More than 30,000 Muslims ‘seek to make a difference’ at UK’s largest Islamic conference

MORE than 30,000 Muslims from 100 countries are attending the UK’s largest Islamic conference on farmland in a Hampshire village this weekend – with organisers keen to push their message of tolerance and counter negative stereotypes.

Caliph Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad addresses followers at last year’s event (Image: Ahmadiyya Muslim Community)

Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Caliph to tens of millions of Muslims, will address the crowds in attendance at a three-day international gathering, known as the Jalsa Salana, organised by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.

The conference, being held at Oakland Farm in Alton – the village where Jane Austen lived for the last eight years of her life – will focus on increasing the spirituality of the participants, as well as tackling issues facing the world’s second largest religion – including the rise of Islamic extremism, the growing threat of the far-right and Islamophobia.

The Ahmadiyya community has more than 100 chapters in the UK, with 35 Mosques, including the largest Mosque in Britain, and the first Mosque in London.

The movement was established in 1889, since when it has denounced all forms of extremism, with tens of millions of members in more than 200 countries.

The Jalsa Salana is the biggest Islamic conference in the UK (Image: Ahmadiyya Muslim Community)

Adam Walker, who is vice-president of the organisation’s youth association, told, stressed that the Ahmadiyya community renounced all forms of violence and extremism.

He said: “We believe that barriers can be broken down, and that Islam means getting out into the community and making a difference.”

The community had raised more than £700,000 last year for charities including the Red Cross, he pointed out.

He also sought to clarify what was meant by the phrase “caliphate” in terms of his particular branch of Islam.He explained: “We had a Georgian Orthodox priest here earlier.

“We believe in the second chapter of the Koran, which states that there is no compulsion in religion.”

The enormous event attracts people from all round the world, and has been based in Hampshire for the last 11 years.

An army of 6,000 volunteers make sure things run to plan, and attendees are equally split between men and women, Mr Walker said.

Speaking before the event, the Caliph said: “No matter what terrorists may claim, under no circumstances are indiscriminate attacks or killings ever justified.

“Islam has enshrined the sanctity of human life in chapter 5, verse 33 of the Holy Quran, which states: ‘Whosoever killed a person – it shall be as if he killed all mankind; and whoso gave life to one, it shall be as if he had given life to all mankind’.”

“The need of the hour is for us to knock down the barriers of fear that divide us.

“Rather than erecting walls that keep us apart, we should build bridges that bring us closer together.

“We must stand up against all forms of oppression, hatred and use all our capabilities to try and foster peace in the world.”

The three-day event features a variety of speakers, including a presentation by a group of experts seeking to counter claims that the Turin Shroud, which believers say shows the actual face of Jesus, is an elaborate hoax dating from the Middle Ages.

Islam regards Jesus, who is referred to as Isa in the Koran, as a highly respected prophet and messenger of God.