More than 20,000 Muslims gathered at a three-day convention to condemn terrorism and religious extremism.
The 41st Jalsa Salana was held from Friday to Sunday at the International Centre in Mississauga, Canada, where Muslims from all over the country listened to guest lecturers and imams deliver speeches and sermons to promote a more peaceful world.
Lal Khan Malik, the national president of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama`at Canada, the organization hosting the convention, said that while religious extremists like the Islamic State have nothing to do with Islam, Ahmadi Muslims felt they were able to show a side of Islam that most Westerners don’t have an opportunity to see.
“Over 20,000 attendees at this convention are able to show Canadians the true and peaceful teachings of Islam,” Malik said.
Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada spokesperson Safwan Choudhry said that the community wants to make it categorically clear that Islam rejects and condemns all forms of terrorism.
“The need of the hour is for us to knock down the barriers of fear that divide us,” Choudhry said in an email interview. “Rather than erecting walls that keep us apart, we should build bridges that bring us closer together. We must stand up against all forms of oppression [and] hatred and use all our capabilities to try and foster peace in the world.”
At their annual convention, attendees heard a lecture from Imam Azhar Haneef. He was representing the Ahmadiyya sect’s leader Caliph Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad. In his lecture, Haneef said the few cases of Muslim youth who are enticed with terrorism is due to misinformation and a lack of education on the Islamic faith.
“The [extremist groups’] entire concept of Islam is illiterate,” Haneef said, according to a statement from the convention organizers. “If the youth are provided a true understanding of Islam, they would never commit any violent acts.”
Ahmadiyya is an Islamic religious movement and sect that was founded in India in 1889. Ahmadi Muslims believe in the five pillars of Islam and all of the major principles of the faith.
The main difference between Ahmadi Muslims and mainstream Muslims is that the former believes Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of the sect, is Islam’s anticipated messiah. Some mainstream Muslims often accuse Ahmadi Muslims for perverting the faith since their major theological beliefs are that Jesus is the messiah and Prophet Muhammad is the last messenger of God. In some countries, like Pakistan, Ahmadi Muslims are often persecuted by the government and vigilantes.
But despite the plight of being a religious minority, the Ahmadi Muslim community’s official motto is, “Love for all, hatred for none,” and their philosophy is one based on tolerance and acceptance over extremism.
The Ahmadi Muslim community has made several headlines in the past for their outreach efforts and philanthropic work. In March, Ahmadi Muslim Tayyib Rashid — who is often referred to as “the Muslim Marine” on social media — offered to provide security and guard Jewish cemeteries after vandals attacked several sites across the United States. In August 2016, more than 30,000 Ahmadi Muslims gathered on a farm in the United Kingdom to march against ISIS.