A three-night attack by Muslim fanatics happened in daylight and in front of the police. It was not the first time, and may not be the last.
by Marco Respinti
On March 3, 2023, Jahid Hasan, a young man, reportedly around 25 years of age, was
clobbered to death in Northern Bangladesh. Hasan was an Ahmadi Muslim, and the day of his murder marked the inauguration of the 98th annual convention of Bangladeshi Ahmadi Muslims in the village of Ahmednagar, Panchagarh district, Rangpur division, Bangladesh (not to be confused with Ahmednagar, Ahmednagar district, state of Maharashtra, Western India).
The young Ahmadi was trying to protect the convention grounds from the aggression of a large group of thugs, and his assassination took place amid a three-night attack. As a result of these incidents, four other Ahmadis were hospitalized in serious conditions, and more than 100 suffered lesser injuries. The Ahmadiyya Mosque of Darul Wahid Mohalla neighborhood and the Ahmadiyya Medical Clinic & Lab were set ablaze. 189 houses and 50 shops belonging to Ahmadi Muslims were looted or set on fire. Alarmingly, all took place in full daylight and under the eyes of the police.
The detailed news of this extended violence and killing was broadcasted by the International Human Rights Committee (IHRC), a non-profit and non-governmental organization focusing on freedom of religion or belief based in London. “Bitter Winter” asked the IHRC to supply further elements to identify the aggressors. The IHRC confirmed (first directly to “Bitter Winter,” then in a second press release) that the violent mob, which stormed the Ahmadi convention, was incited by the preaching of extremist Sunni Muslim clerics, who consider the Ahmadis as heretics.
From sources it describes as reliable, the IHRC also received rumors of probable new imminent attacks against the Ahmadiyya Centers of Nasirabad, Kafuria, Islam Ganj and Borchor in Bangladesh. They may be expected on Friday 10, 2023. One shall presume that this same news is also known to the local police and political authorities, and they will take all possible measures to prevent another tragedy.
This is in fact an unacceptable episode of persecution against believers, motivated by intolerance and hatred, which no religious doctrine can allow and no theological dispute should justify.
As it is known, some schools of Islamic thought consider the Ahmadis as non-Muslim heretics. Pakistan officially adopts this view. The situation of the Ahmadis there became unbearable in the first half of the 1980s, compelling many to leave or suffer harsh discrimination and open persecution. The leader of the community, His Holiness Sahibzada Mirza Ahmad Masroor Sahib, the 5th caliph, lives today in London, UK.
That of Pakistan is a case of an unbearable intromission of a state into religious affairs, which creates discrimination and persecution against the Ahmadis. And while the government of Pakistan discriminates the Ahmadiyya Muslim community in several forms, gangs of violent people feel somewhat encouraged to openly attack them in the streets, beat them, and even kill them, often in front of police officers who do not intervene.
In this respect, Bangladesh is not comparable to Pakistan. There is no state law discriminating Ahmadi Muslims or declaring them non-Muslims. But there are fanatics who would like to replicate the situation of Pakistan, whose Islamic fundamentalists are a source of inspiration for their Bangladeshi counterparts.
Pakistan (with a majority of Sunni Muslims) was born out of the 1947 Partition of India (which kept a majority of Hindus) along a religious line. The Indian region of Bengal, in the east, suffered the same fate. Along a similar religious line, the western part of Bengal, where Hindus were (and are) the majority, remained to India, while the eastern part, where Sunni Muslims were (and are) the majority, became part of Pakistan. Called first East Bengal and soon after East Pakistan (with no geographical continuity with the Western part of Pakistan), the province was little by little drawn into political, linguistic, ethnic, and religious controversies that in 1971 burst out into a bloody civil war, which soon escalated into a genocide that ended, after an Indian intervention, with the independence of Bangladesh.
The story of the genocide was told in a series of articles of Bitter Winter. But it is important to note that religious fanaticism and violence in Bangladesh unfortunately did not end with the war.