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Jihadist attack on Ahmadis in Burkina Faso

Ahmadiyya, Ahmadis, Ahmadiyyat

Opinion

Jihadist attack on Ahmadis in Burkina Faso

Innocent Ahmadis came under jihadist attack in Burkina Faso, proving now the anti-Ahmadi jihadist agenda has reached African continent, which certainly is a matter of gravest concern.

According to media reports, on Wednesday January 11, 2023, radical Islamic jihadists forcefully entered a Mosque of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Mahdi Abad, a village built by the Community in 2008 near the northern town of Dori in Burkina Faso, killing nine innocent Ahmadi worshippers in an unprovoked and cold-blooded jihadist attack. The victims are: Alhaj Boureima Bidiga (67), AG Maniel Alhassane (70), AG Hamidou Abdouramanae (66), AG Ibhrahim Souley (66), AG Maliel Ousseni (66), AG Soudeye Ousmane (58), AG Maguel Agali (52), AG Idrahi Moussa (52) and AG Adramane Agouma (43).

According to a press release, local Ahmadi Muslims were peacefully gathered for the evening prayers at their mosque in Mehdi Abad, an Ahmadi-Muslim majority village where around 650 members of the community live, near the town of Dori. During the call to prayers, eight armed jihadists arrived on motorbikes, invaded the mosque and began threatening the worshippers.

The jihadists separated nine of the older men, including the Imam of the mosque, from the other worshippers and marched them into the courtyard.

They then demanded that Imam Alhaj Boureima Bidiga renounce his faith to which he responded, “If you wish to take my head off then you can, but it is not possible for me to denounce Islam Ahmadiyyat”. The Imam was then shot and killed.

The jihadists then proceeded to ask the same question of the other eight Ahmadi men, in turn. One by one the men refused to disavow their faith and one by one they were shot and killed. This took place in front of the other worshippers, including children.

Following this heinous attack, the jihadists threatened to return to the village and kill all the remaining Ahmadi Muslims if the worshippers reopened their Mosque or did not denounce their faith.

The bodies of the martyred men lay where they fell all night as others feared they too would be killed if they retrieved the bodies. The martyrs were buried the following day.

A spokesperson of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community said:

“Our community, all around the world, is a family and we are heartbroken at the brutal murder of our brothers and grieve with their loved ones. We pray that God envelops the martyrs in His mercy.

“We also pray for the security of Burkina Faso and that the Government fulfills its duty to protect all Burkinabe people, including Ahmadi Muslims, and that the perpetrators of this heinous and evil crime be brought to justice”.

Ahmadi Muslims are persecuted for their faith by both state and non-state actors in many Muslim-majority countries. In 2010, scores of Ahmadi Muslims were murdered when jihadists simultaneously attacked two mosques in the Pakistani city of Lahore.

The Second Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan, Ordinance XX and the Twelfth Amendment of AJ&K declare Ahmadis to be non-Muslims and further deprive them of religious rights. Hundreds of Ahmadis were killed in the 1953 Lahore riots and the 1974 Anti-Ahmadiyya riots. The May 2010 Attacks on Ahmadi mosques, infamously known as the Lahore Massacre, resulted in the murder of 84 Ahmadis by suicide attack. The 1974 riots resulted in the largest number of killings of Ahmadis.

Persecuted Ahmadis in Pakistan

Approximately 2–5 million Ahmadis live in Pakistan, which has the largest population of Ahmadis in the world. It is the only state to have officially declared the Ahmadis to be non-Muslims as they do not consider Muhammad to be the final prophet; and their freedom of religion has been curtailed by a series of ordinances, acts and constitutional amendments. In 1974, Pakistan’s parliament adopted a law declaring Ahmadis to be non-Muslims; the country’s constitution was amended to define a Muslim “as a person who believes in the finality of the Prophet Muhammad”. In 1984, General Zia-ul-Haq, the then military ruler of Pakistan, issued Ordinance XX. The ordinance, which was supposed to prevent “anti-Islamic activities”, forbids Ahmadis to call themselves Muslim or to “pose as Muslims”. This means that they are not allowed to profess the Islamic creed publicly or call their places of worship mosques. Although derogatory religious slurs, the terms ‘Qadiani’, ‘Qadianism’, ‘Mirzai’ and ‘Mirzaian’ are widely used in Pakistan to refer to Ahmadis and the term ‘Qadiani’ is also the term used by the government in its constitution.

