Wednesday, September 30, 2009

With Wahhabism as State Religion, There’s No Chance of Reform for Saudi Schools

--- The Middle East Media Research Institute, USA

Special Dispatch - No. 2571
September 30, 2009 - No. 2571

Liberal Saudi Columnist: With Wahhabism as State Religion, There’s No Chance of Reform for Saudi Schools

In an article on the reformist website, liberal Saudi columnist Mansour Al-Hajj, who resides in the U.S., discusses the Saudi school curricula, which include incitement to violence and hatred of the other. Al-Hajj, himself an alumnus of the Saudi school system, argues that as long as Wahhabi Islam remains the country’s state religion, there will be no chance of meaningful reform in the Saudi curricula. He also questions the American policy of demanding reform in Saudi schools while at the same time allowing Wahhabi religious curricula to be taught in the U.S. itself.

The following are excerpts from the article: [1]

“Despite the ‘Changes’ and ‘Corrections’ Introduced by the Saudi Government, Saudi Curricula Still Incite to Violence and Hatred”

“Since 9/11, there has been an ongoing debate… about what is taught in Saudi schools, [both those] inside the Kingdom and those outside it. All the studies that have examined and analyzed the Islamic curricula have agreed that despite the ‘changes’ and ‘corrections’ that the Saudi government claims to have introduced, these Saudi curricula still incite to violence and to hatred of the other.

“I find it strange that everyone is focusing on the curricula themselves, while disregarding the sources on which they are based. Most of the examples that were examined and [characterized as] incitement to violence and hatred are based on the major Islamic sources - namely, the Koran and the Sunna. Thus, what needs to be amended is the sources, not the curricula.

“The most recent report, from July 2008… [found that] the ninth-grade curriculum includes the following hadith: “It was related by Abu Huraira that the Prophet said, ‘Judgment Day will not come until you fight the Jews and kill them. The Jews will hide behind stones and trees, and the stones and trees will call: O Muslim, o servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him - except for the gharqad tree, which is the tree of the Jews.’ [This hadith appears] in the Sahih of Al-Bukhari, which Muslims regard as the most reliable text after the Koran. [2]

“The eighth-grade curriculum on monotheism includes Koran 5:60: ‘Shall I point out to you something much worse than this, [as judged] by the treatment it received from Allah? Those who incurred the curse of Allah and His wrath, those whom He transformed into apes and swine.’ According to the commentary by ibn ‘Abbas, [3] this verse refers to the Jews whom Allah cursed and punished by transforming them into [beasts]: the young ones into apes and the old ones into swine.”

“In the 11th-grade textbook Aspects of the Political and Cultural History of the Muslims, Baha’ism is characterized as ‘one of the destructive mystic cults of the modern era.’ The textbook says further: ‘It is thus clear that the Baha’i religion of Al-Bab, [i.e. Ali-Muhammad of Shiraz, founder of Baha’ism], as well as the religion of Qadian [i.e. the Ahmadiyya movement, founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, India], are misguided streams that joined Islam at a late stage, with the aim of harming it from within and weakening it. They [serve as] bases of colonialism in our land, and are among the obstacles to a new [Islamic] revival.’”

“The Saudi Curricula on Islam Are Based On the [Radical] Wahhabi Interpretation of the Religious Sources”

“I wish to clarify that in Saudi Arabia, pupils are taught Islam according to the perception and interpretation of the Wahhabis, with whom the founder of the Saudi state made a pact. Under [this pact], the king and his family received control of the state and its affairs, [and in return promised to run the country according to the Wahhabi doctrine].

“As a result, the Saudi curricula on Islam are based on the Wahhabi interpretation of the religious sources. The examples presented above… are all taken from the Prophet’s hadiths… or from Koranic verses… or else reflect extremist Wahhabi ideas…

“The Koran is clear and is written in Arabic. The reader finds in it [all kinds of verses]: peaceful ones and aggressive ones, verses that call for performing charitable acts, and [others] that incite to violence, verses that preach love and verses that encourage hatred. People who preach violence can find what they seek and follow [the dictates of] the violent verses. [Conversely], those who preach against violence find the verses that urge to refrain from violence and bloodshed. This is true of the Koran and also of the Sunna, which is likewise full of [different ideas] - thus enabling the followers of each stream to find whatever suits their declared and undeclared plans.

“However, the radical Wahhabi ideas are not based directly on clear Koranic verses or hadiths from the Sunna, but reflect the general Wahhabi perception of Islam and the opinions of extremist religious scholars, past and present.

“Reform in the Saudi curricula is therefore useless. The examples presented above show that the calls for such reform will produce no results as long as the Wahhabis continue to believe that only they are entitled to teach [Islam] and to inculcate their interpretation of Islam in the public by virtue of the power conferred upon them by the [Saudi] regime…

“In 2006, Saudi Arabia made a public promise to change the curricula, and said that it would need a year to two years to complete the task… [However], the changes and corrections it made in the Saudi curriculum were like moving the furniture around in a house instead of cleaning it…”

Incitement to Hatred and Violence in Informal Education

“Schools are not the only place where [Saudi] children learn hatred and intolerance… [There are also] Koran classes, [religious] centers and summer camps… whose Islamic instruction cannot be supervised, [because] the people in charge there, usually radical Salafis, give the pupils oral lessons [not based on any official curriculum]…

“As a graduate of the Saudi elementary and secondary school system, and as someone who attended these Koran classes, I know for a fact that the damage to the mind caused by these institutions is permanent, and that the chances of repairing this damage are very small.

“What I learned in [my] Saudi school, and what pupils still learn today, is ‘hatred for the sake of Allah.’ In Saudi schools, pupils learn to become close to God and to please Him through hatred, based on a hadith that says that hatred for the sake of Allah and love for the sake of Allah are ‘the strongest pillars of the faith’…”

“A Mind Destroyed by 12 Years of [Intolerant] Schooling Cannot Absorb Anything [New]”

”…Let me relate some stories that [show how] the Saudi school curriculum destroys the mind. Four months after coming to the U.S., I moved to a town where there were some Saudi students. I met them at the mosque where we prayed. One day during Ramadhan, I visited them and found them overjoyed because a young American had converted to Islam. My apartment roommate, a Saudi MA student, told me, his face glowing: ‘After an exhausting search [for the truth], this boy has found the true religion, the religion of Islam.’

“I said ‘congratulations.’ [But] then I added bluntly: ‘Why [then] do the Muslims want to kill an Afghan boy who converted to Christianity after an exhausting search for the truth?’ He replied: ‘He should indeed be killed, because he wants to discard the truth for falsehood. [Death] is the punishment set out by shari’a for those who renounce Islam.’ I said, ‘But he [too] went through the same process of contemplation and search, just like your [American] friend.’ He responded [by quoting a hadith], ‘He who converts must be killed’…

“Another example: During a conversation with [another] Saudi MA student in the U.S., I criticized the Muslim leader Muhammad the Conqueror [i.e. Sultan Muhammad II], who took Constantinople, for turning the Hagia Sophia church into a mosque. I called this a sign of intolerance and disrespect for what is sacred [to others]; furthermore, I said, it contravened the values of Islam, which preaches tolerance towards the People of the Book [i.e. Christians and Jews].

“[My interlocutor] was angered by my criticism of the great commander, and justified his actions, saying, ‘How can you say such a thing about the man of whom [the Prophet Muhammad] prophesied, “Constantinople shall be conquered - how excellent is that commander and that army!“’…

“A mind destroyed by 12 years of [intolerant] schooling cannot absorb anything [new], no matter how simple and logical. This is due to the constant layering [of dogma upon dogma], and by the stifling of creative thought and of the ability to question taboos… That is why I have little hope that the thousands of Saudi students who go to study in the U.S. will change anything when they return to their country - [even though they go back] with diplomas from the finest universities…”

“Why Does the U.S. Demand That… Saudi Arabia Reform [Its] Curricula, When The Very Same Extremist Ideas Are Being Taught Here in the U.S.?”

”…But what is surprising is that the very same curricula are [also] studied in the U.S. [itself], [for example] at the Islamic Saudi Academy in Fairfax [VA]. [4] According to The Washington Post, 70% of the pupils [at this school] are American… I fail to see why America tolerates the damage caused by these Saudi curricula…

“[It should be kept in mind that in Saudi schools,] all pupils receive religious instruction, even if these studies have been [officially] removed from the curriculum… To clarify, let me present some examples. Basic Islamic studies include learning about the Five Pillars of Islam: Shahada [Profession of Faith], Salah [Prayer], Zakah [Giving of Alms], Sawm [Fasting during Ramadhan] and Hajj [Pilgrimage to Mecca]… When studying the second Pillar, i.e. prayer, pupils must be taught how to pray - and thus must be taught how to purify themselves before praying. This involves learning how to observe the laws of purity, and teaching these laws requires informing the pupils… that non-Muslims are impure… Even if the school omits this [detail] from the curriculum, [obviously] the teacher will answer the pupils’ questions and the discussion will not necessary follow the guidelines of the official curriculum.

“The goal of the Islamic schools, and in fact of any religious school, is to provide religious instruction per se, not [merely] to [cover material] with the objective of granting a diploma…”

“This catastrophe is not [limited to] the Islamic Saudi Academy in Virginia, of which many have heard. There is also the American International University. Have any of you heard of this university?… I will not go into detail about its curriculum - I will leave that to those who are in charge of curricula [in Saudi Arabia], thousands of miles from America. [It is amazing that] such curricula, and perhaps even more extremist ones, are being taught right here in the U.S.

“I will not discuss the [university’s] curricula on Muslim law, Muslim faith, and hadith — which students from all over the world can access online, because [the American International University] offers distance-learning courses and even [provides] its students with what they need [to access them], that is, a computer. I will mention just one [incident], which will suffice.

“The dean [of student affairs] at this university, and one of its prominent lecturers, is Abu Hamza Hijji. Does that name ring a bell?… Following the [April 16, 2007] massacre in Virginia Tech, this man [contacted] Muslim students on a private mailing list, and asked them not to pray for [the souls] of the non-Muslims who were killed. [He based this request] on the Prophet’s hadiths and on Koranic verses… Here is the full text of his message…: ‘I wish to bring to your attention that Allah has forbidden us to pray for non-Muslim dead, or even for the non-Muslim living… It is only permitted to pray for them to be rightly guided [i.e. towards Islam]… [The massacre] was a sad occurrence, but that does not give Muslims the right to disobey Allah’s laws…” [5]

”…It is outrageous that institutions like these are allowed to export extremist curricula from the U.S. itself. [Moreover,] it begs an important and crucial question: Why does the U.S. demand that countries like Saudi Arabia reform their curricula, when the same extremist ideas are taught here in the States?

