FRIENDS OF SOUTH ASIA
a seminar on
Human Rights in South Asia:
Persecution of the Ahmadiyya Community
Sunday, June 22, 5 p.m.
Professor of Law
Cleveland State University
of Religious Studies
Santa Clara University
testimonies from individuals who were victims of persecution,
and a Q&A session.
The event is free and
open to all.
The Ahmadiyya faith was founded as an offshoot of the Sunni Muslim community
about 1889, by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian in the Punjab. After the independence
of India and Pakistan in 1947, the headquarters was moved to Rabwah in what
became the Pakistani part of Punjab. Mirza Tahir Ahmad, the fourth "Khalifathul
Masih" (Successor of the Promised Messiah), spiritual leader of the mainstream
"Ahmadiyya Muslim Community" for the past few decades, died on April 19th
of this year in London, having gone into exile in 1984.
The Ahmadis (as people of the Ahmadiyya sect are called) have been targets
of persecution and sectarian violence in Pakistan for a long time. In 1974,
the Constitution of Pakistan was amended, decreeing the Ahmadis as non-Muslims
in the eyes of the law. This opened the door for the official persecution
of its members under the flimsiest of pretexts (such as recitation of Islamic
prayers, referring to their places of worship as mosques, identifying
themselves as Muslims, and so on). The situation steadily became worse,
including the desecration of places of worship, and attacks on Ahmadiyya
lives and property in several campaigns of repression, while the state did
nothing to stop the perpetrators. Worse still, the state incarcerated several
followers under a Blasphemy Law that was reputedly crafted specifically with
the Ahmadiyya community in mind. This led to vast numbers of Ahmadis fleeing
Pakistan and settling in Britain, Germany, Canada and the US. Today the
status of Ahmadis in Pakistan continues to be grave -- they continue to
be discriminated against by the mainstream in the political as well as social
spheres, and are still prime targets of violence. This issue, although serious,
is not openly discussed in Pakistan. This, despite the fact that some of
the most illustrious Pakistani citizens of the 20th century belonged to
the Ahmadiyya sect - Sir Muhammad Zafrullah Khan, the noted statesman who
was Pakistan's first foreign minister as well as former president of the
International Court of Justice, and Prof. Abdus Salam, Nobel Laureate in
Physics (1979), to name just two.
We have been seeing a steady increase in human rights violations and persecution
of minority communities in South Asia in the past decade. In this context,
this seminar is an attempt to shed some light and raise awareness of the
situation of one such community, and galvanize public opinion to call for
the repealing of a divisive and inhumane law, that has been specifically
targeted at one community.
This is one of a series of events organized or co-sponsored by Friends of
South Asia (FOSA) on tolerance and human rights issues in South Asia, with
special emphasis on how they impact minorities. Previous events have included
documentary screenings on right wing groups in India, a discussion
of freedom of speech and intellectual freedom with a Pakistani playwright,
etc. Information on past and future events can be seen at: http://www.friendsofsouthasia.org/events.
ABOUT THE SPEAKERS
Tayyab Mahmud is a
Professor of Law
at Cleveland State University in Cleveland, Ohio. He is a graduate of Punjab University,
Islamabad University, University of Hawaii, and University of California-
Hastings College of Law. He has practiced law in Pakistan and the United
States and has taught at various universities in the two countries. He has
published extensively on issues of Comparative Law, Legal History, and Human
Rights, including a detailed article on freedom of religion and religious
minorities in Pakistan (see reference below).
David Pinault is
Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Santa Clara
University. Books he has written include The Shiites: Ritual
and Popular Piety in a Muslim Community (NY: St Martin's
Press, 1992) and Horse of Karbala: Muslim Devotional Life in
India (NY: Palgrave, 2001). In 2002 alone he made two trips
to Pakistan, during which he spoke with Pakistani Christians
and Ahmadis in addition to his focus on the Shia
communities in Lahore and Peshawar. Dr Pinault will speak on his experiences
with members of minority communities in Pakistan.
- Tayyab Mahmud, "Freedom of Religion
& Religious Minorities in Pakistan: A Study of Judicial Practice," 19
Fordham International Law Review 40-100 (1995).
- Tayyab Mahmud, "Protecting
Religious Minorities: The Courts' Abdication", in Chapter Six of "Pakistan:
1995" (eds. Charles H. Kennedy & Rasul Bakhsh Rais) Westview Press: Boulder
Milpitas Library Community Room is located in the Milpitas Library
40 N. Milpitas Boulevard
Milpitas, CA 95035-4495
For detailed directions, please see http://www.santaclaracountylib.org/milpitas/MIdirections.html
ABOUT THE FRIENDS OF SOUTH
Founded in the Silicon
Valley/San Francisco Bay Area, FOSA brings together people with roots in
various parts of South Asia, as well as other well-wishers of the region.
FOSA's mission is to achieve a peaceful, prosperous, and hate-free South
Asia--most immediately working towards a demilitarized, nuclear-free South
Asia and promoting respect for, and celebrating the diversity and plurality
of South Asia. FOSA works to promote amity between countries and communities,
working towards a South Asia where the rights of all minorities are respected
and protected regardless of religious, ethnic, sexual or other differences.
FOSA carries out its work through people-to-people contacts, dialog, and
other non-violent,non-exclusionary means; working as a single group and with
other organizations that share similar aspirations. FOSA's website is at