Ahmadiyya Muslims attended the London and Manchester vigils wearing T-shirts with the slogan: “I am a Muslim, ask me anything.”
In a small mosque in south London, a congregation of men humble themselves in united prayer, led by the fifth Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Mirza Masroor Ahmad.
But Salim, five, is finding it hard to concentrate. The specific distraction is the small group of people at the back of the room, who sit watching in two rows. They are not part of the congregation, but guests of the mosque, invited here to experience the breaking of the fast in the holy month of Ramadan.
The Fazl mosque, the oldest mosque in London, and the headquarters of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has an open door policy. Breaking the fast is one of their many community engagement activities, which also include door-knocking campaigns and holding community talks to encourage dialogue and understanding of their faith.
They openly condemn all attacks by Islamist extremists. Ahmadiyya Muslims attended the vigils following recent atrocities in both Manchester and London, bearing placards expressing unity and wearing T-shirts with the slogan: “I am a Muslim, ask me anything.”
To the outside observer, they may seem like the representatives of the British Muslim community, attempting to soothe community relations at a tense time. And they are. But Ahmadiyya Muslims do not just face Islamophobia, but persecution from Islamist extremists as well.
In the Southfields mosque, the Ahmadiyya women I speak to are proud of the community’s recent efforts. “It has really encouraged people to ask questions what they might otherwise be scared to,” says Salma Manahil Tahir. “My husband even wears the T-shirt to the gym.”