“I leave the task of investigating the curricula of the American International University to American research institutions… If the American authorities’ research institutes are not familiar with it, it is a disaster - and if they are familiar with it, it is an even greater disaster.”
  1., August 25, 2008.
  2. The Sahih is a compilation of hadiths collected by Muhammad ibn Isma'il Al-Bukhari (810-870 AD), a Sunni scholar of Bukharan origin. It is regarded in Islam as one of the most authentic collections of the Prophet’s sayings.
  3. 'Abdallah ibn 'Abbas (d. 687 AD), a cousin of the Prophet Muhammad, was the author of a commentary on the Koran titled Tafsir ibn 'Abbas.
  4. The Saudi Academy in Fairfax, Virginia, a private Muslim school with classes from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade, has been accused of promoting violence and intolerance of non-Muslims. In mid-June 2009, it was reported that despite these allegations, Fairfax officials had approved a proposal to expand the school. Al-Hayat (London), June 13, 2009; ABC 7 News, June 15, 2009.
  5. For more on the debate about the student mailing list, see MEMRI Blog post, April 19, 2007.

Pakistan’s Persecuted Minority

---Asia Sentinel, Hong Kong

Pakistan’s Persecuted Minority

Written by Jo Baker
Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Ahmadis face serious danger and death, some of it possibly fomented by the government

Last month Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari observed the country’s National Minority Day by calling minority groups “a sacred trust for Pakistan” and lamenting the ‘extremist elements’ responsible for their insecurity in the country. But his words fell flat for Pakistan’s Ahmadis, for whom a fresh surge of hostile incidents, some linked to the state itself, is capping decades of persecution.

The issue was taken up this month by Iqbal Haider, the co-chair of NGO, The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan: “Ahmadis are the worst victims of such discrimination and deprivation, mainly because they refuse to regard themselves as non- Muslims,” he said to Daily Dawn’s political magazine, the Herald. “The state and the society are unwilling to let them have any rights, let alone the freedom to practice their religion. Pakistan has most oppressive laws when it comes to Ahmadis and the suspicion runs deep.”

Ahmadis are arguably the most vilified minority across the Islamic world. They are not considered Muslims by mainstream branches of the religion. Founded in the 1880s by a religious figure named Ghulam Ahmad, Ahmadis differ with the mainstream on the death and return of Jesus, the concept of jihad and, most controversially, the question of whether the Prophet Mohammad was the last messenger from Allah. Ghulam claimed to have received messages himself from god, making him a later prophet.

Pakistan is hardly alone in discriminating against Ahmadis. In Indonesia, where they are known as the Ahmadiyah, they have been terrorized regularly, with their places of worship attacked by fundamentalists and members being banned from taking part in the Haj in some parts of the country. Laws were passed in Indonesia last year restricting their activities and prohibiting them from proselytizing. In many parts of Kyrgistan, they have been told to cease worshiping.

The depredations in Pakistan have been particularly distressing. Since the mid 1980s, the Ahmadis have been dying in droves. Some 104 have been murdered in targeted attacks or lynchings and 117 others have escaped murder attempts, according to the community’s records. Other forms of harassment are also common: mosques have been demolished, set on fire and forcibly occupied and Ahmadi corpses have been dug up from Muslim graveyards.

Statistics tend to run from 1984 because that’s when a column started to appear on all official forms, asking whether or not a person believes in the ‘finality of the prophet;’ part of dictator Zia ul Haq’s ’Islamization’ drive that cordoned off Ahmadis and other minorities from mainstream life. But recently things have become markedly worse, with at least eight Ahmadis murdered in the last year alone in Pakistan, according to the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), and many more falsely arrested. Doctors are a popular target, possibly because Ahmadis tend to be well educated (the group claims a 100 percent literacy rate for women) and at least seven have been murdered in the last three years.

Bouts of anti-Ahmadi or anti-Qadiani sentiment have long seemed to kick in with a ruler’s loosening grip on power.

“In Pakistan religion has been used by the political leadership to sustain their political agenda for a long time,” notes Khawaja Zafar Iqbal, a non-Ahmadi journalist and founder of the Kashmiri-based NGO, Press for Peace (currently in hiding due to a fatwa). “Even our former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was considered very liberal, received considerable public support during his rule by declaring Ahmadis to be non-Muslims.”

Similarly, seven years into the reign of dictator Zia ul Haq in the 80s, when his power base was seen to be slipping, he strengthened specifically-anti Ahmadi legislation with an ordinance and a couple of amendments to the penal code. And these days a struggling President Zardari appears to be making no concrete commitment to combating public aggression against the sect, much of it linked to the Punjab Provincial Chief Minister, Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif and his ambitious brother and opposition party leader Nawaz Sharif.

In 2008 and 2009 a spate of vociferously anti-Ahmadi conferences (known as the Khatme-E-Nabwat movement) have gone ahead in Punjab, with street processions and two-storey billboards in town centres proclaiming ‘Friendship with Mirza (Ahmadis) is like the enmity of Allah’ (see image). One of the official sponsors in a number of these events was the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), the provincial ruling party; their insignia appears on the billboards and members of parliament attend. Ahmadi groups also point out that frontline PML-N politicians — including current Chairman Raja Zafura-ul-Haq and Pakistan’s former president Rafiq Tarir have belonged to aggressively anti-Ahmadi parties such as Jamaat Islamiah. For sect members in this province in particular, these conferences are a time to keep their heads down.

This seems particularly necessary when looking at the lack of help Ahmadis tend to get from the legal system; in a country already notorious for police corruption, violence against them can appear state sanctioned.

Late last year a guest on the religious program ‘Alam Online’ (hosted by the former federal minister for religious affairs) repeatedly and freely urged Muslims to kill Ahmadi sect members as a religious duty.

The next day a 45-year old Ahmadi doctor was shot 11 times on his hospital floor by six men, and a day later a 75 year old community leader was shot in the street in Sindh. In the former case although the shooters were seen sauntering casually out of the hospital’s front entrance, no one has been arrested and no official moves were made to hold the program accountable (a weak apology was made after much NGO lobbying).

No one has been arrested for the murder of a trader earlier this year, who died when three men asked him to identify his religion, then peppered his car with gunfire. Ahmadi groups say that little progress has been made in the prosecution of two madrassa students who tried to behead a sect professor this June, but were successfully fought off.

In fact the law for Ahmadis appears to be working inversely, blasphemy laws in particular being misused — it is estimated by the AHRC that 500 Ahmadis are currently charged with offences that vary from ‘impersonating a Muslim’ to desecrating the Quran, which is punishable with death, and in most cases little evidence is used to book them.

In Punjab early this year four teenagers and a teacher of theirs were arrested for writing the name of the Prophet on the walls of a toilet at a mosque in Layaah, though no evidence was given to link them to the mosque or the area itself; police later lamented pressure from fundamentalists groups to make the arrests and the judge trying the case himself became a target of street protests by Majlis-i-Ahrar-i-Islam lobbying for strong punishment. Media reports this week noted a fresh wave of police operations in Lahore to pull down Quranic verses or plaques from above Ahmadi shop doors. This official line has done little to set a positive example in the community.

“People are very loyal and lovely,” insists Munawar Ali Shahid, the General Secretary for Amnesty International in Lahore, an Ahmadi. “The problem is the politicians and political parties and their underground alliances with religious groups.” Nevertheless he talks of discrimination against his son at school — he was told not to drink from the same tap as other students by his teacher — and of reluctance to tell people of his religion.

The feeling extends to the press, which commonly prints fatwas issued by religious groups against minorities (see image) yet refused across the board last year when Ahmadi group tried to place an advertisement explaining that they were boycotting the general election because of religious discrimination.

“All these beautifully constructed articles take a 180 degree turn while considering the status of religious minorities, especially Ahmadis in Pakistan,” says human rights lawyer Rao Zafar Iqbal, of the laws in the penal code that protect the right to religion. “The Zardari government [are] unable to do such things because they are playing in the hands of unseen powers who have their own priorities.”

Iqbal himself narrowly escaped assassination earlier this summer and is in hiding, after fatwas against him were published by the Daily Pavel newspaper, decrying his legal defense of minorities. “I think it’s the failure of the government that religious minorities, activists and human rights defenders protection is still a vague thought in Pakistan,” he says.

A start, says Munawar Ali Shahid, would be the repeal of the ordinance that enforces religious declarations on official documents. Next, he says, Ahmadis must have their right to vote along with the rest of the country, rather than in a separate electoral role (Muslims with Christians, Hindus and other minorities were united electorally under Musharraf, but not Ahmadis). At 46 years old Munawar has never been able to bring himself to vote as a ‘non-Muslim’.

At face value the Zardari government agrees. “This is a Pakistan People’s Party’s Government that is deeply committed to the protection of minorities and to accord them rights a full criticizes” said parliamentarian Sherry Rehman earlier this month. Yet it’s likely that the teenagers with the near-lethal graffiti convictions, the fatwa-burdened lawyer, the disenfranchised father and the professor who nearly lost his head this year, would all like to see a little more bite behind the bark.

Jo Baker is a Hong Kong based journalist and program coordinator for the Asian Human Rights Commission


Ahmadi Muslims declared ‘Wajibul Qatl’ in Pakistan controlled Kashmir

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Ever Merciful
International Press and Media Desk
Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat International
22 Deer Park, London, SW19 3TL
Tel / Fax (44) 020 8544 7613 Mobile (44) 077954 90682
LONDON, 29 September 2009


Persecution of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat in Azad-Kashmir has markedly increased in recent weeks and months, particularly in the Bhimber District.

A number of extremist organisations banned by the Government of Pakistan have continued to preach their hate filled messages by virtue of simply altering the names of their organisations. All available evidence strongly suggests that they are being supported, financially and otherwise, by a number of local politicians.

The situation has become extremely dangerous for the local Ahmadi population as the local clerics are issuing regular Fatwas pronouncing that all Ahmadis are ‘Wajibul-Qatl’ which means they can and should be lawfully killed due to their beliefs. Furthermore hateful and provocative literature is being published and disseminated amongst the masses in opposition to the Jamaat.

Ahmadis in the region are living in constant fear for their safety; their businesses and places of worship are becoming regular targets. The local authorities are urged to take action to bring an immediate end to all forms of persecution against the Ahmadi minority in the region.

The Press Secretary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat, Abid Khan said:
“It is a great tragedy that in Pakistan both the government and clerics continue to violate the rights of their fellow citizens. Ahmadi Muslims are now facing heightened persecution in Azad-Kashmir due to the acts of terrorists and extremists who are spreading the teaching that Islam, God forbid, allows arbitrary murder in the name of Allah. They realise not that they themselves are the root cause of the misery that currently pervades Pakistan and continues to escalate.

May God always protect all peace loving people, be they Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh or adherents of any other belief.”
End of Release
Further Info: Abid Khan, press @

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Malaysia: Living with the Ahmadiyah

---The Nut Graph, Malaysia

Living with the Ahmadiyah
29 Sep 09 : 8.00AM

By Shanon Shah
shanonshah at thenutgraph dot com

“WE have to live with those who do not accept Islam,” Emeritus Prof Datuk Dr Osman Bakar tells The Nut Graph in a phone interview. Osman, who is deputy chief executive officer of the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia, says this applies to how Muslims treat Ahmadiyah as well.

