Source: Radio Free Europe
To be considered Muslim, members of Pakistan’s minority Ahmadi sect must deny the beliefs of their religion.
They must swear that the Prophet Muhammad is the final prophet, and denounce the Ahmadi sect’s 19th century founder as a false prophet and his followers as non-Muslim.
The Ahmadis, or Ahmadiyya, consider themselves Muslim, but that is a view rejected by mainstream Islamic sects.
And since they refuse to declare themselves non-Muslims, the Ahmadis have been stuck in legal limbo, leaving them without fundamental human rights such as access to education and the right to vote.
Numbering almost 5 million, the community has been persecuted for decades, banned from publicly practicing their faith and the target of rising sectarian violence.
Authorities in the predominantly Muslim country of 208 million have done little to stem the attacks, with the government still refusing to grant the community equal status.
‘Paranoia, Intolerance, And Bigotry’
In what Ahmadis say is the latest attempt to segregate its members, the Islamabad branch of Pakistan’s Bar Association on January 15 made it mandatory for its 5,500 members to declare their religious affiliation. If they identify themselves as Muslim, members must sign an affidavit by January 31 declaring that they are not Ahmadis.
To be listed as a Muslim, the affidavit said the signatory must believe that Muhammad was “the last of the prophets”; that the founder of the Ahmadi sect was an “apostate, liar, and hypocrite”; and must not have ever referred to him/herself as “an Ahmadi.”
The Islamabad Bar Association (IBA) said members who failed to comply would have their membership suspended and be publicly named.
The move has been condemned on social media and criticized by bar members and rights activists, who have alleged that it is an attempt to suspend Ahmadi lawyers from the association.
Amir Mahmood, a spokesman for the Ahmadi community, told RFE/RL that the IBA’s “deplorable” decision risked further pushing the sect towards “isolation.”
“This shows the level of religious extremism in society and how religious differences are getting deeper,” Mahmood said. “It is a deliberate attempt to isolate the Ahmadis in Pakistan.”
Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, a senator and member of the bar, said the move had “buried” the South Asian country’s vision for a secular state “in heaps of paranoia, intolerance, and bigotry.”
“I am deeply saddened to be put under the spotlight to prove my faith,” said Khokar, who added that he would refuse to submit the declaration.
Khokar said that “some in the fraternity” were contemplating challenging the move in the Supreme Court.
IBA President Malik Zafar Khokhar said the purpose of the declarations was to simply “identify” the Ahmadi members of the association.
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