Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
The February 8, 2019 issue of Dhaka’s front-ranking Bangla daily Jugantor has a most disturbing report. According to it, Ahmadiyya community in Bangladesh has decided to hold an Izteema (religious congregation) in Panchagarh district, which has already come under extreme opposition from the pro-Caliphate group named Hefazat e Islam (HeI) which consists of thousands of madrassa teachers and students. Executive editor of madrassa mouthpiece named monthly Moinul, Sarwar Kamal has circulated a statement from HeI kingpin Ahmad Shafi stating, “Deniers of Khatmey Nabuwat (last prophecy), feet-licking slave of the British, nefarious enemy of the Muslim ummah, Golam Mohammad Kadiani had denied acknowledging Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) as the last prophet. He [Golam Mohammad Kadiani] proclaimed false prophethood with the agenda of deceiving Muslims, being a lapdog of the British. Golam Mohammad was the agent of those British imperialist traders who had ruled Indian subcontinent for 190 years, and had falsely proclaimed himself as the prophet and had participated in anti-Islam propaganda”.
Ahmad Shafi has also called upon Bangladesh government to “immediately declare Ahmadiyyas” as “non-Muslims” and has asked the government to stop the Ahmadiyya religious congregation in Panchagarh district [in Bangladesh].
He said, “Despite the fact of being non-Muslims, Qadiyanis are claiming themselves as Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat and has been booting the world’s prophet [prophet of Islam]. If such things are not stopped forthwith, Hefazat e Islam by joining ‘Khatmey Nabuwat Movement’ will go into massive anti-Ahmadiyya movement in Bangladesh. Ahmadiyyas should be declared non-Muslims and their naked exposition of audacity [against Islam] should be immediately stopped. Otherwise, any conspiracy will be foiled by the hundreds of millions of towheedi janata [masses of faith]”.
Reading this extremely disturbing news in Jugantor, I personally tried to reach the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamat in Bangladesh. But most possibly they were non-responsive out of fear of any extreme consequence and further hostility by pro-Caliphate Hefazat e Islam and the radical Muslims in Bangladesh. Then I tried to check with an website named Persecution of Ahmadis to get further details of this latest threat by HeI. Unfortunately, there also is nothing, save some old contents of November 2018.
Then I contacted Muzaffar Ahmad Noori Bajwa, editor-in-chief of The Eastern Herald in India and drawing his attention to the latest threat by HeI in Bangladesh, sought his comment, as I have been observing him to be extremely outspoken and a genuine defender of Ahmadiyya rights. In a voice mixed with extreme grief and anger, Muzaffar Ahmad said, “What Mr. Ahmad Shafi of Hefazat e Islam has said is unacceptable, unfortunate and certainly a matter of grave concern. He clearly has attempted to incite fresher persecution on the Ahmadiyyas in Bangladesh. What I want to say here is – we are a peaceful community who always promote peace and harmony admixed with spirituality that denounces religious hatred and extremism. With extreme worries, I am further worried seeing this pro-Caliphate Hefazat e Islam now picking up Ahmadiyya issue taking full advantage of its recent romance with the Bangladesh’s ruling party. There is no doubt about Hefazat e Islam enjoying silent patronization from the ruling elites in Bangladesh and a possible cruelty, persecution and violence on the Ahmadiyyas can only be stopped for good through international intervention. I am calling upon the international community, particularly the US President Donald Trump and his administration to this extremely disturbing issue”.
Mr. Ahmad further said, “We Ahmadis believe in Khatmey Nabuwat as perceived by Imam Mahdi who is claimed to be the same promised Messiah of later days. We definitely are true Muslims and we believe in Islam of our holy prophet Mohammad (PBUH)”.
