An Executive Director for America’s ‘leading Muslim advocacy group’ has called on Pakistan to abolish discriminatory laws against the Ahmadiyya Muslims.
In a rare show of intra-faith solidarity, Ahmed Rehab, Executive Director of the Chicago chapter of CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations), condemned the persecution of Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan and called on the State to repeal its laws against the sect.
Ahmadis have long been persecuted across much of the ‘Muslim world’ at the hands of Sunni clergy due to their belief in an Islamic Messiah.
In 1974, Pakistan introduced a constitutional amendment which forcibly declared the Ahmadis a ‘non-Muslim’ minority, taking away their right to self-identify.
Then in 1984, General Zia ul Haq introduced laws that made it a criminal act for any Ahmadi to identify or ‘pose’ as a Muslim. Under these laws, thousands of Ahmadi Muslims have been rounded up from across the country and jailed for ‘crimes’ such as saying the Islamic greeting of ‘AssalamoAlikum’, reciting the Islamic call to prayer, reading the Quran and identifying as Muslim.
Responding to a question, Rehab said:
I condemn Pakistan’s anti-Ahmadi laws and call for their repeal. I stand against the persecution of Ahmadi Muslims wherever it occurs across the Muslim world. No one should be punished for their beliefs, no matter what they are.
Rehab also posted comments on facebook clarifying CAIR’s stance on Ahmadis and said:
No one has right to call anyone Non-Muslims if they identify themselves as Muslim.
We are not in the business of validating or invalidating a client’s claim to faith, and that if a client self-identifies as “Muslim,” that is the only criteria, we do not second-guess them be they Sunni, Shia, Ahmadi, Nation or whatever.
If someone tells me they identify as a Muslim, I accept that. If they come to my CAIR office with a valid case, I sign them up like anyone else.
Rehab’s statement comes at a time when there is continued pressure on groups like CAIR to confront intolerance within their own ranks. CAIR describes itself as a ‘leading advocacy group’ and claims to work for all American Muslims. However, many American Muslim Imams have faced criticism for not being inclusive of Islamic sects like the Ahmadiyya.
In the recent past, several American Sunni Muslim activists and leaders like Dean Obaeidallah, Professor Khaled Bedouin and Imam Abdullah Antepli have raised the issue of #AhmadiApartheid and condemned the treatment vetted out to Ahmadi Muslims in the Muslim world.
Prominent author and journalist Mehdi Hasan also tweeted in support of the statement made by CAIR executive:
@KashifMD those laws are awful and need condemnation.
— Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) November 21, 2016