The Ahmadi Muslims: A Curious Sect
by Hugh Fitzgerald
With an Ahmadi Muslim apologist, Qasim Rashid, running for the Virginia State Senate and charging his opponent with “Islamophobia,” it’s worthwhile to give this sect a closer look.
The Ahmadi Muslims are a curious sect. They make up only 1% of the world’s Muslims — if indeed we accept that they are Muslims at all. Because their founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, claimed in 1889 to be both a prophet who came after Muhammad, and the Mahdi, many orthodox Muslims do not accept Ahmadis as Muslims. Indeed, in Pakistan, where the most Ahmadis — four million — live, they are forbidden, by the Second Amendment to the Constitution, to identify themselves as Muslims. They have been subject to large-scale attacks in Pakistan, during the anti-Ahmadi riots in Lahore in 1953, and again in 1974, when dozens of Ahmadi mosques were demolished or set on fire around the country. The last large-scale anti-Ahmadiyya violence ending in many deaths was in 2010, when, during Friday prayers, 94 Ahmadis were killed and more than 120 were injured in nearly simultaneous attacks against two mosques in Lahore. In 2018, a historic Ahmadi mosque, as old as the movement itself, was torn down in Sialkot. And there have consistently been smaller attacks, on one or several Ahmadis at a time, killed for being heretics or Infidels.
Pakistan is not the only Muslim country to treat the Ahmadis as non-Muslims. Saudi Arabia forbids Ahmadis from living in the country. But among the foreign workers, some Ahmadis manage to slip in, and the Saudi government routinely conducts nationwide raids to locate and deport them. Nor does Saudi Arabia allow Ahmadis to make the Hajj to Mecca. Pakistan raises an additional barrier to Ahmadis performing the Hajj. It requires that all Muslims applying for a passport must denigrate the founder of the community, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, and declare that all Ahmadis are non-Muslims. This requirement, naturally, discourages some Ahmadis from applying for a passport.
Ahmadis have been persecuted, attacked, and banned in many other Muslim countries. In 1924, affiliation with the Ahmadiyya became a capital offense in Afghanistan. Since then, no Ahmadiyya Muslims have been reported in Afghanistan. In Algeria, the position of the Ahmadis has worsened in the last few years. In March 2016, Algerian authorities refused an attempt by Ahmadis to register as an association under Algerian law. In June 2016, a planned Ahmadi mosque was raided and shut down in Larbraa. Since March 2016, more than 280 Ahmadis have been arrested and have faced prosecution. Algerian officials have publicly called Ahmadis heretics and a threat to Algeria. In June 2016, the Minister of Religious Affairs and Endowments, Mohamed Aissa, described the Ahmadi presence in Algeria as part of a “prepared sectarian invasion.” In February 2017, he stated that Ahmadis are “not Muslim.” In April 2017, Ahmed Ouyahia, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s chief of cabinet, called on Algerians to “preserve the country from the Shia and Ahmadiyya sects.” In Bangladesh, in late 2003, several large, violent marches ended in the occupation of an Ahmadi mosque. In 2004, all Ahmadiyya publications were banned from the country. In India, Ahmadyyas are recognized by the government as Muslims, but they are not permitted by Muslims of other sects to sit on the All India Muslim Personal Law Board. In Indonesia, Ahmadi have been attacked and killed by mobs, and warned by the government not to try to spread their faith. In Malaysia, Ahmadis are forbidden from saying Friday Prayers at the central mosque, which also bears a large sign declaring that “Qadianis [Ahmadis] are not Muslims.”
In the U.K., Ahmadi shops have been vandalized, and Muslims instructed not to vote for Ahmadi candidates. Anti-Ahmadi hate leaflets have been distributed all over London. The Ummah Channel has broadcast interactive television programs on which religious leaders and callers alike said that Ahmadis should be killed. And Ahmadis, such as Asad Shah, have been killed by mainstream Muslims.
All of this shows that the Ahmadis are discriminated against, persecuted, and even killed, in many parts of the Islamic world. Yet the Ahmadis enthusiastically proselytize for Islam in the United States. They never discuss, in their meetings with non-Muslims, what Ahmadis endure at the hands of mainstream Muslims. Many of the Ask-A-Muslim-Anything events are put on by Ahmadis, who also conduct many of the Open-Mosque meetings. The Ahmadi sect is genuinely more peaceful in what it preaches about Jihad than are mainstream Muslims. Ahmadis stress their desire to spread Islam by non-violent means, and their outreach efforts to non-Muslims are sincere. But some of their spokesmen, such as the State Senate candidate Qasim Rashid and Harris Zafar, consistently defend Sunni Muslims, the very people who deny that Ahmadis are true Muslims.
Robert Spencer took on Qasim Rashid two days ago: “Qasim Rashid has for years been a professional liar, a one-man cottage industry of deception and hypocrisy. He has whitewashed Muhammad’s support for torture and the reality of jihad violence and Sharia oppression; dissembled about the Qur’an’s sanction of deception of unbelieversthe presence of violent passages in the Qur’anthe Qur’an’s sanction of beating disobedient womenthe nature of Shariacalled for limitations on the freedom of speech and expression to outlaw behavior and speech some Muslims may find offensive; and lied about Muhammad’s stance toward the persecution of Christians. He has even blamed Christianity for Islam’s death penalty for blasphemy. He has also claimed that ‘the teachings of Islam could help us prevent more sexual abuse scandals.’ When challenged about the ‘facts’ he has presented, Qasim Rashid (like virtually all other Islamic supremacists) responds with furious ad hominem contempt, but never answers the refutations of his articles on substantive ground — because, of course, he cannot do so.”
