Posted 4 August 2019
Pakistan’s minority Ahmadiyya community has been subject to persecution since the 1953 Anti-Ahmadiyya Riots in Lahore when religiopolitical parties, including Jamaat-i-Isami, Majlis-i-Ahrarul Islam, Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan, agitated against the community. For years, followers of this sect have been speaking out against their institutionalised discrimination and disenfranchisement in the country. Most recently, Ahmadiyya community member Abdul Shakoor had the chance to meet with President Trump to call attention to the plight of the Ahmadis in Pakistan.
After news of the meeting was shared online, social media exploded with anti-Ahmadiyya messages and a hashtag campaign which sparked fierce debate all over the country.
A history of disenfranchisement
Pakistan is home to a large Ahmadiyya community which follows the teachings of Mirzā Ghulām Ahmad. The group’s beliefs are controversial in Pakistan because they profess that their founder was the last Messiah. This goes against a core tenant of Islam as followed by the majority Sunni Muslims who believe that “the Prophet Mohammad was God’s last direct messenger.”
This conflict of belief led the Pakistani government to declare Ahmadis “non-muslim” by an amendment in the 1973 constitution of Pakistan. Since then, the community has been subject to a number of rules that prohibit calling their places of worship ‘mosques’, limit their public worship, and penalise sharing information about their faith.
On 17 July, Abdul Shakoor, an 82-year-old Ahmadi living in the US, met with US President Trump to appraise him of the situation faced by the Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan. Shakoor was arrested in 2015 on charges of spreading the Ahmadiyya faith as well as inciting religious hatred and sectarianism. He was sentenced to a total of eight years in prison, of which he served three.
During the meeting with President Trump, Shakoor was accompanied by Shaan Taseer, co-founder of Pakistan for All, a group that advocates for minority rights in Pakistan