Jalsa Salana: The largest Muslim Convention in the UK
A 200 acre Hampshire farm each year hosts a global village for the longest standing and largest Muslim convention in the UK. For 53 years, Ahmadi Muslims have gathered to pledge allegiance to the Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community who reminds the followers of the Islamic teachings of peace and tolerance. The Union Jack is raised to show loyalty to British values and commitment to integration. Besides the onsite bread factory and kitchens that produce 270,000 meals across the weekend for nearly 40,000 Muslims, there is an insatiable optimism and an unbridled resolve to redress the overwhelmingly negative presentations of Islam in mainstream media coverage.
Topics like how to tackle extremism, the role of women in society and the cause of unrest in the world was also discussed.
The convention draws the attention of its audience to a grave injustice done to Islam by the Western world. As has been well demonstrated, with reference to the teachings of the Quran and the injunctions of the Holy Prophet, Islam can only be described as a religion of peace.
If the West presents Islam as a religion of terror and denial of fundamental human rights, the fault is not entirely theirs. It is largely shared, to say the least, by the clergy of various Muslim denominations. To talk of religious supremacy in all other areas of human interest and to maintain at the same time that Islam emphatically denies the internationally accepted concept of human rights, is enough in itself to blemish the image of Islam.
Instead of playing up our differences, it would be far more conducive if the religious leadership highlighted points of agreement. Consequently, it could lead to the reconciliation of the entire human race, regardless of country, creed or colour. If religions do not undertake this work no one else can because this is the only recognisable force capable of transcending national, geographic and racial barriers.
The quest for peace is a matter of human survival, and as such, should not be taken lightly.
His Holiness, Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, says Islam champions human rights and condemns governments separating children from their parents.
The convention sought to challenge misconceptions around Islam and promote the religion’s peaceful teachings.
This comes after a ComRes poll found nearly half (48%) of the British public disagree that Islam is compatible with British values.
His Holiness said:
‘Critics allege that Islam does not protect or cater for human rights. Yet this is completely contrary to the reality…recently a survey was published that found religious people contributed the most to charities and amongst them Muslims contribute the most, whilst those who are irreligious are less inclined to even though they proclaim they are standing up for the rights of humanity.’
His Holiness further said:
‘Islam teaches that all children must be treated with love and affection. It teaches that you must care even for the children of your most ardent enemies. This is Islam yet today there are governments who claim Islam to be cruel and unjust who are separating infants from their parents in the most inhumane way.’
What attendees had to say: Furqan Rana
Where have you come from? – Salam, I’m from London
What does this Jalsa mean to you? – Jalsa means a lot to me, and specifically, the brotherhood stands out to me. I’m able to meet brothers from all over the world, old and new friends and strengthen and forge new relationships.
What have you come to learn? – I’ve come to increase spirituality by listening to the addresses of His Holiness, and learn from senior members of my duty team, which is Press and Media.
Do you think the media has helped the negative narrative of Muslims – Yes, by they have been doing this at quite a constant rate through publishing and televising negative headlines and calling Islam religion of terrorism.
Another attendee: Akram Khan
Where have you come from? – Salisbury, Wiltshire
What does this Jalsa mean to you? – This Jalsa provides me with the opportunity to see my Ahmadi brothers many of which I’ve never seen or haven’t for a long time, listen to speeches and learn how to be a better Ahmadi Muslim.
What have you come to learn? – I’ve come to learn how to be a better person, Muslim, and human being on a moral level. And also, through partaking in duty, I’m learning how to contribute to society and make myself a better citizen.
Do you think the media has helped the negative narrative of Muslims – Yes, to an extent. I believe this to be the case as it only really portrays extreme Muslims. These represent an extremely small proportion of the followers of people who call themselves Muslims, and yet they go against the true teachings of Islam. In addition to this, by providing them with the loudest voice, Islam is presented as a fundamentalist religion and so negative connotations are associated with us. Even educated people have a negative perception of the religion. However, we’re attempting to tackle that through getting through to local, regional and national media and promoting the true message of Islam, one of peace.