Ramadan should be a month of peace and respect. It was one of nightmare and persecution for the Ahmadis.
by Marco Respinti
The Islamic calendar counts 12 lunar months for 354 or 355 days. It dates from 622 CE, when the prophet Muhammad (c. 570–632 CE) and his followers moved from Mecca to Medina, in present-day Saudi Arabia, founding the first Muslim community in an event known as “Hijrah,” an Arabic word meaning “migration.” That calendar regulates Islamic festivities. Among them there is “Ramadan,” a period corresponding to the ninth month of the calendar.
Ramadan is central to the Islamic faith since it is during this month that Muslims believe God revealed the Quran, their central religious text, to Muhammad. For this reason, honoring it constitutes one of the “Five Pillars of Religion,” or the mandatory commandments of belief and worship that set the religious identity of all Muslims, differences among their sects notwithstanding. Ramadan being the fourth, the others are the declaration of faith in God, prayer, alms giving, and pilgrimage to Mecca once in one’s lifetime.
During Ramadan, fasting is prescribed to all adults (with some exceptions) from dawn to sunset. For Muslims it is not just a prosaic practice of mechanic ritualism, exercising in material abstinence, but, as Islamic theologian Imam Marwan Gill explains, it “focuses on improving one’s spiritual and moral state.” In Islamic belief, God does not of course need just the renunciation of food or drink but asks “a person to keep away from all vices and evil.” In fact, it is “a way to live in peace. Thus, following the month of Ramadan means seeking and finding the peak of your moral and spiritual life.”
Imam Gill is the President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at (AMJ) (“jama’at” meaning “community”) in Argentina. AMJ is a messianic Islamic religious movement, which some other Muslim clerics and theologians consider non-Islamic and heterodox and some Islamic countries persecute for heresy. In fact, Ahmadis strictly abide by the five pillars of the Islamic religion.
Any aggressive violation of their freedom to respect one of the obligatory Islamic commandments is lived by Ahmadis as a severe abuse against their religious identity, is performed by perpetrators in scorn of Ahmadis’ belief, and should be regarded by the international community as an intolerable infringement of the principle of religious liberty and Ahmadis’ human rights. And in case intemperate perpetrators are other Muslims who consider Ahmadis to be non-Muslim, it is also a grave example of the use of violent means, including ferocity, fury, and brutality, to arbitrarily influence and control a religious group.
For this reason, it is seriously insulting that on March 24 and 25, 2023, the local police in Kalra Kalan, a village in the Gujrat District, Punjab, Pakistan, razed the minarets and the dome of the local Ahmadiyya mosque to the ground, exactly during Ramadan. (The English transliteration from the Urdu language of the name of the village is also spelled “Karla Kalan” and should not be confused with Karla Kalan, in Madhya Pradesh, India, as well as Punjab province in Pakistan should not be confused with Punjab state in India).
Pictures of this act of vandalism were provided by the International Human Rights Committee, a non-profit and non-governmental organization focusing on freedom of religion or belief based in London, and clearly show the police acting with disdain and disregard.
Evidently, this act of persecution was performed by the public authorities and the law enforcement officers of an Islamic country during a highly significant Islamic period of the year to underline and show that Ahmadis should not be considered as true Islamic believers, and their places of worship deserve only contempt and destruction rather than respect. It is in fact noteworthy that all took place during a month that Islamic people consider holy and non-Islamic people are asked not to vilify.
However, the very existence of an Ahmadiyya Islamic mosque is considered intolerable in Islamic Pakistan during Ramadan and is punished as an offense against Islam itself. Misdeeds of this sort are promoted and supported by the Pakistani government and perpetrated by Pakistani law enforcement against Pakistani citizens in an intolerable climate of suspicion, barbarity and hatred that is escalating day by day.