HeI trying to take revenge of 2013 actions:
In my personal opinion, Hefazat e Islam, taking undue advantage of its recent relations with the ruling Awami Leage is not only trying to implement their pro-Caliphate agenda in Bangladesh but it also is trying to put Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina into an extreme odds. Whatever may the Bangladeshi Prime Minister has been briefed by her advisers and aides about HeI, she needs to remember, this notorious group denounces democracy and aspires of establishing Caliphate. Ideologically, there is no difference between Hefazat e Islam and Islamic State (ISIS). Ahmad Shafi is clearly a clone copy of ISIS kingpin Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. But the most disturbing fact here is – Hefazat’s ‘human force’ is many fold more than that of ISIS. While Islamic State might have some hundred thousand members and supporters till date, the number of pro-HeI people stands at few millions.
While Hei kingpin Ahmad Shafi openly has threatened of joining hands with Khatmey Nabuwat Andolan (KNA), the fact is – KNA already is affiliated with HeI as KNA too mainly consists of madrassa teachers and students. Now the question is – should Bangladesh ban Hefazat e Islam? The reply is – YES, and it should be done right now, before it grows into an unstoppable monster.
The persecuted Ahmadiyya community:
Ahmadiyyas are not only facing persecution in Muslim-dominated Pakistan or Bangladesh but very surprisingly, they also are facing continuous threats, intimidations and persecutions in India as well. Almost on a regular basis, we get news of persecution and injustice on the Ahmadiyyas in India. Very unfortunately, the secularist or even radical Hinduist government in India feel extremely shy in taking any steps in saving Ahmadiyyas from such notoriety. Instead, in some cases, the state machinery play the role of an abettor.
Past record of the persecution of Ahmadiyyas in Bangladesh:
According to the Human Rights Watch website: “The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community (the official name of the community) is a contemporary messianic movement founded in 1889 by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1839–1908), who was born in the small village of Qadian in Punjab, India. The Ahmadiyya community is also referred to derogatorily by some as the “Qadiani” (or “Kadiyani”) community, a term derived from the birthplace of the founder of the movement. In 1889, Ahmad declared that he had received divine revelation authorizing him to accept the baya’ah, or allegiance of the faithful. In 1891, he claimed to be the expected mahdi or messiah of the latter days, the “Awaited One” of the monotheist community of religions, and the messiah foretold by the Prophet Mohammed. Ahmad described his teachings, incorporating both Sufic and orthodox Islamic, Hindu, and Christian elements, as an attempt to revitalize Islam in the face of the British Raj, proselytizing Protestant Christianity, and resurgent Hinduism. Thus, the Ahmadiyya community believes that Ahmad conceived the community as a revivalist movement within Islam and not as a new religion.
“Members of the Ahmadiyya community (“Ahmadis”) profess to be Muslims. They contend that Ahmad meant to revive the true spirit and message of Islam that the Prophet Mohammed introduced and preached. Virtually all mainstream Muslim sects believe that Ahmad proclaimed himself as a prophet, thereby rejecting a fundamental tenet of Islam: Khatme Nabuwat (literally, the belief in the “finality of prophethood”— that the Prophet Mohammed was the last of the line of prophets leading back through Jesus, Moses, and Abraham). Ahmadis respond that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was a non-law-bearing prophet subordinate in status to Prophet Mohammed; he came to illuminate and reform Islam, as predicted by Prophet Mohammed. For Ahmad and his followers, the Arabic Khatme Nabuwat does not refer to the finality of prophethood in a literal sense—that is, to prophethood’s chronological cessation—but rather to its culmination and exemplification in the Prophet Mohammed. Ahmadis believe that “finality” in a chronological sense is a worldly concept, whereas “finality” in a metaphoric sense carries much more spiritual significance.
“The exact size of the Ahmadiyya community worldwide is unclear, though there are concentrations of Ahmadis in India, Pakistan, Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Gambia.
“Ahmadis have lived in what is present-day Bangladesh since the early 1900s. Roughly 100,000 Ahmadis live in Bangladesh today. Violence towards the Ahmadiyya community in Bangladesh has occurred for almost two decades. The recent upsurge in the persecution of the Ahmadis can be understood as part of a gradual trend in Bangladesh away from the country’s secular roots toward more blending of religion and politics. This Islamization of government can be explained partially by examining the history of Bangladesh.
