Dr. Ifthikar Ahmad Ayaz address at Geneva
Posted on March 30th, 2015

By A. Abdul Aziz, Press Secretary, Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at, Sri Lanka.

Honorable Chairperson,

Excellencies,

Distinguished Guests and Esteemed Panelists:

On behalf of the International Human Rights Committee, I extend my heartfelt appreciation to Dr. Heiner Bielefeldt, the distinguished UN Special Rapporteur of Freedom of Religion and Belief, Mr. Baseer Naveed of the Asian Human Rights Commission and Mr. Sardar Shaukat Kashmiri.  I also wish to thank the Asian Human Rights Commission for sponsoring this event and working tirelessly to bring attention to the suffering of Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan.

Today, we are gathered to mark the release of a very important human rights fact-finding report: On the Rising Persecution of Ahmadi Muslims: A Beleaguered Community.”

I am honored to Chair the International Human Rights Committee, one of the co-authors of this report.  Along with my colleagues at the Asian Human Rights Commission, the report’s other co-author, I am privileged to provide this august body with a broad overview of the persecution of Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan.

As the title of the report makes evident, the focus of the fact-finding body was to objectively evaluate the treatment of Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan.

It is critical to understand that the persecution of Ahmadi Muslims is symptomatic of a much broader trend of rising extremism in Pakistan and ensuing human rights violations against a number of religious minorities.

In the next few minutes, I will describe some of the broader patterns set out in the report. I will explain why the International Community should be particularly concerned about the persecution of Ahmadi Muslims and why it is so relevant to religious freedom more broadly.

First, let me describe who the Ahmadi Muslims are and some of their essential history.

Founded in 1889, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is a peaceful, revivalist movement within Islam.  Ahmadi Muslims believe in the Kalima  (the principal creed of a Muslim) and self-identify and profess to be Muslims.

The fundamental ideological difference between the mainstream Sunni Muslim majority and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community concerns the identity of the mahdi (reformer) and masih (messiah) in Islam – Ahmadi Muslims believe their founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, occupied both roles.

Ahmadi Muslims are among the most persecuted Muslim communities in the world. Many foreign governments and international human rights non-governmental organizations have documented with grave concern the widespread systematic persecution endured by Ahmadi Muslims at the hands of religious extremists.

The State and quasi State institutions in numerous countries around the world, including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Libya and Syria are to varying degrees complicit in such persecution.

While precise counts are difficult to establish, some researchers estimate that several million Ahmadi Muslims currently live in Pakistan.  Ahmadi Muslims self-identify and profess to be Muslims, but their belief is irrelevant under Pakistani law.

That is because Pakistan is the only Islamic state in the world to define who is or is not a Muslim in Article 260 of its Constitution. The Second Amendment to Pakistan’s Constitution, passed exactly 40 years ago in 1974, amends Article 260 to say:

A person who does not believe in the absolute and unqualified finality of the Prophethood of Muhammad, the last of the Prophets or claims to be a Prophet, in any sense of the word or of any description whatsoever, after Muhammad, or recognizes such a claimant as a Prophet or religious reformer, is not a Muslim for the purposes of the Constitution or law.”

This amendment explicitly deprives Ahmadi Muslims of their right to self-identify as Muslims.

As has been well-chronicled by the International Community, since 1984, Pakistan has used its Criminal Code to prohibit and punish blasphemy. Blasphemy in Pakistan broadly refers to any spoken or written representation that directly or indirectly” outrages the religious sentiments of Muslims.  Five of Pakistan’s current penal code provisions punish blasphemy.

Over the course of 30 years, thousands of cases have been registered under these laws. These individuals were Muslims (Sunnis, Shias and Ahmadis), Christians and Hindus.

37% of all cases were registered against Ahmadis.

The alleged crimes are wide ranging: wearing an Islamic slogan on a t-shirt; planning to build a Mosque to distributing Islamic literature in a public square; offering prayers in a Mosque; printing a wedding invitation card with Quranic verses; sending a text message perceived as critical of Islam; committing a spelling error on an exam which might be deemed blasphemous.

Criminal punishments ranged from fines to imprisonment to capital punishment.

Although no one to date in Pakistan has been executed for blasphemy, several dozen individuals have been killed by mobs after having been arrested for blasphemy.

