Ahmadiyya Movement Goes Mainstream in Sierra Leone
BO – The impact on Sierra Leonean society of the Ahmadiyya Movement was apparent as close to 15,000 adherents known as Ahmadis converged on this southern town over the weekend of Feb 3, 2012. Known as a Jalsa Salana, the conference is the 51st such annual gathering in Sierra Leone and was opened by President Ernest Bai Koroma. According to Maulvi Fuard Lawleh, a Sierra Leonean devotee and national education secretary, Ahmadi missionaries started arriving in Sierra Leone in 1936 and built their first primary school at Rokupr, Kambia District. Tens of thousands of Sierra Leoneans have been educated at the186 primary schools and 55 secondary schools operated by the Ahmadiyya Moslem Community. They also run health centers and mosques in communities all over the country.
Lawler said that the schools, whose curriculum is devoid of religious indoctrination, are open to all citizens regardless of religious beliefs.
Founded in India by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in 1889, and present in 163 countries, the Ahmadiyya Movement remains controversial within Moslem circles. Though they adhere to common Islamic tenets such as fasting, prayer and alms giving, many orthodox Moslems do not consider Ahmadis to be true believers. In Pakistan, it is blasphemous to refer to Ahmadis as Moslems. Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the worldwide leader known as the fifth Khalifat, lives in London because of the persecution faced by Ahmadis in Pakistan.
Ahmadis claim to be practicing a brand of Islam that has been reformed by the coming of Imam Mahdi in the person of Ghulam Ahmad who also fulfilled the prophecy of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. “He has come, done his job of reforming Islam and departed,” said Lawler. Orthodox Moslems are still awaiting the arrival of Imam Mahdi. Lawler declined to further discuss doctrinal differences between Ahmadis and orthodox Moslems.
The Bo Ahmadiyya Secondary School campus could have been mistaken for a venue in Pakistan because of the flowing robes and hats common among Ahmadis worn by the thousands of attendees. Banners strung around the perimeter of the tent containing the adherents called for the propagation of Islam and peaceful coexistence because Ahmadis believe in non-violent Jihad.
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