Call yourself a Muslim—imprisonment for three years.
Profess the Islamic creed—imprisonment for three years.
The list goes on and on.
That’s what life is like for Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan, who are even sent to jail for worshipping in non-Ahmadi mosques or public prayer rooms, using the Islamic greeting in public, and publicly quoting from the Qur’an.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is a sect of Islam that believes in the Messiah, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, to be the promised reformer sent from God for uniting all faiths. They are the fastest growing sect within Islam as their presence is in over 200 countries, and they number in the tens of millions.
Ahmad was sent to re-establish man’s commune with God, and prove to the world that the God that used to speak, still speaks, and the God that used to hear, still hears. He brought Islam back to its pure and pristine teachings, and as a result there is everlasting peace within the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
The cost of accepting him however, has been brutal persecution for the past century. Ahmadi Muslims are a group of Muslims that face state-sponsored persecution in Pakistan for holding certain beliefs. In 1974, constitutional changes were made to stop them from practising their faith. The second amendment states: “A person who does not believe in the absolute and unqualified finality of the Prophethood of Muhammad (Peace be upon him)...or recognizes such a claimant as a Prophet or religious reformer, is not a Muslim...”
Seem like an outdated issue (since the amendment dates back to 1974)?
Think again. In 2008, two prominent Ahmadi Muslims were brutally murdered on September 8 and 9, right after a program was aired on Geo TV in Pakistan, encouraging and provoking the killing of Ahmadi Muslims on September 7. Since then dozens of Ahmadis have been assassinated and targeted.
But in 2010, perhaps the epitome of persecution occurred in what are now deemed the “Lahore attacks”. Two mosques in Lahore, belonging to the Ahmadi Muslims, were simultaneously attacked, and around 86 members were killed, and over 100 injured.
Now fast forward to just a month ago, when Canadian citizen and cardiologist Dr. Mehdi Ali was brutally murdered while he was pursuing humanitarian efforts in Pakistan. He left the comfort of his home in an affluent western country, and went to Pakistan to serve patients for free. One morning after prayers, he went to visit some graves of elders in his family, and on his way out he was brutally murdered—11 bullets pumped into his body, as his wife and child watched helplessly.
The persecution of Ahmadi Muslims has become a very serious issue and is drawing international attention. After the killing of Dr. Mehdi Ali, Canadian MP Judy Sgro said at a press conference, which I attended, that this had been enough. She said we have spoken lots, but now it is time to take serious action and ensure that the Pakistani government repeals these laws.
The only thing that Ahmadi Muslims can do is flee the country, but even that’s tough. It is difficult for Ahmadi Muslims to leave Pakistan for many reasons, the primary one being that you have to sign an agreement declaring: “I consider Mirza Ghulam Ahmad to be an imposter, and also consider his followers non-Muslim.”
But even despite all the persecution, and all the hatred, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is still the fastest growing sect within Islam. They are also the largest group of Muslims united under one leader, the Khalifa of Islam, Mirza Masroor Ahmad.
It seems strange, but when you consider that their universal motto—that they’ve been preaching and practicing all over the world—is “Love for all, hatred for none”, it makes sense.
After all, hate begets hate, but love begets love.
And as the late fourth caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community used to say, “Swords can win territories, but not hearts. Forces can bend heads, but not minds.”