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Project October 14, 2018

Pakistan: The Multifaceted Persecution of the Ahmadiyya Community


The Ahmadiyya community's religious cemetery, Bahishti Maqbara, located in Rabwah, Pakistan Image by Isabella Palma Lopez. Pakistan, 2018.
The Ahmadiyya community's religious cemetery, Bahishti Maqbara, located in Rabwah, Pakistan. Image by Isabella Palma Lopez. Pakistan, 2018.

A "place of worship" for Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan cannot be called a mosque under Pakistani Law, which prohibits Ahmadis from "posing as Muslim." Ahmadis are a persecuted Islamic group who are referred to as non-believers (kafirs), or heretics, for their doctrinal apostasy on the finality of prophethood. Mainstream Muslims believe that Muhammad is the "final" prophet, so the point of contention lies in the Ahmadiyya belief that their founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad is the prophesized Messiah.

A distinguishing feature of an Ahmadi "place of worship" is the silence. There is no call to prayer, no Islamic scripture on its outside, and no conversational congregation before or after prayers. Five times a day, Ahmadi Muslims discreetly go to pray and anxiously leave once they finish. This implicit and multifaceted persecution experienced by Ahmadis not only happens during every prayer time, but in nearly all facets of their lives.

Since the automatic recourse of legal and self-declaration as an Ahmadi is not imprisonment, Ahmadis face harassment, threats, employment termination, and social ostracizing. More severely, Ahmadis are frequent victims of terrorism and incarceration most notably evidenced by the 1953 Lahore riots, 1974 Anti-Ahmadiyya riots and May 2010 attacks on Ahmadi mosques in Lahore.

Over 250 members of the community have been killed in Pakistan by anti-Ahmadi terrorist groups, while others relocate to an Ahmadi-majority town called Rabwah, where the community was originally headquartered. The community shifted its official headquarters in 1984 after Pakistan's enforcement of Ordinance XX, a law which prohibits Ahmadis from practicing Islam or "posing as" Muslims.

Ahmadis experience a rare strength in numbers within Rabwah's isolated radius, although they are imperiled in nearly all remaining areas of Pakistan. The town's semblance of refuge is at odds with the remaining parts of Pakistan, yet Ahmadis are still proscribed from the elementary human justice to worship without bigotry, congregate without violent disruption, and raise their children without fear. Rabwah presents a unique picture of the Ahmadiyya Community in Pakistan— it encompasses the external threats Rabwah faces, the maltreatment that led people there, and the dynamics of the Ahmadiyya community whose persecution in Pakistan is worsening day by day.


teal halftone illustration of praying hands