Ahmadiyya Muslim women visit U.S. Congress to discuss youth radicalization

On the fourteenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, a delegation of 61 American Muslim women, donning the Islamic veil (hijab), visited the Capitol Hill to meet several members of the Congress. The delegates represented the Women’s Auxiliary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, USA (Lajna Imaillah) led by the National President, Saliha Malik. This was the first time that the auxiliary had the opportunity to spend time at the Hill.

Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA, established in 1920, is among the first American-Muslim organizations. It was founded in 1889 by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the long-awaited Messiah and Mahdi. When the Community was established in March, 1889, Ahmad had only forty followers, in the relatively unknown and isolated town of Qadian in the province of Punjab, India. At present, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community spans more than 200 countries with worldwide membership in tens of millions. It operates under a spiritual leader, a khalifa (caliph), who unites the International Community under his leadership. The Women’s Auxiliary, Lajna Imaillah, was established in 1922 by the second Khalifa, Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmood Ahmad in India. The primary task of this auxiliary is to impart religious education, moral training of the young and adults, disseminating the true message of Islam, and serving the less fortunate of the society.

Saliha Malik, along with the delegates, Dhiya Bakr (Zion, IL), Aisha Sial (Seattle, WA), and Nusrat Bashir (Philadelphia, PA), met with Representatives Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and Ted Poe (R-Texas). Representatives Speier and Poe are the co-chairs of the Ahmadiyya Caucus which was established in February 2014 in order to educate the Congress and the public about the religious persecution faced by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Pakistan and other countries.

“We came to share the beautiful teachings of Islam as explained by the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad,” Malik said. “He said that Islam is a religion of non-violence and violent teachings would be detrimental to the society,” she further elaborated. Ahmad wrote some 89 books in which he espoused the true teachings of Islam which had become distorted. He explained the true meaning of Jihad and taught that there is no more need for religious wars in the present day. He exhorted his followers to instead defend Islam and Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be on him) through discourse and writings. He said, “Think of the preparations that the opponents of Islam are now making. They are not lining up the armies. They are publishing magazines and books. We also should, therefore, pick up our pen and answer their attacks with magazines and books.”

Throughout the morning of Friday, September 11, the women met with various members of Congress and their legislative assistants. The purpose of the sessions was to introduce the Community and the women’s auxiliary as well as talk about how the Ahmadi Muslim youth are prevented from being radicalized.

Aziza Faruqi, who came from Austin, Texas, met with Rachel Huggins, Legislative Assistant for Congressman Michael Burgess (R-Texas). Speaking on the issue of youth radicalization, Faruqi explained, “We don’t have an issue of radicalization or attraction to ISIS among our youth because we provide guidance to our young members and give them a purpose. They are not looking for an adventure. We provide them an alternative venue.”

There are some 5,400 members in the Women’s Auxiliary, USA with 71 local chapters spanning the entire country. The delegates came from 53 chapters. Safeta Cerimovic represented her hometown of Syracuse. She is the local President of her chapter. Her meeting was with the Legislative Assistant of John Katko (R-New York).

“I had some mixed feelings about going there on 9/11. I didn’t know what the reaction would be from people seeing so many Muslim women in their hijab in front of the Capitol. But later when I was inside and met with the staff I felt reassured,” Cerimovic remarked.

The only thing that the delegates sought from the members of the Congress was that they support the various campaigns and initiatives being carried out by the Community. Homaira Khandakar of Monroe Township, New Jersey, who met with the staff of Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-New Jersey), said, “We didn’t ask for anything from them except that they support all our campaigns, such as, ‘Muslims for Life’, ‘Stop the CrISIS’, and ‘Feed the Hungry’.”

The Lajna Day on the Hill was a success. The members of the Congress and their staff were very grateful and appreciative of the efforts of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. “Women have unique role in restoring peace. I admire what the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association is doing,” Rep. Poe remarked.

This year’s visit to the Capitol Hill was an historic event for the Women’s Auxiliary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. It was an exciting day for the women and they hope to take this momentum to their respective chapters where they can have more opportunities to connect with the local offices and develop meaningful relationships.

“I hope we seemed to them like a breath of fresh air because they have so many great problems to deal with,” Saliha Malik commented.