Ahmadis in Pakistan have often come under religious discrimination and persecution. Ahmadis in Pakistan are also barred by law from worshipping in non-Ahmadi mosques or public prayer rooms, performing the Muslim call to prayer, using the traditional Islamic greeting in public, publicly quoting from the Quran, preaching in public, seeking converts, or producing, publishing, and disseminating their religious materials. These acts are punishable by imprisonment of up to three years. In applying for a passport or a national ID card, all Pakistanis are required to sign an oath declaring Mirza Ghulam Ahmad to be an impostor prophet and all Ahmadis to be non-Muslims.

As a result of the laws and constitutional amendments regarding Ahmadis in Pakistan, persecution and hate-related incidents are constantly reported from different parts of the country. Ahmadis have been the target of many attacks led by various religious groups in Pakistan. All religious seminaries and madrasas in Pakistan belonging to different sects of Islam have prescribed essential reading materials specifically targeted at refuting Ahmadiyya beliefs.

In a survey, students from many private schools of Pakistan expressed their opinions on religious tolerance in the country. The figures assembled in the study reflect that even among the educated classes of Pakistan, Ahmadis are considered the least deserving minority in terms of equal opportunities and civil rights. The teachers from these elite schools showed lower levels of tolerance towards Ahmadis than their pupils.

Another example is Abdus Salam, the only recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physics who identified as a Muslim. For his mere allegiance to the Ahmadiyya sect, he had been ignored and excommunicated. There are no monuments or universities named after him. The word “Muslim” has been erased from his grave stone.

Persecuted Ahmadis in Afghanistan

Persecution of Ahmadis in Afghanistan began in the early 20th century within the lifetime of Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of the movement. Abdur Rahman, a disciple of Sayyid Abdul Latif of Khost—a reputable religious scholar who was the tutor and adviser on religious affairs to the Prince (later Amir) Habibullah Khan—visited Qadian upon the latter’s instruction. Having stayed there in the company of Ghulam Ahmad for some time and having pledged allegiance to him he returned to Afghanistan where he began preaching against the common notion of Jihad as war. This information eventually reached the King, Amir Abdur Rahman Khan, who had him arrested and he was later strangled to death while in prison. It is not clear however whether this was a state-sanctioned execution or simply murder. He is considered the first martyr of Ahmadiyya Islam.

About two years later, Abdul Latif himself visited Qadian before starting on the hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) and stayed there for a few months also joining the Ahmadiyya movement before returning to Afghanistan in 1903 to proselytize to his King, Amir Habibullah Khan. Upon reaching Khost, he wrote to some courtiers who decided to have him arrested and brought to Kabul. He was put on trial and examined, first by the Amir, then by Sirdar Nasrallah Khan, another leading cleric, and then by a jury of twelve religious clerics, only two of whom gave a verdict of apostasy against him which carried the death penalty in Afghanistan. The Amir thus charged him with apostasy. On July 14, 1903, after being repeatedly asked to renounce his beliefs and recant and refusing to do so, he was stoned to death before a large crowd.

Frank A. Martin, the English Engineer-in-Chief to the government of Afghanistan at the time, who had witnessed the execution, giving an account of it in his book Under the Absolute Amir, writes:

“Before being led away from the Amir’s presence to be killed, the moullah [Abdul Latif] prophesied that a great calamity would overtake the country, and that both the Amir and the Sirdar would suffer. About nine o’clock at night the day the moullah was killed, a great storm of wind suddenly rose and raged with violence for half an hour, and then stopped as suddenly as it came. Such a wind at night was altogether unusual, so the people said that this was the passing of the soul of the Moullah. Then cholera came, and, according to former outbreaks, another visitation was not due for four years to come, and this was also regarded as part of the fulfillment of the moullah’s prophecy, and hence the great fear of the Amir and the prince, who thought they saw in all this their own death and it accounts also for the prince losing control of himself when his favorite wife died”.