It’s hard to fathom the reasoning of these Ahmadi defenders of orthodox Islam. Perhaps they insist on defending Sunni Islam because they keep thinking that if they deploy their taqiyya convincingly, and if they proselytize not for Ahmadiyya Islam alone, but for mainstream Islam, that eventually they will be recognized by Muslims as full-fledged members of the Ummah. It’s a vain hope. The enmity toward them, because of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s claim to be the last prophet and the Mahdi, is ferocious and implacable.
There is another way. Why do the Ahmadi spokesmen not openly declare, in the physical security of the West, during these outreach sessions which the Ahmadis are so tirelessly organizing, how they differ from mainstream Muslims? For the difference is not just over the claims made by and for their founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, but also in their peaceful understanding of Jihad, an understanding quite different from that of mainstream Muslims.
According to Ahmadiyya beliefs, “Jihad can be divided into three categories: Jihad al-Akbar (Greater Jihad) is that against the self and refers to striving against one’s low desires such as anger, lust and hatred; Jihad al-Kabir (Great Jihad) refers to the peaceful propagation of Islam, with special emphasis on spreading the true message of Islam by the pen; Jihad al-Asghar (Smaller Jihad) is an armed struggle only to be resorted to in self-defense under situations of extreme religious persecution whilst not being able to follow one’s fundamental religious beliefs, and even then only under the direct instruction of the Caliph. Ahmadi Muslims point out that as per Islamic prophecy, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad rendered Jihad in its military form as inapplicable in the present age as Islam, as a religion, is not being attacked militarily but through literature and other media, and therefore the response should be likewise. They believe that the answer of hate should be given by love.”
Concerning terrorism, the fourth Caliph of the Community wrote in 1989:
“As far as Islam is concerned, it categorically rejects and condemns every form of terrorism. It does not provide any cover or justification for any act of violence, be it committed by an individual, a group or a government.
Isn’t this the version of Islam with which we kaffirs just might be able to coexist? Why shouldn’t the Ahmadis spread the word of just how they differ from the mainstream on the matter of Jihad, and why those thinking of converting to Islam should recognize that Ahmadiyya Islam, with its emphasis on peaceful Jihad, and its forthright condemnation of terrorism, truly is what mainstream Islam falsely claims to be?
Ahmadis should cease being apologists for mainstream Islam, as Qasim Rashid and Harris Zafar have so puzzlingly been, and instead should unembarrassedly promote only Ahmadiyya Islam. They should not defend Sunni Islam, whose members have so often persecuted, attacked, and murdered Ahmadis.
The Ahmadis are good at proselytizing, and as their numbers, influence, and power increase in the Western world — they are now the fastest-growing sect of Islam — they may perhaps be able to affect, for the better, the position of Ahmadis in Muslim countries. Some of those countries — especially in black Africa — are already well-disposed to the Ahmadis. It would be wonderful if Muslims in those places, disturbed by the violence and terrorism of mainstream Islam, were to turn to, and embrace, Ahmadiyya Islam. The Ahmadiyya Movement has won converts, despite the obvious danger Ahmadis face not just in the West, but among mainstream Muslims in such places as India, Indonesia, and Egypt. It can be seen as a kind of stepping-stone out of Islam for those who are dismayed by the violence in the orthodox version of the faith, but too afraid to become apostates outright. As for the world’s Infidels, they have a vested interest, too, in having Muslims in their own lands turn toward the Ahmadiyya Movement, for that would lessen the domestic menace of violence and terrorism.
If there were not 20 million Ahmadi in the world, but 100 million, it would be harder for orthodox Muslims to treat them with such contumely and murderous hate. But first, the Ahmadis must distance themselves completely from those in the Ahmadiyya Movement, such as Rashid and Zafar, who have been apologists for mainstream Islam. As for those Ahmadis who continue to serve as apologists for orthodox Islam, they should be held up, as Robert Spencer has done so devastatingly with Rashid and Zafar, for inspection, examination, and condemnation. Instead, Ahmadis should not attempt to hide, but instead openly discuss, the kinds of mistreatment (including murder), that Ahmadis have received from orthodox Muslims, and discuss, too, how very different from the mainstream view is the Ahmadi understanding of Jihad.
At these Open-Mosque meetings held by Ahmadis, whenever a stout defender of Islam, following the Qasim Rashid-Harris Zafar model, is conducting the event, visitors should come prepared to ask questions about two things. First, what are the precise differences in doctrine concerning Jihad and terrorism between the Ahmadis and all other Muslims? This will force the Ahmadi apologist to admit that mainstream Islam sanctions both violent Jihad and terrorism, and the Ahmadiyya Movement does neither. Second, a question about the persecution, discrimination, and murder of Ahmadis by mainstream Muslims will remind visitors to the mosque of the cruelty and barbarousness of Muslims, in dealing with those — in this case, the Ahmadis — who are seen as heretics, or even as Infidels, and thus deserving of such treatment.
What about Ahmadi efforts to convert non-Muslims in the West? Here we need to underline, for other Unbelievers, that the Ahmadis are not regarded as true Muslims in many Muslim countries. Whether by constitutional amendment (Pakistan), or law (Saudi Arabia), or whipped-up popular sentiment (Indonesia), they are in many places discriminated against, persecuted, even murdered. They are not allowed to make the Hajj. Would-be converts in the West should know that joining the Ahmadiyya sect can be a dangerous thing. Surely that will dampen the enthusiasm of some.
We should wish the Ahmadis success in converting those who are already Muslims, wherever they may be, to a “kinder, gentler” form of Islam that may lead them eventually out of Islam altogether. But at the same time, we should wish that their proselytizing in the West not succeed among us, the still insubmissive Infidels, for whom embracing Ahmadiyya Islam would be a step in the wrong direction.
First published in Jihad Watch.