Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Thousands visit Ahmadiyya Muslim convention in Alton

Jalsa Salana event
Image caption The Jalsa Salana was held in tents and marquees at the East Worldham community site in Alton

Thousands of Ahmadiyya Muslims from around the world have been holding their 46th annual convention in Hampshire over the weekend.

The event in Alton is Britain's largest Islamic gathering, with representatives from 50 countries attending.

Basharat Nazir, organiser of the Jalsa Salana event, said he estimated about 30,000 people had taken part.

Ahmadiyya Muslims reject violent jihad and have used the meeting to highlight the plight of persecuted minorities.

The movement's leader, His Holiness Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, addressed the three-day convention, which also had Christian, Jewish and Hindu leaders speaking.

A number of marquees and tents were erected at the East Worldham community site for the event.

Delegates raised a union flag and formed a human chain to "re-affirm their rejection of violence and extremism".

'Peaceful event'

Mr Nazir said: "In the 1960s, when it started, we had 100 people turn up.

"Last year we had 29,000 people here.

"New people are joining and younger people are joining us.

"We want to make sure that everyone understands that violence, hatred and suicide bombings - that there is no place for that in Islam.

"It's a very, very peaceful event. There's no rowdiness or unpleasantness.

"The only impact on the town is probably that you can't find a room."

Mr Nazir said some MPs, MEPs and local community leaders from Alton had also attended.

Rafiq Hayat, national president of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community UK, said: "What we stand for can be summed up in two key principles - remembering God The Creator and serving His creation. This is our message to the world.

"At a time of many conflicts we hope this can inspire peace."

The Ahmadiyya Muslim community built the first London mosque, and next year will be celebrating 100 years of its establishment in Britain.

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