Religious Persecution of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community
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In this book, the author deals with an issue that has lamentably marked humankind's religious history. Relying on a wide range of interviews he conducted throughtout Pakistan, Antonio R. Gualtieri relates the tragic experience of members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. Their right to define themselves as Muslims has been denied by the Govt. of Pakistan acting in collusion with orthodox Islamic teachers. Ahmadis have been beaten and murdered. They have been jailed, hounded from jobs and schools, their mosques sealed or vandalized, for professing to be Muslims and following Islamic practices. This book records their testimony of Harassment and persecution resulting from their loyalty to their understanding of God and HIS revelation.
US$4.99 [Order]

Home U.S. Department of State Annual Report (IRF) 2007: Bangladesh
Int’l Religious Freedom Report - 2007: Bangladesh

Excerpts from
U.S. Department of State
International Religious Freedom Report 2007 : Bangladesh External Link - Opens new browser window
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
September 14, 2007

The Constitution establishes Islam as the state religion but provides for the right to profess, practice, or propagate, subject to law, public order, and morality, the religion of one’s choice. It also states that every religious community or denomination has the right to establish, maintain, and manage its religious institutions. While the Government publicly supported freedom of religion, attacks on religious and ethnic minorities continued to be a problem. Protests demanding that Ahmadis be declared non-Muslims and instances of harassment continued sporadically, but the Government generally acted in an effective manner to protect Ahmadis and their property. Religion exerted a significant influence on politics, and the Government was sensitive to the Islamic consciousness of its political allies and the majority of its citizens. [Para # 1]

There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the Government during the period covered by this report. Citizens were generally free to practice the religion of their choice; however, government officials, including the police, were often ineffective in upholding law and order and were sometimes slow to assist religious minority victims of harassment and violence. The Government and many civil society leaders stated that violence against religious minorities normally had political or economic motivations and could not be attributed only to religion. [Para # 2]

There were reports of societal abuses and discrimination based on religious belief or practice during the period covered by this report. Hindu, Christian, and Buddhist minorities experienced discrimination and sometimes violence by the Muslim majority. Harassment of Ahmadis continued along with protests demanding that Ahmadis be declared non-Muslims. [Para # 3]

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights. In meetings with officials and in public statements, officers at the U.S. Embassy encouraged the Government to protect the rights of minorities. Publicly and privately, the Embassy denounced acts of religious intolerance and called on the Government to ensure due process for all citizens. Early in 2006, the Embassy urged senior leaders of both parties to prevent such acts of violence in the upcoming political campaign, and met with members of the Hindu community to underscore Embassy concern and strengthen lines of communication in the event of future problems. The Ambassador made several visits to minority religious communities around the country. In April 2007, she visited the Roman Catholic mission in Madhupur to meet with the Garo community after the death of one of their leaders at the hands of the military. For the second year in a row, the U.S. Government sponsored the successful visit of a prominent U.S. Muslim cleric who spoke to audiences about Qur’anic interpretations that support tolerance and gender equity. [Para # 6]

Section I. Religious Demography

The country has an area of 55,126 square miles, and its population is 150 million. Sunni Muslims constitute 88 percent of the population. Approximately 10 percent of the population is Hindu. The remainder is mainly Christian (mostly Roman Catholic) and Theravada-Hinayana Buddhist. Ethnic and religious minority communities often overlap and are concentrated in the Chittagong Hill Tracts and northern regions. Buddhists are found predominantly among the indigenous (non-Bengali) populations of the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Bengali and ethnic minority Christians could be found in many communities across the country; in cities such as Barisal City, Gournadi (Barisal), Baniarchar in Gopalganj, Monipuripara in Dhaka, Christianpara in Mohakhali (Dhaka), Nagori in Gazipur. There also are small populations of Shi’a Muslims, Sikhs, Baha’is, Animists, and Ahmadis. Estimates of their numbers varied from a few thousand to 100 thousand adherents for each religious group. There is no indigenous Jewish community, nor a significant immigrant Jewish population in the country. [Para # 7]

