Religious Persecution of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community
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By Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, The Promised Messiah and Mahdi, Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama'at.
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Home Critical Analysis/Archives Enforced Apostasy: …
Enforced Apostasy: Zaheeruddin v. State and the Official Persecution of the Ahmadiyya Community in Pakistan


Four young men ran through the streets of Gujranwala, Pakistan, trying to escape the mob rioters chasing them and reach the house of their friends. *2 Their friends, two brothers, had already arranged to move all the women of their house and others to a nearby neighbor's home for safety. The four men reached the house of the two brothers with a trail of stone-throwing rioters behind them. The six of them climbed to the roof of the house. The stone throwers, however, had already reached the roofs of adjoining houses and began pelting the men. They were forced to come back down. The men found themselves surrounded and trapped. The rioters proceeded to beat the men with sticks and clubs and continued to stone them. While beating the men, the rioters shouted and demanded the men denounce their Ahmadi faith and “Mirza Sahib”. *3 The six men refused. The rioters then stoned the six men to death. The women of the household fought their tears and mourned quietly afterwards for fear of being heard by outsiders. The six men lay buried beneath the pile of stones for a day. No one dared approach the site of the killing out of fear of the militant perpetrators. The next day, members of the six men's religious community uncovered the bodies and discreetly buried them. Reports were filed but no charges were made by police.

The persecution of Ahmadis continues to the present day. In Zaheeruddin v. State, *4 the Pakistan Supreme Court legitimized such persecution by upholding as constitutional a law which forbids Ahmadis from practicing their faith as Muslims and calling their faith Islam. *5 The Pakistan Court asserted that Ahmadis are non-Muslims and any representation by Ahmadis as Muslims is necessarily fraud and deception upon the public. *6 Because Muslims have exclusive use of their Islamic epithets and practices under the company and trademark laws of various countries, including England and the U.S., the Court held the Ahmadi use of Islamic epithets and practices may be prohibited. *7 The Pakistan Court asserted that representation by Ahmadis as Muslims offends and outrages the religious feelings of Pakistan's Sunni Muslim majority. *8 The Pakistan Court used falsified and erroneous statements allegedly made by the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Community to illustrate how Ahmadi beliefs offend Pakistan's Sunni Muslims. *9 To prevent violence and to maintain law and order, Ahmadis are not allowed to offend the masses by practicing their faith. *10 The Pakistan Court primarily applied United States case law regarding the free exercise of religion to justify its suppression of Ahmadi practices. *11 Accordingly, the Pakistan Court held that Ordinance XX was constitutional and did not violate the principle of freedom of religion. Part I of this Article introduces the tenets and practice of the Ahmadi Muslim faith and explains the tension between their beliefs and those of Pakistan's majority Sunni Muslims. Part II discusses the reasoning and holding of the Pakistan Court in Zaheeruddin and demonstrates that the Pakistan Court erred in its application of United States and Islamic law. Part III provides a brief overview of the relevant international laws relating to human rights standards and demonstrates Pakistan's non-observance of them. This Article concludes that the Pakistan Supreme Court erroneously upheld the constitutionality of Ordinance XX by misapplying and misinterpreting the Pakistan Constitution, Islamic Law and United States case law.

This paragraph relates the murders of Ahmad Ali Qureshi, Manzoor Ahmad, Syed Ahmad, Mahmood Ahmad and the two brothers Bashir and Munir Ahmad during religious riots against Ahmadis in Pakistan in 1974. See infra notes 44-46 and accompanying text (explaining the 1974 riots). The men were in their twenties to early thirties. The story was relayed in a letter written in Urdu from Aisha Bibi Sahiba, the mother of the two brothers, to the Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad. Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad External Link - Opens new browser window retold this story in Urdu via television satellite on the occasion of the Annual Convention of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Tilford, United Kingdom on July 30, 1994. The story was translated and paraphrased by the author. Any errors in the translation are the author's alone.
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"Mirza Sahib" refers to Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Community, who claimed to be the Promised Messiah and Mahdi (the Rightly Guided One) foretold by the Prophet Muhammad, to revive the true message and practice of the Islamic faith. See infra Part I (providing background of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and the Ahmadiyya Community).
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1993 S.C.M.R. 1718 (1993) (Pak.). The petition for review of Zaheeruddin to the Pakistan Supreme Court is currently pending. Interview with Mujeeb-ur-Rahman, Pakistan Supreme Court Advocate, at the Bait-ur-Rahman Mosque, in Laurel, Md. (Oct. 14, 1994) [hereinafter Rahman Interview]. A Supreme Court Advocate is a lawyer specially licensed to argue before the Pakistan Supreme Court. The Pakistan Supreme Court has limited discretion to grant review and may do so in this case at any time. Id. There are over 2300 cases pending, however, involving charges pursuant to Ordinance XX, at issue in Zaheeruddin. Id. Mujeeb-ur-Rahman, one of the counsels for the Ahmadis' brief, is confident that the issue of Ordinance XX's constitutionality will re-emerge before the Pakistan Supreme Court. Id.

Zaheeruddin incorporates two other cases, Mujib-ur-Rehman Dard v. Pakistan and Khurshid Ahmad v. Punjab Province. Zaheeruddin, 1993 S.C.M.R. at 1718. Mujib-ur-Rehman Dard consists of two constitutional challenges to Ordinance XX. Id. at 1718, 1734. Khurshid Ahmad is a case concerning the challenge of a law, made pursuant to Ordinance XX, barring Ahmadis from celebrating the centenary of the establishment of their Community in 1989. Id. at 1718; see infra note 141 for the full text of the law barring the celebrations.
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Zaheeruddin, 1993 S.C.M.R. at 1779. The Supreme Court voted four to one in favor of declaring Ordinance XX constitutional. Id. Justice Abdul Qadeer Chaudhry wrote the majority opinion. Id. Justices Muhammad Afzal Lone, Saleem Akhtar and Wali Muhammad Khan joined the majority. Justice Saleem Akhtar wrote a concurring opinion. Id. at 1779-80. Justice Shafiur Rahman, the Court's Senior Justice, dissented from the majority opinion. Id. at 1733-49. The dissent came in the form of a draft judgment that the majority Justices did not join. See id. Justice Rahman's opinion declaring portions of Ordinance XX unconstitutional preceded the majority opinion.

Three out of the four Justices who were in the majority no longer sit on the Court, including the author of the decision. Rahman Interview, supra note 4. Therefore, if review of Zaheeruddin is granted, or if one of the over 2300 pending Ordinance XX or 125 Blasphemy cases reaches the Court, Ahmadis will argue before a different group of Justices. Id.

Fourteen Justices sit on the Pakistan Court, nine of whom declined to sit for Zaheeruddin. Id. Why so many Justices declined to sit on the case is not fully known. Id.
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Zaheeruddin, 1993 S.C.M.R. at 1752-58.
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Id. at 1775-78.
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Id. at 1765, 1777.
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Id. at 1765-68, 1775-77.
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Id. at 1758-65.
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