New religious movements often border of being ‘cult-like.’ They have to keep a measure of transparency to escape the general definition of one.
Fork in the Road:
The most crucial turning point for the Ahmadiyya was 1974. Before the watershed events of that year, recent memories of the followers, the personality of the leader, general acceptance within mainstream Muslims and a lack of united opposition kept the movement coherent -– painfully careful to stay within Islam, while closed and guarded.
Since 1976, there has been a conscious effort at the highest ranks of the Ahmadiyya leadership to re-define or ‘re-brand’ the Ahmadiyya in order to survive in the information age outside the context of antagonistic religious rhetoric of Pakistan and India that had kept the organization of the movement together. In the 1990s, this re-branding is almost palpable. It is now almost openly becoming a separate religion, with NO attempt to come closer to, acknowledge, interact with, or co-operate with the Muslim mainstream.
Before 1974, the only outstanding cult-like example that we find is the promise of returning to Qadian, the birthplace of the movement. Although a seemingly innocuous statement, it was contrary to the political reality; certain dates were piced for the return; Divine revelation was invoked in support; and Ahmadis were urged not to file claims for property left behind in India and generally to put their lives on hold while they waited to go back. This last thing is the most cult-like.
After 1976, doctrines like soya-lecithin, soybeans, the neo-Bahai inspired “Love for All, Hatred for None” mantra, homeopathy and waqf-e-nau were the cult-like manifestations of a larger undercurrent. Using the word “Ahmadiyyat” more than the word Islam is one example. Continuing to name mosques ‘Baitul … ‘ after this word was chosen because the Pakistani government did not allow the use o ‘mosque’
The most curious thing is that — as the Pakistani government marginalized the Ahmadiyya, the Ahmadiyya kept digging into the whole, instead of planning to come out of it. Slowly, a justification is being presented that we are just going to plod on — distinct from the Muslims and that we are the only true Muslims — until God shows his might. Even the Ahmadiyya TV Channel, MTA, is mostly geared to keeping the faithful in line.
To a genuine Ahmadi, this may come as a shock that this type of attitude is diametrically opposed to the championship of Islam, one of the early goals of its founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani.
In the 1980s and 1990s as the financial strength of the Ahmadiyya was multiplying, members eagerly awaited for the institutions, processes, people etc. that will ultimately start the long-awaited work. But as we speak, there is no chance or impetus to build such institutions, there is no coherent political strategy to attain synergy with the rest of the world, and no desire to develop the culture and organizational strengths needed for excellence.
To the credit of some leaders within the Ahmadiyya, there are periodic attempts to break out of the cycle, but over time, these attempts fail. Many members are aware of these problems, but it is attributed to human frailty or ethnic culture, and in typical cult-like fashion – the solution is in the future – ‘ these are Pakistani problems and when other nations will be converted, these problems will go away’. Again, a fallacy, as we we shall prove.
*Dig Deeper: *But as I will go on to prove, the roots of these problems lie deep within the history and the raison d’etre of the current organization, and being a ‘leader’ within the organization requires the tacit understanding of, and participation in, these patterns of manipulation. This understanding is known as ‘obedience’ – more on language manipulation later. So, it comes as no surprise that many of the brightest minds either leave, or live a miserable suffocated life within the Ahmadiyya. Within the past year or so, even ‘obedient’ Ahmadis are questioning this complete lack of intellectual caliber – how can a community founded by intellectuals be utterly bankrupt of such people and ideas now. How can a healthy tree bear no fruit? (Quote Qur’an shajaratun tayyibatun)
Please see Appendix A for how the Qadiani Ahmdiyya match up on at least five (cumulative) of the eight criteria of thought-reform (cults) as espoused by Dr. Robert Lifton.