“The theological aspect is clear, based on the 1975 fatwa that declares them to be outside the fold of Islam,” he says. “But what should Muslims do to those who accept the Ahmadiyah founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, as a prophet? Should they go about discriminating against these people?”

It is a timely question. The Ahmadiyah community in Selangor has been targeted over the past year by the Selangor Islamic authorities, led by Selangor’s religious exco Datuk Dr Hasan Ali. In fact, in April 2009, the Selangor Islamic Religious Council forbade Ahmadiyah in Selangor from worshipping in their own headquarters in Batu Caves on Fridays. In December 2008, the Selayang Municipal Council tried to make them remove the kalimah syahadat, or Islamic creed — “There is no God but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God” — from their headquarters.

The question of why the Islamic authorities are training their sights on Ahmadiyah is interesting, given that the 1975 fatwa explicitly declares them not Muslim. “If they are to be treated as non-Muslims, then we should not treat them differently from other non-Muslims in Malaysia,” says Osman.

What seems to complicate matters is that Ahmadiyah not only preserve most of the prayer rituals that make them indistinguishable from Sunni Muslims in Malaysia. They are also mostly Malay Malaysians in this country. In other words, one cannot tell if a Malay Malaysian is an Ahmadiyah just by looking at him or her. Perhaps this is why the 1975 fatwa also asks for the state to strip Ahmadiyah of special Malay privileges.

And that’s not the end of it — even though Ahmadiyah are considered non-Muslim according to the 1975 fatwa, Ahmadiyah children have to attend Islamic Studies classes in primary and secondary school. Their identity cards list “Islam” as their religion.
This, then, is the quandary that Ahmadiyah in Malaysia face. Osman says, however, that the formulators of the 1975 fatwa would have taken these complexities into account.

“You see, there are two schools of thought in the Ahmadiyah movement. In the Indian subcontinent, they have distinguished between these two groups. The group that views the movement’s founder more as a saint, who urged spiritual renewal, is not considered to have fallen out of Islam,” says Osman.

This group is the Lahore Ahmadiyah Movement, but it is not the sect that exists in Malaysia. In Malaysia, Ahmadiyah believe that their founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, was a prophet, only not a law-giving prophet as Muhammad was. But according to Osman, “The word for prophet in Arabic, ‘nabi’, is very technical and cannot be taken lightly.”

Even so, Ahmadiyah in Malaysia are but a tiny minority. They number only 2,000 at the most — that’s a mere 0.007% of a population of 28.3 million. Assuming roughly that Muslims form 60% of the Malaysian population, Ahmadiyah would only form 0.012% of all Muslims. That is, if they are considered Muslims at all.

Seeing the humanity

Zaid Kamaruddin, president of Muslim non-governmental organisation Jamaah Islah Malaysia (JIM), tells The Nut Graph that it is important to just see the humanity in everyone.

“Somebody who was born into that sect only knows that as their religion, and we have to see this person as a human being. Only knowledge can alleviate matters,” he says in a telephone interview.

“Nobody should take the law into their own hands,” he says. “We don’t want violence towards them the way it happens in Indonesia.

“But as far as the fatwa goes, it is up to the Islamic council to decide. After all, those sitting on the religious councils are appointed by the sultans. It is not the purview of the state exco to implement the fatwa,” he says.

Osman agrees. “It is true, there are claims that Ahmadiyah in Malaysia try to propagate their religion even to Malay [Malaysians]. But the authorities have to act wisely, and not let people take matters into their own hands. We have seen what has happened to Ahmadiyah in countries like Pakistan and Indonesia.”

In Pakistan in 1974, the constitution under Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s administration was amended to effectively render Ahmadiyah as non-Muslims. After Zia-ul-Haq seized power from Bhutto in 1977, the persecution of Ahmadiyah intensified under his Islamisation project.

In Indonesia in 2005, the Indonesian Ulama Council issued a fatwa calling for the government to ban Ahmadiyah. This opened a floodgate of violence against Ahmadiyah by Muslim groups which persists to this day.

Thus, Ahmadiyah in Malaysia are afraid for their safety. However, they remain transparent and upfront about their beliefs and do not attempt to disguise or hide their headquarters. In fact, they say they have called for several public dialogues with the religious authorities, including the Selangor Islamic Affairs Department and religious exco Hassan. However, they say their requests have yet to be entertained. The Nut Graph’s attempts to reach Hasan also proved futile.

“The Ahmadiyah community here should have their own private engagement first with the authorities,” says Zaid. “Only if there are people taking the law into their own hands should the Ahmadiyah here press for a public dialogue.”

But with or without private or public dialogue, the fate of the Ahmadiyah at the hands of the state doesn’t look all that promising. From being declared non-Muslims to being persecuted as “deviant” Muslims, it is obvious that the state is unlikely to provide protection for the rights of this minority group of believers.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Green Town Police to remove Quranic verses from Ahmadis’ shops

---Daily Times, Pakistan
Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Green Town Police to remove Quranic verses from Ahmadis’ shops

  • Community leader says police warned Ahmadis on complaint of business rivals
  • Local Ahmadi says police did not act on his complaint of stones thrown at his house
  • SHO says verses to be removed in next couple of days
By Rana Tanveer

LAHORE: The Green Town Police is set to launch an operation to remove verses of the holy Quran from more than 20 shops of the Ahmadiya community on College Road, Township, on the complaint of local traders, sources told Daily Times.

The community owns shops of electronics, hardware and home appliances on the road as well as over 200 houses in C-Block of nearby Township. Some of the people have written verses from the Quran (like the kalima) on the front of their shops and houses.

According to local Ahmadiya residents, the traders of the locality were seeking action against them over business rivalries. They said they had written the verses to receive God’s blessings. They said the verses had been written on their houses and shops for many years, and some extremists were now seeking action against them for their own gains.

Members of the Ahmadiya community claimed that their opponents had distributed pamphlets on many occasions, urging the locals to boycott the community, not talk to them, shake hands with them, or shop at their stores.

Waseem Amjad Mahmood, a community leader, said on the complaint of the owners of a local shop Al-Makkah Electronics, the Green Town Police had warned the community to remove all Islamic writing from their houses and shops, or the police would do it.

Sayyed Farrukh Hafeez, another member of the community, told Daily Times that the police had told him to remove a plaque from his front door, which carried a Quranic verse. He said he had removed the plaque. He said local shopkeepers often passed derogatory remarks against the Ahmadiya community.

Hafeez claimed some young men had made videos of the Ahmadiya houses on some occasions. He said some Taliban elements might be behind this.

Abdul Qayyum Mughal, another member of the community, said he had also filed an application with the Green Town Police, seeking action against some locals for hurling stones at his house, which had broken some windowpanes. He said the police did not take any action.

Green Town Police Station House Officer (SHO) Inspector Ghulam Abbas told Daily Times that after receiving an application against the Ahmadiya community, he had called them to the police station, and had told them to remove the verses of the holy Quran. He said he would make the community remove the verses from their shops in the next couple of days.

Tauseef, the proprietor of Al-Makkah Electronics, told Daily Times that the application against the Ahmadiya community had been moved from the platform of the International Majlis Khatam-e-Nabuwat. He denied that bricks were thrown at the houses of the community. He said there were laws against the community.

Human Rights activist Hina Jillani said no one had the right to impose his will on anyone else. She said there were some restrictions on the Ahmadiya community by law, but no one had the right to harass others.

Jamia Naeemia patron Dr Raghib Naeemi told Daily Times that the Ahmadiya community could not do the things barred to them by the Prohibition of Qadianiat Ordinance, 1984. According to Section 298-B of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), the community cannot call its places of worship a ‘masjid’ and cannot give the call to prayer (azan). According to Section 298-C of the PPC, they cannot pose themselves as Muslims, directly or indirectly.


Malaysia: A day with the “deviants”

---The Nut Graph, Malaysia

A day with the “deviants”
28 Sep 09 : 8.00AM

By Shanon Shah
shanonshah at thenutgraph dot com

“FROM what we see, Islam [in Malaysia] appears like a one-way religion. But in the Quran, it’s not like this. Even if someone apostates, it’s not another human being’s right to persecut
e them,” Ainul Yakin Muhd Zin, 41, tells The Nut Graph. Perhaps this is why the sect that Ainul leads, the Jemaat Ahmadiyah Muslim of Malaysia, was branded a “threat to national security” in a 3 Aug 2009 Kosmo! report.

In fact, Ainul says that in 1975, a fatwa by the Selangor Islamic authorities declared Ahmadiyah to be outside Islam’s fold. The fatwa also asked for Ahmadiyah followers to be killed by the sultan. Why indeed are Muslims and the Islamic authorities so afraid of Ahmadiyah?

After all, according to Ainul, there are only around 2,000 Ahmadiyah in all of Malaysia. In the Klang Valley, there are maybe 600 Ahmadiyah followers only, and most of them are Malay Malaysians. This, then, was what The Nut Graph aimed to find out on 4 Sept 2009 at the Ahmadiyah headquarters in Batu Caves, Selangor.

Difference in beliefs

Perhaps before answering the question of why there is so much hostility towards Ahmadiyah, we must look briefly at how Ahmadiyah differ from Sunni Muslims who make up the dominant group of Muslims in Malaysia.

Ahmadiyah believe that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, their founder from late 19th-century Qadian in present-day India was a prophet in his own right. However, they acknowledge Muhammad as the last of the law-giving prophets sent by Allah. Sunni Muslims, however, see this as an unforgivable deviation — there can be no prophets after Muhammad in Islam, full-stop.

Ahmadiyah also have their own caliphate. Their current caliph is the fifth succeeding Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, whom they count as their first caliph. In terms of doctrine, they also differ by arguing that the prophet Isa, or Jesus, died a mortal death and was not raised to heaven by God.

Ahmadiyah also believe in Darwinist evolution to a certain extent — to them, Adam was not literally the first human being, but rather the first evolved human being.

Unverified allegations

So in this sense, it is easy to see why Sunni Muslims have problems with Ahmadiyah doctrine. But the allegations against Ahmadiyah practices and beliefs do not stop here. “They say our prayers are mixed-gender. They say our kiblat (direction of prayer) does not point towards Mecca. This is all untrue,” explains Ainul. In fact, none other than Selangor religious exco Datuk Dr Hassan Ali claimed that Ahmadiyah “do not need to pray, do not fast during Ramadan and do not perform the haj”.

Ainul, however, says, “First of all, there are Muslim governments that prevent us from performing the haj in Mecca when they find out we are Ahmadiyah.” During the asar (late afternoon) congregational prayer, The Nut Graph also observed the Ahmadiyah’s kiblat was no different from the conventional kiblat. When asked if any journalist from the traditional media came to verify this fact, Ainul said they hadn’t.

