Seminar: Missionary Islam and Humanitarian Engagement: The Case of the Ahmadiyya Movement

Nuur mosque in FrankfurtMobarak mosque in The HagueMosque in Pobe, Benin

The religious movement of the Ahmadiyya was founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, an Indian Muslim scholar (1835-1908). It reached West Africa in the 1920s, but its importance in the West African public space only grew in the 1990s.  Its followers combine the will for the restoration of true Islam with active proselytism - resembling Christian evangelical media campaigns - and have profound veneration for their spiritual leader, Mirza Masroor Ahmad, who manages the international community on a centralized basis from London.

The Ahmadis are part of a highly varied religious landscape in West African countries generally characterized by religious plurality (multiple Christian and Muslim trends with a background of traditional religions). The Ahmadis are negotiating their place in this religious plurality by disseminating their message discreetly via community facilities such as medical centres, schools and development projects, and via active proselytism through the distribution of books, leaflets and pictures, and radio and television programmes.

This lecture situates the religious movement of the Ahmadiyya in the broader context of modern Islamic movements. The speaker will examine the importance of the idea and practice of active faith spreading in Islamic countries in general. In addition, this lecture explores humanitarian engagement and mission in the context of the Ahmadiyya movement and, particularly, the case of Ahmadi communities in West Africa and Europe.

Katrin LangewiescheKatrin Langewiesche completed her doctorate at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in France. She is currently a member of the academic staff of the Department of Anthropology and African Studies at the Johannes Gutenberg-Universität, Mainz in Germany. She works on topics relating to the anthropology of religion in West Africa: religious plurality in modern societies, conversion theories, faith-based organizations, Catholic convents between Europe and Africa, and Islamic transnational networks. One of her recent publications is the coordination of a special issue of Histoire, monde et cultures religieuses (2014) n° 30: La Mission au féminin dans un monde globalisé.


Date, time and location

25 February 2016
15.30 - 17.00
Pieter de la Courtgebouw / Faculty of Social Sciences, Wassenaarseweg 52, 2333 AK Leiden
Room 5A47 (5th floor)