Anti-Ahmadi laws: police act as place of worship ‘looks like a mosque’

Pakistani police have scratched out Qur’anic verses written on the walls of an Ahmadi place of worship and ordered them to cover up short minarets at the entrance, as they made the place look like a mosque.

After receiving a complaint about the place of worship in Sultanpura, Kachhupura (Lahore), a large contingent of Misri Shah police visited it on May 2 and told the Ahmadis they had a day to make the place look less like a mosque, failing which a case would be registered against them under the ‘Anti-lslamic Activities of the Qadiani Group, the Lahori Group and the Ahmadis (Prohibition and Punishment) Ordinance’ of 1984.

The policemen etched out the verses at the main gate and entrance to the main hall. They were also about to tear down the minarets, which are only about five feet high, at the main gate, but local Ahmadis convinced them to give them a day to cover them, as demolishing them would have damaged the entire structure.

An Ahmadi man familiar with the matter said that for several days, ‘irrelevant people’ had been instigating non-Ahmadis in the area to complain about the place of worship. He said that they had applied to the local police for the registration of a First Information Report (FIR), and that that the Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) concerned had met both sides and they had reached a compromise whereby no case would be registered, provided the verses and minarets were removed. The man also said there were around 35 Ahmadi families in the area and they had offered no resistance to the police action.

The house of worship has been open since 1960 in the same form.

When the police arrived at the place, they cordoned it off and removed the verses by scratching them off the walls. Members of the Ahmadi community told the police that they would cover up the minarets using tiles to hide their shape, then later said they would try to conceal them with iron sheeting.

Misri Shah Station Houser Officer (SHO) Mudassarullah Khan said that the matter had been resolved amicably. He said no FIR had been registered and there had been no protest by anyone. According to him, the verses had been removed with the consent of both parties.

The SHO identified the original complainants as Rana Muhammad Tufail and Advocate M Badar Alim Sheikh. He said that they had sought a case under Sections 295-B and 298-C of the Pakistan Penal Code.

The complainants, who are residents of Ravi Road, about 15 kilometres from the place of worship, said that the building had the Kalma Tayyeba (‘Word of Purity’), the name of Allah and prayer verses written at the entrance, as well as minarets.

‘They are non-Muslims and should be tried under the law for depicting themselves as Muslims,’ read the complaint.

According to Section 295-B, ‘whoever wilfully defiles, damages or desecrates a copy of the Holy Qur’an or of an extract there from or uses it in any derogatory manner or for any unlawful purpose shall be punishable with imprisonment for life’.

Section 298-C declares that ‘any person of the Qadiani Group or the Lahori Group (who call themselves “Ahmadis” or by any other name), who, directly or indirectly, poses as a Muslim, or calls or refers to his faith as Islam, or preaches or propagates his faith, or invites others to accept his faith, by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representations, or in any manner whatsoever outrages the religious feelings of Muslims, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to a fine.’

The Ahmadiyya stream of Islam emerged from the faith’s Sunni tradition and its adherents believe in all the five pillars and articles of faith required of Muslims.The Ahmadis actively translate the Qur’an and are proselytizers for the faith; indeed, converts to Islam in many parts of the world first came to the religion through the Ahmadis. However, in many Islamic countries, they have been defined as heretics and non-Muslim and subjected to persecution and, in many cases, systematic oppression.

The persecution of Ahmadis in Pakistan is especially severe, and they have been subject to various forms of persecution and discrimination since the movement’s inception in 1889. The country is home to some four million Ahmadis, and it is the only state to have officially declared them to be non-Muslims. They are prohibited by law from self-identifying as Muslims, and their freedom of religion has been curtailed by a series of ordinances, acts and constitutional amendments. Madrassas of all sects of Islam in Pakistan prescribe reading materials for their students specifically targeted at refuting Ahmadiyya beliefs.

Mohammad Abdus Salam, the first Pakistani and Muslim recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics, who was a member of the Ahmadiyya sect, was discriminated against despite his immense services to Pakistan. The word ‘Muslim’ was erased from his gravestone on the orders of a local magistrate.

Rana Tanveer