Groups of Sunni Muslim extremists gathered in a Holiday Inn in northern Virginia over the weekend and called for followers to wage jihad—or holy war—against infidels, like reported by newsweek.com.
The radical extremists didn’t call for violence against Jews or Christians, but instead used the so-called Final Prophet Conference to rage against another group of Muslims that, like most American Muslims, doesn’t support violent jihad.
The Pakistani-American imams who led the event bashed the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, a religious movement founded in 19th-century India, according to one participant who attended the event. Among the main complaints was that Ahmadi Muslims criticize violence and forbid waging jihad against non-Muslim governments.
“Because Islam is being attacked from all corners, we as Muslims should work together. But glory be to Allah, we have decided not to support anything [Ahmadi Muslims] say,” Mufti Shazad Hussain, an imam in Virginia who addressed the participants, was quoted saying.
The conference organizers were Idara Dawat-O-Irshad and Khatme Nabuwwat Center, two Muslim groups registered as corporations in Virginia, just a short drive from the U.S. capital. The groups are working to export their extremist ideology and intolerance into the United States, critics say.
“Free speech doesn’t mean the freedom to promote violence. These people are as bad as the Nazis marching in Charlottesville,” Qasim Rashid, a spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya Muslim community in the U.S., told Newsweek.
“Every group has extremists, whether they are Christians, Muslims, Jews or Buddhists. I would like to see an environment where these radical ideologies are rooted out,” Rashid added, noting that it is “very concerning” that radical groups gathered in Virginia.
Ahmadiyya Muslims say that groups like the ones in Virginia give Muslims a bad name at a time when the Trump administration is already demonizing many Muslims and painting them as extremists.
“These groups are influential in places like Pakistan, but I’d bet 99.9 percent of American Muslims reject these guys,” Rashid said.
Ahmadi Muslims believe that the messiah has already arrived in the form of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, a reformer who lived in India in the 1800s. Ahmad aimed to reform Muslims whose concept of jihad had become too violent. In response, extremist clerics in countries like Pakistan have banned the Ahmadi Muslims, and members of the group can be fined or even face capital punishment in Pakistan.
Ahmadi Muslims say it is their message of peace that offends the hardline extremists most.
“In this battle of ideas, it is important for those standing up for peace and dialogue not to be silenced by fanatical groups,” Harris Zafar, author of Demystifying Islamand a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, told Newsweek.
“It is important for our fellow Americans to understand that the extremists are not fighting Christians. They are fighting all humanity—including Muslims who disagree with their fanaticism.”