“And do you see any women praying beside us? We observe purdah (gender segregation) very strictly,” says Ainul. That was indeed clear. In fact, The Nut Graph had to request repeatedly to interview some women Ahmadiyah because they were nowhere to be seen.

“All just a misunderstanding”

But Ainul is good-natured enough to entertain this request. On 9 Sept, The Nut Graph met with two women Ahmadiyah leaders in Malaysia — Afiatunnur, 34, the Kuala Lumpur women’s chief, and Najmul Laila, 38, the moral outreach secretary. Najmul is also Ainul’s wife. Both women are Indonesians married to Ahmadiyah Malaysians.

Afiatunnur and Najmul attest that things were once peaceful for them in Indonesia — Ahmadiyah even had protection from the state. But all this changed in 2005, when the Indonesian Ulama Council issued a fatwa calling for a government ban on Ahmadiyah. Violence then ensued. In July 2005, the Ahmadiyah headquarters in Bogor was attacked, causing it to be shut down. Attacks then spread all across Java, until today.

In 2008, even former President Abdurrahman Wahid appealed for calm and for protection of Ahmadiyah, but his plea was ignored. In June 2008, Religious Affairs Minister Maftuh Basyuni, Home Minister Mardiyanto, and Attorney-General Hendarman Supanji signed a decree outlawing Ahmadiyah from spreading their faith.

But Najmul and Afiatunnur are nothing if not forgiving of such persecution. “It’s all just because they misunderstand Ahmadiyah teachings,” says Najmul.

“Even here in Malaysia, my family was renting from a house owner who was not happy that we are Ahmadiyah,” says Afiatunnur. “But once they saw that we are just like anybody else, they became okay with us.”

Najmul elaborates, “But then the others in their community think these people are suddenly nice to us because we have bewitched them!”

But is this forbearance and humour from these two women too good to be true? When asked, for example, if women are obliged to cover their hair, both women agree fully. But are there Ahmadiyah women who do not cover their hair?

“Yes, a few,” Najmul admits. Are these women then encouraged to cover their hair? “Yes, we advise them.” What if they still do not cover their hair after this advice? Are they forced to cover their hair? Najmul is scandalised. “Of course not,” she says. “But we just keep advising them, that’s all.”

Just another day
This chill-out attitude pervades other aspects of Ahmadiyah life as well. Yes, they fast. And when they broke their fast, the meal was simple, and they did not dilly-dally before performing maghrib (dusk), and then isya (night) and terawih prayers in congregation. And yes, they have a 10-point pledge of allegiance, or baiat, that followers have to accept, calling for strict observance of morality, piety and worship.

But Ahmadiyah are not fussed if there are those who do not accept the creed, or who want to leave the community. As Jariullah Ahmad, another Ahmadiyah spokesperson in Malaysia, explains, “If I leave the Ahmadiyah community, then I leave. The Ahmadiyah community will survive and go on. God will find a replacement for me among Ahmadiyah.”

In fact, Ahmadiyah claim they have nearly 200 million followers worldwide. Their communities flourish especially in secular Canada and the UK, where they are recognised and visited by ministers and Members of Parliament.

How do they deal with negative attitudes towards them, though? Ainul gives an example. In December 2008, he says the Selayang Municipal Council (MPS) ordered them to remove the kalimah syahadat, or Islamic creed — “There is no God but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God” — from their headquarters.

“I said we cannot bring ourselves to do this, because this is truly what we believe. But if you believe we are wrong, then you need to be the ones to remove the kalimah yourselves,” he says. According to him, MPS then left the kalimah alone.

There are, of course, even more sinister threats, and Ainul says that he has made several reports to the police and other authorities about these threats. He says, though, that until now no action has been taken based on these reports. “Why is this so? And if we are considered non-Muslims from the 1975 fatwa, why do the authorities continue to harass us? Why do they not leave us alone like the Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, and other non-Muslims in Malaysia?” asks Ainul.

Jariullah takes this questioning a step further. “Can the authorities just declare openly if they are able to protect our basic rights? If they admit they truly can’t, then at least we can plan our lives accordingly.”


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Indonesia: Alliance plans to propose review of blasphemy law

---The Jakarta Post, Indonesia
National Sat, 09/26/2009 12:06 PM

Alliance plans to propose review of blasphemy law

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The National Alliance for the Freedom of Religion and Faith (AKKBB) has planned to file a request with the Constitutional Court to review the 1965 blasphemy law which they say is discriminatory and against the amended 1945 Constitution that guarantees freedom of religion in the country.

The alliance comprising of, among others, the Indonesian Conference on Religion and Peace (ICRP), Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta), the Wahid Institute and the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) said the law had raised a public outcry and triggered sectarian conflicts as people were required to accept only the six official religions - Islam, Catholic, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu and Kong Hu Chu - and those with different faiths were branded heretics.

“We are in the process of completing the necessary documents to be given to the Constitutional Court,” AKKBB coordinator Anick Hamim Tohari said here last week.

The 1965 law on the prevention of religion abuse and blasphemy stipulates that no one is allowed make interpretations deviating from the official religions’ teachings. Anick, executive director of ICRP too, said the alliance had formed a small team who was still preparing the judicial review proposal and supporting documentation.

Febi Yonesta of the LBH Jakarta said the official request for the judicial review would be filed as soon as the documents were complete.

Ahmadiyah and Lia Eden were two Muslim communities that have been rejected because their teaching and doctrine were different to what has been designated official Islamic teaching and doctrine. Many mosques belonging to the two communities have been burned down and their followers displaced from their villages in the West Java regencies of Bogor, Sukabumi and Kuningan, and Lombok in West Nusa Tenggara.

Ahmadiyah is a religious sect whose teachings are claimed to be heretical by the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) and who have been attacked by various Muslim groups. Last year, the government made the decision that Ahmadiyah members were allowed to perform their religious activities but banned them from proselytizing new believers. The decision was made based on the law on religious blasphemy.

Lia Eden is a sect leader who has been sentenced to prison for religious blasphemy. “The law is the foundation of article 156 of the Criminal Code Law which criminalizes many religious minorities. Lia Eden has been charged under this article.

“Our constitution guarantees religious freedom. All religious groups deserve equal treatment. Therefore, this law which gives the government the power to intervene in religious matters must be annulled,” Anick said, referring to the 2008 joint ministerial decree barring Ahmadiyah from disseminating its teaching.

Febi said the Alliance had been planning to ask for the judicial review since 2005. “However, we had many considerations to take into account which postponed the plan.” He said in 2005, the situation was very tense and many groups were showing great resentment against religious sects. “We do not want to raise controversies and conflicts. We want the Constitutional Court to be able to decide on the review with a clear conscience. We do not want any political pressure to affect the legal process,” he said.

He said in the past, a believer of an unofficial religion must declare themselves a believer of one of the official religions in the religion section of his or her identity card. “However, the 2006 administration law allows them not to fill in the religion column,” Febi said.

“We hope if the 1965 law is annulled, all laws and regulations which take reference from this law will be applied without discriminating against any religious group,” said Feby.

Anick said the alliance’s top priority was to annul the terminology of official religions.

“Other laws and regulations, such as the marriage law, the population administration law, the joint ministerial decree which regulates houses of worship building permits also took the official religions from this law,” he said, adding that, to be consistent with the decree, the state did not recognize marriages between believers of different faiths. (mrs)


Friday, September 25, 2009

Malaysia: The non-Muslim Muslims

---The Nut Graph, Malaysia

The non-Muslim Muslims
25 Sep 09 : 8.00AM

By Shanon Shah
shanonshah at thenutgraph dot com

IN April 2009, the Selangor Islamic Affairs Council (MAIS) officially forbade the Ahmadiyah community in the state from performing their own Friday prayers. This news, however, did not make headlines — after all, there are at most only 2,000 Ahmadiyah in all of Malaysia, and at most only 600 in the Klang Valley. But from the panic-inducing headlines in the Malay-language press, one would think that the Ahmadiyah were an insidious fanatical sect bent on destroying the faith of Sunni Muslims in Malaysia.

The Ahmadiyah sect started in Qadian, in what is present-day India, in the late 19th century. They were inspired by the teachings of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. However, there emerged two sects of the Ahmadiyah movement after Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s death in 1908. There is the Lahore Ahmadiyah movement, which is inspired by his teachings but does not regard him as a prophet. Then there is the Ahmadiyah Muslim Community (AMC), sometimes referred to by other Muslims as “Qadianis”, which regards him as a prophet and messianic figure.

Majoritarian Islam does not have problems with the Lahore sect, but sees the AMC as heretical. Overall, there are nearly 200 million Ahmadiyah followers around the world. Ahmadiyah in Malaysia are part of the AMC.

The Ahmadiyah movement in Malaysia began shortly before the Second World War. Persecution began almost immediately. In the 1950s, the sultan of Selangor had an audience with the community’s leaders together with other Muslim leaders. However, things did not come to a head until 1975, when the Selangor Fatwa Council issued a fatwa declaring Ahmadiyah as non-Muslims. The fatwa called for them to repent, failing which they should be put to death by the ruler.

Malaysia is not the only country in which Ahmadiya face problems. Pakistan and Indonesia have seen a rise in violence and state persecution of Ahmadiya, too. Ironically, Ahmadiya thrive best in secular, Western countries such as Canada and the UK, where they are visited and protected by prominent ministers and members of Parliament.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Islamic veil unfolding over Indonesia

---The Malaysian Insider, Malaysia
Tuesday September 22 2009

Islamic veil unfolding over Indonesia

JAKARTA, Sept 22 — Recent moves in Indonesia, including plans by one province to stone adulterers to death, have raised concerns about the reputation of the world’s most populous Muslin country as a beacon of moderate Islam.

The provincial assembly in the western-most province of Aceh — at the epicentre of the Indian Ocean tsunami that killed 170,000 people there nearly five years ago — last week decreed the ancient Islamic penalty of stoning to death for adultery.

The decision could still be overturned once Aceh’s new Parliament is sworn in next month.

But many, including Aceh’s governor, the central government in Jakarta, and local businessmen, are concerned about the impact a broadcast public execution by stoning could have on Indonesia’s international reputation.

“The perception and the reaction from the international community would be condemnation,” said Anton Gunawan, chief economist at Bank Danamon, who stressed that he thought an actual stoning unlikely.

“For investors who are relatively familiar with Indonesia and know it is mostly moderate, it might not have an impact. But for people who don’t know Indonesia, they will think ‘Oh, now I have to be careful of it’.”

The Aceh case is one of several showing how hardline Muslim groups are influencing policy in Indonesia.

Local governments, given wide latitude to enact laws under Indonesia’s decentralisation programme, have begun to mandate Syariah regulations, including dress codes for women.

