Perspective: Education is key to stopping hate crimes | Qasim Choudhary

There have been many campaigns launched by the Ahmadiyya Muslim community for the mere purpose of educating the masses about Islam’s true and immaculate teachings.

“Education is the only solution for these ignorant hate crimes.”

Re: “Islamic centre in Red Deer targeted with hateful message,” Feb. 22.

With Islamophobia on the rise, there is a heavy responsibility upon the shoulders of the Muslim community to provide the counter narrative.

There have been many campaigns launched by the Ahmadiyya Muslim community for the mere purpose of educating the masses about Islam’s true and immaculate teachings. Education is the only solution for these ignorant hate crimes.

Qasim Choudhary, Calgary

Bangladesh: Ahmadis Muslims Living in fear as 11 Ahmadiyya Families in Kushtia Ostracised

Children of the Ahmadiyya families cannot go to schools for fear of attacks. Many men have stopped going to fields for farming.

Eleven Ahmadiyya Muslim families at Moheshkhola village in the district’s Mirpur upazila have been living in insecurity after some local religious fundamentalists ostracised them.

Around 56 members of the families feared attacks from the fanatics who want them to be declared non-Muslims.

Fundamentalists asked villagers not to mix with the Ahmadiyyas. Local shopkeepers have been asked not to sell products to them, alleged Ahmadiyyas.

Zealots were trying to evict the Ahmadiyyas from their own land.

Sabuj Hossain Khaled, a leader of the Ahmadiyya community, said the fundamentalists declared them ostracised in a religious meeting (Islami Jalsha) on February 20.

He alleged that bigots took four Ahmadiyyas to the meeting and forced them to announce that they did not belong to the community any more.

Children of the Ahmadiyya families cannot go to schools for fear of attacks. Many men have stopped going to fields for farming.

“We are living in a miserable condition,” said Mouhyia Khatun, an Ahmadiyya woman.

According to Ahmadiyyas and locals, a few people converted to Ahmadiyya at the village in 1992.

Trouble flared recently when the Ahmadiyyas wanted to build a mosque on their own land. The fundamentalists obstructed the construction work.

The Ahmadiyyas reported the incident to the local police station and sought help.

A police team, led by Officer-in-Charge Rafiqul Islam of Mirpur Police Station, visited the village on February 18 and sat in a tripartite meeting.

“We agreed that both the groups would live peacefully there,” added the OC.

Mirpur Upazila Nirbahi Officer Mahbubur Rahman said the local administration was aware of the issue.

“We ordered the local police and others concerned to take necessary actions to make sure that peace prevails there,” the UNO said.

Pakistan: Many Hindu girls forced into Muslim marriages

Pakistan is a Muslim-majority country with 80% of the population following Islam. Reports show many Hindu Pakistani girls are forced into Muslim marriages

Around 1,000 girls from minority religious groups in Pakistan are forced to convert to Islam every year, local Pakistani human rights group South Asia Partnership-Pakistan reports.

USA Today reports: “Legislation banning such conversions for those under age 18 was passed unanimously late last year by the legislature of the southern province of Sindh … but it never went into effect.”

The measure, which called for up to five years in jail for those who forced a conversion, was objected by Islamic groups. “They threatened protests, arguing the law was anti-Islamic and part of a conspiracy to make Pakistan a secular country,” USA Today writes.

The report also quotes Hafiz Saeed, a leader of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (a self-described charity that the United States has labeled a terrorist group): “We will not remain silent on this controversial law.”

This legislative measure was later vetoed in January by Sindh Governer Saeed-uz-Zaman Siddiqui. According to activists, this defeat was a major hindrance for human rights in Pakistan.

The report also recounts two instances where girls were abducted and police refused to help their families. In one narrative, fourteen-year-old Ameri Kashi Kohli was abducted by her landlord and forced to marry him to become his second wife.

USA: Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Condemns Headstone Vandalism at Jewish Cemetery

Following waves of bomb threats at Jewish Centers around the country in January, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community released a similar statement, expressing their concerns.

PHILADELPHIA — Hundreds of gravestones were vandalized at a Jewish cemetery in Northeast, Philadelphia on Sunday.

On Sunday, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA condemned the headstone vandalism at the Mount Carmel Cemetery in Northeast, Philadelphia.

“We are deeply troubled by these rising and ongoing attacks on our Jewish sisters and brothers and members from our Philadelphia chapter are in route to assist in clean up,” said the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA in a press statement. “We call upon all Americans to stand united against this hatred and extremism.”

Following waves of bomb threats at Jewish Centers around the country in January, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community released a similar statement, expressing their concerns.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community says they are ready to serve and protect their Jewish brothers and sisters against acts of intolerance and hate.

