Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Interfaith group pulls support from local world religions conference [The Waterloo Record - Story]

Published in the Saturday Waterloo Record - May 01, 2011

By Liz Monteiro, Record staff
Sun May 01 2011  

WATERLOO REGION — A local group of faith communities is no longer offering its support for the World Religions Conference hosted annually by area Ahmadiyya Muslims.
Interfaith Grand River said it can’t continue to sponsor the Ahmadiyya Muslim annual event because the Muslim speaker at the daylong event has always come from the Ahmadiyya faith, excluding other Muslim traditions.

“We can’t put our name to that because it doesn’t represent the diversity within that religious tradition,’’ said Sandy Milne, a member of the Interfaith Grand River steering committee.

“It’s really hard to reflect diversity all the time, but you try to make the effort,’’ said Milne.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Association of Canada at the University of Waterloo has held the World Religions Conference in Waterloo for 30 years. The daylong event was last held in October.

The conference, billed as a multi-faith event, represents different faiths including aboriginal, atheist, Buddhist, Christian, Hinduism, Judaism and Sikhism. The speaker on Islam has always been of the Ahmadiyya tradition.

The issue came to a head in October, 2008, when representatives of the Sunni and Shia Muslim traditions sent a letter to Interfaith Grand River challenging the group’s support for the conference that claimed to represent Islam but did not include Muslims from the Sunni and Shia tradition.

Most Muslims don’t consider those of the Ahmadiyya faith to be true Muslims. The Ahmadiyya are seen as heretics because the movement’s 19th-century founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, claimed to be the Messiah.
For most in the Islamic faith, there is no other prophet after Prophet Muhammed.

Conflict mediation was held with both Islamic faith groups and Interfaith Grand River but a consensus could not be reached, Milne said.

Nabeel Rana, conference co-ordinator and a local Ahmadiyya Muslim, said the Ahmadiyyas, who host the conference and spend about $20,000 to put on the free event, said they reserve the right of final selection for Muslim speakers.

“We need a certain level of comfort,’’ said the software engineer at RIM. “Those groups are prejudiced against us. How can we collaborate with them?’’

Rana said the conference agreed to allow other Muslim traditions to read from Qur’an, set up booths and displays and to participate in the planning of the conference. But the speaker would identify as Ahmadiyyan, he said.

Rana said the Ahmadiyyans were offended by the remarks from other Muslims suggesting they were not true Muslims.

“Those were brutal remarks against us yet we were open to a meeting,’’ he said.
Rana said Ahmadiyyans have a long history of persecution. Last May about 100 people were killed in mosques in Pakistan and Bangladesh. In Pakistan, it is against the law to profess to be an Ahmadiyya Muslim, he said.

Interfaith Grand River steering committee member Brice Balmer said the coalition is not asking the different Muslim traditions to agree on theology or dogma.

“We are asking people to listen to one another,’’ he said.

Interfaith Grand River said individual members are free to continue supporting the conference and the door is always open for Ahmadiyya Muslims to attend Interfaith meetings.

“I think they (Ahmadiyya Muslims) are doing marvellous work,’’ said Milne.

Source: http://www.therecord.com/news/local/article/524632--interfaith-group-pulls-support-from-local-world-religions-conference


  1. Comment sent via email by Terry Polevoy

    I am disappointed in your group's position on the World Religions Conference at
    the University of Waterloo.


    The Ahmadiyya Muslim group has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars over the
    years to bring to our community a lively and important event.

    I am shocked that your group would publicly pull support from this meeting. What in the world were you thinking?

    I am not a religious person at all, but enjoy hearing from all of the presenters. As a secular humanist I support everyone's right to express themselves in any manner.

    There is very strong prejudice against the Ahmadiyyah movement for more than a century by other muslim groups. I wonder if the other two sects that you mentioned would ever put down their swords and remain peaceful how much better the world would be.

    The world's religions and their minions over the last two-thousand years have been the perpetrators and victims of war and terrorism. Without religious hatred and bigotry our world would be a better place.

    How would your group feel if they came under attack? Would you ignore it or openly declare war on those who oppose your point of view?

    Those who would profess their own version of religious beliefs and impose their inhumane laws on others have been responsible for the murder, expulsion and persecution of millions. Do you oppose the sponsors of the World Religions Conference because they don't seem to be accepting of the two major Islamic religious groups in the world?

    If there really was a god in this world, why hasn't there been peace?

    Your rejection of what the Ahmadiyyah group has brought to our community is just adding to the terrible state of affairs. Religion should not be used to threaten people, yet it continues to do this across many continents. In those places,
    like Canada, where we apparently have laws to protect those who practice religion and those who don't practice religion, it doesn't give any group the right to threaten those who don't believe in their "religion".

    I suggest that Interfaith Grand River should do something else with its money.

    The World Religions Conference, in my opinion as a secular humanist, should publicly defend its rights to run the conference as they see fit. None of their conferences have ever offended me.

    Terry Polevoy, MD

  2. Welldone Grand River.!!!
    I think this was the right thing to do. Ahamdiyya are considered NON Muslim by all the muslim commnunities worldwide, hence their image being muslim is not even accepted by any ( I mean ANY) sect of the Muslim community. I think if inter-faith groups want Muslim representation, they should invite a Muslim scholar who is accepted by Muslims. Money is nothing to do with these events, as they are based on religion...
    Ahamdiyya have beliefs wehich are contradictory to general muslim beliefs. This organisation was started in late 19th century. Its founder announced himself to be a prophet and messiah. which is a contradiction to muslims who believe Muhammad PBUH to be the LAST prophet.

    I support with all might to stop this event as it is based on a false muslim image...