Peaceful Lives, Violent Deaths: The Silent Cries of the Ahmadis

On March 13, three Ahmadiiyya Muslims were brutally attacked in the Banten province of Java, Indonesia. Video footage taken during the ambush demonstrates the victims being beaten to death by sticks.

On February 6, over 1,000 anti-Ahmadiyya extremists attacked the home of cleric Ismail Suparman in Cikeusik Village. The Indonesian Ahmadiyah Congregation (JAI) reportedly possesses footage of this travesty, which shows 21 Ahmadis savagely attacked with sticks, rocks, tools and machetes.

Ahmadis live by the motto "Love for All, Hatred for None," and have no history of engaging in violence. Because they don't fight back, they are an easy target for Muslim extremists who have been taught they will go to heaven if they murder someone who practices the Ahmadiyya faith.

There are millions of practicing Ahmadis worldwide, with established branches in 190 countries in North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. Established in India in 1889 by Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, The Ahmadiyya community was founded by a man who believed in universal brotherhood, opposed violence as a means of advancing religion, and rejected all forms of terrorism.

Ahmadis adhere to all practices as advised for Muslims in the Quran and present a progressive vision of Islam, which is in tune with modernity. Despite their small size, Ahmadis have distinguished themselves as trailblazers by translating the Quran more than any other group of Muslims.

Internationally regarded as a peaceful people, Ahmadis are theologically considered a "sect" because they reject a central doctrine in Islam: the belief that Muhammad is the last prophet. Because of this, they are under constant threat of persecution by fundamentalists who view Ahmadis as heretics. And the attacks are rapidly increasing in violence and number around the globe.

In 2008 Indonesia issued a joint ministerial decree prohibiting the country's 200,000 Ahmadis from spreading their beliefs. This law has led many extremist Muslims to believe they have license to take matters into their own hands. In an aggressive hate campaign fueled by Indonesian authorities, extremist Muslims are calling for Ahmadis' businesses to be boycotted, properties destroyed and clerics assassinated.

The Ahmadiyya community fares no better in Pakistan, where there have been more murders in the last three years than the previous 20. In 1974, Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto declared Ahmadis a "Non-Muslim minority," thus publicly labeling them as second-rate citizens. He orchestrated violent, countrywide riots, which culminated in getting the Ahmadis classified as "Non-Muslims" via a constitutional amendment. This legal status creates an atmosphere of intolerance and persecution, thereby establishing a standard with government permission that Ahmadis can be discriminated or persecuted.

Pakistan's military dictator General Ziaul Haq proclaimed the notorious anti-Ahmadiyya Ordinance XX in 1984, which states that Ahmadis can be fined and imprisoned for three years just for expressing their faith. The ordinance made it illegal for Ahmadis to say Assalamu Alaikum, to practice particular religious rights, or to proselytize. By doing so, Haq gave Pakistani extremist Muslims free reign to terrorize Ahmadis without fear of retribution. And so, like Indonesia, the violence continues.

Since the 1984 ordinance, hundreds of Ahmadis have been subjected to looting of property, desecration of mosques and murder attempts - and 3,500 have faced court prosecutions due to their faith. In May 2010 in Lahore, sectarian terrorists assassinated 86 Amadis while they were gathered to worship. While this incident drew the condemnation of human rights organizations around the world, international pressure has made no impact on the current laws or on the attitude of the government.

Ahmadis must denounce the founder of the Ahmadiyya community if they apply for a national identity card or passport in Pakistan. They are denied entry to colleges and access to jobs. Thousands have been forced to leave their communities due to violence that continues to go unchecked by authorities.

Ahmadis are good, peaceful, law-abiding people. Their faith - like all religious believers - is a central part of their identity. While only reviewing Indonesia and Pakistan, their community faces hardship and discrimination, persecution and murder in many other countries.

Christians can find many similarities with their Ahmadi brothers, as one time Protestants faced similar treatment. But regardless of faith or identity, we cannot remain deaf to their silent cries. For by doing so, we sanction the actions of their slayers.

It is my hope that the international community recognizes its duty to protect the rights of all people to believe according to the dictates of their hearts, their minds and their consciences, and that the silent permission of persecution by the absence of response, the lack of concern, the attitude of indifference quickly comes to an end.

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