Section II. Status of Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The Constitution establishes Islam as the state religion but provides for the right to practice, profess, and propagate, subject to law, public order, and morality, the religion of one’s choice. While the Government publicly supports freedom of religion, attacks on religious and ethnic minorities continued to be a problem. [Para # 10]

While the right to propagate the religion of one’s choice is guaranteed by the Constitution, local authorities and communities often objected to efforts to convert persons from Islam. [Para # 11]

Religion exerted a powerful influence on politics, and the Government was sensitive to the Muslim consciousness of its political allies, the Jamaat Islami and the Islami Okiyya Jote, as well as the majority of its citizens. [Para # 17]

In December 2006, the Awami League upset many of its minority and liberal supporters when it signed an electoral pact with the Bangladesh Khelafat Majlish, a splinter Islamist group tied to violent Islamist militants. The agreement committed a future Awami League-led government to recognizing some fatwas and an official declaration that the Prophet Mohammad is the last prophet, a direct challenge to the Ahmadiyya community. Ahmadis and liberal Bangladeshis criticized the agreement as politically expedient and inconsistent with core party principles. Following this criticism and open rebellion among senior party leaders, the Awami League quietly allowed the agreement to lapse after imposition of the state of emergency. [Para # 18]

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

The Government continued to oppose court challenges to its 2004 statement banning Ahmadiyya publications on the grounds that the ban had not been promulgated officially and was, therefore, beyond judicial scrutiny. The high court had stayed the ban, making it unenforceable until the court ruled on it. With a few exceptions, police respected the high court’s order. [Para # 25]

Persecution by Terrorist Organizations

On May 1, 2007, three small, near-simultaneous explosions occurred at railway stations in Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet. There were no deaths, and only one injury. Police recovered signs at two blast sites with anti-Ahmadiyya inscriptions, along with a demand that NGO workers cease their work in Bangladesh within 10 days. The government ordered increased security at key installations, including Ahmadiyya institutions and NGOs. Although an unknown organization claiming to be a faction of Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attacks, the initial government findings were that these were the acts of a minor fringe group. [Para # 34]

Improvement and Positive Developments in Respect for Religious Freedom

The Government continued not to enforce the ban on Ahmadiyya publications. Furthermore, protesters were generally stopped from hanging signs outside of Ahmadiyya mosques declaring them non-mosques or threatening the lives or property of Ahmadis. In March, police protected the local Ahmadiyya community when it removed an anti-Ahmadiyya signboard from one of their mosques in Khulna, the first time the police have provided such support. [Para # 37]

Section III. Societal Attitudes

…… Religious minorities were vulnerable due to their relatively limited influence with political elites. Like many citizens, they were often reluctant to seek recourse from a corrupt and ineffective criminal justice system. Police were often ineffective in upholding law and order and were sometimes slow to assist religious minorities. This promotes an atmosphere of impunity for acts of violence against them. However, persons who practiced different religions often joined each other’s festivals and celebrations such as weddings. Shi’a Muslims practiced their religious beliefs without interference from Sunnis. [Para # 40]

There were approximately 100 thousand Ahmadis concentrated in Dhaka and several other locales. While mainstream Muslims rejected some of the Ahmadiyya teachings, the majority supported Ahmadis right to practice without fear or persecution. However, Ahmadis continued to be subject to harassment and violence from those who denounced their teachings. [Para # 54]

Since 2004, anti-Ahmadiyya extremists such as the International Khatme Nabuwat Movement Bangladesh and a splinter group, the Khatme Nabuwat Andolon Bangladesh (KNAB), have publicly demanded that the Government pass legislation declaring Ahmadis to be non-Muslims. The Government rejected the ultimatums and successfully kept protesters a safe distance from all Ahmadiyya buildings. According to media reports, State Minister for Religious Affairs, Mosharef Hossain Shajahan, stated “There may be difference of opinion among the followers of a religion, but no one can attack others for such a difference.” The Ahmadiyya community complimented the Government for its responsiveness to their concerns and its professional handling of the protests. [Para # 55]