Persecuted Ahmadis in Algeria

In March 2016, Algerian authorities refused an attempt by Ahmadis to register as an association under Algerian law. In June 2016, a planned Ahmadi mosque was raided and shut down in Larbraa. Since March 2016, more than 280 Ahmadis have been arrested and have faced prosecution.

Algerian officials have publicly called Ahmadis heretics and a threat to Algeria. In June 2016, The Minister of Religious Affairs and Endowments, Mohamed Aissa, described Ahmadi presence in Algeria as part of a “prepared sectarian invasion”. In February 2017, he stated that Ahmadis are “not Muslim”. In April 2017, Ahmed Ouyahia, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s chief of cabinet called on Algerians to “preserve the country from the Shia and Ahmadiyya sects”.

Persecuted Ahmadis in Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, Ahmadis have been targeted by various protests and acts of violence, and radical Islamic groups and jihadists have demanded that Ahmadis be officially declared infidels. Some adherents of Ahmadiyya have been subject to “house arrest” and several have been killed.

In late 2003 several large, violent marches, led by Moulana Moahmud Hossain Mumtazi and Mufti Noor Hussain Noorani, were directed to occupy an Ahmadi mosque.

In 2004, then Islamist coalition government of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) banned all Ahmadiyya publications. On February 12, 2019 Ahmadiyya Muslim community came under attacked by radical Islamist group in Bangladesh. ISIS claimed the attack.

Back in 2003, when anti-Ahmadi cruelty began in Bangladesh under the leadership of Moulana Moahmud Hossain Mumtazi and Mufti Noor Hussain Noorani, Blitz was the only newspaper in Bangladesh that had published series of reports and articles against such notoriety and cruelty. Later, Mufti Noor Hussain Noorani had openly given me life threat and our office came under bomb attack in July 2006.

Following this jihadist attack, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) issued a statement where IFJ President Christopher Warren said: “This is an appalling and unnecessary attack that demonstrates a blatant disregard of press freedom, as well as the serious nature of threats Bangladeshi journalists are forced to face in trying to carry out their work”.

Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), IFEX and other international organizations of journalists had also issued statements condemning this jihadist attack on Blitz office.

Persecuted Ahmadis in Bulgaria

In 2003, persistent attempts were made in Bulgaria by a local prosecutor and the national state Religious Affairs Directorate to strip Ahmadi Muslims of their legal status. Ahmadis in Bulgaria, who (at the time) claimed some 400 members across the country, were refused registration as a religious community on the grounds that they were “against the religions that people follow here” and that “other countries—such as Pakistan—also attack the religious freedom of Ahmadis, who are considered to be heretical by many Muslims”. Failing to obtain a legal status, the Ahmadiyya community decided to seek registration as a non-commercial organization with the Blagoevgrad Regional Court, where one of its biggest congregations is based. This too was rejected on the grounds that “the community had been denied registration as a religion” and that “only registered religious communities are allowed to create non-commercial entities to promote their faith”. However, the community was able to successfully challenge this latter decision and gained registration as such in December 2005. Subsequently, their legal status as a non-commercial organization was again opposed by the Religious Affairs Directorate and the Regional Prosecutor’s Office lodged a suit to the regional court calling for it to revoke the registration. The Bulgarian authorities citied the Pakistani government’s legal measures against the Ahmadis as a reason to restrict their rights also. Most human rights and religious freedom activists have seen this denial of registration to the Ahmadi community as an exception.

Persecuted Ahmadis in Gambia

Since its earliest history in the Gambia in the 1950s, Ahmadis have continued to face resistance and religious intolerance from certain Muslim clerics and Islamic bodies in the country. More recently, in 2014, a leading Gambian Muslim cleric, Alhaji Abdoulie Fatty, who was also the Imam of the State House of the Gambia at that time, called for the expulsion of Ahmadi Muslims from the country. Having described Ahmadi Muslims as non-Muslims, he called for a ban on the propagation of Ahmadiyya teachings in the Gambia. In January 2015, the government-financed Gambia Supreme Islamic Council aired on state television and other state and print media its decision to declare the Community, as a non-Muslim group. The move was condemned by Baba Trawally, the Ameer (National President) of the Gambian Ahmadiyya community and Demba Ali Jawo, former president of the Gambia Press Union.

