A terrorist group publishes images of what looks like a forced conversion, while mosques and graves are desecrated in Punjab.
by Massimo Introvigne
A visibly terrorized young man sits among bearded Islamic militants. This is an image found only in the so-called deep web, a dangerous place unknown to the mainline search engines and where terrorists and other criminals roam free. We are told that the man is one Chaudhry Zubair, from Sargodha, Punjab, Pakistan, and he is renouncing his Ahmadi faith and “converting” to “orthodox Islam” in the hands of some recognizable leaders of the radical Islamic organization Lashkar-e-Taiba, considered a terrorist groups in several countries, officially including Pakistan itself where it is however unofficially tolerated by the authorities.
We have no way of knowing whether the story is true, but the images and comments are inherently violent, another testament of the persecution vested on the Ahmadis of Pakistan.
The Ahmadiyyat is a movement founded within Islam by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835–1908). Conservative Muslims accuse Ahmad of having considered himself a “prophet,” whereas Islam teaches that there can be no prophet after Muhammad. The Ahmadi formula for Ahmad, “at the same time a prophet and a follower of the Holy Prophet [ Muhammad],” is not enough to establish orthodoxy in the eyes of Muslim clerics. In Pakistan, laws prevent the Ahmadis from calling themselves “Muslims,” and they are heavily persecuted.
Documented attacks occur almost daily. On May 31 and June 1, for example, another incident targeted the Ahmadis in Pind Dadan Khan, a city in the Jhelum district of Punjab. The minarets of the Baitul Hamd Mosque were demolished, and Ahmadi graves were desecrated.
The story started with a complaint lodged by one Naveed Shahzad, a member of the radical Islamic organization Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, to which Bitter Winter has devoted a 7-article series in 2021. He claimed that the Ahmadi mosque in Pind Dadan Khan had minarets, and thus might be mistaken for a mainline Muslim place of worship. Since the law prohibits Ahmadis from calling themselves Muslims, the complainant believed it also implicitly prohibits their places of worship to have minarets.
The Assistant Commissioner and the Deputy Superintendent of Police of the city agreed with the complainant, and had the minarets destroyed.
A similar accusations, that they had Islamic inscriptions and may mislead cemetery visitors into believing that Muslims are buried there, was raised against Ahmadi graves in Pind Dadan Khan. The authorities had the inscriptions removed too.
Interestingly, both the minarets and the inscriptions had been in Pind Dadan Khan since 1952, and nobody had complained before. It is difficult to avoid the impression that, once again, members of radical Islamic organizations and local police officers cooperated in the harassment of the Ahmadis.
Massimo Introvigne (born June 14, 1955 in Rome) is an Italian sociologist of religions. He is the founder and managing director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), an international network of scholars who study new religious movements. Introvigne is the author of some 70 books and more than 100 articles in the field of sociology of religion. He was the main author of the Enciclopedia delle religioni in Italia (Encyclopedia of Religions in Italy). He is a member of the editorial board for the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion and of the executive board of University of California Press’ Nova Religio. From January 5 to December 31, 2011, he has served as the “Representative on combating racism, xenophobia and discrimination, with a special focus on discrimination against Christians and members of other religions” of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). From 2012 to 2015 he served as chairperson of the Observatory of Religious Liberty, instituted by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to monitor problems of religious liberty on a worldwide scale.