Break down barriers facing our community
Habib Akram says Ahmadi Muslims are committed to peace and the UK but face prejudice from many people
Today is an historic milestone for my community - marking 100 years since our establishment in the UK. We have much to celebrate. We are committed to Britain and its prosperity. Our ethos Love for All, Hatred for None underpins our belief and is manifest in a nationwide peace campaign. In addition:
We have raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for UK charities.
- We support the annual Poppy Appeal and organise drives to join the Armed Forces as well as blood donation drives throughout Britain.
- We have engaged in widespread interfaith events and celebrated the Queen's Diamond Jubilee at each of our mosques across the country.
- We constructed the first purpose-built mosque in London, which opened in 1924, and was used as a bomb shelter during the war.
- We run western Europe's biggest mosque, in Surrey, with capacity for 10,000 worshippers.
- We have translated the Holy Koran into more than 70 languages, including braille.
Britain has provided a home for thousands of Ahmadi Muslims over the past century. Our duty as Muslims is to be grateful to God and to give thanks to Queen and country for allowing us to practice [sic] our faith freely.
Islam teaches us to be loyal citizens and we believe it is our duty to serve the country, contribute to society and promote peace for all. When we say Islam means peace, we practice [sic] that.
Today will be a day of thanksgiving for us - the day falls during the blessed month of Ramadan.
However, the occasion also serves as a reminder of the acts of terror committed by extremists on my community.
Hundreds of Ahmadi Muslims have been murdered in Pakistan, where we are not allowed to practice [sic] Islam, and we continue to be persecuted in Indonesia and other countries where an extremist clergy is able to wield influence.
Even in Britain, there have been attempts to foment hatred against us through satellite Asian news channels or by firebrand clerics.
The result of this is that my community remains isolated from other Muslim communities, even in Leicester, and despite speeches and opinion pieces in this paper about the need for community cohesion, no attempt is made to reach out to us.
Invitations for other Muslims to join us at our interfaith events are ignored by all but a few.
So the need to build bridges and remove the barriers of prejudice is greater than ever. If the words that appear in this paper about building communities are not to be mere platitudes, real action needs to be taken now to break down the barriers of ignorance and prejudice.
As loyal citizens, we enter our second century here in the UK with much optimism. We hope to build on our achievements and, God willing, be of even greater benefit to this country.
Dr Habib Akram is president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Leicester