Why are Pakistani Muslims un-Islamic

Qantara.de - Dialogue with the Islamic World

A shaky video was circulating on social media a few weeks ago. The photo shows men using sledgehammers to destroy the domes and then the carved Shahada, the Muslim creed (“There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah”) on the front of a building.

One could suspect that this is an incident in India, where radical Hindu mobs have recently attacked and destroyed mosques on several occasions. But the video was not made in India, but in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The incident happened in March this year in the village of Gharmulan Virkan in the north-east of the country.

At the beginning of 2021, a resident of the village complained to the local police that the Ahmadis minority in the village ran a school. In addition, the Ahmadis' mosque is architecturally similar to other Muslim places of prayer and would therefore violate anti-Ahmadiyya law.

The movement of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1905), who declared in Qadiyan, India in 1891, that he was the returned Jesus and the Mahdi, an eschatological Islamic figure, is rejected by many Muslims as un-Islamic.

At the mercy of the mob and the police

In the village of Gharmulan Virkan, the complainant received support from a group of Barelwis, an Orthodox-Sunni Islamic movement that has radicalized in recent years and has been agitating against the local Ahmadis for some time.

Then on March 17th, the police took action on their own without any court order. She closed the school and with the help of employees of the local administration and a Sunni mob independently destroyed the domes and the Shahada on the outer wall of the mosque. At the end of the action, the religious mob chanted in Arabic: "man sabba nabiyyan faqtuluh ” (“He who offends a prophet kills him”).

When asked, the police officer in charge alleged that a Pakistani law forbade the Ahmadis from building their places of worship in the style of mosques. He also acted to keep the local peace.

He was not interested in the fact that he had not been authorized by any court or other government agency to carry out his actions. Not even that no law forbids the Ahmadis to build domes or minarets on their places of worship. Finally, Hindu temples and the gurdwaras (places of prayer and school) of the Sikhs on the subcontinent also have domes and minarets.

Anti-Ahmadiyya laws restrict religious freedom

In Pakistani law, the so-called anti-Ahmadiyya laws, Order XX, massively restrict the religious freedom of the Ahmadis. They were enacted in 1984 under the rule of Zia-ul-Haq.

For example, Paragraph 298-B of Order XX states that it is punishable for the Ahmadis to pay tribute to their religious personalities with Islamic praise, to designate their mosques as mosques and to call out the Islamic call to prayer “Adhan”.

Paragraph 298-C further states that it is forbidden for the Ahmadis to behave like a Muslim, to call their own faith Islam, to propagate their own faith or to harm the feelings of Muslims in any way. If they violate this, they face imprisonment.

The law makes practically every religious act of an Ahmadi punishable because it could be interpreted as the behavior of a Muslim. After all, the Ahmadis see themselves as Muslims and practice Islamic commandments such as prayer or the recitation of the Koran.

In particular, the formulation that any act that “offends the religious feelings of Muslims” is to be refrained from is interpreted broadly. What exactly is meant by this "hurt of feelings" is nowhere defined. Since many perceive the very existence of the Ahmadis as an infringement of their religious feelings, everyday insults, discrimination and attacks on the Ahmadis are almost never punished.

Ahmadi parents tell their children in Pakistan very early on to avoid any discussions about religion in school, at the university or with their neighbors. Questions about your own beliefs should be avoided as much as possible, as an answer could constitute a violation of Paragraphs 298 B and C. Even children are not safe from the draconian laws. Ahmadi children have been arrested several times for allegedly insulting Islam.

In addition to students, Ahmadi professors in higher educational institutions are arbitrarily exposed to religious fanaticism. Even the dead are not granted peace. The Ahmadis' tombs have often been desecrated or burials in city cemeteries have been banned. For more than three decades, the Ahmadis minority has lived in constant fear of falling victim to Order XX.

Rabwah is like a fortress

Many of the afflicted have no choice but to flee to Rabwah. This is where the Ahmadis had their headquarters after the establishment of the state of Pakistan. But they are not safe there either. The city is like a fortress, with anti-tank traps and strict security measures. No Friday prayers have been held in the main mosque for years.

For security reasons, women and children are not allowed to visit the local mosques. Annual meetings and youth meetings of the Ahmadis are banned by the government anyway. The city's only bookstore closed after its 80-year-old owner was arrested for selling “prohibited” literature and violating Order XX.

In addition, books by Ahmadi founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad or his caliphs are nowhere to be found in the city because they are all forbidden. After a police raid on the community's central publications department in 2016 for allegedly publishing “Islamic terminology” and forbidden scriptures, the local newspaper and other magazines also went out of print.

Community websites are blocked in Pakistan and in 2021 the Pakistani media regulator tried to shut down an Ahmadi website in the United States. Religious instruction and dealing with one's own beliefs is becoming increasingly difficult because government agencies make it more difficult to access the scriptures.

There have already been several fatal attacks on Ahmadis in Rabwah. The fear of the next attack and attack is omnipresent. Every September, thousands of mullahs and their supporters roam the streets of the small town chanting slogans and insults against the minority and their religious leaders in celebration of the “historic victory” of 1974. In 1974, at the urging of radical forces, parliament declared the Ahmadis to be non-Muslims.

What is special then is a ghostly atmosphere in the city. Public life comes to a standstill. The Ahmadis barricade themselves in their homes until the mob has left. The police and state authorities do not forbid such a provocative march and allow the mullahs to do their thing. Although the Ahmadis built the city of Rabwah themselves, here too they are helplessly exposed to the daily insults and discrimination.

Although 95 percent of the residents are Ahmadi, not a single Ahmadi is represented in the Rabwah city council. The residents have no right to have a say in general city matters. They were not allowed to participate in the decision-making process when, at the urging of a mullah, the city suddenly fell into Chenab Nagar was renamed because the word Rabwah appear in the Koran.

Pakistan police demolish minarets of Ahmadi Mosque # Punjab # Gujranwala

https://t.co/tSOz4s384cpic.twitter.com/SCseUS4TjY

- Rabwah Times (@RabwahTimes) March 22, 2021

The government denies everything

Meanwhile, the village of Gharmulan Virkan is deceptively calm. The domes of the Ahmadi Mosque are still a political issue. Will temples of the Hindus and Gurdwaras of the Sikhs soon suffer the same because of their domes and minarets? Nobody can predict that. What is certain is that the situation for the religious minorities is becoming increasingly dangerous.

The fact that the Pakistani Foreign Minister dismissed any persecution of minorities in his country as propaganda when a journalist asked a journalist during his visit to Germany shows how the government is turning a blind eye to the problem. Or it shows their impotence when it comes to fighting religious fanaticism in Pakistani society.

Just at the time when the Pakistani Foreign Minister denied that minorities were being persecuted in Berlin, another Ahmadi church in Pakistan was attacked by a mob together with the police and the minarets and the mihrab, the prayer niche facing Mecca, were torn down.

Mohammad Luqman

© Qantara.de 2021