In a new factsheet, the U.S. commission documents how the Ahmadiyya Community is also persecuted in Algeria and Malaysia.
by Massimo Introvigne
On October 18, USCIRF, the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom, a bipartisan federal commission whose members are appointed by the President and designated by the congressional leaders of both parties, released a factsheet on the persecution of the members of the Ahmadiyya community. Bitter Winter has recently published a series of articles on the history of their persecution in Pakistan.
USCIRF reiterates that what happened and is happening in Pakistan is a serious breach of human rights and religious liberty, one Pakistani authorities do not even try to hide. “During debates surrounding the question of Ahmadi inclusion in the NMC [National Minorities Commission], the report says, Pakistan’s Minister for Religious and Inter-faith Harmony Affairs, Noor-ul-Haq Qadri, publicly stated, ‘Whoever shows sympathy or compassion towards [Ahmadis] is neither loyal to Islam nor the state of Pakistan.’
Additionally Pakistan’s State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Ali Muhammad Khan, referred to Ahmadis as ‘agents of chaos.’ The government did not address statements made by Qadri and Khan or other officials who incited hatred and intolerance towards Ahmadis.”
The conclusion cannot be escaped that, “Pakistani authorities have failed to protect Ahmadiyya Muslims and other religious minorities and are often complicit in the destruction of Ahmadiyya houses of worship and tombstones that carry the Muslim creed.”
While the persecution of Ahmadis in Pakistan is well-known, the report also denounces the fact that it has been exported from Pakistan to other countries, offering the examples of Algeria and Malaysia.
In Algeria, the document says, a crackdown on the Ahmadis started in 2016. “Government authorities refused to register the Ahmadiyya Muslim community as an association, and the National Gendarmerie raided and destroyed a newly built mosque in Larbaa intended for the community’s use on the day of its inauguration. The national president of the Ahmadiyya community in Algeria, Mohammad Fali, faced prosecution in six separate cases between 2016 and 2017, spending three months in prison.”
Pakistani-style propaganda accompanied the crackdown. “In February 2017, the Minister of Religious Affairs declared Ahmadiyya Muslims as ‘non-Muslim,’ and in April 2017, the chief of cabinet asked all Algerians to ‘preserve the country from … Ahmadi sects.’” Since 2016, 300 Ahmadis have been prosecuted for blasphemy and other similar charges, i.e., for the fact of being Ahmadis.
The USCIRF reports that “in the latter half of 2020, the Algerian government appeared to escalate its campaign against Ahmadiyya communities in the country. In October 2020, a court in Constantine handed down two-year prison sentences to Ahmadiyya Muslims found guilty of assembling without authorization after the community sought to worship together. In December, a court in Khenchela handed down a six-month prison sentence and 20,000-dinar (roughly $150 USD) fine for the leader of a group of Ahmadis and a fine alongside suspended sentences for others on charges that included offending the Prophet Mohammad and degrading the principles of Islam. The prosecutor has appealed the decision to pursue longer prison sentences for the accused.”
Also in December, “in Tizi Ouzou, a court sentenced four Ahmadiyya Muslims to multiyear prison terms and enforced fines against them. The judge in these cases refused to divulge the accuser and questioned the defendants about their Muslim faith. Several Ahmadis who were charged publicly recanted their faith in court, reportedly under duress.”
In Malaysia, the USCIRF denounces, the authorities “have systematically discriminated against Ahmadiyya Muslims since 1975, when the Conference of Rulers upheld a report from the Selangor Fatwa Council, which yielded a fatwa stating that Ahmadis are not Muslim.” Some local authorities even display “signs outside of Ahmadiyya community centers with derogatory language text reiterating that Ahmadis are not officially considered Muslim.”
Since 2000, the report continues, “lawmakers amended the fatwa to deny Ahmadis the right of succession or inheritance under Islamic Law and deny Ahmadiyya Malays the special economic privileges granted to members of the Malay ethnic group by the constitution.”
A main case is still not resolved. “In 2014, the State Islamic Religious Department of Selangor (JAIS) raided an Ahmadiyya community faith center during prayer services, arresting 39 Ahmadis for carrying out faith practices in an unsanctioned mosque. This arrest launched legal proceedings that are ongoing and yet to be determined at the High Court, the highest civil court in Malaysia. On January 11, 2021, the court set March 19 as the date to determine this case, but that deadline passed without a ruling. This court case will determine whether Ahmadiyya Muslims can call themselves Muslim, as the community considers themselves to be.”
A decision declaring them non-Muslims “would also bar them from using certain Arabic words that the state has restricted for use by members of the Muslim and Christian faiths. If Ahmadis are declared not legally Muslim, this will also complicate the status of those Ahmadis who are ethnically Malay, since Article 160 of the Malaysian constitution lists being Muslim as a criterion to identify as Malay.”
While Saudi Arabia and other countries also produce some anti-Ahmadi propaganda, it is clear that the influence of Pakistan is crucial in globalizing a persecution that the democratic world can no longer tolerate.