The three small bombs that went off on May 1 in Dhaka, Chittagong, and Sylhet left one person in Chittagong injured. Signs left at the scenes of two of the bombings included messages threatening Ahmadis and NGOs. Police immediately increased protection of Ahmaddiyya facilities around the country. [Para # 56]

Local officials forced the cancellation of a regional Ahmadiyya conference in Panchagarh, scheduled for March 30 and 21, 2007, because of unspecified alleged security concerns. On January 11, 2007, police recovered 11 unexploded bombs from an Ahmadiyya graveyard in Brahmanbaria. [Para # 57]

In early March 2007 police helped Ahmadiyya leaders remove an anti-Ahmadiyya signboard from their mosque in Khulna. The signboard read that the building was not a mosque and the Ahmadiyyas were not Muslims. The removal of the signboard was the first such action by police. [Para # 58]

In June 2006, the KNAB again issued demands that the Government declare Ahmadis non-Muslims and on June 23, 2006, approximately 1,500 to 2,000 marchers attempted to seize an Ahmadiyya mosque near Dhaka. In response, police quickly deployed approximately 3 thousand police to prevent violence and prevent the protest from approaching the Ahmadiyya complex. KNAB supporters then attempted to block access to Dhaka-Zia International Airport but were stopped by the police. Some ten to twenty KNAB supporters were injured as a result. Following the KNAB’s failure to seize the mosque, the group announced a dawn-to-dusk hartal (strike) and added the demand that Parliament pass a law declaring Muhammad as the last prophet; however, the hartal threat never materialized. A subsequent KNAB attempt to seize to another Ahmadiyya mosque in Dhaka, in October 2006, was also dispersed by police before protestors were able to get near the facilities. [Para # 59]

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with officials at all levels of the Government as well as with political party leaders and representatives of religious and minority communities. During the period covered by this report, the Embassy emphasized the importance of free and fair elections in early 2007, with a goal of averting the violence religious minorities experienced in 2001. When the elections were postponed and the state of emergency was declared, the Embassy expressed its concern about the need to respect human rights, including the rights of religious and ethnic minorities. Embassy staff traveled to regions of the country investigating human rights cases, including some involving religious minorities, and met with civil society members, NGOs, local religious leaders, and other citizens to discuss concerns about violence during the next election and to encourage law enforcement to take proactive measures to protect the rights of religious minorities. [Para # 60]

Embassy and visiting U.S. government officials regularly visited members of minority communities to hear their concerns and demonstrate support. [Para # 61]

The Embassy assisted U.S. faith-based relief organizations in guiding paperwork for approval of schools and other projects through government channels. The Government has been receptive to the discussion of such subjects and generally helpful in resolving problems. The Embassy has also acted as an advocate in the Home Ministry for these organizations in resolving problems with visas. [Para # 62]

The Embassy encouraged the Government through the Ministry for Religious Affairs to develop and expand its training program for Islamic religious leaders. After an initial pilot program, the U.S. Government provided, among other topics, course work for religious leaders on human rights and gender equality. For the second year in a row, the U.S. Government sponsored the visit of a prominent Muslim cleric from the United States to tour the country and speak to Bangladeshi audiences. He visited the northwestern city of Rajshahi and also addressed groups in Dhaka about Qur’anic interpretations that support religious tolerance and freedom, as well as gender equity. [Para # 63]

During the reporting period, the U.S. Government continued to make religious freedom, especially the problems facing the Ahmadiyya community, a point of discussion in meetings with government officials. Embassy officers continued to visit the Ahmadiyya headquarters in Dhaka to show support for their security and religious freedom. [Para # 64]

The Embassy continued to encourage Jamaat Islami to reiterate publicly its position that it supports tolerance and minority rights in the context of an attack on a religious minority member. Democracy and governance projects supported by the United States included tolerance and minority rights components. [Para # 65]

Related : See Bangladesh Section.
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