“In 1971, Bangladesh, then East Pakistan, fought a liberation war to secede from its union with Pakistan, in order to protect its own Bengali language and culture. After a brutal nine-month war, the newly independent Bangladeshis created a constitution founded upon four guiding principles: nationalism, socialism, democracy, and secularism.
“Starting with Prime Minister [Sheikh] Mujibur Rahman in 1972, however, the role of Islam slowly began to increase in Bangladesh’s civil society and state apparatus. In 1977, the government replaced Article 12 of the founding constitution, which provided that the principle of secularism should be realized by the elimination of communalism in all its forms, with the assertion that the Muslim faith would be one of the nation’s guiding principles. In 1988, Bangladesh moved a step further away from its secular heritage when Islam officially became the state religion through an amendment to the constitution, Article 2-A, which reads: “The state religion of the Republic is Islam, but other religions may be practiced in peace and harmony in the Republic.”
“While these constitutional amendments have set the tone for Bangladeshi society, the reversal of the constitutional prohibition on religious parties allowed for the reemergence of the Jama’at-e-Islami and for the formation of extreme religious parties, such as the Islamic Okye Jyote (IOJ). The religious parties were able to return to power despite arguing that nationalism is un-Islamic and the secession from Pakistan was unwarranted.
“Sporadic attacks and threats against Ahmadis became more systematic in the early 1990s as Bangladesh returned to parliamentary government. The attacks began in earnest during the BNP government (1991-96), continued through the period of Awami League rule (1996-2001), and acquired renewed vigor as the BNP returned to power in 2001, this time in coalition with the J.I. and OJI.
“Between December 27-29, 1991, the Khatme Nabuwat (K.N.), an Islamist organization dedicated to safeguarding the sanctity of the finality of the Prophet Mohammed, held a conference to organize activities aimed at banning Ahmadi religious practice and identity in Bangladesh. As one Bangladeshi Ahmadi explained to Human Rights Watch, “the K.N. want the Ahmadis to leave Bangladesh. They have threatened that they would attack us if we do not surrender, if we continued to be Ahmadis.” On February 5, 1992, Mahfuzur Rahman, the president of the Khilafat (“Caliphate”) Student Movement – an Islamist student group—led a public protest in the Noakhali district demanding that the Ahmadi community be declared non-Muslim.
The anti-Ahmadi conferences held by Khatme Nabuwwat and the Khilafat Student Movement sparked fresh attacks on Ahmadis. On February 29, 1992, several hundred people under the leadership of the Imam Council, a group of Imams from the Helatala and Niral mosques in Khulna, attacked an Ahmadi mosque and mission house on the Nirala Housing Estate in the city. The group attempted to set fire to the buildings, stole and destroyed Ahmadi books, including Ahmadi copies of the Qur’an, and inflicted property damage on a charitable medical dispensary nearby. The police near Khulna arrested eight of the group’s members, who had also planned to disrupt an Ahmadi congregation under the direction of a local imam. The imam and members of the Jama’at-e-Islami Bangladesh condemned the arrests.
On October 30, 1992, a procession of more than 1,200 people launched a massive attack on the main Bahshkibazar Ahmadiyya complex in Dhaka. After ransacking rooms, burning hundreds of books, including many copies of the Qur’an, and looting the building of all valuables, the attackers detonated some thirty-five crude bombs in the building and set it on fire. At least twenty Ahmadis were injured in the attacks and a total of twelve people were admitted to the Dhaka Medical College Hospital with serious wounds. Police lobbed at least twenty-five tear gas canisters to drive the mob away from the burning complex. The Dhaka police held the student wing of Jama’at-e-Islami Bangladesh, Islami Chhatra Shibir, responsible for the attack. On November 27, 1992, a group of anti-Ahmadi protestors attacked and demolished an Ahmadi mosque under construction in Rajshani. The mob looted all construction materials, including sand and bricks. No police relief was provided for the Ahmadiyya community in Rajshani.
