Memos from Asia

Human Rights and Religions: Quick Explanation fo the Persecution of Ahmadis

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The Ahmadiyya movement started in Punjab of the British-ruled Indian subcontinent in 1889. It was founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who formally accepted allegiance from his followers in March of 1889. Since then, the Ahmadi movement has spread around the world and has 10-20 million followers.

The founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmed claimed to have received revelations from a young age
about his future. He declared himself the Promised Mahdi and Messiah, who was going to bring the original purity back to Islam. After this, in Punjab’s surrounding regions, his following rose, and after a decade, he named the community the Ahmadiyya movement. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad said that the sect was not named after himself but rather Muhammad’s alternative name Ahmad.

The Ahmadis consider themselves Muslims and follow all the religious practices followed by other sects of Islam. They differ in a few ways, though. For example, unlike other Muslims of the mainstream, they believe Jesus was crucified and that Mirza Ahmad was the metaphorical second coming of Christ. Ahmadis consider all faiths that have divine origins, but only Islam is perfect and will be the final religion. Extending this belief, they consider many leaders from other faith like Krishna, Buddha, Confucius, and Zoroaster as prophets.

The major difference, though, is that Ahmadis don’t consider Muhammad as the final prophet. Ahmadis believe that God communicates with mankind regularly and new prophets will rise, even though they will never be as good as Muhammad since he was perfect and most excellent. This belief is the reason the majority of Muslims don’t accept Ahmadis as Muslims and even discriminate against them.

The state-sanctioned persecution

The persecution of Ahmadis in Pakistan isn’t hidden from anyone. Since the beginning of the movement, mainstream Muslims have thought of them as infidels and heretics. Pakistan has tried everything to discourage the Ahmadis from following their faith and the largest Ahmadi population in Pakistan has faced the results of that.

After a 1974 law, Ahmadis were declared non-Muslims in Pakistan. Pakistan’s constitution forbids Ahmadis from calling themselves Muslim or following Islam in public. A derogatory slur “Qadiyani” is officially used by the Pakistani state to refer to Ahmadis.
All Pakistanis applying for a passport or National ID card have to sign an oath stating Mirza Ghulam Ahmad is an impostor prophet and Ahmadis are non-Muslims. The government’s attitude has created a society where Ahmadis are discriminated against and face biases that often turn into violent attacks. The social discrimination is extreme to the level where theoretical physicist Abdus Salam, the only Nobel Prize for Physics winner identified as a Muslim, was excommunicated in Pakistan because he was an Ahmadi. Even the word Muslim was erased from his grave.

Ahmadis have been attacked due to their beliefs that don’t match the mainstream rulers they live under since the inception of their movement. The attacks have been rising, and the law enforcement’s bias against Ahmadis allows the attackers to remain free. In May 2010, terrorists attacked two Ahmadi mosques in Lahore and killed 90 people. After three days, a hospital treating the injured was attacked, and twelve died, mostly police and hospital staff. The Pakistani government didn’t provide security to mosques even after this, and the judicial procedure took years.

Ahmadis have been supported by Human Rights Organizations, but they need more global support to get basic rights like freedom of faith and freedom of expression. What other underreported issues from Pakistan would you like us to write about? The comments are always open.

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