US official stresses protection for Ahmadiyyas
Says they are increasingly being ‘victims of persecution‘
US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia John A Gastright Jr. yesterday stressed the need for ensuring protection for the Ahmadiyyas as they are increasingly being ‘victims of persecution’ across the country.
The deputy assistant secretary also said he believes the Bangladesh government is capable of taking tougher measures in this regard.
“We are deeply concerned about 19 incidents of attacks on the Ahmadiyyas in last 21 months and we know that the government has the ability to protect them (Ahmadiyyas),” Gastright said, after a meeting with Ahmadiyya leaders in Dhaka.
On visiting Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Bangladesh’s (AMJB) headquarters, he said he is anxious for the Ahmadiyyas after learning from the newspapers about the ‘terrible atrocities on them’.
“We feel the government needs to uphold the rights of all people including the Ahmadiyyas, and the United States will keep a close watch on how the situation develops.”
It is important that the government shelters the people who are weak and understrength, he told reporters.
He said top Bangladesh government officials gave US Under Secretary Nicholas R Burns assurance that they will act to protect the Ahmadiyyas and their rights.
Burns after a visit to Bangladesh left Dhaka yesterday.
Asked whether the US is satisfied with the government steps taken so far, he said: “We appreciate the government for the steps it has taken. We don’t want to be critical at this moment.”
When enquired by Gastright about Khatme Nabuwat and the acceptability among the people of its anti-Ahmadiyya campaign, the sect leaders told him that the people of Bangladesh are not fanatics by nature.
“They [people] did not know much about the Khatme Nabuwat movement. It originated in Pakistan and later was imported to our country by the local mollahs. Pakistani lawmaker Monjur Hossain Chiniuti and other leaders had even been to Bangladesh to propagate the anti-Ahmadiyya doctrines,” Central Ahmadiyya Missionary Abdul Awal Khan Chowdhury was quoted to be saying at the meeting.
Chowdhury also mentioned in the meeting a Jamaat lawmaker’s proposal for enacting blasphemy law in 1993 and a similar attempt by another lawmaker last year.
Among others, Ahmadiyya Jamaat’s National Amir Mobasherur Rahman and Social Affairs Secretary AK Razaul Karim were present at the meeting.
“By preventing the religious bigots from attacking our headquarters in Dhaka and a mosque in Narayanganj last year, the government have proved that they can stop the extremists, if they want,” Abdul Awal told reporters after the meeting.
“We’re not demanding any favour from the government, we just want our constitutional rights to be ensured,” he added.
Besides, he demanded the government take measures to restore four Ahmadiyya mosques in Brahmanbaria to the Ahmadiyyas. The zealots, who have long been campaigning for the government move declaring the Ahmadiyyas non-Muslim, captured the mosques in 1987.