One ethnic Chinese Indonesian businessman, a practising Christian who asked not to be quoted by name, said that he feared if the trend continued it could lead to capital flight by the wealthy Chinese, Christian minority.

“A lot of regional laws are going in that direction. It’s already alarming the way it’s going. It’s a minority who are doing this, but the problem is that the silent majority just keep silent.”

Last year, the government imposed restrictions on Ahmadiyya, a minority Muslim cult, following intense lobbying by hardline Muslim groups to have them banned.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s party also backed an anti-pornography law, which imposes restrictions on certain forms of dance, traditional dress and the depiction of nudity in art.

The law was widely condemned by minority religious and ethnic groups, including the Balinese.

A new film law passed this month goes even further, prohibiting depictions of drug use, gambling and pornography, and requiring film-makers to have their plots approved by the Minister of Culture before production can begin.

“I think the Islamic parties will be a strong influence on the lawmaking of the next cabinet,” said Suma Mihardja, who led a campaign against the anti-pornography law.

“Tension could be directed toward xenophobia, racism, or religious conflict as we see in Malaysia today.”

Other legislation on the cards at the national level includes a bill making halal certification compulsory, instead of voluntary as is now the case.

That would result in higher costs for many food and pharmaceuticals companies, domestic and foreign, ranging from Nestle and Unilever to Kraft Foods Inc and Cadbury Plc, said Suroso Natakusuma from the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“Every single item will need halal certification and an external audit process may follow,” he said.

“The auditor may need to be sent to the country where the product was made to check the process is halal. That means air tickets, hotels. This will mean a lot of extra costs.”

The religiously inspired laws seem to run against the wishes of the electorate.

In the 2009 parliamentary election, the vote for the conservative Islamic party PPP declined 2.8 percentage points to just 5 per cent of the total vote, while the vote for another Islamic group, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), rose only 1.5 percentage points to 9 percent of the total. Overall, the share of votes for Islamic parties has steadily declined.

“People appear to be pandering to an audience that isn’t really asking for anything,” said James Bryson of HB Capital, which invests in Indonesian stocks. “The halal bill is not winning any votes and it’s making an already complex system of certification even more expensive.”

“Many of these laws lately are becoming more conservative,” said Said Abdullah of secular opposition party PDI-P who is on the committee debating the halal bill. “The government is trying to accommodate the Muslim community but they are actually not following our real constitution.”

Yudhoyono, a former general, won a second five-year term in July on promises to continue the battle against corruption and spur economic growth.

In the run-up to elections, Yudhoyono and his secular Democrat Party shifted closer to a clutch of religious parties including the hardline Islamist PKS, as relations with his main coalition partner, Golkar, grew increasingly strained.

Aceh wants to attract more investment, just like many other parts of Indonesia. Holding public executions by stoning, which could be televised and shown around the world, could well make that more difficult. — Reuters


Monday, September 21, 2009

Pakistan: Religion and politics [Opinion]

---The News, Pakistan
Monday, September 21, 2009,
Shawwal ul Mukkarram 01, 1430 A.H
Religion and politics

Rubina Saigol

Monday, September 21, 2009
The writer is an independent researcher specialising in social development

In the past few months, there has been a noticeable increase in religiously-motivated violence against minority communities, especially in Punjab. The most recent case is that of 20-year-old Robert Fanish Masih, whose mysterious death in the Sialkot district jail, where he was interned after accusations of defiling the Holy Quran, raises serious suspicions of foul play and murder. According to a press release by the Joint Action Committee, this incident is reminiscent of an earlier one in which Muhammad Yousaf, also accused of committing blasphemy, was found dead in jail and the authorities declared it to be a case of suicide.

Cases of murderous attacks against Christians by frenzied mobs have risen at an alarming rate. In March, a Christian woman was killed in Gujranwala where a church was attacked. On June 30, a mob destroyed more than 50 Christian houses in Bahmaniwala in Kasur district and looted and plundered the village. And on July 30, seven people were brutally murdered in the Gojra carnage.

The typical pattern in many of these cases is an accusation (usually false) of the commission of blasphemy by a rival. This is normally followed by announcements from mosques loudspeakers inciting people who then congregate and turn upon their own neighbours and erstwhile friends. As pointed out by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, the local administration and police often collude with the perpetrators or, at best, stand by and do nothing, themselves fearful of the mob. The state becomes an onlooker instead of intervening to protect its powerless citizens against the heinous crimes committed in broad daylight.

As the large number of blasphemy cases in the past have demonstrated, the real motive for instigating the crowd often has nothing to do with blasphemy. Frequently, disputes over money, property or other pecuniary matters lead to false accusations of blasphemy. An accusation of blasphemy is invariably deployed as a weapon to browbeat others into submission. In the famous case of Salamat Masih, a 14-year-old accused of writing blasphemous words on a wall, the quarrel among children started over pigeon fights. Had human rights activists like Asma Jahangir not saved his life, our state was about to send an innocent person — a child — to the gallows. The horrific implications of law cannot be overstated.

What has enabled religion to be used as a weapon to incite raw passions against fellow citizens to murder them with impunity? The immediate cause is the pernicious and widely abused blasphemy law as enunciated in Chapter XV of the Pakistan Penal Code. Sections 295 to 298 of the chapter refer to offences related to religion. Section 295 provides that, “Whoever destroys, damages or defiles any place of worship, or any object held sacred by any class of persons with the intention of thereby insulting the religion of any class of persons is likely to consider such destruction, damage or defilement as an insult to their religion, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years or with fine or with both.” In 1927, the British government added 295-A which reads that “whoever with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of His Majesty’s subjects, by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.” In 1991, the imprisonment term was extended from two to 10 years.

In 1982, at the peak of General Zia’s period, 295-B was added to include the desecration of the Holy Quran and to enhance punishment. This section reads as follows: “Whoever wilfully defiles, damages or desecrates a copy of the Holy Quran or of an extract therefrom, or uses it in any derogatory manner or for any unlawful purpose shall be punishable with imprisonment for life.” The Majlis-e-Shoora designed by Zia further added 295-C, which reads: “Whoever by word, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.” In 1990, the Federal Shariat Court constituted by Zia hammered the last nail in the coffin of sanity and justice by declaring that Islam provides punishment for hadd which is mandatory, therefore the words “imprisonment for life” should be removed from Section 295-C. Now, the only punishment for blasphemy was death. Section 298 relates to the Ahmadiyya community and institutionalises systemic prejudice against their right to practice their faith.

Before the Federal Shariat Court provided for the mandatory death penalty, no case of blasphemy was registered under Section 295-B or 295-C. This judgment paved the way for murder and created the environment in which vigilantism was encouraged and promoted. Manzoor Masih lost his life in a wanton act of murder outside the Lahore High Court. One of the court’s judges, Justice Arif Bhatti, who overturned the conviction of Salamat and Rehmat Masih by a lower court, was murdered by the purveyors of a grotesquely distorted religion. Niamat Ahmar, a poet and teacher, was butchered in Faisalabad by activists of the Sipah-e-Sahab-e-Pakistan; Bantu Masih and Mukhtar Masih were killed in police custody by fundamentalists while the authorities looked on. In 2008, two Ahmadis were murdered when a television anchor declared their community wajib-ul-qatl (deserving to be killed).

How has the state enabled this travesty of justice, this steady descent into inhumanity? The blasphemy law is only a part of the story; the issue of religious inequality and discrimination is much deeper. The entire problem began with the Objectives Resolution of 1949 when the state began to move in the direction of a theocracy. Its passage, despite the objections of the non-Muslim members of the Constituent Assembly, became possible because Jinnah’s vision, as outlined on August 11, 1947, was overlooked. Subsequently, every Constitution of Pakistan (1956, 1962 and 1973) carried a section on Islamic provisions which mandated that all laws would be enacted in line with religion.

Religious discrimination and inequality are institutionalised within the state structure. Article 2 of the Constitution declares that Islam is the state religion and Article 2-A makes the Objectives Resolution a substantive part of the Constitution. Non-Muslim citizens cannot hold two of the highest offices of the land and Islamic provisions of the Constitution (Articles 227-230) are designed to ensure that all laws conform to the Holy Quran and Sunnah. Citizens belonging to other faiths are systemically excluded and relegated to a secondary position. The increasingly religious character of the Constitution, with General Zia’s Eighth Amendment protecting his draconian vision and measures, violates the principle of equal citizenship on which the entire edifice of democracy rests.

Every provision that reduces the citizenship status of groups of people contradicts Article 25 (1) of the fundamental rights chapter which pronounces that all citizens are equal before the law. Similarly, Article 8 (1) avers that any law, custom or usage that is inconsistent with the rights conferred by this chapter shall be null and void. It follows that all the provisions that create discrimination and inequality among citizens should be removed. As Pakistanis focus on the task of reformulating their basic law and re-imagining their state, it seems prudent to separate religion from politics, as their mixture debases both religion and politics – the former by associating it purely with the attainment of political power and militant activity, the latter by making some more equal than others. Merely repealing the blasphemy law is not sufficient; we need to transform the basic framework from which such laws flow.



Pakistan: Looking for justice [Comment]

--- Daily Times, Pakistan
Monday, September 21, 2009
COMMENT: Looking for justice — Syed Mansoor Hussain

The ultimate conundrum is that if a Christian is asked the question, do you believe that the Prophet of Islam (pbuh) was a Prophet and the Quran is the word of God, the believing Christians must say no, and if they say that, under the law are they not guilty of blasphemy and have committed a capital offence

Last week I had hinted that I might write about how Muslim Americans have become discriminated pariahs in the US after 9/11. But then something at home forced me to concentrate on what is happening to minorities in Pakistan. Indeed in comparison it almost made me feel better about how we as Muslims are being treated in the US.

The Gojra carnage that has mysteriously disappeared from public perception and our news channels and newspapers is just one thing. More recently, a young Christian boy arrested for blasphemy died in jail, the ‘authorities’ insisting that it was a suicide. Sure!

And then the story broke about the case of a ‘mentally retarded’ woman who has languished in custody for thirteen years after being accused of blasphemy but was never presented in court. This woman has been officially declared as somebody probably incapable of even understanding the meaning of blasphemy and yet remained incarcerated for all this time without judicial review.

“You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan.” That is what Jinnah said sixty-two years ago to the people of Pakistan but today the very same people who shout the loudest about Jinnah and his legacy are the ones that ignore his words.

Almost two decades ago when democracy had just returned to Pakistan after a rather egregious military dictatorship, Pakistani Americans had a series of seminars in New York City to discuss what needed to be done in Pakistan to strengthen democracy. Platitudes galore! However, one almost offhand remark about the state of minorities in Pakistan during one such ‘seminar’ remains stuck in my mind.

Somebody brought up the fact that the Pakistani flag has a white part representing minorities and therefore minorities are an important and protected part of our national heritage. But then an obviously ‘liberal’ cynic pointed out that after all Pakistanis needed some part of the flag to drive the pole through. Of course what he said sounds a lot more ‘descriptive’ in Punjabi.

