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By Abdul Aziz
Misrepresenting someone’s words from one language to another, to slander them, really is about as low as a person can get. To do so against a public religious figure, who leads a persecuted minority community, while being known for his piety, gentleness, and kindness, really takes the cake.
In this article, we will expose 4 key falsehoods by the Daily Mail author Abul Taher and explain why the Daily Mail need to retract his article. There is a potent combination of outright factual errors, along with slanderous implication. At the end, I ask you to make formal complaints against the Daily Mail using the points in this article.
Allegations against his holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, 5th Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, have sprung up on multiple websites, off the back of a leaked telephone call. The telephone call was recorded privately, without permission of the Caliph, by a certain Miss N, 36, a relative and follower of the Khalifa’s, who has since gone public with her accusations. Subsequently, ostensibly with her permission, according to its publishers, the audio conversation recorded by Miss N was leaked and publicised widely.
The Daily Mail, in reporting the contents of the leaked phone call, has made multiple errors, in multiple ways. In this article, we’re going to go through them, point by point.
To understand the points under consideration, one should know that Miss N made two sets of allegations. The first related to child sexual abuse allegations against a close family relative, here in the UK. These were referred, by the Ahmadiyya Muslim community on to the police months before the audio call was leaked. The second referred to allegations by her, of sexual assault at the hands of two Ahmadi Muslim officials in Pakistan, as an adult, in the last several years.
The Daily Mail quoted the Khalifa from the audio as saying to Miss N that:
‘My advice to you is that you drop this case, even if something happened… Even if it has, I am sure those involved would have asked for forgiveness already.’
The audio section above is in relation to the second set of allegations, relating to Miss N’s accusations against individuals in Pakistan. The mistranslated passage above gives the impression that he felt that their asking forgiveness from God was sufficient expiation of crimes of rape of sexual assault. This is absolutely not the point being made.
What he actually said is as follows. See if you can spot the difference. We provide the original Urdu transcript and English translation, with the timestamp:
07:42 Khalifa (Urdu): Lekin meri nasihat tumhe yehi hai. Main bahaisiyat nigran tumhe nasihat ker sakta hu. Aur meri nasihat tumhe yehi hai ke tumhari izzat bhi isi main hai ke ub isko choro moamle ko. Aur ainda se ager koi huwa bhi kuch tha. Mujhe nahi pata ke huwa bhi ke nahi. Ager huwa bhi tha to wo log ub itne muhtaat hogae hain ke toba taaib ker li hogi.
Khalifa (English): But this is my advice to you. I can advise you as your elder. My advice to you — and this is what will safeguard your dignity as well — is that you should now leave this matter. And in the future, even if something did happen — and I’m not aware if something did happen, but even if something did happen, those people have become so cautious now that they will have to have repented.
The point being made is that in the future, it would be unlikely the accused individuals would act in a similar way since they have become so fearful and cautious from these accusations (“mohtaat hogae”) that they will have repented of their past behaviour. In other words, they will be afraid of acting in that way with her ever again. In other words, their behaviour would have to have changed, and she would be safe from future crimes.
He absolutely was not saying that because of their asking forgiveness from God, any crimes of the past would not need to be investigated.
Indeed, as we shall see, he did in fact investigate her claims of recent sexual assault in Pakistan, while the community referred the claims from childhood onto the British police months ago.
#2 Stopped from Going to Police?
The Daily Mail articles states:
“Imam Ahmad, 71, urged the woman not to report her claims to police and wrongly says she will need four witnesses to prove a rape claim.”
Again, totally wrong. In fact, the Daily Mail shot themselves in the foot by admitting that after the call, the Khalifa himself referred her case to the UK branch of the community, AMA UK, who promptly referred the case on to the police. The Daily Mail even quotes the Ahmadi Muslim spokesperson as saying:
“‘After his conversation with the complainant, His Holiness [Ahmad] referred the matter to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association UK for immediate action. In turn, AMA UK promptly informed the Metropolitan Police, whose investigation is ongoing. In light of the police involvement, we are unable to comment further.’”
A point to note is that the community referred her to the police months before the audio call was leaked.