The most notorious of Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy laws is a 50-word Penal Code Ordinance (called Section 295-C):

Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.”

Based on this remarkably broad language, virtually anyone can register a blasphemy case against anyone else in Pakistan, and the accused can face capital punishment.

For Ahmadi Muslims, Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy laws have essentially criminalized their very existence.  Two of the five anti-blasphemy laws explicitly target by name the activities of Ahmadi Muslims.  These two laws are part of what is known as Martial Law Ordinance XX, which amended Pakistan’s Penal Code and Press Publication Ordinance Sections 298-B and 298-C.

For fear of being charged with indirectly or directly posing as a Muslim,” Ahmadi Muslims cannot profess their faith, either verbally or in writing. Pakistani police have destroyed Ahmadi translations of the Qur’an and banned Ahmadi publications, the use of any Islamic terminology on Ahmadi Muslim wedding invitations, the offering of Ahmadi Muslim funeral prayers, and the displaying of the Kalima (the principal creed of a Muslim) on Ahmadi Muslim gravestones.

In addition, Ordinance XX prohibits Ahmadi Muslims from declaring their faith publicly, propagating their faith, building mosques or making the call for Muslim prayers.  In short, virtually any public act of worship, devotion or propagation by an Ahmadi Muslim can be treated as a criminal offense punishable by fine, imprisonment or death.

Not surprisingly, having suffered under the anti-blasphemy laws for years, religious minorities in Pakistan have challenged the constitutionality of the anti-blasphemy laws under the Fundamental Religious Freedom clause 20 of Pakistan’s Constitution.

Unfortunately, however, the anti-blasphemy laws have withstood legal scrutiny.

Both the Federal Shariat Court and the Supreme Court of Pakistan have upheld the laws as Islamic and constitutional.  Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy laws therefore remain a legitimate state-approved instrument for persecution of religious minorities, especially Ahmadi Muslims.

As a consequence of the current legal apparatus criminalizing Ahmadi activities, Ahmadi Muslims have faced grave human rights violations.

Allow me to share some eye-opening statistics:

  • Many hundreds of Ahmadi Muslims have been murdered in Pakistan since it was founded.  The past four years have been especially brutal with targeted killings of women and multiple members of the same families. Eliticide; the targeted killing of Ahmadi Muslim doctors, lawyers, religious leaders, businessmen and teachers is commonplace.

This includes several Foreign Nationals.  In 2010 alone, 99 Ahmadi Muslims were murdered in Pakistan – the deadliest year ever for the Community.  This includes the murder of 86 Ahmadi Muslims (and hundreds more injured) on May 28, 2010 in a single attack in Lahore – one of Pakistan’s worst terrorist attacks ever.

 

  • Since 1974, in contravention of their own beliefs, every single Ahmadi Muslim man, woman and child in Pakistan is declared to be non-Muslim” by constitutional amendment.
  • Since 1985, millions of Ahmadi Muslims cannot, by operation of law, fully and freely vote in national and provincial elections, and as of 2002, Ahmadi Muslims are the only religious group excluded from the nation’s joint electorate.  Ahmadi Muslims can only vote in Pakistan if they (1) declare themselves to be a non-Muslim; (2) declare the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community to be an imposter; and (3) add their names to a separate supplementary list.
  • To date, 3,943 Ahmadi Muslims have faced arrest or prosecution under Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy and anti-Ahmadi laws, and 494 Ahmadi Muslims faced court cases and criminal punishments for blasphemy.  Ahmadi Muslims now account for 37% of all arrests under Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy laws.
  • To date, Pakistani authorities have demolished, set on fire, forcibly occupied, sealed or barred the construction of over 90 Ahmadi Muslim mosques.  They have also denied the cemetery burial of at least 41 Ahmadi Muslims and have exhumed after burial the bodies of at least 28 Ahmadi Muslims.
  • The persecution of religious communities in Pakistan has also led to a global humanitarian displacement crisis with tens of thousands of Ahmadi Muslims, Shia’s, Christians and Hindus fleeing persecution and placing huge pressures on the UNHCR and host countries.

