How Pakistani American Hatred For the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Disturbingly Mirrors Pakistan’s Anti-Ahmadi Sentiment

Around two weeks ago, a hate conference just outside Washington, D.C. called for violence against a small Muslim community known as the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. This community was founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in Qadian, India, a man who claimed to be the Messiah (in the likeness of Jesus), foretold to come after Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be on him). This is opposed to the belief of a majority of Muslims, who believe that Jesus is the awaited Messiah who will physically descend from heaven.

The Final Prophet Conference, a gather centered on anti-Ahmadi action, was held at a Holiday Inn in Springfield, VA and was attended by several Pakistani American clerics. Some of the problematic statements included calling America “a land of infidels” and detailed how American Muslim lawyers must present their case to the government proving that members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community are not, in fact, Muslims. Some of these clerics have previously made misogynistic statements, like saying women should be prohibited from using cell phones in public and claiming that high heels should be forbidden.

The event was hosted by the ‘Idara Dawat-O-Irshad, U.S.A. Inc’ & ‘Khatme Nabuwwat Center, Inc, two organizations that also preach throughout the Washington D.C. area. I know these people don’t represent mainstream American Muslims who aren’t Ahmadi, and I am absolutely confident that a majority of my fellow American Muslims do not agree with their divisive teachings. I know because I don’t lump people into one group just because a few problematic people exist–the Muslim population isn’t monolithic. I know because I don’t keep myself to just my own community but rather try to interact and talk to different Muslims from different sects. And I know that a majority of the Muslim Americans I’ve encountered have been nothing but normal towards me. Even if there was some tension about me being an Ahmadi Muslim, we moved past that.

As an American Muslim woman, I’ve had minimal anti-Ahmadi exposure – it typically comes within the South Asian and sometimes Arab Muslim community. I remember during my time at college – I attended a school with a notable Muslim population- was the first time I sometimes feared being an Ahmadi Muslim. Before that, I once had a friend in high school who made a face at me when she found out I was an Ahmadi Muslim. “You’re a Qadiyani?” she said, using a slur used towards Ahmadis. Outside of this, the majority of my non-Ahmadi Muslim friends have been extremely loving, nice and respectful towards me even if we don’t always agree about religion.

And as for the preacher who said lawyers need to go to the government and legalize Ahmadis as non-Muslims, there is no place for your divisive hatred here. The Pakistani government may welcome those sentiments with a garland of flowers–it’s already a country where Shia Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and Hindus continue to suffer under discriminatory blasphemy laws. Pakistan is also the only country which legalizes state-sanctioned discrimination against Ahmadi Muslims under Ordinance XX, which forbids Ahmadis from calling themselves Muslim, doing Islamic things like saying “Salaam,” or calling their places of worship “mosques.” Some Ahmadis have even been arrested for printing Qur’anic prayers on their wedding invitations.

What these fringe groups must understand is that America is not Pakistan, where laws criminalize Ahmadis calling themselves Muslims. This is America. We aren’t perfect, but most of us call out discrimination when we see it. But Pakistan,“Land of the Pure,” is increasingly becoming a land of bigotry and hatred, one which has allowed leaders filled with vitriol to take control of the country and create divisions among the public. That kind of thinking does not belong here.

Pakistan is only becoming more corrupt. Just two weeks ago, 3,000 people finally ended a sit-in outside Islamabad that began earlier in November after calling for the resignation of law minister Zahid Hamid. The nearly three-week protest led by Khadim Hussain Rizvi and his hardline religious group, Tehreek-e-Labaik, led to great public disruption, blocking major highways to the capital. Their reason? A legislative change in an oath by “requiring politicians to properly reference the Prophet (peace and blessings be on him).” This softened language could have given Pakistani Ahmadi Muslims the rights to vote or run for office, neither of which have been afforded to them in the past. As a result of the protest, the government signed an agreement with the clerics of Tehreek-e-Labaik after violent clashes, leading to over 250 injured and seven deaths. The government did a total media blackout of private TV channels and blocked Twitter and Facebook across the nation, infuriating liberals.

This spirit of divisiveness is not needed here in America, especially in light of Trump’s travel ban and hateful language that already make the everyday lives of Muslims difficult. Instead, Muslim and non-Muslim communities should come together regardless of denomination. Always being in agreement with one another is unnecessary and an impossible task, but avoiding hatred and degradation of another’s beliefs is human decency. 

I am a proud Ahmadi Muslim who believes in Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as the awaited Messiah. Anyone can disagree–Sunni, Shia, or whatever else. That is a right that should not be taken away from anyone. Just as I don’t want my right to believe as I believe taken away from me.