“On December 24, 1993, K.N. Bangladesh held a conference in Dhaka to pressure the government officially to declare Ahmadis non-Muslims, to ban Ahmadi publications, and to remove Ahmadis from high-ranking government posts. Prior to the conference, Maulana Ubaidul Haq, spokesperson for the organization, informed media outlets of the forthcoming visit of several prominent Ulema (religious leaders) from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and India. He also indicated that Abdur Rahman Biswas, President of Bangladesh, would inaugurate the conference formally. Professor Golam Azam and Maulana Matiur Rahman Nizami (the incumbent State Minister for Industries), the President and the Secretary General of J.I. in Bangladesh at the time, formally expressed their support for the conference, stating their hope that the government would declare Ahmadis non-Muslims in order to show respect for the sentiments of the Muslim populations of Bangladesh.
The conference was held in two sessions with imams from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and India presiding over each session as scheduled, and representatives from J.I., the BNP, participating in the sessions. Leaders at the conference announced that January 1, 1994 would be “demand day” in Bangladesh whereby all conference participants would press the government to declare Ahmadis non-Muslim.
“New anti-Ahmadi organizations emerged on the scene in 1994-95. On March 30, 1994, The Bangladesh Times reported that the Bangladesh Khilafat Andolen and Islami Shasantantra Andolen, two extremist Islamist organizations, had joined J.I. in supporting a four-hour sit-in demonstration organized by K.N. to take place in Dhaka. The demonstrators, many of them carrying placards and sticks, raised slogans against the Ahmadis, calling them “kafirs” (disbelievers).
“In March 1995, a group of demonstrators attacked a central Ahmadi mosque in Dhaka. This time, secular activists and members of civil society strongly condemned the attacks.
“While on tour in Bangladesh from Saudi Arabia, on February 28, 1997, the Chief Imam of the Masjid-e-Nabawi (the Prophet’s Mosque) in Medina, Saudi Arabia, Allama Dr. Shaikh Ali Bin Abdur Rahman Al Huzaifi, condemned Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and his followers as “traitors…misleading others by their self-made and false Quranic commentary.” On May 22, 1997, the K.N. once again held a large-scale public meeting, this one at Children’s Park in Dhaka. Participants reiterated their demand to declare Ahmadis non-Muslims. The meeting ended with a collective resolution making fresh demands on the government, including a ban on all uses of Qur’anic passages and Islamic terminology on Ahmadi mosques, a ban on the burial of Ahmadis in Muslim graveyards, and, for the first time, a ban on and confiscation of all Ahmadi publications, including Ahmadi copies of the Qur’an. On July 7, 1997, members of Khatme Nabuwwat marched to the Parliament House in Dhaka to submit a formal memorandum of these demands.
“Violence against Ahmadis in major cities outside of Dhaka began to appear in the late 1990s. On July 23, 1998, members of Touhid Jonota, another anti-Ahmadi group, attacked and destroyed a new Ahmadi office building inaugurated by the local government in Zhinaigati. Three police officers were injured in the attacks. On January 7, 1999, the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, members of the Jama’at-e-Islami attacked an Ahmadi mosque in the Koldiar-Majdiar village of the Khushtia District. Over fifty Ahmadis were injured in the raid, eleven of them critically. Nearly a month after the Khushtia mosque attack, over a hundred Ahmadi families were forced to leave the surrounding villages after they were not allowed to pray in their mosque. The families did not return to their village in Kushtia for six months. The U.S. State Department reported that an Ahmadiyya mosque in Kushtia was forcibly occupied by Sunni extremists in 1999 and remained under police control for about three years, preventing Ahmadis from praying in it. In August 2002, the Ahmadiyya community regained control of the mosque.
