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“We like it here, everyone is free”: Rafiq Hayat (right), with Philip Breeden, Press Counsellor at the US Embassy, London

As Friday prayers end thousands of believers stream out of the mosque. Keen-eyed men with Pashtun cheekbones hover by a convoy of cars, many of them wearing the traditional hats of Pakistan's North-West Frontier province. Were it not for the Tube depot in the background, one could be in that exotic land with its long and sometimes unhappy links with Britain. Departing last, and driven safely away, is Hadhrat Mizra Masroor Ahmad, the fifth leader of the worldwide Ahmadiyya community.

Built on the site of a former dairy in 2003, the Baitul Futuh in Morden, south London, is the largest mosque in western Europe, with capacity for 10,000 people. When I first visit, around 6,000 believers are packed into the complex, bowed in prayer. There is an airport-style X-ray machine by the entrances, something churchgoers might find alarming, although the Baitul Futuh looks lightly protected compared to the Ahmadiyya mosque in nearby Putney.

There was some local hostility when the mosque opened. Religious centres are rarely welcomed by any community, bringing as they do not just traffic and noise but inevitably more believers to the area, and in a neighbourhood inhabited by many people who fled inner London a generation ago there was bound to be difficulty. Yet the Ahmadiyya are nothing if not good neighbours. The mosque's conference hall is used by various local civic bodies, and every year chocolate is handed out to local people at Eid, a small gesture that nonetheless warms relations. Besides which, the security is not to protect them from BNP supporters.

Ahmadiyya is an Islamic reformist movement that began more than a century ago in British India. Little known outside Pakistan, where half of its ten million followers live, it has nonetheless attracted some attention in Britain for its now annual poppy-selling drive, which raises more than £20,000 a year for the British Legion.

The Ahmadi follow Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, born in the Punjab in 1835, who in 1889 declared himself to be the promised messiah (Imam Mahdi). After his death in 1908 his followers split, with some taking the orthodox Sunni view that there could be no more prophets, and the others, the Ahmadiyya, becoming a new sect. Born on the crossroads of the world's Western and Eastern faiths, they also see Krishna and Buddha as prophets, and this varied religious palate perhaps explains their instinctive tolerance.

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June 8th, 2013
10:06 PM
'the security is not to protect them from BNP supporters.'that seems to imply that the security is to protect them from....oh dear ! ..anyway i hope to hear positive things in the media about the Ahmadis as those beliefs would go a quite a way to encourage peaceful co-existance with other communities

May 31st, 2013
1:05 PM
'PeeJay' makes me very sad, and somewhat ashamed. If I hadn't read of the Ahmadiyya before, perhaps I too would assume that this article was the anti-bigotry bull which is all too often spammed across the media, covering up the reality to protect us from ourselves. But in this article that isn't the case. The Ahmadiyya really do sell Poppies; which makes you think, why don't other Muslims do the same? Obviously, we're all just trying to get on with our lives, but some of us have identities which conflict with the mainstream national identity and see much of Britishness as a hostile 'Other', and some of us have an 'us and them' attitude, and some of us are totally unchallenged on these attitudes. 'Some of us' could potentially be anyone, but today the most high profile disaffected group are mainstream Muslims. Seeing that non-Muslims cannot distinguish between Mainstream Muslims and Ahmediyya, and so both groups are subjected to the same criticism and social pressures, it would appear that the disaffection of Muslims is mainly their own responsibility, or rather, the responsibility of the influential members of the community. So all credit to the Ahmadiyya for not hating us as much as everyone else does, and, to mainstream Muslims *, get your act together! *For example, Mo Ansar, who wrote an article not long ago, explaining why he never gives to the Poppy Appeal (conflict of loyalties, basically,) which hopefully he'll revise, now that HfH have rejected monies from the EDL.

May 14th, 2013
7:05 PM
If they really love Britain, and want to integrate, why, why oh why did they insist on building a gigantic mosque for 10 000 people? Surely they must have realised it would be contentious to say the least? But they knew that, whatever the protests, they would eventually get their way! They always do, don't they? That's why most people don't trust them, whatever they say.

May 3rd, 2013
4:05 AM
Ahmadis stand for peace since 124 years. 1. Ahmadis do not believe in armed type Jihad. 2. They believe in peaceful preaching. 3. They believe in live and let live. 4. They believe in love for all hatred for none. 5. They believe in religious liberty for all. 6. They believe no one should be punished for beliefs alone. Every one should be punished for crimes. 7. There is no compulsion in any religion. 8. A peaceful person of any faith has nothing to fear, nor will he/she be grieved. 9. It is necessary to be truely loyal and faithful to the country where one lives. 10. Ahmadis are spiritual people with least politics. 11. Ahmadis do not press any one for the law of Shariah in the present state of the world as a global village. 12. Ahmadis respect all the heads (seniors) of all religions and do not abuse any one. 13. The Ahmadis do not rise against any established government. Also they do not take part in strikes. It is strictly forbidden. 14. Ahmadis believe in peaceful, friendly dailogue between people of different faiths. 15. Ahmadis want to serve the people, and want to do deeds for the benefit of all people. The list could go on and on. I am not any official of the Ahmadiyah community, just an ordinary member. Above is written for general information.

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