‘Our faith has been accepted here’: starting again and finding acceptance in Liverpool

“This is my homeland now, this is where I am from and I’m very proud of it”.

A group of people looking to find a home where they can practise their faith and help others say they have found one in Liverpool. Ahmadi people follow the teachings of the Quran, revere Muhammad as the prophet of Allah, and pray five times a day facing Mecca. But in Pakistan, their faith has been essentially outlawed since the 1970s and many Ahmadi Muslims have fled their home in search of religious freedom. In Liverpool, they have found a home and in 2016 the Bait ul Lateef Ahmadiyya Mosque on Breck Road was founded in the shadow of Anfield stadium.

For the Ahmadi serving their community is a cornerstone of their faith and they believe you should “always love and show loyalty” to where you live. However, for many members of the mosque, the scars of leaving Pakistan remain. Attaul Aleem came to the UK in 2009. Speaking to the ECHO, he said: “My family owned businesses in Pakistan and we had a good life. It was hard for me to leave my friends, family, and everything I knew to start all over again. “Everything was fine and then my father-in-law died, we buried him in a Muslim grave. I was arrested and put in jail for eight days and when I came out they had moved his body. We had to bury the body in another city and that is when I said no. It was not safe there anymore, I had to leave my country.”

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community was founded in 1889 by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and the Ahmadi believe that the second coming of the messiah happened in the form of their founder. This is seen by some as heretical to traditional Islamic beliefs. Attaul struggled to deal with the pain of leaving his old life behind and not having a place to worship in Liverpool. The community, which now numbers around 300, would meet wherever they could. He said: “There were only a few families at the start and we would sometimes meet at a room in the fire station. We came upon the church and it had been abandoned for many years.

“We brought in contractors but it was mainly volunteers and we removed around 250 tonnes of rubbish. Now it is not just a mosque it is for the whole community and it’s been a great way to build relationships with the street.” Members of the mosque serve the people of Breck Road in any way they can including fundraising for local charities, litter picking, and even handing out gifts at Christmas. The mosque runs youth outreach programmes and anyone, “no matter the faith” is welcome. In the UK, the Ahmadis are a minority, there are about 30,000 among a Muslim population of 3.9 million. While they left Pakistan to flee from religious persecution, it is never too far from home.

In 2016 Tanveer Ahmed was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Glasgow newsagent Asad Shah in an attack motivated by hatred of Shah’s Ahmadi faith. Members of the Farooq said: “We have the freedom to practice our religion without fear but unfortunately in some ways, it has found its way to the UK.” While they may still face challenges in gaining acceptance, Farooq believes it is important to highlight the positive. He said: “People have this image of a mosque and think people just come to pray but we cater to all members of the community. We have a sports hall when the World Cup was on we showed all the England matches.