Also note how the author juxtaposes the false claim of ‘not taking claims to the police’, with the ‘four witnesses’ claim. This creates the impression that the Caliph somehow told her not to go to the British police on account of an Islamic ruling. But this is absurd. The claims of recent sexual assault, which were the focus of the leaked call, took place in Pakistan, far removed from British jurisdiction. The reference to ‘four witnesses was in reference to Islamic jurisprudence relevant to the Caliph’s investigation of the matter in Pakistan. It had absolutely no bearing on whether Miss Nida should go to the police in the UK. What could be referred to the British Police, was referred to the police in the UK. So the Caliph did not stop any police investigation. In fact, he facilitated one in the UK. As we shall see, there are reasons as to why his internal investigation into the Pakistani claims revealed a rather flimsy case against the accused.
#3 Need Four Witnesses?
The above quote misrepresents him as advising her that she needs four witnesses to pursue the case in British courts. As we’ve explained, that’s absolutely false. So why did the Khalifa raise the Islamic point relating to four witnesses?
As a Muslim leader, whom she came to as a relative and a spiritual follower, she was seeking his guidance and redress for perceived wrongs from members of his community. The issue of four witnesses was explained by the Khalifa in light of her accusations against individuals in Pakistan, not in the UK.
Islamic teaching is that accusations of historical assault which were committed in private and which have no evidence for or against, and are based solely on the testimony of the accuser, are not to be entertained, unless the accused admit the crime. Why? Because the burden of proof is on the accuser, and proof cannot consist merely of an accusation. Without evidence at the time of the crime, it becomes a case of “he said vs she said” and Islam regards the erroneous punishment of an innocent person as a worse outcome than letting a guilty individual go free. As such, it errs on the side of caution with respect to accusations made without any evidence, in the case of historical crimes. Only historical crimes as occurred in public are to be entertained and prosecuted. The demarcation as to whether something is a private or a public event is whether four witnesses observed the crime.
Rape or sexual assault however, if brought to the attention of the authorities at the time of the crime, not being historical in nature, can be prosecuted on the material evidence presented without witnesses. In other words, they can be crimes committed in private. This material evidence could take the form of the condition of the victim, or the perpetrator, forensic evidence or any other form of material, objective evidence.
The Khalifa raised this issue as regards her accusations made against individuals in Ahmadiyya Muslim community in Pakistan, because all that Miss N had, were accusations against them for historical crimes. Moreover, as we have detailed in a previous article, on the basis of the evidence he had seen of her initiating and responding to sexual messages with those she was accusing, as well as her lack of evidence for rape having occurred, and in addition, her confused and inconsistent report of an attempted rape, it was unlikely that she would obtain a guilty verdict.
Consequently, he advises her that she should be careful of making such accusations public, for rape could not be proven on the basis of the evidence she has presented, and the only outcome would therefore be that some people may consider her to have been a willing participant in illicit acts, in addition to being open to being sued for libel and defamation from the accused. This would only damage her reputation and finances, and would not achieve the justice she sought.
#4 Ahmadiyya Muslim Community “Rocked” by Claims
The Ahmadiyya Muslim community has not been “rocked” by these claims, as stated by the title. If by “rocked”, the author meant, “dealing with the case, appropriately referred to police and provided and paid for a therapist for the individual making accusations”, then yes, you can use that word.
Further, the title of the article implies that the Khalifa himself had been accused of such crimes. This is not the case. No such accusation has been made against the Khalifa. Such is the way of the Daily Mail, which publishes innuendo, falsehood and slander all before lunch.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim community regularly deals with matters relating to civil issues of conflict resolution. An excellent explanation of how conflict resolution works in the community, can be found here.
Bias of the Author
This may seem like a small point but it underpins all the points above. The author of the article is a non-Ahmadi Muslim. Prejudice against Ahmadi Muslim is rife among other sections of the Muslim community, with many Muslims regarding them as non-Muslim and believing they should be denied their rights to self-identification.
The question we should ask of the Daily Mail is why the article is full of inaccuracies, not least the titles of the individuals involved.
His holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, is not simply an “Imam” in the common sense of the term. He heads a community not consisting of 30,000 individuals in the UK. He heads a worldwide movement of millions of Ahmadis across the world. The inability of the author, Abul Taher, to use the term “Khalifa” which is his holiness’ actual title, is indicative of a religious bias which may very well have affected the article as a whole. It may indeed be the root cause for the multiple inaccuracies throughout the article, as listed above.