EXCLUSIVE: Surrey Muslims boycott social cohesion appointment

by - 10th March 2010

The Ahmadiyya mosque – Bait-ul-Futuh – in Morden is the biggest mosque in EuropeThe embarrassing appointment by Surrey County Council of a member of a ‘heretic’ branch of Islam to a ‘social cohesion’ post indicates the need for greater religious literacy in public affairs, Lapido Media said today.

Muslims in Woking are discreetly refusing to cooperate with the new ‘Faith Links Adviser’ – appointed at a salary of £24,000 – because she’s a member of the reviled Ahmadiyya sect.

The sect’s founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, was a civil servant under the British Raj, who believed he was the last prophet of Islam and Messiah – an outrage to mainstream Muslims for whom Mohammed is considered the ‘seal of the Prophets’.

Ahmadis who number between 18-30,000 in UK, are persecuted and even killed for their beliefs in the Indian sub-continent.

One local Muslim who works in local government told Lapido Media others were already boycotting the appointment.

He was loathe to campaign openly against either the appointment or the appointee – ‘possibly a wonderful lady’ - whom he had not met, but admitted local Muslims would not cooperate with her:  ‘We have made discreet representations to the Interfaith Adviser and to the County Council.’ 

He said it was the same as appointing a Mormon to build trust between Baptists or Anglicans. 

‘It would be outrageous to the people they are trying to communicate with.

‘You won’t get the cooperation.  Not only that.  It will have a negative impact with the mainstream Christian community.  It will be seen as deliberate.’

The appointment was made on the advice of the Anglican Board for Social Responsibility in Guildford Diocese, which has been described as ‘ignorant’ by another Anglican official, the Bishop’s Advisor on Interfaith Relations Revd Richard Cook.

‘He should have consulted’, said Revd Cook who is vicar of St Andrew’s Woking, and is a regular speaker on Muslim platforms.

‘It is in danger of unravelling years of carefully built trust and that’s what I am trying to make sure doesn’t happen by trying to keep her out of Woking.’

Revd Cook fears a further deterioration among Muslim Christian relations.  ‘It signifies to some Muslims that the Anglican Church is not to be trusted.’

Surrey County Council awarded the post to Haallah Shams as part of the government’s post-7/7 Prevent strategy to build more socially cohesive communities ‘resilient’ to terrorism. 

Miss Shams’ father is a career missionary in the sect based at the Ahmadiyya HQ in a former Surrey County Council boarding school outside Woking, now known as ‘Islamabad’.

The Faiths Link post is based at the Guildford Diocesan Office under the Director of the BSR Revd Christopher Rich.

Spokesman for the Diocese, Mark Rudall, said the appointment was made after ‘an open advert’ with County Council money to support a project ‘running across many faiths’. 

‘Which faith the appointment was wasn’t an issue.  It could have been anything,’ he said.

He added that Miss Shams’ role was primarily a coordinating role.  ‘It doesn’t mean she’s planning anything where doctrine is discussed.  It’s not about that.’

Surrey County Council's spokeswoman said:  'As Haallah Shams is employed by the Department for Social Responsibility, part of the Guildford Diocese, I have forwarded your query to them.'

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community claims to have followers in 190 countries. Worldwide numbers vary wildly depending on the source, from 200 million to 3 million. As of May 2008, there were said to be 18,000 Ahmadis residing in the United Kingdom.  At a 2003 annual convention in Surrey, 30,000 Ahmadis attended the opening of the largest mosque in Western Europe, Baitul Futuh. Globally, the Ahmadiyya community is concentrated in Asia.  There are said to be 100,000 in Bangladesh, 200,000 in Indonesia, and 130,000 in India.

St John of Damascus (749AD) described Islam itself as an ‘Aryan heresy’ (Fount of Knowledge, part two entitled Heresies in Epitome: How They Began and Whence They Drew Their Origin.)  Jesus was - and is - considered to have been a Jewish heretic.