“On October 8, 1999, a bomb killed six Ahmadis and injured severely several others who were attending Friday prayers at their mosque in Khulna. In November 1999, Sunni Muslims ransacked an Ahmadiyya mosque near Natore, in western Bangladesh. In subsequent clashes between Ahmadis and Sunni, thirty-five people were injured. Ahmadis regained control of their mosque and filed a criminal case against thirtypeople allegedly responsible for the conflict.The case, however, was not pursued by local authorities.
On April 15, 2000, villagers at Kodda and Basudev, spurred by the twin attacks in Kushtia and Kulna, threatened to attack all Ahmadi homes in the area. Over fifty Ahmadis evacuated their homes and took refuge in the nearby Akhaura district after some thirty five Ahmadi homes were looted and vandalized. On April 25, 2000, anti-Ahmadi activists burned down several Ahmadi homes, destroyed crops of Ahmadi farmers, and threatened the lives of the remaining Ahmadis in the village. They also took over the Ahmadi mosque in the area, burning furniture and books, demolishing the structure, and flooding it with water as a symbolic gesture to “clean out the Ahmadis” from the village.
On June 24, 2001, members of K.N. attacked an Ahmadi mosque under construction in Jamalpur. The mob destroyed the mosque’s walls and foundation as well as the house of an Ahmadi next door. It then proceeded to attack the person who had sold the property upon which the Ahmadiyya mosque was being constructed. Police arrested three members of the mob. On October 15, 2002, a brawl broke out outside the Upazila Parishod courthouse in Gajipur where a case was being filed against members of the Ahmadiyya community. Twelve Ahmadis were arrested and questioned in the incident for allegedly distorting verses of the Qur’an and certain Hadith (sayings of the Prophet Mohammed) in the translation of their texts. Shortly after the arrest of the Ahmadis, a mob destroyed an Ahmadi house in the area.
On January 2, 2003, the K.N., led by its president, Maulana Ubaidul Haq, held another international conference in Dhaka. Prominent speakers from Egypt, India, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom introduced new fatwas calling for the excommunication of the Ahmadis in Bangladesh. Leaders of K.N. vowed to introduce a bill in Parliament to declare Ahmadis non-Muslims. One Libyan leader at the event, Dr. Abdur Razzak, accused Ahmadis of being part of a British colonial conspiracy.
Shortly after the conference, Bangladesh Khilafat Andolen (Bangladesh Caliphate Movement) organized a protest procession led by Maulana Jafrullah Khan, who demanded that Parliament declare Ahmadis to be non-Muslim or risk future litigation and disturbance. On February 1, 2003, the newspaper daily Inqilab reported that, at a gathering in Cumilla, Member of Parliament Maulana Delawar H. Saidee [Delwar Hussain Saidee is a leader of Jamaat e Islami Bangladesh and is now a convicted war criminal serving imprisonment until death in Bangladesh] declared Ahmadis non-Muslims and called for a complete halt on all Ahmadi activities, describing the Ahmadiyya community as “satanic.”
“The recent ban on Ahmadiyya publications also has a lineage: since at least the 1970s, Bangladeshi governments have frequently banned publications deemed offensive to Muslims. Such determinations have usually been made to appease extremist groups. For instance, in 1985 [during the rule of military dictator Hussain Muhammad Ershad], the government issued an order banning a book published by the Ahmadiyya community on the basis that it contained passages highly offensive to Muslims, who believe that the Prophet Mohammed is the last prophet of Allah. The order was unsuccessfully challenged before the High Court in 1993”.
An appeal to the international community:
The latest case of threats on the Ahmadiyyas in Bangladesh is a matter of grave concern and it needs to be immediately attended. With my past experience, I know, the so-called mainstream media in the world are not sensible or responsible enough in covering such crucial issue, for reasons best known to them. Under such realities, unless the United States in particular initiates some tougher steps in forcing Muslim and non-Muslim nations in ensuring rights of religious freedom to the Ahmadiyyas, sooner or later, members of this small community may face a similar fate of those Kurdis in Iraq or Rohingyas in Myanmar.
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is the editor of Blitz. Follow him on Twitter @salah_shoaib