Internationally persecuted Muslims attend Anzac Day service to thank diggers for safeguarding free Australia

Members of a Muslim movement persecuted abroad say they’re thankful to Anzac diggers for helping create an Australia that honours and upholds the freedom and rights of its people.Dozens of members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community turned out at Anzac Day Dawn Services in Sydney to honour soldiers killed in World War I in defence of Australia.Sydney coordinator Tariq Ahmad said the Ahmadis, who face discrimination and systematic persecution by other Muslims worldwide, wanted to show their gratitude for the freedom Australia has afforded them.

“We hope by attending we will inculcate in other Australians a sense of our love and respect for not only their traditions, but also what Anzac soldiers have done to bring the country to where it is now,” he said.Mr Ahmad said they were also motivated by an Islamic principle of loving and respecting one’s country of residence.“It is a day of great importance and a day when we as a nation should reiterate our pledge of loyalty and service to the country [whether] in war and peace,” the National President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Australia Mr. I. H. Kauser said in a statement.“Members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Australia always pledge their loyalties to their homeland.“We are always ready to sacrifice our life, our wealth, our time and our honour for the sake of our country.”

The Ahmadiyya movement was first founded in Punjab, British India toward the close of the 19th century, by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who claimed to be the long-awaited Messiah of Islam.Regarded by many orthodox Muslims as a heretical order, Ahmadis face persecution in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom.Among those who gathered for the Dawn Service today were a number of Ahmadis who had suffered such persecution.Pakistan-born Navid Ahmed, 23, told of how his father, an imam in Lahore, was one among an estimated 80 or more Ahmadis fatally gunned down by Taliban terrorists in 2010.Mr Ahmed also described how in the lead up to the attack, both he and his father had been personally threatened.

Concern for his own welfare meant he was unable to attend college for over a month afterwards as a result.Mr Ahmed subsequently applied for refugee status and was accepted into Australia under the national Refugee and Humanitarian programme.He is now undertaking a bachelor degree in Sydney.Mr Ahmed said words cannot express his gratitude towards the country and the Australian people for “embracing” him.“Being from a country where I was persecuted, it’s like a heaven for me,” he said.“My life was threatened in Pakistan. Nothing was secure for me. I wasn’t guaranteed even basic human rights.”

Today marks the first time the Ahmadiyya Community in Australia had attended Anzac Day commemorations as a group.A number of young people were encouraged to attend as an educational experience, National Director of Public Relations for the Ahmadiyya Community Australia Miraz Ramzan Sharif said. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth group regularly participate in a range of community events and programs, from Australia Day, to Clean Up Australia Day, to Red Cross door-knock appeals.Mr Sharif said that one of the group’s key purposes was keeping its members “engaged” in their local community.Member Absham Gondal, 13, has described today’s events as a “great opportunity” and said the experience taught him “quite a lot”.

“There are a number of small fringe groups that are trying to promote hatred and division in our community,” he said.“They specifically try to create this misunderstanding or misconception that the Muslim way of life is not aligned with the Australian way of life, which is an absurd assertion to make.“We’re always battling against that stereotype [and] it’s important the Muslim community [continues trying] to break down those misconceptions.“There is no doubt in my mind that Islam is consistent with Australian values.”