4000 UK Muslims gather for three-day post-COVID conference

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Thousands of British Muslims have gathered together for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic for the UK’s longest running Islamic conference.

Ahmadi Muslims from across the UK have descended on the 200-acre Oakland Farm in Hampshire for three days of worship at the event known as the ‘Jalsa Salana’.

Prior to last year’s global pandemic, more than 35,000 people from across the world attended the last Jalsa, held in 2019. This year, only UK residents who have been double vaccinated were permitted to enter the ballot to attend this gathering.

Roughly 4,000 of those lucky enough to have been selected are attending on one of the three-days of the event amid strict social distancing measures at the pop-up tent village from 6 to 8 August.

On Friday, the event opened with a ceremony in which the Union Flag was hoisted alongside the flag of the community by the Caliph of millions of Ahmadi Muslims, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad. Heavy rain made conditions difficult with hundreds of cars stuck in the mud and attendees battling to make it through the mud to the huge marquees serving as pop-up giant mosques. However the overwhelming spirit of the event was one of happiness and relief that the flagship event of the community had returned after a hiatus in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Saturday’s proceedings began in the women’s section of the Jalsa where the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association manage everything from covid-testing to security for the Caliph himself. The Caliph delivered a keynote address from the women’s marquee advocating for the rights afforded to women and girls in Islam.

Attendees must show proof of double vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test result in order to gain entry. Face masks are mandatory in all enclosed spaces, including the two marquees, each able to accommodate thousands of worshippers.

The highlight of the event is the attendance of the Caliph, who will deliver an address to attendees on each of the three days of the Jalsa. The objective of the event is to highlight the true peaceful teachings of Islam and to enable the participants to increase their knowledge and understanding of Islamic teachings and practices.

Abid Khan, Press Secretary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community said:

“This is the first time since the pandemic started that our members from across the UK have been able to meet and worship together with our Caliph. So, whilst we are sad that due to social distancing measures it is still not possible for everyone to be here or for guests from abroad to attend, unquestionably this is a wonderful and joyous occasion for our community. As for those who can’t attend in person, I am sure they will be watching on TV both here in the UK and across the world and so in that sense it is a truly international event.”

The event is being broadcast online and on the Community’s worldwide television station, Muslim Television Ahmadiyya (Sky 731). Those unable to attend in person will gather to watch the proceedings together at Ahmadi Muslim mosques up and down the UK. This includes London’s first purpose-built mosque, The Fazl Mosque in Wandsworth, and the UK’s largest Mosque, Baitul-Futuh in Merton.