USA: Ahmadi Muslim youth group among first to assist at Jewish cemetery after vandalism

“Members of the local Ahmadiyya Muslim Community have showed up to help us right the headstones. They are calling their youth to come join us.

Between 75 and 100 tombstones were overturned and damaged Saturday night at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia, police said Sunday.

While social media users responded with outrage, a group from Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association physically showed up to assist in in cemetary.

A local rabbi, Yosef Goldman went on Facebook to say community support was immediate, writing: “Members of the local Ahmadiyya Muslim Community have showed up to help us right the headstones. They are calling their youth to come join us. #sacredresistance”

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf tweeted: “The vandalism of Jewish headstones at a Phila. cemetery is a cowardly, disturbing act. We must find those responsible and hold accountable.”

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney issued a statement urging solidarity. “Hate is not permissible in Philadelphia,” he said. “I encourage Philadelphians to stand with our Jewish brothers and sisters and to show them that we are the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection.”

The Anne Frank Center for the United States urged President Trump to take action, tweeting: “Jewish graves in Philadelphia now vandalized. Stop this incubator of #Antisemitism and other hate. WE BEG YOU @POTUS @realDonaldTrump”

Indonesian hard-liners again turn up heat on Ahmadis

“We reject the presence of Ahmadis in Depok. They have been declared heretical yet they still practice their beliefs here. Don’t blame us if we take tough action.”

The constantly under fire followers of the Ahmadiyah religious sect are facing yet another round of persecution.

This time the administration of Depok, West Java, has shut down their last remaining mosque following intense pressure from a mob demanding the disbandment of the congregation.

A sign has been erected in front of the Al-Hidayah Mosque, declaring illegal all the sect’s activities in the precinct. Seven Ahmadis were forced to perform their obligatory Friday prayers in the mosque’s yard.

The mosque has been shuttered six times since 2011, when an influential Islamic group in Depok, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), declared the sect heretical.

Ahmadi beliefs are regarded as deviant by most Indonesian Muslims, who are mainly Sunnis, because Ahmadis do not regard Muhammad as the last prophet.

Hundreds of Islamic hard-liners, including members of the notorious Islam Defenders Front (FPI), staged a rally on Friday in front of the mosque and threatened to take harsh measures should the authorities fail to expel the Ahmadis from the city as well as to demolish the sealed mosque.

“We reject the presence of Ahmadis in Depok. They have been declared heretical yet they still practice their beliefs here. Don’t blame us if we take tough action,” cleric Ahmad Daman Huri said in his speech.

The rally participants claimed they were ready to die to defend what they described as “an attempt to protect Islamic values.”

As many as 400 personnel from the police, the Army and the local Public Order Agency stood guard in front of the mosque, aiming to prevent the crowd from either entering or damaging the house of worship, which was built in 1999.

The mosque, which obtained a permit as a house of worship in 2007, is a sacred place for nearly 400 Ahmadis who had practised their faith uninterrupted until 2011 when persecution of the Ahmadis commenced nationwide.

Farid Mahmud Ahmad, an Ahmadiyah cleric, questioned the closure, saying the move lacked transparency and legal backing.

“We never received any notification before the closure. They say that our activities are illegal, but what activities? The term is not clear and is open to multiple interpretations,” he said.

He added that members of the sect had been there since the late 1980s and lived in harmony with the rest of the community. However, things turned sour when the sect was declared heretical.

“We used to socialize well and were accepted by society. We even organized an annual sporting event,” said Farid.

“We started to face some trouble early in 2011, when a seminar was held by the MUI in Depok declaring us heretical,” he said, adding that the growing negative perception had forced the sect to refrain from public activity in 2014.

The administration did not seek a court decision before deciding to shutter the Al-Hidayah Mosque.

The step was taken on the basis of a 2008 joint ministerial decree and a 2011 Depok city bylaw concerning the Ahmadiyah.

The regulations prohibited Ahmadiyah followers from spreading their faith, said Depok Public Order Agency head Dudi Mi’raz.

National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) chairman Imdadun Rahmat slammed the closure, saying the city administration should instead protect its citizens in carrying out their activities regardless of their beliefs.

“The closure is baseless. The joint ministerial decree never touched on banning their activities,” he said, adding that the commission would send a letter to the administration, urging them and the police to ensure the safety of the Ahmadis.

“The administration should instead educate the citizens about tolerance and take firm action against intolerant groups,” he added.

Depok Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Herry Heryawan insisted the police would continue to protect any lawful activity carried out by residents in the city, including the Ahmadis.

Indonesia has seen an increase in violations against religious freedom. The Wahid Institute recorded 190 violations against religious freedom in 2015, a 23 percent increase from the 154 in 2014.

The violations were mostly in the form of sealing places of worship and the prohibition of their construction, as well as obstructing celebrations or rituals of certain faiths.