Fareed Ahmad, National Secretary External Affairs, Jamaat UK
On 20 July 2020, the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community launched (online) its report, entitled “Suffocation of the Faithful: The Persecution of Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan and the Rise of International Extremism.”
More than 5,000 people from 15 countries have seen the broadcast so far (including NGOs, government officials, embassy staff, parliamentarians and Jamaat members) on both Zoom and YouTube.
The launch was promoted by MPs and the main APPG twitter (@APPG_Muslim) that had 295,000 views. Three special videos were prepared for the APPG Twitter account that proved very successful.
We also had a special message of support from the Bishop of Truro who led the government’s report on the persecution of Christians. The report followed the APPG’s enquiry held in 2018 in parliament where there were five evidence sessions where a range of experts and victims of persecution gave evidence to the parliamentarians.
This was followed by submissions made by various NGOs that provided further evidence and information. The 150-page report is the first report of any such parliamentary group that details the issue of persecution of Ahmadi Muslims and its international impact. The report has 5 chapters:
1. The Origins of State-Sponsored Persecution of Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan
2. The Persecution of Ahmadi Muslims from the Cradle to the Grave
3. The Persecution of other Religious Communities in Pakistan
4. The International Persecution of Ahmadi Muslims
5. The Impact of Persecution on Extremism in the UK
A special message from Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V, may Allah be his Helper, for the report launch was read by Fareed Ahmad Sahib, National Secretary External Affairs UK. This is also now published in full online on the APPG website.
“Where such vile acts targeting Ahmadi Muslims and the perpetual denial of our religious freedom are a means of grief to us, we also believe it has a wider impact on society at large. Paramount to the success and progress of any nation is the principle of non-discrimination and only those societies can truly progress in which all citizens are treated equally. Certainly, this was the noble vision laid out by the founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah and remains the true pathway to peace in any nation or society.”
Huzooraa went on to say:
“I am extremely appreciative of the fact that the report you are launching today calls for religious freedom for all people, irrespective of their caste, creed or colour … We earnestly desire for Pakistan to prosper and to succeed. Indeed, we want all countries to flourish and to achieve this, the human rights of all people must be upheld and protected. Every nation and every individual must play their role in the cause of peace so that the world we bequeath to our children and future generations is a world of peace and prosperity.”
Siobhain McDonagh, MP, chaired the meeting and there were 13 speakers. Some of the key points made were as following:
Siobhain McDonagh, MP said:
“Firm action needed by the government here and in Pakistan. These issues cannot just be pushed back to another time.”
Jim Shannon, MP, Co-Chair of the APPG for Freedom of Religion or Belief said that in his 2018 visit to Pakistan, he was advised not to talk about Ahmadis if he wanted productive meetings. Discrimination and persecution holds Pakistan back, as was the case of Atif Mian.
Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, APPG member and Former Foreign Secretary said:
“The world must know about the three Ahmadi ‘Asia Bibis’ on death row.”
He praised the Jamaat and expressed his honour of Hazrat Amirul Momineenaa residing in his constituency. He acknowledged Huzoor’saa message that freedom of religion matters for all as that promotes tolerance.
Ambassador Sam Brownback, US Ambassador at Large for Religious Freedom said:
“Denial of rights for Ahmadis affects all. Religious nationalism harms all. Western democracies must be bold and aggressive in standing up for persecuted communities.”
Rt Hon Sir Edward Davey MP, APPG Vice-Chair and Acting Leader of the LibDems said:
“This is a thorough, independent and authoritative report. The UK Government must review aid spending to ensure textbooks do not promote hate. The APPG will lobby the Home Secretary on refugee issue. The Foreign Office must be asked for a full and comprehensive response and how this report will shape their policy towards Pakistan.”
Shahbaz Taseer, APPG Inquiry Witness and son of the late Salman Taseer said:
“Minorities suffer in silence as there is a climate of impunity. The barbaric mindset of extremists is passed on systematically through schools to radicalise the youth. The passport declaration is feeding hate. Extremism is on the rise and is as populist rhetoric. The international community must speak up on this issue.”
