Muslims stand ‘shoulder to shoulder’ at largest Islamic convention in UK

Muslims spoke about the importance of “standing shoulder to shoulder” as a community as they attended the first day of the largest Islamic convention in the UK

Around 40,000 Muslims are expected to attend the Jalsa Salana, which began on Friday and ends on Sunday – with some travelling from overseas to reach Oakland Farm in Alton, Hampshire, where the convention takes place.

Fraz Ahmad, 19, a law student from Bradford – who said he journeyed for five hours on Friday morning to reach Alton, told the PA news agency: “I think it’s really important to remove the misconceptions around Islam and change the narrative, change the perspective, that people have upon it.

“By people coming here and having a look at what true Islam looks like, and what we believe Islam is about, that’s the only way that narrative is going to change.”

The convention, which is in its 57th year, was formed with the help of around 5,000 volunteers from the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, which is deemed to be the fastest growing sect within Islam.

The convention offers people that chance to come together to “self-reflect” and “focus on spiritual goals for the coming year” and also features several highly symbolic services and sermons from the leader, or Caliph, of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad.

On Friday, the Caliph hoisted the flag for the community alongside the Union flag, which was raised by Rafiq Hayat, the national president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association in the UK.

It was followed by a sermon from the Caliph, who addressed the current issues facing the community and society as a whole.

Across the weekend, around 270,000 meals will also be prepared onsite by the volunteers, and the bread factory at the convention provides around 9,000 rotis – a flatbread which is eaten with meals – every hour for the attendees.

Sarah Ward, a 43-year-old primary school teacher from Kingston, south-west London, said it is “really nice” to see the diversity of the Muslim community as well as the unity that comes with the convention.

“We know, as Muslim women, we’re very diverse, we’re not monolith, we’re from different backgrounds, we have different skills, we have different passions, we do different jobs, but we come together as one community,” the mother-of-three told PA.

“We’re united under our Caliph, and it’s really nice to see that diversity yet that unity that’s there.”

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