Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan

During the British rule in India, many European missionaries wanted to "free" both Muslims and Hindus – their "religious ignorance" by bringing them to the "truth" of Christian traditions. To overcome this mass' 'conversion’, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, a Muslim religious leader, tried to reinterpret Islamic thought through and claimed to be both the Messiah and a prophet. Most Muslims understand Muhammad as the "seal of the prophets," the last sent by God, these new interpretations by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad caused some tension.


His message, however, attracted many followers among Muslims. Many were especially drawn to his strident criticism of Christian missionaries. In 1889 he inaugurated a small group called the Jamaat-i Ahmadiyya (the Organization of Ahmad- Ahmadis), that helped spread his message. This group viewed him as the Messiah who had returned to help humanity as it faced its end.


However, in 1947, after Pakistan was established as a separate state, some Islamic scholars publicly attacked the theology of the Ahmadis. Ever since, the small minority of Ahmadis have faced discrimination and persecution in Pakistan. Many Ahmadis, consequently, were removed from prominent official posts. Following riots targeting Ahmadis in many parts of Pakistan, PM Zulfikar Bhutto had to bow down to Islamist pressure to make constitutional amendments declaring Ahmadis as non-Muslims.


Since 1985 most Ahmadis haven’t participated in an election. Voting would require them to denounce themselves as non-Muslims explicitly. Ahmadis, who declared themselves Muslims officially, for instance, faced penalties. By 2012, only 7% of Pakistanis considered Ahmadis as Muslims.


The Ahmadis, representing about 0.2 percent of Pakistan's 208 million population, continue to struggle. They have been accused of blasphemy, and laws have made it illegal for them to recite the Quran. They are also not allowed to have Islamic inscriptions on headstones, or even call their places of worship "mosques." Many have struggled to find acceptance in their national homeland and migrated to other nations.

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