It’s sheer injustice
DR. ABDULLA AL-MADANI
Founder of Pakistan Mr Mohammad Ali Jinnah, at a press conference in Kashmir in 1944, said that Ahmadiyas were Muslim, adding “Who am I to declare a person non-Muslim, who calls himself a Muslim?”. On another occasion in 1947, Mr Jinnah was quoted as telling the Ahmadiya followers: “You are free. You may belong to any religion, caste, or creed. That has nothing to do with the business of the State”.
In recent months, the Ahmadiyya community in Indonesia, where the great majority of the population are Sunni Muslims, has been subjected to repeated assaults. This unprecedented anti-Ahmadiyya wave is believed to be triggered by a fatwa issued in July by the official Council of Indonesian Ulamas, which describes Ahmadiyya, as well as liberalism and secularism, as anti-Islam. The fatwa and consequent events were viewed by many Indonesians, including President Susilo Yudhoyono, as a threat to the country’s doctrine of ‘unity in diversity’ or Bhinneka Tunggal Ika. Abdurrahman Wahid, the former president and head of Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization, Nahdhatul Ulama, and many other moderate politician and activists accused the government of doing little to protect Indonesia’s tolerant, multi-cultural image and of being hesitant and scared of extremist forces. They also claimed that elements within the state’s apparatus have been supporting and protecting radical Muslims.
The Ahmadiyya community in Indonesia, estimated at 200,000 members, was established in 1926 but formally recognised in 1953. The sect’s strong hold, however, has always been in North India and Pakistan with a presence in 160 other countries. It claims of having 200 million followers worldwide. While they enjoy the right of self-identification and other freedoms in India, Ahmadiyas in Pakistan are denied such rights.
Pakistani fundamentalist parties and groups hold the view that Ahmadiyas are not Muslim and accordingly they have tried since the 1950s to target them, pressing the government to ban the sect and its activity. Interestingly, the government, during the era of the country’s founding father Muhammad Ali Jinnah and his immediate successor, showed no interest in imposing any restriction on Ahmadiyas, and went to the extent of appointing one of its prominent followers, Zafarullah Khan, as Pakistan’s first foreign minister.
Jinnah, in a press conference in Kashmir in 1944, said that Ahmadis were Muslim, adding “Who am I to declare a person, who calls himself a Muslim, as non-Muslim ?”.
Some attributed this to opposition expressed by officials then representing East Pakistan, who were against turning Pakistan into a theocratic state. Others attributed it to Jinnah’s view of Ahmadiyya and the latter’s staunch support to the idea of partition and creation of Pakistan.
Jinnah, in a press conference in Kashmir in 1944, said that Ahmadis were Muslim, adding “Who am I to declare a person, who calls himself a Muslim, as non-Muslim ?”. On another occasion in 1947, Jinnah was quoted as telling the Ahmadiyya’s followers: “You are free. You may belong to any religion, caste, or creed. That has nothing to do with the business of the State”.
Such an official view, however, changed with Islamist forces becoming more influential in the country, especially after the independence of East Pakistan (Bangladesh) . The beginning was with the constitutional amendment of 1974 placing the Ahmadiyya community among non-Muslim minorities. This was followed by other restrictions, particularly during the rule of President Zia-ul-Haq, all of which harassed Ahmadis and created an atmosphere of religious intolerance that contributed to violence.
In Bangladesh, where they number 100,000, the government has not officially declared them as non-Muslims. But in recent years, there have been several attacks in Dhaka and other cities on the community by Muslim extremist organizations, such as Khatme Nabuwat and Jaish-e-Mustafa. In a development reflecting the hardliners’ growing influence, the government last year banned the publication and sale of all books on Islam published by the community, saying they might hurt the sentiments of the country’s majority Muslim population.
But what is the Ahmadiyya? And why is it rejected by mainstream Muslims? The Ahmadiyya was established in Pakistan in 1889 by Mirza Ghulam Ahmed, from Qadian in Punjab, who claimed that he was the recipient of divine revelation in the manner of the Prophet Muhammad and that he had been sent into the world in the power and sprit of Jesus. Upon his death in 1908, he was succeeded by Maulana Hakeem Nooruddin whose death in 1914 marked the split of Ahmadiyya into two groups: the Qadianis and the Lahorites.
Ahmadis accept all the principal Islamic beliefs, including the oneness of Allah. But by claiming that Ghulam Ahmad is a prophet, they repudiate one of the fundamental tenets of Islam, namely the finality of the Prophet Muhammad. This is viewed by mainstream Islam as blasphemous and, therefore, has been used as a justification to declare them as non-Muslims.
Other controversies include the sect’s belief that Jesus was crucified but then was revived, left Palestine to preach among the lost tribes of Israel, and eventually arrived in Kashmir, where he died at the age of 120. Ahmadis also reject jihad, saying it can only be used in the case of extreme religious persecution of one’s faith. SAN-feature Service.
Dr. Abdulla Al-Madani, academic researcher and professor on Asian affairs, is based in Bahrain.