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Ahmadis plead for world help after Lahore killings
Friday, 04 Jun, 2010
Militants last week stormed two Ahmadi prayer halls in Lahore, killing 82 worshippers in gun and grenade attacks. — Photo by AFP
NEW YORK: A leader of the Ahmadi community pleaded Thursday for international pressure on Pakistan, warning that extremists were bent on wiping out the community after nearly 100 people were killed.
The Ahmadi community in the United States urged Pakistan to repeal laws restricting the community and to clamp down on hardline Sunni clerics, who it said have waged a campaign of incitement.
“The time is now for the world to wake up to the realisation that the goal of the extremist clerics is to execute a full-scale holocaust,” said Naseem Mahdi, the missionary-in-charge of the US Ahmadi community.
“Even today, after this massacre, on television, in the streets, on billboards, in public meetings, the hatred continues to be preached and no one in any governmental body takes steps to stop people from such incitement to murder,” he told a news conference in New York.
Militants last week stormed two Ahmadi prayer halls in Lahore, killing 82 worshippers in gun and grenade attacks. Gunmen later raided the hospital where victims were treated, killing four people in a shootout.
Mahdi, who put the death toll at 94, said urged US officials to raise religious freedom with Pakistan, which is receiving a 7.5 billion-dollar US package aimed at building its economy and democratic institutions.
“The US government must take every measure in its power to have all levels of government in Pakistan eliminate the laws and ordinances that have become the tools to facilitate and institutionalize the persecution of Ahmadi Muslims” and have been used against other minorities, he said.
Founded by Ghulam Ahmad, who was born in 1838, the Ahmadis believe that Ahmad himself was a prophet and that Jesus died aged 120 in Srinagar.
Pakistan declared them non-Muslims in 1974 and 10 years later they were barred from calling themselves Muslims.
The Ahmadis are strongly critical of violence in the name of Islam.
“The extremists have repeatedly used their power over the masses to brutally attack us in the name of the defence of Islam. They try to gain by violence what they fail to gain by argument, reason and rationality,” Mahdi said.
Religious violence in Pakistan, mostly between majority Sunni Muslims and minority Shias, has killed more than 4,000 people in the past decade.
The Ahmadi community has also encountered problems in other countries including Egypt, which earlier this year detained nine Ahmadis.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom, a government advisory board, called on Egypt to release them “immediately and unconditionally.”
Egypt has held the Ahmadis using a prohibition against insulting Islam along with a controversial emergency powers law.
Neither charge has “any merit whatsoever,” said Leonard Leo, the chairman of the US commission.
“Both are a blatant violation of their international right to freedom of religion or belief as well as contrary to Egypt’s own constitutional protections,” he said.