12/01/2015 12:14 EST | Updated 12/01/2016 05:12 EST

Muslims Must Stand Against The Persecution Of Ahmadis

Recently, a bloodthirsty mob torched an Ahmadi owned factory in the Pakistani city of Jhelum. In contrast to Canada, where communities galvanize against hate, there were no rallies in defence of Ahmadi neighbours, and social media was ablaze with their "heresies" instead of condemnation of persecution.

Daniel Berehulak via Getty Images
CHENAB NAGAR, PAKISTAN - JULY 14: Members of the persecuted Ahmadiyya community pray in a mosque on July 14, 2010 in Chenab Nagar, Pakistan. The Pakistani Ahmadis, define themselves as Muslim, but could face years in prison if they openly declare or practice their faith, have suffered persecution and discrimination in this Islamic country for decades. In May 2010, 93 people were killed and over 100 injured in attacks on two Ahmadiyya mosques in Lahore. The community fears further attacks in the small city of Chenab Nagar, which Ahmadis still call by its former name of Rabwah, where they have their Pakistani headquarters. (Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

Recently, a bloodthirsty mob torched an Ahmadi owned factory in the Pakistani city of Jhelum. In contrast to Canada, where communities galvanize against hate, there were no rallies in defence of Ahmadi neighbours, and social media was ablaze with their "heresies" instead of condemnation of persecution.

However, outside Pakistan, concerned Muslim leaders from diverse groups, academics and activists, gay and straight, have rallied together to support the call to unconditionally invite Ahmadis to Muslim spaces, listen to their concerns and stand by them.

Pakistan has more manpower, helicopters, aircraft and tank strength than Canada. Pakistan even has nukes. Yet, Canada is strong where Pakistan is weak, for Canadian strength lies in the communities that embrace diversity and galvanize against hate.

Canadians rose up for a woman who wasn't even a citizen for a niqab on the basis of freedom of choice, even though the niqab is discouraged in Muslim rituals like the daily prayer and Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca). When the mosque in Cold Lake was targeted last year with xenophobic graffiti, community members came out in droves to stand by their Muslim neighbours. Recently, the mosque in Peterborough suffered an arson attack, but the overwhelming support from the community including the Beth Israel Synagogue sent out a clear message that there is no room for hate in Canada.

Unfortunately, the same is not true for Pakistan, where minorities suffer immense persecution. In contrast to the Canadian Charter of Rights that protects freedom of religious expression, discrimination against Ahmadis has been constitutionally enshrined in Pakistan since the 1970s. They face legal consequences for something as trivial as the Muslim greeting of peace or reciting the Qur'an.

Ahmadis identify themselves as Muslims. They allude to many Hadith that caution Muslims against takfir (excommunication) of those who recite the Muslim testimony and who pray facing Mecca. They also allude to verse 4:94, which reads, "and do not say to one who gives you [a greeting of] peace 'You are not a believer.'"

It is true there are doctrinal differences between Ahmadis and other Muslims. But there exist so many differences between various Muslim communities, including the Shiis, Ismailis, Bohras, Sufis, Salafis and Sunnis. Each group attributes varying degrees of divinity and infallibility to their respective leaders and scholars.

In 1954, the Munir report was written in Pakistan in the aftermath of the Punjab riots that were instigated by the clergy against the Ahmadis. The report clearly indicated the lack of consensus on the definition of a Muslim. Indeed, if Ahmadis are to be treated as non-Muslims, then what does one make of the jurisprudential wisdom that even if a statement consists of 99 per cent disbelief and only one per cent belief, it would still not amount to kufr (disbelief)?

Muslims overwhelmingly condemn ISIS. However, according to Muslim human rights activist, Shafiqah Othman Hamza, it is not enough to quote Qur'anic verses on peace, but ignore the systemic persecution and discrimination of minorities. Doctor and activist Kashif Chaudhry provided a harrowing reminder to Pakistani Muslims:

We cry out when Donald Trump suggests Muslims carry special identification badges, yet overlook the fact that for four decades, our own Ahmadi citizens have been forced to carry such discriminatory IDs...

We scream out in anguish when Trump suggests some mosques be closed. Yet, we ignore the fact that we are responsible for closing down, sealing, torching, or occupying over 100 Ahmadi places of worship in the last few decades.

We urge bigoted politicians in the West to be more accepting of Syrian refugees. But we forget the fact that every year, numerous Ahmadis leave Pakistan to seek refuge...

Even as almost 100 Ahmadis were mercilessly gunned down in Lahore in 2010, the media in Pakistan blacked out the Ahmadis... is there any television channel that has taken the Ahmadi point of view on air?

In some sense what Ahmadis go through is similar to the experiences of LGBT Muslims. Members of both communities conceal their identities to escape discrimination. Both are told that they are responsible for their own persecution, which would end if they only converted or changed their "lifestyles." Moreover, when Ahmadis are lynched in Pakistan or when ISIS mercilessly executes gay men, there are rarely any condemnations by Muslim leaders.

Muslim LGBT activists and leaders understand that the immense suffering of minority communities within Islam necessitates an intersection-based activism. As such, despite facing deep-rooted heterosexism, LGBT Muslim groups offer their unconditional support to Ahmadis.

The undersigned Muslim leaders and organizations, which include many who affirm religiously plural, gender equal and LGBT affirming safe spaces, call upon a coalition of Muslim groups to not only collectively condemn the Jhelum tragedy, but also make a concerted action to end the decades-long persecution of Ahmadis.

Dr. Mohammad Fadel, Associate Professor & Canada Research Chair for the Law and Economics of Islamic Law, Toronto

Dr. David Liepert, Author: Muslim, Christian AND Jew: Finding A Path To Peace Our Faiths Can Share, Calgary

Calgary Islamic Chamber Institute

Imam Daayiee Abdullah, Founder and Executive director, MECCA Institute

Shahla Khan Salter, Director, Universalist Muslims

Junaid Jahangir, Canada West Coordinator, Universalist Muslims

Farhat Rehman, Canadian Council of Muslim Women, Ottawa Chapter

Carmen Taha Jarrah, Author: Smuggled Stories from the Holy Land, Edmonton

Troy Jackson, President, el-Tawhid Juma Circle, Toronto

El Farouk Khaki, Imam, el-Tawhid Juma Circle, Toronto

Dr. Qaseem Khan, Edmonton

Rochelle Ikram and Omar Ikram, Edmonton

Owais Siddiqui, Edmonton

Evelyn Hamdon, Edmonton

Tanda Chmilovska, Calgary

Ayman Fadel, Augusta, Georgia

Rohail Waseem, writer, activist

Josha Hansen, U.K.

Jamila Tharp, Spiritual Guide, writer and activist, Community Vision Healing

Ameena Meer, New York

Kathryn Logan, member, Muslims for Progressive Values, New York

Ani Zonneveld, Founder and President, Muslims for Progressive Values

Komuniti Muslim Universal (MPV-Malaysia)

Dr. Adis Duderija, Senior Lecturer, Gender Studies, Malaysia

Frank Parmir, Director, Muslims for Progressive Values, Columbus, Ohio

Kelly Wentworth, President, Muslims for Progressive Values, Atlanta

Tynan Power, Founder, Pioneer Valley Progressive Muslims, Massachusetts


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