PART of Huddersfield’s Muslim community is hitting the streets to address the question – is the UK Islamophobic?
And, the answer they found has surprised them.
Residents may not know much about Ahmadiyya Muslims, but organisers hope their new public awareness Peace Campaign will spread a message of tolerance and inform not just people in Huddersfield, but those across the UK.
From today dozens of buses across the town are bearing the key tenet of their religion: ‘Love For All And Hatred For None’.
As part of a 10-year bid to promote understanding of the Ahmadiyya beliefs, volunteers have set themselves a challenge on a staggering scale – to offer a leaflet and a conversation explaining their way of life to every household in the UK – and survey the attitudes of the country.
With stories about Islamic fundamentalism never far from some front pages, the organisers say they are aware that in some quarters the reception on the doorstep may not be too positive.
The UK association stresses that protecting the sanctity of life is a key Islamic principle. It unequivocally rejects violence and terrorism in any form, including suicide bombing – for any reason – and also advocates equal rights for men and women while stressing there should be no compulsion in religion, seeing belief as a matter of individual choice for all.
The Amir – national president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association UK Rafiq Hayat – said: "At the moment Islam has a very bad name, partly because of what some Muslims are doing and partly because of media hype.
"We thought we would do a survey of the country to tackle the issue with a campaign to convey the true message of Islam on the doorsteps over the next 10 years."
The Herculean task means approaching 2.7m households each year.
He added: "We needed to create awareness to launch it and that’s where the bus campaign comes in.
"It’s very interesting that people talk about Islamophobia, but among the people we’ve met we’ve been very well received – it’s been a pleasant surprise.
"There has been a handful of negative responses, but on the whole the reaction has been friendly and positive.
"You may see Islamophobia on the news a lot, but we haven’t found it on the doorstep.
"I really think people are more clever than that. Obviously some fundamentalists take advantage of tensions, but there are always those who create problems and others who work for good.
"We hope that through this we can increase the knowledge about those who advocate peace."
The Ahmadiyya Muslims address various issues at their peace symposia – and one took place earlier this month at Huddersfield Town Hall.
Open to all, the topics for discussion included the world banking crisis – and Islamic prohibitions on the offering of interest. For believers, interest is responsible for the unequal distribution of wealth and the credit crisis.
The event featured Mr Hayat and speakers included Huddersfield police commander Chief Supt John Robins, The Mayor of Kirklees, Clr Julie Stewart-Turner and Kirklees Council chief executive Rob Vincent.
Followers say that the Ahmadiyya Muslim community leads a global effort to revive what they say is the true, peaceful message of Islam.
It was initiated by the founder of the community, Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who said: "The mission for which I have been appointed is to remove that growing gap in the relationship between God and His creation and replace it once again with the relationship of love and sincerity – and by allowing the truth to manifest itself, cause religious wars and discord to end and thus lay the foundation for peace."
Huddersfield Ahmadiyya Muslims external affairs secretary Mr Fatihul-Haq, says the community works hard to raise money for charities throughout the UK, all part of what they see as a duty to serve mankind which corresponds with the five key obligations and beliefs.
These are loyalty, freedom, equality, respect and peace.
These, along with "Love for all, hatred for none", form the cornerstone of the campaign which will give many in the Huddersfield their first contact with Ahmadiyya Muslims.
They also combine with other groups in the town on goodwill projects and run a soup kitchen on Christmas Day in Huddersfield town centre with the Welcome Centre – a Christian charity which provides support for people in crisis – and is based at the Welcome Centre in Huddersfield Methodist Mission.
Ahmadiyya Muslims in Huddersfield have recently donated £1,000 to the West Yorkshire Forget Me Not Trust plus a further £250 to the mayor’s charities. The money is raised by donations from followers.
For information visit: www.loveforallhatredfornone.org or www.alislam.org or phone 01484 515375.
There are 500 Ahmadiyya Muslims in Huddersfield.
The AMA formed in Huddersfield in the early 1960s and has been based at their mosque on Lower Fitzwilliam Street for 28 years. There is also a community centre on Spaines Road in Fartown.
Their five core principles are to believe in loyalty, equality, freedom, respect and peace.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim movement was founded in India in 1889 with the dual aims of peace and building cohesive societies.
It has been established in the UK since 1913 and built London’s first mosque in Putney in 1926.
It now has 100 branches across Britain and has opened a number of mosques including the landmark Baitul Futuh mosque in south London, the largest in western Europe.