Murderers condemned as message of peace is North Herts conference’s priority

Delegates and guests at Muslim peace conference held at North Herts College, March 1, 2105

Delegates and guests at Muslim peace conference held at North Herts College, March 1, 2105 - Credit: Archant

Representatives of North Herts community groups paid tribute to the unstinting support they have received from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association at the organisation’s annual peace conference on Sunday.

The AMA – established in 1914 and one of the oldest groups of its kind in the country – put freedom of speech at the top of the agenda for Sunday’s session at North Herts College’s Hitchin centre.

Before a panel made up of national and local representatives of the organisation and dignitaries including Stevenage Borough Council leader Sharon Taylor and vice lord lieutenant of Herts the Rev Teddy Faure Walker fielded questions from the floor, keynote speaker Arshad Ahmedi condemned the actions of extremists who committed outrages in the name of Islam.

Referring to the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris and other massacres around the world, he said: “The actions of murdering thugs who killed in cold blood are condemned by us, and by all people.

“They are cold-hearted murderers pursuing a political agenda.”

But he said that while freedom of speech was an important right and a principle which should be defended, it brought with it responsibilities.

To claim the protection of free speech to gain publicity, or for monetary gain, regardless of the offence caused was reckless, he said.

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Speakers stressed the aim of the AMA to live in peace and partnership with the local community, and their assurances were backed up by Shane Smyth, representing the Hitchin-based Bancroft Project which provides a Sunday meal for homeless people in the town, praising the AMA’s support of their efforts.

And Councillor Taylor, recounting her experiences as a food bank volunteer in Stevenage, told of taking delivery of carloads of donations from AMA members.

Responding to her hosts, she said: “Thank you for your powerful words of peace, and for your work in our community.

“We have just marked the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, and events in Syria, the Ukraine and Africa today show us what happens when peace breaks down.

“Peace and understanding starts on our own doorstep.”