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The Ahmadis and the Politics of Religious Exclusion in Pakistan

(Courtesy of Ali Usman Qasmi and Anthem Press)

Author: Ali Usman Qasmi

Publisher: Anthem Press

Ahmadis were officially declared non-Muslims by a special committee of Pakistan’s National Assembly in 1974. But this did not just happen in a day or two. The problem was deep-rooted and dated back to the time of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s Founder – Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas of Qadian. 

The message of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas was unanimously rejected by major schools of the Muslim Ummah, but – logical, powerful and promising as it was – it was widely accepted by those who saw it from an unbiased angle. As the Community flourished it was destined to face opposition, and so it did.

By the early 1930s, the Community had gained hundreds of thousands of followers, the majority living in pre-partition India. This was a time of great political controversy. It must be remembered that religion was the bedrock of Indian politics, as most of the debates revolved around Hindu-Muslim issues. 

Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmadra, then Head of the Community, was looked up to by great leaders of the day – religious and non-religious alike – for his opinion and guidance. It was in this climate that the leadership of the All India Kashmir Committee was offered to Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmadra

Despite his reluctance, he was asked to take up the responsibility as only he was capable of mobilising the Muslims for the cause of Kashmir. The Committee saw great success under the leadership of Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmadra, to the extent that it aroused apprehensions in the hearts of even those who had offered him to head the committee. From here, started the organised and politically-motivated opposition of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.

After two decades of unsuccessful attempts to curb the growth of the Community, the anti-Ahmadiyya circles resorted to use the unstable political atmosphere of Pakistan as a tool. In 1952, the anti-Ahmadiyya agitation began by the Majlis-e-Ahrar – an organisation founded with the sole purpose of opposing Ahmadiyyat. Other organisations with similar agendas joined hands and the alliance was known as Majlis-e-Amal. This led to the most organised anti-Ahmadiyya agitation, up to that point, in the history of the Community. 

The Majlis-e-Amal issued a fatwa from Lahore on 14 October 1952 where the so-called Ulema unanimously declared Ahmadis non-Muslim.

The fatwa was not only against Ahmadis but also had tones of uprising against the government.

“If such a government is failing to carry out the order of the Islamic Shari‘ah, there was justification for boycotting it.”

This and other fatwas of similar nature led to the anti-Ahmadiyya violence in Pakistan during February and March of 1953. The government thus set up a committee consisting of Justice Muhammad Munir and Justice Malik Rustam Kiyani to inquire the anti-Ahmadiyya violence and the differences that it allegedly stemmed out from.

Ali Usman Qasmi carried out, very painstakingly, a thorough research into the hearings of the Munir-Kiyani commission and its outcome. Qasmi’s book, The Ahmadis and the Politics of Religious Exclusion in Pakistan, provides an insight into the turbulent days of politics and religious conflicts in the early years of the formation of Pakistan. 

Where the writer touches upon theological differences, the reader feels that it could be better presented. But then, understandably so, it is not meant to be a book on theology.

(AB)

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