In London recently, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community launched its first report, titled ‘Suffocation of the Faithful: The Persecution of Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan and The Rise of International Extremism,’ providing a detailed and bleak account of the persecution of Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan as well as across the world.
His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the worldwide head of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community stated in his message for report’s launch that: “Despite the persecution we face in Pakistan and the myriad of restrictions placed upon us, Ahmadi Muslims continue to serve their nation with a spirit of love, selflessness and devotion, as loyalty to one’s nation is an inherent part of Islamic faith.”
In the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, a disproportionate number of blasphemy cases are filed against Ahmadi Muslims, the report finds. For example, in 2017 three Ahmadi Muslim men, Mubasher Ahmad, Ghulam Ahmed and Ehsan Ahmed were sentenced to death for blasphemy on the grounds that they took down posters promoting anti-Ahmadi hatred in Bhoiwal, near Lahore. Last month Ramzan Bibi, an Ahmadi Muslim lady was arrested under alleged blasphemy charges and is currently in jail.
Member of Parliament (MP) Siobhain McDonagh who chairs the APPG stated: “We publish this report at worrying time for Ahmadi Muslims across the world including in Pakistan. Just last month, dozens of Ahmadi gravestones were demolished by law enforcement personnel in Gujranwala District. Similar incidents have also been reported in other parts of the country. Ahmadi Muslims face religious apartheid without a shadow of doubt, as they are the only religious community in Pakistan explicitly targeted by the state through its constitution and laws and this must be put to an end immediately. We urge the government of Pakistan respond our recommendations, particularly to repeals its blasphemy laws and restore the voting rights of community members. We also urge the UK government to do more by allowing further Ahmadi Muslim refugees to resettle in the UK.”
The report highlights that the anti-Ahmadi laws enshrined in the Pakistani constitution and its Penal Code are hard evidence of state-sponsored persecution against Ahmadi Muslims. Ahmadi Muslims are relentlessly harassed, denied civil rights and murdered on grounds of faith. Ahmadis are prevented from exercising their human rights due to article 260 of the constitution following the 1974 Second Constitutional Amendment which legally defined Ahmadis as non-Muslims. This was compounded in 1984 when it became illegal for Ahmadi Muslims to practice their Islamic faith.
The APPG report also raises concerns regarding the targeting of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in the United Kingdom as a result of hate and prejudice that is spread, particularly online, from Pakistan. The murder of Ahmadi Muslim Asad Shah in Glasgow in 2016 is one example.
The National President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community UK, Rafiq Hayat, welcomed the APPG’s report, saying it was critical and needed in the current climate of extremism, adding “We are not against Pakistan and we want the country to prosper and have peace. To this end I welcome this timely and comprehensive report in calling for religious freedom and advocating for mutual respect and peaceful coexistence between all faith communities in Pakistan. The Ahmadiyya Muslim community has faced persecution for decades in Pakistan. Life has become intolerable for Ahmadi Muslims who face the harsh reality of the constant threat from violence and intimidation and this must not be allowed to continue. We want Pakistan to thrive and it can only do so when the human rights of all its citizens are respected and upheld.”
The key recommendations of the report are for the Government of Pakistan to restore the voting rights of Ahmadi Muslims and to remove the publications ban on Ahmadi Muslim literature. The report also calls for the release of the three Ahmadi Muslims on death row and a repeal of the anti-Ahmadi laws which would then restore freedom of religion for all religious communities in Pakistan. In addition to pressing Pakistan on these actions, the report also made recommendations for the UK Government to ban hate speech online, to ban anti-Ahmadi hate preachers from entering the UK and to take action on the Ahmadi Muslim refugee crisis and include Ahmadi Muslim refugees as part of its quota for resettling UNHCR refugees.
The launch of the report was attended by over 700 attendees, including NGOs, government officials, diplomats and faith leaders. Speakers included Siobhain McDonagh MP (Chair of the APPG), Jim Shannon MP (Co-Chair of the APPG for Religious Freedom), Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP (former UK Foreign Secretary), Ambassador Sam Brownback (US Ambassador for Religious Freedom), Rt Hon Sir Edward Davey MP (Acting Leader of the LibDems), Shahbaz Taseer, Sara Khan (Commissioner for Countering Extremism), Lord Alton (Chair of the APPG for Pakistan Minorities), Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (UK Minster for South Asia and for Human Rights), Sir Iftikhar Ayaz (Chairman of the International Human Rights Committee), John Pontifex (Aid to the Church in Need), Fiyaz Mughal OBE (Founder of Faith Matters) and Rafiq Hayat (National President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community UK).
Photo Credit : https://www.neweurope.eu/article/ahmadi-muslim-community-says-its-under-pressure-in-pakistan/