The Ahmadiyya mosque in Croydon was lit up with debate Friday evening, as a public forum celebrating religious diversity and interfaith awareness took place.The event at Baitus Subhan Mosque was attended by about thirty people, several speakers took to the podium to address religious diversity. The main event of the night were duelling addresses by an Ahmadiyya imam and local Christian church leader.Speakers spoke at a silver podium, straddled by poster boards. One featured the Islamic Shahada, explaining the concept of a monotheistic god held by Muslims, another an explainer on the Holy Qur’an.
The big question at the forum: does religion cause unity or division?
The big question at the forum: does religion cause unity or division? Both Christian and Ahmadiyya perspectives were given.Charles Wood, an active member of the West Croydon Baptist Church, described in his introduction as having a long history of building relationships with Muslims in Croydon, gave the first of two responses to that question.Wood first asked the audience where division stems from, and what the cause of ‘fights and quarrels’ was. He said that such conflicts result from negative human feelings such as jealousy and anger.
“People’s blood calls for punishment and vengeance, while Jesus’s blood speaks a better word, it speaks forgiveness”
“Jesus’s blood takes away our sins; it takes away our hearts of stone”, Wood said. “People’s blood calls for punishment and vengeance, while Jesus’s blood speaks a better word. It speaks forgiveness.”In emphasizing the forgiveness evident in Christianity, Wood told the story of a suicide bomber who had attacked a Coptic church in Egypt some months ago. A Christian man had questioned the attacker at the door, causing him to detonate his bomb before being able to gain entry into the church.Wood spoke about how after the bombing, the wife of the deceased forgave the man who killed her husband on Egyptian TV.
“If people follow the divine guidance, then the net result will be unity and respect between one another, and there will be no question of division”
“I pray that God may open your mind to bring light”, said Wood, quoting the woman. “May God forgive you, and we can also forgive you.”Speaking after Wood was Maulana Ataul Mujeeb Rashed, Imam of the Fazl Mosque in Wandsworth. In his address, Rashed emphasized the messages of equality and unity prevalent in Islam.“If people follow the divine guidance […] then the net result will be unity and respect between one another, and there will be no question of division”, Rashed said. “The division starts when people start thinking in their own way.”
“Maybe Christian, maybe Jewish, maybe an atheist person, but if they are calling you, you always come forward and support that”
Quoting the Qur’an, the holy scripture for Muslims, Rashed emphasised its message of fairness and respect for those of other faiths.“It says if you are called upon for a noble cause, then don’t look who is calling you for that purpose. If a good objective is there, then you go for it”, Rashed said. “Maybe Christian, maybe Jewish, maybe an atheist person, but if they are calling you, you always come forward and support that.”Rashed also brought up the example of the prophet Muhammad, who he said always treated those of other religions with respect.
Many of the attendees to the mosque event said they attended seeking a better understanding of the Ahmadiyya sect of Islam, as well as Islam as a whole
“He was very particular to advise his followers that during the course of your entry into a synagogue, a church, or a temple, don’t ever desecrate it, because it’s a holy place”, Rashed said. “For the purpose of bringing unity and not division, this was a very outstanding instruction of the prophet.”Many attendees to the mosque event said they attended seeking a better understanding of the Ahmadiyya sect of Islam, as well as Islam as a whole.Peter Frost, of South Croydon, said that he came to “seek a better understanding” of the Ahmadiyya faith, and also out of a firm belief in the importance interfaith interaction.
One of the most important things is better understanding and integration between religious groups
“I think that one of the most important things is better understanding and integration between religious groups”, Frost said.Allan Gill, Faith Liaison Officer for Croydon Police, emphasised the importance of interfaith work in reducing religious crime.“We have a very low level of faith-related crime in Croydon compared to other areas of London”, Gill said. “I don’t believe that that is simply a result of good work from the police. That is predominantly the result of events like this.”
People are no longer as isolated within their different faiths as I think they were years ago
Gill also emphasised the collaborative nature of the different faiths around Croydon.“The faith community in Croydon, I believe, is a unique in the way that they work together, and help each other”, Gill said. “People are no longer as isolated within their different faiths as I think that they were years ago.”Ahmadiyya Islam is an Islamic sect distinguished by belief in the prophethood of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, a 19th-century Indian religious leader. The exact number of members of the community worldwide is unclear, although they themselves estimate its membership exceeds “tens of millions”.