Originally published in The Santa Clarita Valley Signal
The United States government recently launched the Ahmadiyya Muslim Caucus chaired by veteran Republican Congressman Frank Wolf.
The caucus will strive to secure religious freedom for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, which suffers from severe persecution in some Muslim countries.
Ahmadi Muslims number around 20,000 in America and tens of millions globally — a fraction of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world.
President Obama, in his annual National Prayer Breakfast, mentioned the plight of Ahmadi Muslims. Last year Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper also chose an Ahmadiyya center in the Toronto area as the venue to announce the launch of the office of the Ambassador of Religious Freedom.
So why the urgency for religious freedom? And why Ahmadi Muslims to symbolize the plight?
A Pew research study found that, as of 2012, as many as 198 countries and territories around the world imposed restrictions on religious minorities, thereby increasing related social hostilities.
Twenty-nine percent of these nations had high or very high levels of restrictions; 64 percent of the world’s population resides in these countries.
And the trend is worsening. In 2010, the Taliban massacred 86 Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan.
Despite pressure from human rights groups, the Pakistani government has yet to press charges. Pakistani law bars Ahmadi Muslims from calling themselves Muslims; simply using the Islamic greeting of peace in public can result in a three-year jail term.
In Indonesia, too, Ahmadi Muslims suffer from oppressive government measures. This trend also terribly affects other minorities, including Bahais in Iran and Christians in the Middle East.
The caucus, which will aim to curtail such restrictions, will benefit all minorities in a similar predicament.
Why are Ahmadi Muslims targeted by extremists? Why do nations allow for it? And why should Americans care?
Ahmadi Muslims believed that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was the latter-days messiah as prophesied by Prophet Muhammad. Ahmad, like Jesus, exhorted peace and tolerance, as well as separation of mosque and state.
He proved that this age did not permit a jihad of the sword.
Instead, Ahmad emphasized a jihad of self-reformation. Today, Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the Khalifa of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, champions this cause around the world.
This notion has unsettled conventional Muslim thought, which considers prophecies relating to the Messiah to require conquest and warfare.
America continues to be a haven for religiously oppressed people around the world.
Here — as followers of Krishna, Buddha, Abraham, Moses, Muhammad, Jesus, and other holy founders of faith, as well as no faith — we have come to realize how dear that freedom is.
Therefore, I appeal to this spirit of tolerance and acceptance in urging my fellow Americans to reach out to their representatives in support of the Ahmadi Muslim caucus.