Saturday, February 25, 2017

USA: Ahmadiyya Muslim women's annual interfaith event in Willingboro today will promote 'loyalty to one's nation'


“We come here not to say, ‘I’m right and you’re wrong,’ not to say, ‘My teachings are better than your teachings.' We are here to build bridges, to learn from each other and to appreciate our differences.”

Times of Ahmad | News Watch | US Desk
Source/Credit: Burlington County Times
By Danielle DeSisto | February 24, 2017

After 12 years in America, Amtul Wadood is still grateful she can go to the grocery store on her own without receiving stares from neighbors.

Wadood grew up in Pakistan, where she lived in constant fear that her practice of the Ahmadiyya Muslim faith would get her killed.

“Here, I can do anything I want to,” she said. “And especially, I can pray. I can tell people how I pray and why I pray and who I am."

Wadood is president of the South Jersey chapter of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association, and has helped organize an annual interfaith women’s event at the Al-Nasr Mosque on Bridge Street that has been going on for almost 20 years.

The topics change every year to reflect issues prevalent to today. This year’s event, on Saturday, will focus on “Loyalty to One’s Nation,” an ideal emphasized in the Ahmadiyya Muslim faith.

Religious leaders affiliated with the Religious Society of Friends, Catholic Charities, Village Presbyterian Church and Adath Emanu-El in Mount Laurel will speak to women of varying faiths to guide discussions in learning and respecting different beliefs.

The mosque in Willingboro is always open to people of all religious backgrounds, Wadood said.

“Our motto is ‘Love for all, hatred for none,’ ” she said.

Ahmadiyya Muslims are persecuted by mainstream Muslims in the Middle East because they believe prophets have existed after and below their highest prophet, Muhammad. Many people, herself included, fled to the United States and Europe to find sanctuary.

Ahmadis do not condone jihad and endorse a separation of mosque and state, according to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA. They practice serving humanity, staying humble, and solving disagreements through dialogue.

The interfaith ceremony largely plays into the Ahmadiyya Muslim ideals of sharing and communicating with others, Wadood said. A young Ahmadiyya Muslim girl will lead the interfaith audience in the Pledge of Allegiance following prayers on Saturday.

Wadood and many others of her faith choose to show their devotion to America by reaching out to their communities through blood drives, running food banks, and welcoming and respecting the voices of all people.

“Loyalty to one’s nation is not just, ‘I was born and raised in America, so I am more American than anyone,’ ” she said. “Loyalty to one’s nation is how you live in a society. How are you giving back? Are you doing your civic duties?”

“We come here not to say, ‘I’m right and you’re wrong,’ not to say, ‘My teachings are better than your teachings.' We are here to build bridges, to learn from each other and to appreciate our differences.”

Before President Donald Trump took office, Wadood said, many leaders in the Ahmadiyya Muslim community were concerned that they would be persecuted by the new administration, just as they had been in their homeland. The caliph, or worldwide leader of the faith, told his American followers to continue their work, no matter who is leading the government.

“We don’t have to be afraid of anything. Why should we be afraid?” she said. “That’s what he told us, and that’s what we believe in, because our work never stops.”

Trump’s rhetoric against Muslims on the campaign trail and recent travel ban on visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries have not changed Wadood’s appreciation of her right to religious freedom.

“We don’t get discouraged by his policies, because we are not the kind of people to get discouraged or agitated,” she said. “Our belief is in dialogue. Everything can be done with dialogue. Nothing can be done with a sword."

Saturday's ceremony will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Refreshments will be served.


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