As I sit here today thinking about how our minorities, especially the Christians are being treated in ‘modern’ Pakistan, that remark reverberates ever so much in my mind. However, historically the Pakistani establishment has never been kind to minorities.

The Ahmadiyya community was targeted during the agitation in 1953 and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto the secularist declared them non-Muslims twenty years later under religious pressure. Even the Shia have been, and still are, under threat. Fortunately for the Shia they are much too large a community and too integrated to be easily separated and targeted except in discrete areas of the country.

Perhaps some of my readers might even remember a time not too long ago when Shia doctors were being killed just because they were Shia. Interestingly, some of them were killed just because they had Shia-sounding names, so much so that Shia doctors and even some with Shia-sounding names began to leave Pakistan.

Of the minorities, most of the Sikhs left Pakistan at the time of partition as did most Hindus with a few staying behind, mostly in Sindh. During the first few decades of Pakistan, the Christian community was an important and fully integrated part of the national fabric. There was a thriving ‘Anglo’ community in Lahore that I remember well and many Christians held important positions as educators, civil servants and members of the armed forces.

But everything started to change after the “enlightened” days of Islamisation. Most, if not all, of those that could afford it among the Christians, the Ahmadis and even the Parsees left Pakistan for western countries. Sadly, of the Christians left behind the majority now belongs to the poorer classes and therefore is most vulnerable.

The recent spate of violence against the Christian community is not entirely about religious extremism and an excess of ‘Islamist’ zeal. I personally believe that after the Taliban and their supporters became isolated and unpopular due to attacks on other Muslims, they have changed tactics. Any radical organisation needs to keep its base involved and fired up and since attacks that killed other Muslims became undesirable, the Christian community has become an easy and obvious target.

Considering the political and bureaucratic indifference to these attacks, this strategy of attacking Christians seems to be paying off. It provides the Taliban types with enough ‘face time’ on TV and in newspapers and keeps their radical base involved and active. Unfortunately many in our bureaucracy, among the politicians as well as in our lower judiciary are either entirely intimidated by, or else agree with, the Islamist types and therefore do not pursue cases against them to bring them to justice.

The ‘apologists’ for the Taliban types keep repeating the mantra that Islam is a tolerant religion and as such the violence aimed at Christians or even against Muslims could not possibly be the work of real Muslims. Who then were the people that burned houses and residents in Gojra or recently blew up a hotel in Kohat? Are they not Muslims and are they not doing whatever they are doing in the name of Islam?

The ultimate conundrum is that if a Christian is asked the question, do you believe that the Prophet of Islam (pbuh) was a Prophet and the Quran is the word of God, the believing Christians must say no, and if they say that, under the law are they not guilty of blasphemy and have committed a capital offence?

And that is my question to the powers that be. What is more important when it comes to the survival of the federation, the price of sugar or the legally sanctioned killing of non-Muslims just because they believe in their faith as we do in ours?

Syed Mansoor Hussain has practised and taught medicine in the US. He can be reached at


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Monthly Newsreport - Ahmadiyya Persecution in Pakistan - August, 2009

Traumatic follow-up of the Lathianwala case

Lathianwala, Chak 194, District Faisalabad: Last month we reported that the police registered a fabricated case against 32 Ahmadis under the dreaded blasphemy law PPC 295C, anti-Ahmadiyya law PPC 298-C,PPC 295-A for which trial may be held in an antiterrorism court, and other laws PPC 506 and 109, on July 25, 2009 with FIR 486/09 in Police Station Khurarianwala. Having registered this case against 32 Ahmadis in the most unjust manner, the police took further despicable action.

A police contingent comprising over two hundred men arrived Lathianwala on the morning of August 10, 2009. They stormed the Ahmadiyya mosque and homes of Ahmadi villagers and removed holy inscriptions. The frightful operation went on for almost eight hours. The sacrilege was led by a Deputy Superintendent of Police. While the Ahmadiyya delegation waited upon senior police officials in Faisalabad for a meeting, they had already given orders to undertake this despicable operation. It is reasonable to assume that the District and Range officers had been given the green light from Lahore, the provincial capital. The police used chisels, cement, paint etc to commit act of shameful sacrilege, and they removed every Arabic inscription they could find on the Ahmadiyya mosque and houses. Representatives of the media took photographs of the police action. A video was later made available on the internet and was uploaded on Youtube under the title of, “Acts of Blasphemy by Pakistani Authorities.” The 8-minute video is worth watching, although greatly distasteful and disturbing for anyone who is sensitive about freedom of religion. An Ahmadi in New Zealand who saw the video, commented in his E-mail to all concerned:
“After watching this heart-rending incident which was executed by the Pakistan authorities namely the police, last Monday the 10th of August 2009, which I have just received, my heart melts in agony.
…Our attitude will be simply – peace and prayer. It is ‘Love for all and Hatred for none’ that we will practice, no matter how strong your passions may be (sic).”
It is relevant to mention that only 10 days earlier another religious community had been severely traumatized in nearby Gojra. The politicians and police seem not to have learnt any lesson from events in Gojra, and persist in appeasing the religious extremists and bigots.

Narrow escape from a murderous attempt

Kunri, Sindh: August 12, 2009: Mr. Javed Ahmad had a narrow escape from an attempt on his life. He received a phone call from 0302-3666975. The caller posed himself as an Ahmadi and asked to meet him. Javed told him that he was about to depart for Talhi, a nearby town. The caller said that he would shortly arrive at his residence.

On hearing the sound of motor-bike Javed opened the door assuming that the caller had come. That visitor however surprised him and fired a shot at his door. It missed Javed who immediately took cover. The assailants fled the scene. They could not be identified. The murder attempt was reported to the police who could have easily caught the culprits by tracing the telephone number, but they didn’t.

Sectarianism blooms in Lahore

Lahore: Syed Farrukh Hafeez, an Ahmadi young man in ‘Township’, Lahore recently had a very unpleasant experience with religious bigots.

Syed Hafeez has lived in that area for the last 20 years. It was a peaceful neighborhood till five years ago. In his opinion, sectarianism has raised its ugly head there in the recent years with the inflow of Pakhtuns and Taliban in the Punjab. Khatme Nabuwwat organizations have recruited these elements to increase their clout, and now indulge in worrisome aggressive anti-Ahmadiyya activities.

These people have photographed his house and prepared a video. They have been collecting information about him and his family.

In mid July Syed Hafeez went to the local bazaar to buy a motor cycle. After the deal, he handed over his national identity card to the shop-keeper for the vehicle’s registration, and the latter asked him to collect the motor-cycle in the afternoon.

In the afternoon, when he went to the shop, he was confronted by a gang of people. The shop-keeper, having come to know he was an Ahmadi, had collected those bigots to provoke him. Syed Hafeez had to keep his calm in the face of the abuse and provocation hurled at him. He was told, inter alia:
“You have Masha Allah ماشااللہ and a Quranic verse written on your house. Have it removed tonight; otherwise you will face the consequences. No Mirzai is allowed to write a Quranic verse. You people are apostates; and you very well know the penalty of apostasy. We killed the son of Abdus Sattar (Phattey Wala) and beat up his father, and you people could do nothing to us. The Khatme Nabuwwat agitations are already underway. We are only waiting for the announcement of Nifaz-e-Shariat .نفاذشریعت Our Mujahids are all ready. Rivers of blood will flow. … You and your family should recant within two days; otherwise it will not be very well for you.”
The crowd grew bigger and more menacing. The shopkeeper returned his money, saying, “We piss on your money; our piss is holy (pak پاک) and your money is unclean (pleed پلید).” Syed Hafeez came out feeling harassed. He saved himself by keeping his cool. On reaching home, he reported the incident to the community elders.

A fortnight later, his cousin saw a youth photographing his house. When challenged, he ran to the building’s corner where a bearded motor cyclist was waiting for him. The two fled in a hurry. They obviously had come with criminal intent. The same evening Syed Hafeez’s four nephews who are of a young age were intercepted by a group of three youth who told them that they knew their residential address. The children picked up pace and entered their prayer center. On their return they related the encounter to their parents, who were much disturbed by the incident. They have written to the Supreme Head of the Community and requested for his prayers.

The postal department and Ahmadiyyat

Lahore: Mr. Hamid Akhtar, a senior Urdu columnist has written an interesting column in the Daily Express of Faisalabad on 27th August, 2009, based on his personal experience, and has drawn some conclusions. The column is titled, “Is knowledge really a legacy of the Mo’min (a true Muslim)?”

His opening remark is:
“Knowledge is a legacy of a Mo’min: ‘If you have to go as far as China to acquire knowledge, do go.’ We have heard these proverbs and Ahadith (sayings of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) throughout our lives, but in view of the restrictions on knowledge and anti-books attitude of this God-given state, it appears that within next few years we shall be completely devoid of knowledge.”
He describes his unpleasant experience in interesting detail. In brief, he received a letter on July 10, 2009 from the postal department informing him that a parcel addressed to him had been held back by the Customs Department who would send it to him subsequent to its clearance. Mr. Akhtar waited for the parcel for weeks but in vain. This got him worried about the parcel and its contents. On August 22 he approached the General Post Office, and thereafter the Customs section. He was told by the Superintendent of Customs that the parcel was nothing but a book written by the well-known Urdu writer, Pervez A. Parwzi in Canada; its title was Ahmadiyya Culture. He intimated that the book was in the literary style and would be released. He, however, regretted that it could not be handed over to Mr. Akhtar; it will be sent by post, as per rules. Mr. Akhtar waited for the book for the next four days, and having not received it proceeded to write this column.

Akhtar poses the follow question to the authorities:
“We have differences with Ahmadis, but are they not citizens of Pakistan? Firstly, it is ridiculous to mention citizenship when talking of books and knowledge. Even if a foreign book or one written by a non-Muslim is received in Pakistan and it differs with our beliefs and ideas, we should reply to it on the basis of our Ilm علم(knowledge). … It is unfortunate that we in the Muslim world are trying to safeguard Islam with the help of physical force and bomb blasts rather than with pen. … These people (clerics) are urging Muslims all over to lay down their lives in defense of Islam and confront the onslaught. This has only resulted in more deaths. It is about time that some of us should urge the people to live for Islam rather than die, even if that would not be fashionable.”
Assault on two Ahmadis for their faith

Nankana, August 7, 2009: Mr. Ghulam Mujtaba, an accountant at the Nusrat Jehan Academy, Rabwah, went to see his aunt in Nankana Sahib. The next day he went out to buy some food with his cousin, Nadeem. Some of the shops displayed plastic plates with the inscription: “Admission of Qadianis is forbidden” etc.