Persecuted Ahmadis in Indonesia

In June 2008, a law was passed to curtail proselytising by Ahmadiyya members. An Ahmadiyya mosque was burned. Human rights groups objected to the restrictions on religious freedom. On 6 February 2011 some Ahmadiyya members were killed at Pandeglang, Banten province.

In the past few years there has been an increase in attacks on religious freedom, including incidents of physical abuse, preventing groups from performing prayers, and burning their mosques. Data from the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace show 17, 18, and 64 incidents for the years 2008, 2009 and 2010 respectively. Although the data cover persecution of all religions, the recent persecution of Ahmadis is significant and severe, followed by persecution of Christians and persecution of other Islamic sects who claim to be “genuine/pure/fundamentalist Muslims”.

As of 2011, the sect faces widespread calls for a total “ban” in Indonesia. On February 6, 2011, hundreds of mainstream Muslims surrounded an Ahmadiyya household and beat three people to death. Footage of the bludgeoning of their naked bodies—while policeman looked on—was posted on the internet and subsequently broadcast on international media.

Persecuted Ahmadis in “Palestine”

Ahmadis were reported to be persecuted in the Palestinian Authority-controlled areas in 2010. In 2010, Mohammed Sharif Odeh, head of the Ahmadi community in Israel, told Arutz Sheva radio that the Palestinian Authority is “encouraging the cold-blooded murder of Ahmadis” by failing to take concrete action to protect the community.

Persecuted Ahmadis in Saudi Arabia

Ahmadis are persecuted in Saudi Arabia on an ongoing basis. In a 2006–2007 nationwide campaign to track down and deport Ahmadi Muslim foreign workers, the Saudi religious police arrested 56–60 Although there are many foreign workers and Saudi citizens belonging to the Ahmadiyya sect in Saudi Arabia, Ahmadis are officially banned from entering the country and from performing the hajj and umrah pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina.

On January 24, 2007, Human Rights Watch sent an open letter to the Saudi monarch King Abdullah asking him to cease religious persecution of the Ahmadi faith in Saudi Arabia. Two letters were sent in November 2006 and February 2007 asking him to remove the travel ban on critics of the Saudi government.

In May 2012, Saudi authorities arrested two Saudi Sunni Muslim citizens for their conversion to Ahmadiyya Islam. They were arrested three months after joining the Ahmadiyya and refusing to abandon their beliefs. As of May 2014, the two accused of apostasy had served two years in prison awaiting trial. They have not been released since then.

Persecuted Ahmadis in the United Kingdom

Ahmadis in the UK have endured killings, mass protests by other Muslims against Ahmadi mosque construction, and threats and intimidation. In March 2016, the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, attended the wake of an Ahmadi, Asad Shah, 40, killed by a Sunni, Tanveer Ahmed, 32, in what the police characterised as “religious prejudice”. In April 2016, leaflets calling for death to Ahmadis were found in Stockwell Green mosque. The mosque claimed that it was unaware of the leaflets being placed on its premises. The leaflets were authored in the name of an ex-head, Yusuf Ludhianvi, of Khatme Nubuwwat Academy—an anti-Ahmadiyya organization. The organization is fully known as Almi Majlis-e-Tahafuz Khatmi Nubuwat or the International Committee for the Protection of the Finality of Prophethood.

OIC declares Ahmadis as non-Muslims

In 1973, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (an organization of 57 member countries) declared that the Ahmadi movement was not linked to the Muslim faith.

Political and jihadist groups associated with the persecution of the Ahmadis include the Majlis-e-Ahrar-e-Islam, Khatme Nabuwwat movements, Majlis-e-Tahaffuz-e-Khatme Nabuwwat, Tanzeem-e-Islami, Tehreek-e-Khatme Nabuwwat, Jamaat-e-Islami, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan, Ahley Hadis, Hizbut Tahrir, Islamic State (ISIS), Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, and Al Shabab.

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury

An internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning anti-militancy journalist, research-scholar, counter-terrorism specialist, and editor of Blitz. Follow him on Twitter Salah_Shoaib

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