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Sunday, March 05, 2023

Ahmadiyya Muslims, Religious Freedom and Bangladesh Constitution


When the Muslims in Bangladesh attack the Adivasis or ethnic communities, we remain silent. When the Muslims attack the Hindus, Christians and Buddhists, we remain silent. When they attack the Ahmadiyya Muslims, we again remain silent.

If you ask any persons from among the majoritarian Sunni Muslims, they spontaneously argue that Ahmadiyyas are not Muslims. If you ask again whether the person is a good or bad Muslim? There is silence for a few seconds and after a heave of sigh, that person would say, how do I know, only Allah determines.

The Holy Quran says a day will come when the whole universe will be destroyed and time will end. The dead will be resurrected for judgment by the All Mighty. This day is the Day of Judgment where people will be rewarded by the Supreme Creator according to their beliefs and deeds.

More than a year ago, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at a press conference in defence of religious freedom and tolerance said if Muslims believe in the Last Day of Judgment then a Muslim shouldn’t point their finger towards someone who is a good Muslim or a bad Muslim.

The video clip of the statement was broadcast from all TV channels in Bangladesh and is available on YouTube, where she rebukes the Islamist and radicalised Muslims, who have sworn to eliminate a certain community or religious practitioners (not naming any Muslim sect), should be banished from Islam.

The radicalised Muslims and Islamists have attacked, vandalised and desecrated hundreds of places of worship, shops and homes of Hindus, Christians, Buddhists and of course the Adivasis soon after the birth of Bangladesh.

Adivasi leaders often lament the grabbing of lands and forcible occupation of their properties by influential local persons who are affiliated with the ruling parties – whichever party remains in power.

None of the perpetrators listened to the music of justice. They enjoyed impunity and they remain free from justice, which is frustrating for human rights organisations.

Ahmadiyya, a Muslim sect is members of a minority community and are spread all over Bangladesh since the beginning of the twentieth century. 

The Ahmadiyya are conservative Sunni Muslims and are tolerant of other faiths and practitioners. They regularly hold inter-faith dialogues in their mosques, which prompted the radicalised Muslims to reject that their place of worship is a mosque.

The Islamist and conservative Sunni Muslims demand that the government should banish Ahmadiyya from Islam. The call was purportedly raised by Jamaat-e-Islami founder Abul Ala Maududi in 1953, leading to the bloody atrocities which killed more than 2,000 Ahmadis in Lahore, Pakistan.

Jamaat-e-Islami during Khaleda Zia’s regime in the mid-90s proposed a blasphemy law to punish the Ahmadiyya and secularists. Incidentally, the proposed bill was a photocopy of the blasphemy law of Pakistan.

The [Ahmadiyya] fate was further sealed by Pakistan’s military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq, when he issued the anti-Ahmadiyya law on 26 April 1984, which prohibited Ahmadis from preaching or professing their beliefs.

Not to anybody's surprise, Pakistan’s abandoned orphans [the Mullahs] born in Bangladesh are demanding similar repressive laws to ban and punish the ‘heretic’ Ahmadiyyas.

The radicalised Islamic groups including the Islami Andolon Bangladesh, Majlis-e-Tahaffuz-e-Khatme Nabuwwat, and of course Hefazat-e-Islam believe the Ahmadiyya are heretic and demands that the sect should be banned and declared ‘non-Muslim’ like Pakistan in September 1974.

A few years ago, the Islamist protesters in Panchagarh invited Hefazat-e-Islam leader Allama Shah Ahmad Shafi on a chartered helicopter from his base in Hathazari, Chattagram and warned the government, the civil and police administrations not to cooperate with the Ahmadiyya Muslim in holing the ‘Salana Jalsha’ (annual congregation) at their Ahmadnagar complex.

During the last three decades, the Islamists attacked and vandalised the members of Ahmadiyya properties and mosques in Brahmanbaria, Dhaka, Gazipur, Jashore, Khulna, Kushtia, Natore, Rajshahi, Satkhira, Sherpur and elsewhere, according to news published in media.

Ahmadiyya management had to postpone and cancel their annual congregation several times due to opposition of the minority Islamists in the last 32 years, minus the mainstream majoritarian Muslims who believe in Sufism and are tolerant.

The recurrence of the cancellation of Jalsha, no doubt were instigated by the Islamist groups and not surprising the district and police administration bowed down to the vile threats of the Islamist.

The recent flare-up of the racial riot in Panchagarh after Friday's Jumma prayer (3 March) became violent after police attempted to disperse the militant protesters, which turned berserk.

Local journalists said after eight hours the paramilitary Borders Guards Bangladesh (BGB) and elite police force RAB were deployed. The delay caused to deaths of 2 persons including an Ahmadi.

More than 100 homes of the Ahmadiyya community were torched, vandalised and looted, claimed Ahmed Tabshir Chowdhury, an Ahmadiyya leader who was at the complex during the riot.

Hefazat-e-Islam promptly said the non-Muslim [meaning Ahmadiyya] should not have been given permission to hold the Jalsha and instead blamed the Qadiyani [slang for Ahmadiyya] for the unrest.

The following day agitation was further fuelled by rumours by a group of young people, local journalists claim that they are from a madrassa.

The Ahmadiyya families in Panchagarh have fled their homes for safety and are living in fear.

According to a thought-provoking article published in the Dhaka Tribune writes, the Constitution of Bangladesh, which recognises Islam as the state religion, also ensures the rights of all other religions, irrespective of race, caste, sex or place of birth.

According to Article 28 (1) of the Constitution, the State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.

Moreover, Article 41 states that (a) every citizen has the right to profess, practise or propagate any religion; (b) every religious community or denomination has the right to establish, maintain and manage its religious institutions.

As per Article 44 (1), a citizen can move to the High Court if his/her religious freedom is violated.

Despite bifurcating after a brutal war of independence in 1971 to establish a nation based on democracy, secularism, pluralism, equality and social justice, the ghost of the Islamic state of Pakistan seems to have rested on the shoulders of Bangladesh Mullahs.

Sunni Muslims commonly know that Ahmadiyya does not believe in the last Prophet of Islam. Secondly, the Quran of Ahmadiyya has been distorted. Thirdly, their prayers are not following Muslim practitioners. Finally, the interpretation of Islam follows the propaganda of the Jews and Christians.

The Ahmadiyyas are funded by Zionists and instigated against the Muslims and their Headquarters is located in Israel. The list of conspiracy theories lengthens.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim’s headquarters in London has the largest collection of translated copies of the Quran in more than 70 languages, also in Hebrew and Chinese [both Mandarin and Cantonese].

Despite the negative campaign and conspiracy theories agog in social media, the Ahmadiyyas are growing, spreading and shining all over the world. An estimated 10 million Ahmadis are living around the world, in more than 200 countries.

In Cuba, where religious practices were a social taboo, the Ahmadiyyas have their footprint and boast the establishment of their first mosque in Havana – in near future in China and North Korea.

First published in The News Times, Dhaka, Bangladesh on 5 March 2023

Saleem Samad, is an award-winning independent journalist, media rights defender, recipient of Ashoka Fellowship and Hellman-Hammett Award. He could be reached at <>; Twitter @saleemsamad

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