February 15, 2021: On Christmas Eve 2020 the Pakistani government issued a legal notice to U.S. citizens Amjad Mahmood Khan and Harris Zafar in their capacity as the spokesmen for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA. Pakistan demanded that the U.S. based Ahmadiyya website, TrueIslam.com, be shut down. The Pakistani legal notice claimed that failure to comply would subject Kahn and Zafar to fines of up to three million dollars or even criminal prosecution and ten-year prison sentences.
Pakistan has been making similar demands for websites and social media to remove Ahmadiyya, of Ahmadi content or face prosecution. These international demands and threats have no legal basis outside Pakistan, where the government blocks Ahmadi content from being seen in Pakistan. That only makes it more difficult, not impossible, for the forbidden content to get through. Such legal notices against foreign firms or citizens are more about showing the Moslem world that Pakistan is a more diligent defender of Islam than other Moslem-majority nations.
Pakistan also prosecutes individual Ahmadis in Pakistani courts for blasphemy and heresy. Sentences are often suspended because sending Ahmadis to prison turns them into martyrs for religious freedom and puts them at risk of being murdered by the many Islamic terrorists in prisons.
Pakistan is not the only Moslem state to target Ahmadis. For example, in 2017 an Algerian court found Islamic cleric Mohamed Fali guilty of “offending Islam” for being the leader of Algerian Ahmadi Moslems. He was released from jail and given a six-month suspended sentence.
The Pakistani government plays down its support for some forms of Islamic radicalism and the fact that it also tolerates some forms of religious persecution. This is especially true of one minority Islamic sect; the Ahmadi (Ahmadiyya). This sect appeared in India during the 1880s and has been popular enough to get one or two percent of all Moslems to join. This happened despite constant persecution in most Moslem nations. There are Ahmadis in just about every nation, even Saudi Arabia where it is illegal for Ahmadis to enter the country. Moslem foreign workers are told to keep quiet about their Ahmadi connections when entering the country, and recognize that the Saudis forbids any other religion from public worship while ignoring such worship if done by invitation in homes. This makes it possible to recruit the many essential technical experts who are not Moslem.
To avoid persecution or worse, many Ahmadi try to conceal their religious beliefs while in Moslem majority nations. To most Islamic conservatives and radicals the Ahmadi are heretics and are often attacked and even killed because of their beliefs. The Ahmadi believe in centralized authority for Islam and a separation of church and state. They also have different views on the caliphate and the future of Islam. In the late 20th century Ahmadis became more ambitious in their efforts to gain more adherents. As a result, Ahmadis began showing up in many Moslem nations where they had never been seen before.
For example, Ahmadis first appeared in Algeria during 2007 and soon got the attention of Moslem conservatives. In Algeria Moslem sects must register with the government but the Ahmadi refused to do so because their leaders felt that would expose them to rejection by the government and more violence from Islamic conservatives. Between 2017 and to 2017 nearly 300 Algerian Ahmadis were arrested because a local Ahmadi group sought a mandatory government permit to build a new mosque. Many of those arrested were prosecuted and fined or sentenced to prison. Because of all the persecution in Moslem nations the Ahmadi world headquarters is in Britain, where the Ahmadi are free to practice their belief that the West is in need of more religion and Ahmadi clerics seek new members from among Moslems and non-Moslems. The Ahmadi don’t believe in Islamic terrorism and that makes them tolerable in non-Moslem nations. But for most Moslem majority nations, leaving the Ahmadi alone is unpopular with a lot of Moslems who don’t want Islamic terrorism, or Moslems who are as nonconformist as the Ahmadi.
Some nations go further and make it illegal to be an Ahmadi. In 1974 Pakistan declared that Ahmadi Islam was illegal. This came during the 1970s when Islamic radicalism in Pakistan was given massive government support, and with that came more violence against Ahmadi Pakistanis. The Pakistani government did little to stop it. Similar patterns were seen in Indonesia although the Indonesian government has not gone as far as Algeria or Pakistan.
American lawyers for TrueIslam.com replied to Pakistan on January 11th, pointing out that the Pakistani demands were absurd as well as legally deficient. Pakistan can try to get American courts to give them a hearing but that exposes Pakistan to ridicule and more bad publicity because such moves in the past have ended badly for the foreign plaintiffs and exposes them to countersuits in American courts, which have been known to decide in favor of the countersuits and impose large fines on the foreign governments involved. That leads to more legal action in U.S. courts to seize assets of the foreign government refusing to pay the fine. No matter, Pakistan has proved that it is taking the lead in “defending Islam” from infidel attack. The Ahmadi are considered a dangerous internal threat because the sect is attracting a lot more new members who are already Moslem but no longer want to be the kind of Moslem Pakistan supports.