Members of a Muslim sect persecuted in Pakistan have called for action to prevent groups from peddling hate against them in the UK.
The Ahmadiyya community in the UK says it is being targeted through various media and in mosques and conferences by behaviour that it says amounts to religious hatred but is not caught by the definition of that offence under UK law.
The community moved its headquarters to the UK in the 1980s after the Pakistani government passed a law forbidding Ahmadis from calling themselves Muslims and curbing their religious practices.
They were also hounded in Pakistan by Islamic groups that have set up UK satellite offices and are doing the same here, according to Naseer Din, president of the London Ahmadiyya community. “They are advocating sectarianism in Pakistan and creating hatred,” he said. “These [same] groups are coming here and creating the same hatred … There is indoctrination going on in the Muslim community.”
One anti-Ahmadi group is Khatme Nubuwwat, whose UK academy is in Forest Gate, east London. Its website variously describes Ahmadis as “traitors”, “double faced”, “dangerous” and engaged in a “conspiracy against Islam“.
The Liberal Democrat peer Lord Hussain appeared at a Khatme Nubuwwat conference in Luton in July, an event Din said Hussain should not have been supporting.
A leaflet distributed in Wandsworth, south-west London, this year, attributed to a group called Aalmi Majlis Tahaffuze Khatme Nubuwwat, states: “Qadianis [a pejorative term for Ahmadis] are apostate (‘Murtad’) … He should be given the punishment of a Murtad which is capital punishment.” It later makes clear: “Individuals cannot and should not administer this punishment.”
Khatme Nubuwwat means “finality of prophethood”, a reference to the fact that, unlike other Muslims, Ahmadis do not believe Muhammad was the last of the prophets.
This view has also prompted opprobrium on Asian community TV channels operating out of the UK. In May this year the media watchdog, Ofcom, found the Manchester-based Asian television network DM Digital to be in breach of rule 4.2 of its broadcasting code, forbidding abusive treatment of religious views, after an Islamic scholar on one of its programmes stated that the late founder of the Ahmadiyya community was “an apostate and one who deserves to be killed”. Takbeer TV has also been censured by Ofcom.
Din said: “We don’t want to stem …true discussion and scholarly debate but it mustn’t be played out in a climate of hate … Where there’s a history of a certain type of person or movement, like Khatme Nubuwwat preaching at conferences, in mosques … someone needs to look at it. The government needs to act before it gets out of hand.”
Last month, three Ahmadis were reportedly shot dead in 10 days in Karachi in suspected hate crimes. The most notorious attack against Ahmadis came in 2010 when co-ordinated assaults on two Lahore mosques killed scores of people. Din warned: “It’s only a matter of time until an atrocity is carried out against someone in our community here.”
Akber Choudhry, a former Ahmadi from the Khatme Nubuwwat academy, said the group merely sought to help people confused about Islam by the Ahmadiyya community’s teachings. “The hype [about persecution] is worse than the fact. No one in the UK wants to hurt, hate or harm the Ahmadiyya community.” “Some of our [the UK’s] imams are firebrands, but that doesn’t have anything to do with the academy.”
Choudhry promised to remove any offensive content on the academy’s website drawn to his attention, but said some offending words were down to “cultural differences”. “If there’s something that is considered inflammatory, that should not be there,” he said. “We call [the Ahmadiyya] a cult, which may be inflammatory.”
Hussain and Aalmi Majlis Tahaffuze Khatme Nubuwwat did not respond to requests for comment.