The Ahmadiyya, the damned muslims of Pakistan

The Ahmadiyya respect the five pillars of Islam and the creed (aqida). Their faith is based on the Sunna, a collection of Mohammad’s teachings, and above all on the teachings of the Koran, the Islamic supreme reference.

The religion was founded in India by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in 1889, and later detailed in his written works. At odds with Pakistan’s majority Sunni population, the Ahmadiyya claim to be the majority branch of Islam. The Ahmadiyya now have more than ten million followers worldwide, nearly half of whom live in Pakistan. Their branch of Islam is based on the belief that Mohammad is not the last prophet. This is a heretical concept for Sunnis and clashes between these two beliefs have resulted in the excommunication of all Ahmadiyya in the country.

There are two aspects of Ahmadiyya that challenge conservative Sunni Islam. The first is that the Ahmadiyya recognise the sanctity of the Christian, Jewish, Hindu and Zoroastrian religions, acknowledging that Christ is also a messenger of God. The second is that the Ahmadiyya advocate for the separation of church, or mosque, and state – A distinction of temporal and religious powers is observed, but not imposed. These ideas are sacrilegious for islamic fundamentalists, who profess hatred against other religions, and who believed that Islamic laws, Sharia, must be imposed on us all.

In countries dominated by Sunni Islam, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia, the Ahmadiyya are exposed to relentless discrimination, humiliation and persecution. Recently, in Algeria, the Ahmadiyya were the subjected to baseless accusations of being funded by the Israeli state. This claim was ‘supported’ but the evidence that the Ahmadiyya are tolerant of other religions, and especially due to their respect for Judaism. But it is in Pakistan, home to the largest Ahmadiyya community (nearly 5 million) that the situation is most dire.

The persecution of the Ahmadiyya in Pakistan began at the same time as the formation of the Pakistani state, in 1947. By 1949 the witch-hunt for Ahmadiyya was truly underway, as public figures, such as Muhammad Zafrullah Khan, Pakistan’s first foreign minister, himself an Ahmadiyya, was accused of colluding with the “Indian enemy”. However, despite the efforts of the opposition, he managed to stay in power for five more years. In 1953, the first serious riots unleashed on the small community led to the emigration of many of Ahmadiyya, resulting in more than 130 000 Pakistani Ahmadiyya taking refuge in India’s Punjab state.

Everything changed in 1974, when then Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto passed a constitutional amendment that stipulated that the Ahmadiyya were not muslims. Therefore, if they declare themselves as such, they would automatically be guilty of blasphemy. State violence began in 1974 with Bhutto and continued through to 1980 under Zia-ul-Haq. In May 2010, the Ahmadiyya paid the price in blood. A double bombing of two of their mosques in Lahore killed nearly 90 people. On January 4th 2011, Salman Taseer, the governor of Pakistan’s Punjab, who was campaigning for the abolition of the blasphemy law, was assassinated. This sent a shock through the Ahmadiyya community, as Taseer was one of the last politicians working to protect the Ahmadiyya people.

Despite the election of Imran Khan as Prime Minister, whom the West considers as a “liberal”, the violence and persecution has continued unabated. The discrimination that the Ahmadiyya face is severe. They are forbidden from making the pilgrimage to Mecca, “Hadj”, a task that every devout Muslim must perform in their life. On applying for a Pakistani passports, the applicant must declare their religion and state that the Ahmadiyya are not Muslims, and that the founder of the movement is an “imposter”.

The Ahmadiyya continue to consider themselves good Muslims. “We respect, to the letter, the word of God. But for us, Islam is neither violent nor extreme; we don’t just recite the Koran, we analyse it,” said a religious leader in Lahore who wished to remain anonymous. “Adversity has been beneficial to us,” the religious leader said. Since Ahmadiyya have been banned from the public sector, they have gone into the private sector where they are discriminated against to a lesser extent, and as they attach a great value to education, over 92% Ahmadiyya can read and write.

As Pakistani society becomes increasingly intolerant, no one is safe from the vindictiveness of radical Sunni Islam, not the Ahmadiyya, Zoroastrians, Hindus, Christians, Shia Muslims, or Buddhists. Few will advocate for Ahmadiyya in Pakistan for fear of reprisals. Unfortunately, the model of keeping religion and state separate has not been taken up in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, allowing the state to continually abuse the Ahmadiyya.

Recently, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan, threatened nuclear war against all those who would persecute Muslims around the world! Was he also talking about the persecution of the Ahmadiyya community, which is taking place in his own country?

Credit :