By Rev. Chuck Currie: United Church of Christ minister and Associate Director of The Westar Institute
Source / Courtesy: Huffington Post
One of the truths of human existence is religious conflict. Those conflicts exist not just between different religions but within religions. Christians understand this through experience. There is great diversity within the Christian faith and with that diversity has come disagreement and plenty of violence. The war in Iraq illustrated, however, that American Christians (and Americans in general) had little understanding of the diversity within Islam. Policy makers struggled to explain the difference between Sunni and Shia Muslims and why those differences sparked sectarian violence after the fall of Saddam Hussein. A safe guess to make would be that most Americans have historically viewed Islam as a monolithic faith. Yet the differences extend beyond just Sunni and Shia and include, among other smaller Islam communities, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Like Christianity, Islam is a religion divided among theological, cultural and political perspectives.
The experiences of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community have in recent times captured my attention and even imagination. Ahmadi Muslims trace their history back to 1835 and the birth of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in India. This man would come to be known as the “metaphorical second coming of Jesus of Nazareth and the divine guide, whose advent was foretold by the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad.” Like other Muslims, Ahmadi Muslims believe in the five pillars of Islam. But this belief in Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (and his descendents who have served as spiritual leaders for this worldwide community) have lead to their banishment from mainstream Islam. Within Pakistan, where the movement was headquartered after the Indian partition, Ahmadi Muslims have faced persecution and terrible violence. Human Rights Watch has chronicled much aggression directed at Ahmadi Muslims and notes that Pakistan’s “Blasphemy Law” makes it permissible to put Ahmadi Muslims to death simply for claiming to be Muslim.