John Pontifex, APPG Inquiry Witness, and Head of Advocacy at the Catholic NGO Aid to the Church in Need said:
“Ahmadis suffer particularly, and other religious communities now also live fear and are forced into hiding.”
He welcomed that this report also covers other communities including Christians, Shias and Hindus and gave examples. This report is a very important wake up call.
Sir Iftikhar Ayaz Sb, APPG Inquiry Witness and Chairman of the International Human Rights Committee said:
“Persecution is unchecked in Pakistan – even graves are targeted. Mullahs are given control of the education system e.g. recent issue of Tahir Ashrafi on Punjab syllabus board. Persecution has spread to other countries e.g. the recent exhumation of the Ahmadi baby in Bangladesh. 8,000 refugees surviving in appalling conditions for many years without hope. UK Government must help in resettlement of Ahmadis.”
Fiyaz Mughal OBE, APPG Inquiry Witness and founder of Faith Matters said:
“UK Local authorities, influenced by Muslim councillors, pursue anti-Ahmadi agendas in the UK e.g. on religious education councils in the UK. UK Imams, who enjoy British pluralism instigate anti-Ahmadi hate e.g. Imams in the UK supported Atif Mian being removed from Pakistan Economic Advisory Council – yet same Imams complain about Islamophobia in the UK – these double standards is unacceptable. Anti-Ahmadi prejudice is clearly linked to extremism more widely.”
Sara Khan, Commissioner for Countering Extremism said:
“The Commission’s 2019 Report on hateful extremism includes issues facing UK Ahmadis including denial of membership on key bodies (SACRE) and calling for the death of Ahmadis and boycotts. Where extremism thrives, values are eroded and undermined. We have to stand up for all communities. Where public bodies cave into anti-Ahmadi hate – this is hypocrisy and is unacceptable.”
Lord Alton, APPG Member and CoChair of the APPG for Pakistan Minorities summed the key recommendations of the report noting the persecution of Ahmadis in Pakistan being “akin to impending genocide” and that the crime reporting process in Pakistan being undermined by threats of violence. FIR process must be overhauled murderers and agitators face no prosecution. Even Pakistan ministers are calling for death of Ahmadis. He stressed that Pakistan must return to Jinnah’s values. Action needed on refugees and on aid funding to be scrutinized to ensure it does not promote hate. Stop hate preachers from coming to the UK. Voting rights of Ahmadis must be restored.
Lord Alton sent an advance comment on the report saying:
“I have read the report, in its entirety, this morning… It is an outstanding piece of work … I hope that a copy is sent to every member of both Houses. It deserves to be widely read. Congratulations to everyone involved on a fine achievement.”
Lord Ahmad, Minister for South Asia and for Human Rights “provided the response to the report by Her Majesty’s government.” He mentioned that even the right to help others during the pandemic has been denied to Ahmadis and that the situation of Ahmadis in Pakistan is grave. He regularly raises with the government of Pakistan the issues of persecution of Ahmadis. He welcomed the report and looks forward to working with the APPG to see how best the UK can take the recommendations forward. The government will look further into hate and UK funding for education. He noted the denial of the right of Ahmadis to vote.
Rafiq Hayat Sahib, Amir Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya UK, stressed that we are not anti-Pakistan and all we are seeking is equal rights for Ahmadis and other religious communities so that there is freedom of religion for all. The ongoing persecution in Pakistan and across the world – including the issue of refugees – as was the Interfaith Scotland issue where we are being denied membership due to anti-Ahmadi hate.
Amir Sahib said that the report made the issues very clear and now it is the duty of governments to respond and not just offer words of hope.
The meeting was scheduled to run from 5.30pm to 6.45pm but it overran by 30 mins and finished at 7.15pm.
The full report went live after the event on the new website for the APPG at www.APPG-AhmadiyyaMuslim.org.uk
The full video of the launch is available on the APPG’s YouTube Channel www.youtube.com/channel/UC2wP7srdjoaLgy_yNr3tQcA