The Ahmadiyya movement, which is regarded as heretical by many Muslims, has been persecuted since its founding in 1889, in Qadian, India, and especially so in its land of origin. After partition in 1947, a large number of Muslims migrated over the border into the new nation of Pakistan, but the Ahmadiyya have not received the treatment they had hoped for in the Islamic Republic, which, in 1974, adopted a law declaring the Ahmadiyya non-Muslims. It is the only nation to have done so. The Ahmadiyya are considered heretical because their founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835–1908), claimed to be the messiah. Naseem Mahdi, an American Ahmadi leader and vice president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA, hopes to call attention to the movement as a promoter of tolerance and peace. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community charter focuses on the peaceful message propagated by Ahmad:  “He divested Islam of fanatical beliefs and practices by vigorously championing Islam’s true and essential teachings.”  It also claims that “Ahmad emphatically declared that an aggressive ‘jihad by the sword’ has no place in Islam. In its place, he taught his followers to wage a bloodless, intellectual ‘jihad of the pen’ to defend Islam.” Regarding law and the state, the charter says:

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is the only Islamic organization to endorse a separation of mosque and state. Over a century ago, Ahmad taught his followers to protect the sanctity of both religion and government by becoming righteous souls as well as loyal citizens. He cautioned against irrational interpretations of Quranic pronouncements and misapplications of Islamic law. He continually voiced his concerns over protecting the rights of God’s creatures. Today, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community continues to be an advocate for universal human rights and protections for religious and other minorities. It champions the empowerment and education of women. Its members are among the most law-abiding, educated, and engaged Muslims in the world.

At the CNN Belief  Blog, Mahdi writes:

Americans should care because the community, whose membership exceeds tens of millions in 194 countries around the globe, is one of the leading movements in Islam to bring Muslims out of the dark ages — divesting them of the fanatical beliefs that have been the source of so much bloodshed and violence in the world today. Our community was founded 121 years ago by Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (peace be on him) in Qadian, India. He claimed that he was the messiah and reformer foretold by Mohammed, the holy prophet of Islam, and reintroduced Muslims to the enlightening ideas of the original, true Islam. Terrorism, both at home and abroad, is one of the biggest threats our country faces. And so-called Muslims who have hijacked Islam to spread a message of hate and fear are at the root of this threat. While the majority of Muslims in the world are moderate and peace-loving, the ideology espoused by some of their clerics is not. In fact, many American-Muslim conventions and mosques regularly promote the literature of extremist ideologues such as Abul Ala Maududi and Syed Qutb, the godfathers of the modern revival of Muslim extremism. [ . . . ] It is this frightening rhetoric that propels fanatics around the world to commit terrorist acts in the name of Islam. To defeat this ideology, Muslims need to preach a better one in its place — by returning to the original teachings of Islam. For the last 121 years, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has been doing exactly that. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community argues that secularism is an Islamic doctrine. It recognizes that the Quran mandates Muslims accept the most capable person as their ruler, irrespective of faith. And once appointed, Muslims must obey whoever the ruler is. Ahmad’s instructions are derived directly from Prophet Mohammed: “You should listen to and obey your ruler even if you [despise him].” A separation of mosque and state, therefore, is necessary. And while Ahmadi Muslims consider dissent to be permissible, spreading any type of discord is absolutely anti-Islamic. Finally, the Quran instructs Muslims to be grateful for any benefit they receive. Thus it is anti-Islamic and hypocritical for any Muslim to enjoy the advantages of living in America and create any sort of chaos or disorder.

Read the rest of Mahdi’s piece here. The charter of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA can be found here.