May 24, 2019

Samen leven in een Samenleving – Living together in a Community

In the picture Mr. Rachid Guernaoui.

By John Dunkelgrün.

The Mubarak Mosque on the Oostduinlaan in The Hague was opened in 1955 and is the oldest mosque in The Netherlands. It belongs to the Ahmadi-Muslims or Ahmadiyya who believe that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad from the city of  Qadian (India) was the Mujaddid, the promised Saviour or Mahdi. He preached a return to the basis of Islam to his followers, who today number well over ten million worshippers worldwide.

The Ahmaddiyya firmly believe in living within the communities where they settle. In the Netherlands they want their children to go to regular schools and to get their religious training at home or in the mosque. They participate as a community as well as privately in the life of the city and the country. Their charitable collections are disbursed to organisations like the Dutch KWF Cancer Fund, food banks and refugees. In order to promote dialogue and to foster mutual understanding, once a year they organise an open house, where people who live in quite a large circle around the mosque are invited to meet, talk and enjoy a curry dinner.

On March 16th this year the open house took the form of a Peace Conference. There was an impressive panel of speakers including among others  a senior Alderman from the City of The Hague, Mr. Rachid Guernaoui, a member of the City Council of Rotterdam, Mr. Narsingh Balwantsingh, a journalist and media expert Mw. Tjalina Nijholt and several members of the Ahmaddiyya comunity.

The conference was held under the black cloud of the massacre in Christchurch, which underlined the need for dialogue and cooperation.

Mr Guernaoui stressed that in The Hague, a city with at least 180 nationalities, this dialogue is crucial. “We need to concentrate not on where people came from, but where they are going, what their future can be”. He is preparing an action plan for the city that concentrates on work, language (Dutch!) and a community without demarkations. Only when we can understand one another and listen to one another can we learn about one another and feel confident to be in each others work groups.

Mr. Narsingh Balwantsingh

Mr. Balwantsingh, a Hindu, was so overcome by the tragedy in New Zealand, that he had thrown his prepared speech away and gave an impassioned plea for mutual understanding, citing several stanzas from the Veda’s, the Hindi Holy Scriptures ending with an almost Spinoza like saying that everything is related, everyone is related to everyone.

Tjalina Nijholt talked about the influence the media have on society. The media can spread information, but they can also spread hatred. Where ill is spoken, ill will follows. She talked about her grandparents, good god-fearing people with not a racist bone in their bodies, who yet, because of what they read or saw on the television, are dead scared of the people down the street who wear black head scarves.

A local conference like this with perhaps 50 guests is small potatoes, but if you get more, if you get many efforts like this, you’ll end up with a big stew. And we all know that it is the variety of meat, vegetables and herbs that makes a good stew so irresistible.

Right on members of the Mubarak Mosque

Photography by John Dunkelgrün.

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