As a Sunni Muslim who founded Tell MAMA, I have seen first hand how anti-Ahmadi bigotry has grown over the last 5 years. In fact, during my tenure as the Founder Director, I saw an increase in anti-Ahmadi hate that included attacks on mosques, increased anti-Ahmadi rhetoric and open praise for Tanvir Ahmed (the killer of Ahmadi shopkeeper, Asad Shah) from some sections of Muslim communities in the UK. Whilst those who espoused such views may not be large in number, they are nonetheless influential and vocal, so much so, that they form an opinion within larger sections of Muslim communities. Over the last 5 years, I have seen a hardening attitude to British Muslims of Ahmadi heritage by co-religionists, so much so, that anti-Ahmadi hate is far more vocalised than it has ever been and far more aggressive in its nature.
Take for example, the fact that Pakistan based Islamist extremist group Tehreek-e-Labaik’s messages of anti-Ahmadi hate have been circulated by some Imams in the UK, when those messages literally called for Pakistan to be held hostage so that anti-Ahmadi discrimination could remain in place within the statutory legal framework of the country. These Imams in the UK openly circulated the messages on their Facebook pages, thereby re-enforcing Islamist extremist hatred towards this persecuted Muslim minority group. Even a handful of imams involved in interfaith work circulated such messages, thereby giving the impression that they were fine working with Jews and Christians, but lo and behold, they were willing to throw their co-religionists under the bus just because their belief in Islam was based on interpreting it in a slightly different way. One could ask, in what way were these small but influential imams ‘peaceful’ or ‘interfaith’ based activists?
Today, when I enter Ahmadi mosques to meet with members of this well integrated but beleaguered community, it is like entering a synagogue. Such is the level of fear within the Ahmadi community, that you have to pass through metal detectors and have your bags checked just to pray or to enter for meetings. When I have asked community members who they fear, it was not so much fear of a far-right attack, as of being attacked by Islamist extremists, who regularly threaten their Caliph, Mirza Masroor Ahmad. For Ahmadi Muslims, the fear is therefore from their co-religionists, inculcated with beliefs that Ahmadis are ‘heretics’ and that they are a threat to Islam.
In places like Indonesia, Pakistan, Afghanistan and West Africa, Ahmadis have been targeted by Islamic State affiliated groups and murdered just because of their beliefs. More recently, to highlight this structural level of intolerance and bigotry, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, bowed to pressure from Islamist extremists and removed Atif Mian a Princetown University Professor, who was about to be part of an advisory panel on economics to the Premier. Mian lasted days with calls for his removal coming from leading campaigners of Pakistani heritage here in the UK. Yet, it is these same campaigners who have made a name for themselves shouting Islamophobia, who actively conduct a campaign of Islamophobia against Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan, whilst residing within the West.
Such is the neurosis within parts of Muslim communities to Ahmadi Muslims that leading British Muslim politicians and campaigners simply fail to mention or even acknowledge this community. It is as though any acknowledgement of attacks against Ahmadis will lose them support, though the question is, do you really want support from people who see others as ‘untermenschen’ or do you want them to change their opinion? The former is easy to do and lets anti-Ahmadi bigotry fester, as it has done for decades; the latter is the moral and right thing to do and it needs leading voices within British Muslim communities to speak out.
As long as anti-Ahmadi hate remains unchecked, the longer the tentacles of extremism will be. It really is as simple as that.
Fiyaz Mughal OBE FCMI,
Founder and Director – Faith Matters