at the Manassas Muslim Association in Manassas, Virginia also engaged in anti-Ahmadi vitriol and incited the crowd by repeating the same stories of ‘false prophets,’ and how they and their followers were killed for their wrong beliefs.
"Musailma had a large amount of followers. He was killed by Hadhrat Abu Bakr," Rehman stressed.
Imagine sitting ten feet away from people spewing such extreme hate against you. It is after such incitement by extremist clerics in countries like Pakistan and Indonesia, and recently even in the U.K., that results in the tragic killings of Ahmadi Muslims.
Maulana Rafiq Khan, one of the chief organizers of the conference, then spoke extensively against the Ahmadis, claiming that they were a great cancer, fast spreading and needed to be stopped urgently.
“Qadianis (pejorative for Ahmadi Muslims) have copies of the Quran placed in hotels, motels & libraries across America and Canada,” he complained.
He held a copy of the Holy Quran translation (published by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community - online here), urging all Muslims to try their best to get those copies removed from public libraries in the United States. No, not the KKK, this was a ‘Muslim’ cleric disturbed by copies of the Quran in the public eye. Interestingly, this is the same copy of the Quran that was seen with Lindsay Lohan, not long ago.
Mr. Rafiq Khan was also infuriated at Ahmadis identifying their places of worship as Mosques. “We cannot allow them to refer to their places of worship as Mosques,” he stressed. He repeatedly called on lawyers within the Muslim community to use all legal measures available to stop the Ahmadis from posing as Muslims. “This is unbearable,” he complained.
During a break between two sessions, an attendee approached me. “I think you look familiar. I have seen your videos on Youtube. Are you Kashif?” In Pakistan, I’d probably have ran for my life. I turned to him with a smile instead, and replied, “Yes, I am Kashif, and yes I am an Ahmadi Muslim.” I returned to the conference hall, this time much more cautious. Mufti Habib-ur-Rehman Ludhianvi, the keynote speaker, was addressing the audience.
Mr. Ludhianvi angrily questioned where the ‘true Muslims’ in America were? He repeated the demand to outlaw the religious profession of Ahmadi Muslims, who he referred to as the greatest cancer in the world. He also called for a ban on the acceptance of Ahmadi refugees to the United States. Mr. Habib-ur-Rehman Ludhianvi urged Muslims to boycott the Ahmadis completely and have no social relations of any sort with them. “This is impermissible,” he said. “Can we at least work for an Ahmadi?” one attendee asked. He replied: “Only if you are dying of hunger. Even then, your love for Islam requires that you not work with, or for the Qadianis.” There goes the poor man’s job.
In response to someone asking if they could debate the Ahmadis, Ludhianvi cautioned: “There are only two solutions Allah has suggested for these ignorant people. First, the Book, if not, then Force. There is no room whatsoever for dialogue.” He then reminded the audience to use slurs instead for the Ahmadis. “Forget about calling them Muslims, even referring to the “Qadianis” as Ahmadis is wrong.” We must refer to them as “Mirzais” or “Qadianis” (both terms used in a derogatory manner for Ahmadi Muslims).
At this point, the organizers were still not aware of an Ahmadi in the crowd.
When the Q/A session began, I wrote down my questions as well. One question I asked was about the ruling of the clerics on Sunni Muslim activists like Linda Sarsour and Khaled Beydoun who hold no prejudice against other Muslims, and openly work with Shia and Ahmadi Muslims in their civil rights work. Mufti Habibur Rehman Ludhyanvi condemned such Sunni activists. “They will be counted with the infidels,” he declared.
During the talks and off-line discussions, multiple speakers, especially Mr. Rafiq Khan, repeatedly referred to America as Kafiristan, “the land of the infidels.”
“You might be wondering that America is land of the infidels, so why stress so much on the ‘Qadianis?’ That is because the difference between other infidels and the Qadiani infidels is like day and night,” he explained.
Voting for certainThe organizers also appealed to American Muslims to ensure that a Muslim running for public office was a “true believer,” lest they mistakenly vote for a deviant (Ahmadi or Shia) or a non-practising Muslim. “These infidels (Ahmadis) are worse than the Christians and the Jews,” the audience was told.
In the following minutes, everyone in the room was informed of my presence. All eyes were now on me.
I moved to the front and greeted the speakers. I asked a few questions to which I received no straight answers, except the affirmation that I was an infidel in their eyes. I asked Mr. Omar F. Khan (who had declared the Ahmadis and Shias infidel) how he defined a Muslim. He kept changing goal posts. I then decided to say goodbye and leave. And as I was leaving, I said Salam (Muslim greeting) to the clerics. There was complete silence. No one responded. I repeated the Salam.
“We only reply to the greeting of Muslims,” Rafiq Khan coldly replied.
As I walked out, I was in utter disbelief. As a Muslim American, it disturbed me greatly to see such extremist, Nazi-esque rhetoric with potential to hurt American lives being promoted so brazenly on U.S. soil. That the organizers would raise funds (each attendee was asked to contribute $100) to recruit and help organize similar events across the country in the coming days is cause for even more anxiety.
It is also preposterous that extremist clerics like Mr. Ludhianvi are issued visas to the United States while innocent refugees fleeing religious extremism are forcibly kept ashore. Instead of feeling threatened by poor victims of terrorism, the government and law enforcement should turn their attention to hate groups that are busy promoting extremism and inciting violence against fellow Americans right here on American soil.
Just recently, when such hate was spewed in the U.K., a British Ahmadi Muslim was stabbed to death while working in his shop in Glasgow. The killer is remorseless, and is now venerated in extremist circles in Pakistan.
Many American Muslim social media activists and writers were quick to condemn the extremist rally in Virginia.