The Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan is at the receiving end of a fresh wave of attacks. And this time, the minarets of their places of worship are under threat in Punjab. A report in Dawn attributed the attacks to the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan, an Islamic extremist political party.
A poster by the TPP in Sarai Alamgir, a town near Jhelum, warned that “all minarets will be demolished” and that the drive would begin on 29 July on the “10th of Muharram”.
Demolitions of minarets, some believed to be over a hundred years old, have reportedly begun. According to reports, the TLP pressured local police to demolish the minarets of a place of worship in Jhelum on 14 July. There were also reports of tombstones being smashed to pieces in a cemetery in Jhelum.
The issue has divided Pakistan, and citizens are actively voicing their stances on Twitter.
“Another Ahmadi Mosque attacked by Sunni extremists in Pakistan, minarets demolished. Pakistan continues to be a living hell for religious minorities. The international community must hold @CMShehbaz’s govt accountable for the ongoing #AhmadiApartheid,” wrote Pakistani Twitter user Kashif Chaudhary.
Not everyone is on the same page, of course.
“They cannot call their place of worship a ‘Masjid’. According to the law, they are non-Muslims, so do not sympathize with them,” wrote Ali Khan, another user.
The attacks appear to have spread to other parts of Pakistan as well. Around a dozen men destroyed minarets and sprayed graffiti on the walls of an Ahmadiyya place of worship in Karachi on Monday.
The minority community, which has faced such challenges since its establishment in 1889, is grappling with increased scrutiny and restrictions on its religious practices.
No end to discrimination
During Eid al Adha celebrations earlier this month, at least five FIRs were registered against Ahmadiyyas for conducting animal sacrifices (which Pakistani law prohibits them from performing). The growing persecution of the community has raised concerns with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which has asked the Pakistan government to respond to allegations of violations of international law, said Dawn in its report.
“It is of the utmost importance to shed light on the persistent human rights violations and the rising acts of discrimination against the Ahmadi Muslims worldwide, which we find deeply worrying,” said OHCR experts.
In a letter submitted to Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, OHCR pointed out that despite “requests” for remedial action, the safety of the minority community continues to deteriorate.
Roots of conflict
The Ahmadiyya sect’s roots can be traced back to 1889 in Qadian, near Amritsar. It was founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who claimed he was the promised Messiah. Muslim clerics, not just in Pakistan but in countries such as Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia and Iran, deem Ahmadiyyas to be heretics.
In Pakistan, many intellectuals and historians blame former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his government’s 1974 Act for constitutionally redefining the status of the Ahmadiyyas, who until then were recognised as a Muslim sect. Almost overnight, the community was turned into a non-Muslim minority in Pakistan, writes Nadeem F. Paracha in Dawn.
In India, too, there have been attempts to discriminate against Ahmadiyya Muslims. The Union Ministry of Minority Affairs recently stepped in to protect the community after the Andhra Pradesh Waqf Board passed a resolution calling them ”kafirs” (heretics) and not Muslims.
As per a report by The Indian Express, the Union Ministry of Minority Affairs wrote a “strongly-worded” letter to Andhra Pradesh’s chief secretary KS Jawahar Reddy, asking him to intervene in a “hate campaign against the Ahmadiyya community at large” that “could have ramifications across the country.”
(Edited by Zoya Bhatti)