They entered a shop which also displayed this notice, but they did not see it. A boy there recognized Nadeem and cried out, “A Mirzai has come. Do not sell him anything.” Nadeem reacted, “Who are you to interfere when the shopkeeper has no objection?” The boy called his friends on a cell phone and shortly thereafter a number of them arrived at the scene. They beat up and injured the two Ahmadi youth. Some decent people present there interfered, so that they could get away from the scene. Nadeem received stitches to his head. Ahmadi elders decided not to report the incident to the police, so as to let the situation cool down. It is learnt, however, that the other party approached the police for further support.

Nankana is a hotbed of anti-Ahmadiyya violence. Ahmadis’ houses were burnt there a few years ago.

Mullas on a probing mission in Rawalpindi

Rawalpindi, August 7, 2009: Mr. Rashid Ahmad Sanori and his sons received an unpleasant visit from three mullas.

Mr. Sanori and his two sons have lived for many years in the Akal Garh neighborhood of Rawalpindi. They run a retail store and a homeopathy clinic there and enjoy good reputation in the neighborhood.

On August 7, 2009 three mullas came to their store late in the evening and objected to the Islamic calendar, chart and stickers there. Their behaviour was curt, body language unfriendly and words threatening. They had the material removed and taken away threatening, “If you do that again, we’ll treat you differently.” It was learnt that after the visit they went to a nearby mosque, and then called on the cleric of the congregational mosque of Akal Garh.

The incident caused great concern in the house. Mr. Sanori reported it to the local community elders. They advised that he report the details of the incident to the authorities. This was done.

A spiteful pamphlet

Brelvis are reputed to be less noxious than some other sects in the prevalent sectarian strife. However, two of their centers have decided to enter the fray and have produced a pamphlet publicizing a virulent anti-Ahmadiyya fatwa issued by Ala Hadrat Maulana Ahmad Raza Khan. Although Raza Khan was known for the severity of his fatwas against his opponents, the producers of this pamphlet were apparently not satisfied by their mentor’s sweeping statement, and added to the fatwa.

The pamphlet calls Ahmadis Murtad مرتد (apostates) and Munafiq منافق (hypocrites). It calls their founder Wajib-ul-Qatl واجب القتل (one who must be killed). It imposes a total social boycott of all Ahmadis. “A so-called Muslim who considers that Ahmadis are Mazlum (oppressed) because of the imposed boycott is also a Kafir کافر (infidel)”, according to Raza Khan. The pamphlet urges Muslims not to befriend an Ahmadi, not share a meal with them, not use Ahmadiyya products like Shezan (fruit juices etc), stay away from their social occasions and not invite them either, etc. It maliciously quotes out of context and amended excerpts from Ahmadiyya publications.

The pamphlet was recently circulated in Bahawal Nagar (South Punjab). The producers of this anti-social, rabidly communal publication have boldly given their addresses at the bottom of the pamphlets, as follows:

Sheran-e-Islam (The lions of Islam): Gamtala Rd, Mohallah Naqsha Lasani Nagar, Shakargarh
Sheran-e-Islam: Jame Masjid Hanafia Faruquia, Gulistan Colony, Mustafa Abad, Lahore

Hostile propaganda in Lahore

Lahore; August 2009: Hostilities in Lahore continue to rise. Model Town, Town-ship and Green Town are worst affected. Anti-Ahmadiyya activities include distribution of hostile inflammatory pamphlets, stickers and the pasting of posters on walls. In addition, opponents try to involve Ahmadi youth in discussion and dispute. At such occasions they avail services of some mulla and indulge in foul language against the founder of Ahmadiyyat. Ahmadi youth are showing patience before this abuse in order to maintain the peace.

Amnesty International's latest statement on the blasphemy laws

Below are excerpts from Amnesty International’s recent statement regarding the blasphemy laws in Pakistan.
PAKISTAN: Government should take concrete action to amend
or abolish the blasphemy laws within a year.

As Pakistan marks Minorities Day, Amnesty International calls on the government to take meaningful action to protect religious minorities which have increasingly been the target of religiously-motivated attacks and persecution.

The rise in attacks against religious minorities comes against a backdrop — and in tandem — with rising religious extremism in the country. Amnesty International is concerned at the discrimination, harassment and attacks against all religious minorities, including Ahmadis, Christians, Shiite, Sikhs and Hindus, that are widespread in Pakistan.

Amnesty International welcomes Prime Minister Gilani’s announcement that the government would set up a committee to review and improve laws detrimental to religious harmony. The Prime Minister’s statement comes in the wake of the Gojra attack which flared up over allegations of blasphemy. Though not explicitly stating which laws would be reviewed, his statement alluded to the country’s blasphemy laws introduced in 1982 and 1986 by military leader Zia-ul-Haq in attempt to use Islam to promote popular appeal for his military regime.

The blasphemy laws, while purporting to protect Islam and religious sensitivities of the Muslim majority, are vaguely formulated and arbitrarily enforced by the police and judiciary in a way which amounts to harassment and persecution of religious minorities. In January this year, five Ahmadis, including one minor (sic), were detained on spurious charges of blasphemy in the Layyah district, with no evidence or witnesses to support the charges against them.

Amnesty International urges the government of Pakistan to amend or abolish the blasphemy laws, particularly section 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code which carries a mandatory death penalty for anyone found guilty of blasphemy. The organization calls on the Pakistan government to guarantee the human rights of minorities laid down in the Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, notably Article 18 which provides that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
Update on the Ahmad Nagar Ahmadiyya mosque

Ahmad Nagar, District Chiniot: We reported last month in some detail the case of an Ahmadiyya mosque being sealed, and the drive later by the mullas to have it re-opened and then taken over. As their agitation increased, the Ahmadiyya Headquarters at Rabwah had to consequently issue a general letter informing the relevant authorities of the issue and the situation. Having explained the background of this gross violation of Ahmadis’ freedom of faith, the letter mentioned:
“… Brutishly, the opponents have given a call to all the locals to come forth on 14th August, proceed to Mohallah Nurpur (in Ahmad Nagar) and occupy the mosque. (Their poster is attached). Earlier they had given a similar call for July 22, 2009, which was aborted on account of timely action by the administration.

There is risk of great provocation and violence in the present circumstances. The opposition’s activities expose their plan to achieve their objectives through sectarian riots in the area. In our opinion, this plan is a link in the chain of incidents of Gojra and Gujranwala etc that has resulted in extreme violence and loss of life. This issue deserves immediate attention and action; otherwise we might have a great catastrophe on our hands. We hope that you will uphold justice. I shall be greatly obliged.

This report is forwarded to you for urgent action to uphold the law.

Yours sincerely,

Director of Public Affairs
Rabwah (Chenab Nagar), District Jhang
The daily Pakistan of August 21, 2009 published a news item regarding the mosque whose essential elements are translated below:
The DPO should fulfill his promise to hand over the Muslim mosque of Noor Colony Ahmad Nagar. Demand the Ulama of Chiniot.

…… The Ulama Karam and local elders had waged a long and persistent drive to acquire the mosque, and had finally called a protest on Friday, the 14th August. However, the district authorities, like the DCO held negotiations with Ulama Karam and asked them to cancel the protest in return for promises and assurances that the mosque would be released before Ramadan.
The mulla is not always truthful, and the administration often looks for an easy way out that may not be fair. What is really happening, we do not know.

A law that should go

The daily Dawn of August 21, 2009 published an article with the above title written by Riffat Hamid Ghani on the issue of blasphemy. It is well-argued piece that mentions the background in which the blasphemy law was passed, its evil consequences and urges remedial action. It is reproduced here for information, record and follow-up.
A Law That Should Go

WHY are the blasphemy laws still on the book? Parliament is sovereign; there is official and public consensus that we do not wish to facilitate fanaticism and bigotry.

And the very context and continuing existence of these laws underpins much social violence and religious intolerance entirely repugnant to Islam. They should have been repealed ever before Gojra became a burning issue. Fanatical elements may still wreak havoc but at least the signals sent out by the state and civil society would be red.

Parliamentary majorities move quickly when it comes to legislation furthering their electoral interests whether it is about separate electorates or raising female representation. But they are sadly lethargic when it comes to doing what civil society demands in the common public weal.

Gen Pervez Musharraf took over when people were rejecting then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s continuing use of religion in the Zia tradition as a political camouflage for the pursuit of absolute power. The usurping general could easily have disarmed the guns of blasphemy and other disputed religious legislation/ordinances. Public opinion was on his side; he commanded the army; the clerically-led parties were in no position to cause him serious trouble — yet he quailed at the first rumble.

Today Bhutto cultism as vented in the presidency, that font of ordinance, is the steam in the ruling PPP’s engine. It is salutary to remind those too young to know (like the party’s chairman) and others who prefer to obscure matters, that it was none other than the PPP icon Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who unhesitatingly homed in on the Ahmadi community. Legislation in his tenure exposed them further to real persecution and isolation. The position of the Ahmadis is even more perilous in Pakistan than that of Hindus or Christians who are perceived as minorities.

Whatever the varied clerical positions as to sects and heresies, people of the book and those of other faiths; the overriding Islamic principle of tolerance is forever enshrined in the enunciation to you your religion and to me mine.

Unfortunately though, because Pakistanis are deeply and emotionally religious, religion is constantly played upon by demagogues and rabble-rousers. Pakistan has been deeply corrupted by successive governments and regimes — democratic and imposed; civil and military; popular and unpopular — using the emotive factors of religion and ethnicity most viciously and unscrupulously. Human life and public safety have less value than the realisation of selfish political objectives.

At the personal and individual level mere greed or vendetta often prompt blasphemy charges. Persons are hounded away, their properties evacuated and then cheaply acquired, their jobs lost and offices vacated for others to fill. The laws do not deter wanton blasphemers, instead they endanger our citizens.

The blasphemy laws in Pakistan were founded in a context of discrimination and oppression. That mindset continues to animate and empower bigotry and coercive intolerance. Repealing the laws and taking on the backlash is a crucial part of our own war on terror.

Why express and demonstrate devotion and reverence through riotous violence as we did in the case of the deliberately provocative blasphemous cartoons of our Holy Prophet (PBUH)? For the devout Muslim the Prophet has a spiritual status that renders him immune from intended insult. The Danish venture was better left to be exposed and condemned as it rapidly was, at the bar of anyone who was not compulsively hostile to religion or contemptuous of other people’s feelings.

But in Pakistan’s social climate even delivering a newspaper may expose the person who tosses it over the gate to charges of disrespect for sacred writ. Keeping religious texts on the reachable second shelf rather than the unreachable first shelf may be taken as irreverence. An adjacent photograph may be seen as reflecting sacrilegious intent. Tearing up a wedding invitation may fall within the legal ambit of blasphemous desecration.

And yet many of those most particular about upholding such form and appearance may steal and lie and cheat without a twinge of conscience. It is easier to stress the externalities than strive for spiritual substance. Perhaps it is easier to delude ourselves we are notching up brownie points with the Almighty by attacking blasphemy in others than by becoming impeccable Muslims ourselves.

