The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community: Effective Advocacy on Religious Freedom

March 3, 2016

Last week, Ahmadiyya Muslims held a briefing on Capitol Hill to counter extremist narratives. In front of a full room, almost a dozen Members of Congress talked about their support for religious freedom and their appreciation for the unveiling of a program designed to theologically refute ISIS. After the event, over 100 visits to Congressional offices had been scheduled to be visited by American Muslims who had flown in from across the country. 

Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA, the organizers of the event, has become one of the most well-engaged Muslim groups on Capitol Hill. “We’ve been engaged with Congress in some capacity or the other for 90 years,” said the organization’s Special Assistant to the National Director of Public Affairs, Absar Alam. “It’s been a constant learning process. We adapt. We look at what we did right and what we did wrong,”

Apart from Hill briefings and “Day on the Hill” campaigns, Congress now has an Ahmadiyya Muslim Caucus, a bipartisan group working to protect the human rights of Ahamdiyyas and other religious minorities in all countries.

Its relationship-building on the Hill and the trust it has developed has allowed Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA’s campaign to counter ISIS’ ideology to be received with praise from Congressional members. Ahmadiyya Muslim Caucus Members who spoke at the briefing included Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA14), Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA17), and Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH15), Rep. Pete Aguilar, (D-CA31), and Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX2).

Alam noted being a resource to policy-makers has been a hallmark of the Ahmadi community. “We see extremism as a problem. And when the President made his call to action to American Muslims to confront extremism, we responded.” Relationships, however, with the broader Muslim community have been almost non-existent on the national level, despite letters sent to 2200 Muslim leaders on the organization's "True Islam" campaign. “On a local level, we have a few relationships with other Muslims who have supported us. However, MPAC was the first organization to attend one of our national events."

It is time to look at successful models like those of the Ahmadiyya community and not get entangled into theological disputes emanating from abroad. It is time to work on religious freedom together, and that means working with those who have established relationships, are effective, and share similar goals.



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