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a seminar on

Human Rights in South Asia:
Persecution of the Ahmadiyya Community in Pakistan

Sunday, June 22, 5 p.m.
Milpitas Library Community Hall


Tayyab Mahmud
Professor of Law
 Cleveland State University

David Pinault
Associate Professor of Religious Studies
Santa Clara University

Also featuring 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:


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 (1995).
Milpitas Library Community Room is located in the Milpitas Library at:
40 N. Milpitas Boulevard
Milpitas, CA 95035-4495
(408) 262-1171
For detailed directions, please see

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


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