It is not just the fanatics who are culpable. All of us specifically Muslim Pakistanis are to be blamed for letting the bigoted zealots’ interpretative voice speak loudest. We fear dandas and vials of acid. We are scared of having allegations of irreverence, heresy, blasphemy, flung at us by obnoxious and ignorant elements who presume to deem themselves morally empowered to monitor and accuse fellow mortals.

We have to spell out clearly and make it heard that encouraging the good and preventing the wrong as enjoined by religious injunctions is not a carte blanche for persecution, intimidation, coercion, violence and murder in the name of religious propriety and divine law.
Ahmadis behind bars
  1. Mr. Muhammad Iqbal was imprisoned for life in a fabricated case of blasphemy. He was arrested in August 2004, and is now incarcerated in the Central Jail, Faisalabad. An appeal lies with the Lahore High Court against the decision of the Sessions Court. It is registered as Criminal Appeal No. 89/2005. He is now in the sixth year of his imprisonment. His appeal is under process these days.
  2. Three Ahmadis namely Mr. Basharat, Mr. Nasir Ahmad and Mr. Muhammad Idrees along with 7 others of Chak Sikandar were arrested in September 2003 on a false charge of murder of a cleric, alleged by opponents of the Jamaat. The police, after due investigation found no evidence against the accused. Yet these men still faced ‘complaint trial’ for a crime they did not commit. Based on the unreliable testimony of the two alleged eye-witnesses (who were proven false in the court) the court acquitted seven of the accused, but on the evidence of the same two liars the court sentenced these three innocent Ahmadis to death. They are being held in a death row at a prison in Jehlum, while their appeal lies with the Lahore High Court. They are now in the sixth year of their incarceration. Their appeal to the Lahore High Court is registered as Criminal Appeal No. 616/2005 dated 26 April 2005.
  3. Dr. Muhammad Asghar was arrested on a fabricated charge of blasphemy in June 2008. The judge rejected his plea for bail. The police investigation found him innocent. Subsequently his plea for bail has been rejected by the High Court — and the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has directed his expeditious trial which is now in progress.
From the press

Six terrorists arrested in Sargodha
….They also planned to attack an Imambargah in Chiniot and a religious congregation in Rabwah.
The daily Dawn; Lahore, August 25, 2009

Extremists burn down 17 schools
The daily Nation; Lahore, August 2, 2009

PU (Punjab University) deans seek CM’s help against IJT (Islami Jamiat Talaba) ‘hooliganism’
The daily Dawn; Lahore, August 27, 2009

Investigators now believe that kidnapping for ransom formed the lion’s share of the TTP’s (Tehrik Taliban Pakistan) revenue generation.
Last year alone, the TTP kidnapped 70 people from the length and breadth of Pakistan, including places as far as Karachi and Lahore.
The daily Dawn; Lahore, August 19, 2009

Korian (Gojra) Christians forced to flee after houses burnt
The Daily Times; Lahore, August 1, 2009

Gojra assault was planned in advance. — HRCP
The daily Dawn; Lahore, August 4, 2009

A banned organization operative in the Gojra tragedy. The government has failed to protect minorities. — Minority leaders
The daily Jinnah; Lahore, August 25, 2009

Negligence of officials blamed for Gojra riots
The daily Dawn; Lahore, August 3, 2009

CM pledges compensation in 48 hours
The daily News; Lahore, August 5, 2009

The Archbishop of Canterbury said Christians needed to be assured they lived in a “just and peaceful society”.
“They are disproportionately affected by the draconian laws against blasphemy, which in recent years have frequently been abused in order to settle local and personal grievances”, he said.
“Those of us who love Pakistan and its people, whatever their faith, feel that the whole country is injured and dismissed by the violence that has occurred (in Gojra)”.
The daily Dawn; Lahore, August 4, 2009

AI urges govt to amend or abolish blasphemy laws (within a year)
The daily Dawn; Lahore, August 12, 2009

We do not have the right to rule if we cannot protect and provide justice to the minorities — Shahbaz Sharif
The Daily Times; Lahore, August 8, 2009

Blasphemy claims three more victims (in Muridke factory)
The Daily Times; Lahore, August 5, 2009

(Two) Policemen indicted for (3-years-old) girl’s rape, murder
The daily Dawn; Lahore, August 19, 2009

Mr. (Nawaz) Sharif said Gen Musharraf should be brought to justice for pushing the country into a series of crises by “getting Nawab Akbar Bughti murdered and ordering a crackdown on students of Jamia Hafsa.”
The daily Dawn; Lahore, August 15, 2009

Official ban on 25 religious and charity organization. Sunni Tehrik under surveillance.
The daily Khabrain; Lahore, August 6, 2009

BJP expels Jaswant (Singh)
The Daily Times; Lahore, August 20, 2009

Pak to ensure equal rights for minorities (President Zardari)
The daily Nation; Lahore, August 11, 2009

Call to introduce new cosmopolitan Fiqh فقہہ (at Islamic University Islamabad)
The daily Dawn; Lahore, August 3, 2009


Not the business of the state

According to the original constitution as promulgated at noon on August 14, 1973 by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, we were equal citizens of the state, with equal rights. But this equality was done away with in 1974 by Bhutto’s second amendment to his constitution bending to the obscurantists and bigots, and an entire community was shorn of its rights and declared a minority.
Ardeshir Cowasjee in the daily Dawn; Lahore, August 23, 2009

Gojra incident…shame…shame

The government must immediately bring the perpetrators to justice and make a horrible example of them. What may I ask is the Chief Minister of Punjab doing about this? Is he going to remain an idle spectator or is he going to show some backbone and take these fanatics who sully our already muddied name, just paying money to victims cannot be end of this horrible incident, money can’t bring loved ones who were burnt in front of their families, are we living in 21st century? (sic)

Is this the message we are sending to the world that we are barbarians, we don’t have any respect for human life, we are a country where we behead innocent people and hang dead bodies to trees, we don’t have any tolerance, ours is an intolerant society, and we are particularly intolerant of those whose faith is not Muslim.

Where are those champions of Islam like Imran Khan, Nawaz Sharif, Qazi Hussain, Fazlur Rehman? Why they are silent? Another shameful blot on our national conscience.

Killing innocent people is not Islamic. The animals who are involved in killing and burning innocent people must be severely punished.

It is clear that the agenda of these mobs is very different from what they claim. Again, the law must reign supreme, not the bloodlust of extremist mobs. It’s Muslims’ duty to not let such blood-thirsty extremists take over our religion. It is time for true Muslims to take back their religion from the violent thugs running amok.

Punjab Govt is living in denial. The provincial government is not accepting that a large part of Punjab is suffering from religious intolerance due to the Taliban and religious outfits. The tearful and tragic incidence of Korian Village of Gojra is one of the so many other cruel acts of fundamentalists in Pakistan, till now we could point to Indian Gujarat and say that forming mobs to attack mobs is something that happens only in India. No longer true. Thanks to these animals wearing the mask of Islam.

M. Waqar in the Frontier Post of August 6, 2009

State and intolerance

The laws are phrased in anger, not in moderation, which is the meaning of justice (adl) in Islam. Some years ago, an angry sitting judge of the Lahore High Court spoke out at a public function and said that Muslims should kill a blasphemer on sight and not go to the court of law. Pushed by the ulema empowered in varying degrees by jihad, the laws were kept on the statute book despite clear defects. In most cases any page with Arabic printed on it lying on the ground arouses people to violence which vents itself on public property. The individual victims are mostly poor communities who cannot defend themselves.

In 2006, the Council for Islamic Ideology (CII) thought that the laws had no deterrent value against false accusations and suggested procedural amendments, but the proposal was shot down by the clerical faction inside the CII. The sessions courts that award the death sentence to blasphemers are hardly free agents, intimidated by armed non-state actors besieging the court. Even a high court judge has been killed by a fanatic.

Christians, the most frequent victims, are also the poorest section of the population. It normally takes five to six years for a convicted blasphemer on death row to get relief from the Supreme Court. The state has yet to punish a blasphemer; but hundreds languish in jails falsely accused of blasphemy, including a group of under-age school children from Layyah rotting in a DG Khan jail.

The blasphemy law doesn’t care for evidence, has no concern for “will” behind the act of blasphemy, has set aside the concept of “tauba” (contrition), and is subject to a widespread misuse by criminal elements of society who conflate blasphemy with desecration of the Quran. The state, impotent after its “jihad” phase extends lame excuses, blaming incidents on the ubiquitous “foreign hand”. Its executive knows that the state is weak-kneed and therefore sides with the empowered jihadi non-state actors as they enter the town with murder on their minds.
Editorial in the Daily Times; August 6, 2009

Gojra and Pakistan’s identity

Islam expects a ruler to demonstrate high moral authority, but no ruler has dared to reexamine the blasphemy laws in the light of Islamic law itself. After announcing a revision of the blasphemy law in 2000 and 2004, General Musharaf backed down as he neither had the legitimacy nor the vision to consider the Quranic verse that says, “There is no compulsion in religion” (2:256). Over the last ten years while churches burned and Christians, Hindus, Ahmadis and even Shias were persecuted, the government failed to intervene. The lack of a clear government response gave offenders and bigots a ‘free from jail card’ for acts of violence and intimidation against religious minorities.

What we have today is a legitimately elected government which has created an anti-extremist, non-sectarian and anti-terrorist consensus. This is one government that can review the blasphemy laws. It is a moment in history that must be seized. Pakistan’s identity may be ambiguous, but it is precisely this space that can be used as an opportunity to steer our fragile nation-hood in another direction.

Ms. Sherry Rehman in the News of August 23, 2009

Protection of Christians

There is an urgent need to control and educate the brain-washed bigots, who take the law into their own hands, and make us feel, that we are living in a lawless jungle. …. I appeal to the Government of Pakistan to spare no efforts, not only in seeing that justice is done in the wake of these terrible events, but also in continuing to build a society in which the most vulnerable can be assured of the protection of the law and the respect of their fellow-citizens.
Air Marshal (R) Ayaz Ahmad Khan in the Frontier Post of August 30, 2009

Laws counter to religious harmony?

What does the Prime Minister want, after all! The US and Europe have their own anti-Islam agenda. But what is the compulsion of our problem-ridden government that it is acting like puppet in the hands of the irreligious lobby through suggesting revision of the Blasphemy law in order to please a small minority, and the US and Europe. … They (the group in power) are the successors of Mr. Bhutto who secured salvation for himself by declaring the deniers of End of Prophethood as non-Muslims. The government should direct its ministers not make hurting statements that run counter to the sentiments of Muslims. The Christian Community, by opposing the PPC 295C should also not give the impression that it considers blasphemy as its right and is seeking restoration of that right through various excuses.
Editorial in The daily Nawa-i-Waqt of August 8, 2009
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