A member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Mahdi organized a blood drive on Capitol Hill last week to honor victims of 9/11, called Muslims for Life. Mahdi, born in Pakistan, lived in Europe and Canada before moving to Silver Spring in 2010. About 2,000 Ahmadi families are in the Washington area, out of an estimated 10 million followers worldwide.
The Ahmadiyya community has some unique beliefs. Can you tell me more about them?
The holy Quran, the scripture of Islam, is the same for 1.45 billion Muslims -- the same text everywhere. But the interpretation of the Quran could be different. One thing that relates to Muslims for Life is whether the holy Quran talks about sanctity of life or the destruction of life. Unfortunately some Muslims believe this is our religious responsibility to kill all the Christians and Jews. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community rejects this idea. We say nobody has the right to kill any innocent person just because of his or her faith.
We believe, as most Christians, Jews and Muslims, in the concept of messiah. Christians are waiting for the second coming of the messiah, and the majority of the Muslims are waiting for the second coming of the same messiah. We, the members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, say that that messiah has already come, and he is Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of India. He claimed the second coming of the messiah meant that someone like unto him will come.
The world's attention is once again fixed on the Middle East after the attacks on American embassies. What do you make of the violence?
There is a continuous effort on the part of enemies of Islam to do things to hurt the religious sentiments of Muslims. There was Salman Rushdie, who wrote the book "Satanic Verses," a blasphemy against Islam and Muhammad. Then these Danish cartoons were also blasphemy. Now a movie has been produced to injure the feelings of Muslims. Now there are two types of directions. Whenever this kind of blasphemy happens, many Muslims will come on the streets, break windows and attack churches. Ahmadiyya have never done that. We say we agree our feelings have been injured, but we will never create disorder, because in the holy Quran, God says he will not permit disorder. You cannot fix a crime by attacking houses of worship and killing innocent people.
At your core, what is one of your defining beliefs?
All Muslims should believe that God is one and all the prophets who are sent by God include Adam, Muhammad, Jesus Christ, Moses, Abraham, those prophets who were not Semitic, like Confucius and Buddha and Krishna, those prophets even whose names are not recorded in history -- all of them have to be accepted. When I go for a lecture in the synagogue or the church, I feel at home because I say that this is also another house of God, as when I got to a mosque. If everybody starts to believe like this, the world would be a better place. But unfortunately people have deviated from these core beliefs, which are the fundamental beliefs of Islam. This is the reason for the chaos we see among Muslims and the nations.