When the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat first made plans to build their mosque in Gohlis in 2013, the protests and discrimination were fierce.
“On the building site we found impaled pigs’ heads,” says Imam Iftekhar Ahmed, the imam for the Leipzig and Erfurt region. “When construction commences next year, we expect the discrimination will start up again.”
Despite such acts of hate, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat actively fights ignorance with calls for peace and understanding. On weekends in front of Leipzig Central Station, members distribute flyers and information, and answer questions from passersby.
“We are trying to make dialogue available, in order to take people’s fear away,” explains Ahmed.
Tolerance to counter violence
Founded in 1889, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat – Ahmadiyya Muslim Community – preaches a peace-loving form of Islam. They condemn bloodshed and war in the name of religion, and seek to increase tolerance via conversation and education.
Practicing this belief, the community regularly hosts events and operates a multilingual information hotline. They actively make themselves available to answer questions.
Each year on 3 October, this prayer center, as well as 90 others around Germany, host an annual “Day of the Open Door.” They invite anyone to come and ask questions and engage in conversation about the beliefs of this reformist branch of Islam.
The “Day of the Open Door” is intended as a community or a family event, and activities for children are provided. As Imam Ahmed explained to me, “There is nothing that could disqualify a person from entering a mosque.” He asks, however, that guests remove their shoes at the door.
As the project for the mosque progresses slowly due to protests and bureaucracy, the prayer center currently operates on a smaller scale – out of a single apartment in the Eisenbahnstraße.
Room for growth at Ahmadiyya Leipzig
The plans for the new mosque are very important for the Leipzig community as it will give Leipzig’s Ahmadi women their own space to pray. Currently due to space limitations, women are unable to attend all events, but Imam Ahmad assures me that this is normally not the case.
“For nearly 100 years there has been a Women’s Organization within the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat. And at all 250 parishes, there are a male and a female church leader.” Hopefully the new building will afford women in the faith the space they deserve.
More room will also allow for more involvement in the Leipzig community. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat already participates in local interfaith events, and plans to host its inaugural charity run/walk on 16 October.
The parish also offers some legal, administrative and other services for refugees in Leipzig. According to the imam, so far the Ahmadiyya Doctors’ Organization has provided free care and medicine to over 1000 refugees in camps and refugee centers in Saxony and Thuringia.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat actively strives to be a positive contributor to a peaceful and multicultural Leipzig, and Imam Ahmed is encouraged by the city’s new growth:
We see the growth of the city as something positive, it leads to the mixing of ideas and increased diversity.
Hopefully, the increased diversity will lead to a more tolerant reception for the new mosque than in 2013. Until then, Imam Ahmed and the community invite Leipzig to fight discrimination with dialogue.
The Day of the Open Door at Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat takes place on 3 October, from 11 am to 6 pm. It will be held at the prayer center at 108 Eisenbahnstr. Details can be found on their website.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat’s first Run/Walk for Charity takes place on 16 October in Leipzig. Details and sign up info here.