In addition to the fact-finding report’s findings, advocates have noted the following patterns of persecution:

  • Police at the provincial and local levels routinely fail to provide adequate protection and safeguards for vulnerable Ahmadi Muslims, despite receiving adequate notifications and warning of imminent threats.  In some extreme cases, police are complicit in the persecution, torture and ultimate murder of Ahmadi Muslims.
  • Ahmadi Muslim professionals, including physicians, lawyers and teachers, are particularly targeted by extreme terrorist groups.
  • The perpetrators of deadly attacks on Ahmadi Muslims are rarely arrested and charged for their criminal acts, and in some cases, are permitted to act with impunity and even given legal sanctuary and safe havens.
  • Frivolous blasphemy cases are routinely registered against Ahmadi Muslims as a means to settle personal scores and business rivalries.

Finally, let me turn to the broader patterns gleaned from the report and why the International Community should be alarmed by the persecution of Ahmadi Muslims.

 

Last December, we all witnessed in horror as the Pakistani Taliban massacred 132  children at a military school in Peshawar.  Some have referred to the brazen attack as Pakistan’s 9/11.”

The Pakistan Taliban had previously massacred 96 Christians in Peshawar and 86 Ahmadi Muslims in Lahore.  Groups like the Pakistani Taliban commit such crimes against humanity with impunity.

In a recent article for Foreign Affairs, Professor Amjad Mahmood Khan at UCLA Law School in America argues that terrorism and blasphemy are intimately linked, and that the blasphemy laws in Pakistan are the oxygen for groups like the Pakistani Taliban.

The laws enable terrorist to commit acts under legal cover without robust apprehension and prosecution.

Many leading scholars have noted that blasphemy laws engender terrorism.  Therefore, Ahmadi Muslims are the canaries in the coal mine for the larger problem of rising extremism under cover of law.

This trend should concern all of us here today.  The International Community should care about what’s happening to Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan – not simply for the sake of protecting universal human rights, but also for preventing terrorist groups like the Pakistani Taliban from legitimizing their nefarious acts.

The greatest victims of militant manifestations of Islam are minority communities like Ahmadi Muslims.

 

I hope this new report sheds a bright spotlight on the atrocities leveled against Ahmadi Muslims and gives the International Community new ammunition to fight the scourge of extremism that threatens fundamental international freedom for all communities.

Ladies and gentlemen in this very brief statement I have tried to draw your attention to some of the critical issues confronting all those for whom human rights are truly an inalienable part of human existence.

The immunity given by some to those who persecute must not be allowed to remain the benchmark upon which Ahmadis or others are forced to defend their right to exist.

Here and now, we are charged with defending the innocent; standing tall and firm against hatred and oppression for history will judge us both on what we do and what we do not do. That, indeed is a weighty burden.  But it is a burden that history tells us we must not seek to shirk. Rather, our shoulders joined together we can undoubtedly carry the weight of the downtrodden as well as the oppressed,  the deprived and the persecuted.

Let us mount the courage to act with resolution and determination to imancipate humanity from the grips of evil forces and make religious oppression,  hatred and persecution history.  God bless us and enable to do so.

All praise belongs to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds

Dr. Ifthikar Ahmad Ayaz

  • OBE (Officer of the Excellent Order of the British Empire)
  • Alfred Einstein Nobel Medal for Peace
  • Man of the Year in Human Rights 2010
  • International Peace Prize
  • University of Cambridge Ambassador of Knowledge
  • Honoured as a Cambridge Blue
  • Included amongst the Great Minds of the 21st Century and 500 Greatest Geniuses of the 21st Century.
  • Dr Ayaz is the Consul General for the Pacific islands of Tuvalu in the U.K. He is Senator of the World Nations Congress.
  • Vice Chancellor World Academy of Letters
  • Deputy Governor of the American Biographical Institute
  • Deputy Chair of the Pacific Peace Forum and a member of several organisations related to Human Rights, Conflict Resolution and Peace.
  • Dr Ayaz is an eminent member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at in Islam.
  • He visited Sri Lanka on various occasion since 2009.

(Given below are the remarks by Dr. Iftikhar Ahmad Ayaz, OBE Chairman, International Human Rights Committee, United Kingdom on Freedom of Belief in Pakistan”  – Side Event – Geneva  12 March 2015)

 

One Response to “Dr. Ifthikar Ahmad Ayaz address at Geneva”

  1. Nimal Says:

    See how a religion destroys a country and one can do without it, where people are stupidly divided?

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