Tehelka Creates Undue Commotion

Sai Manish, a reporter at the popular Indian magazine Tehelka, wrote about the increasing visibility of Ahmadiyya issues in India, titled The Minority’s Minority.  While it did cover many areas, some gaps were left and the conclusions drawn appeared to be based on incomplete information.

Dear Sai Manish,
1. The opening quotation of your article is from a pamphlet and is indeed deplorable.  This pamphlet has been printed and re-printed by various organisations and carries the same objectionable language.  The full force of the law should be applied to such inflammatory statements and Muslim clerics should get over a concept of apostasy that has never really existed under any Muslim state government.
2. Your conclusions about Dr. Salam were unfounded and based on rhetoric employed by the Qadiani leadership.  Dr. Salam was a great Pakistani scientist and is well-regarded among students of physics and mathematics.  Two government institutes of post-graduate research in physics and mathematics are named after him, and the Pakistani government has issued stamps in his honour.  He can be compared with Dr. Chandrasekhar of India, and that is a comparison you should have done.  A Nobel laureate in the sciences is rarely a folk hero and neither Dr. Salam nor Dr. Chandrasekhar will have cities named after them like ‘Gandhinagar’ or their birthdays declared holidays.  Dr. Salam is a cult hero among the Qadiani Ahmadiyya as their leadership have little else to keep their followers in thrall.  In 1974, Dr. Salam resigned from all government positions and wrote bitterly to Prime Minister Bhutto after the Pakistani parliament passed the constitutional amendment that declared Ahmadis to be non-Muslim for purposes of the law.  In other words, he couldn’t be loyal to a constitution that declared him non-Muslim, which may be an individually noble act but not likely very endearing.  Also, he had little contact with the Ahmadiyya community until he won the Nobel prize in 1979, as he lived in Italy and England and was married to a British professor who was not a Muslim.  Religious clerics may say baseless things about him but they have little say in the standing of Dr. Salam within Pakistan’s educational and research circles.  
3. Isolation and social boycott: Right from their inception, the Qadiani Ahmadiyya forbid marriages with other Muslims and prohibition from participation in funerals.  In Indo-Pak Muslim culture, these are two main bonding events between people.  In addition, the Qadiani do not recognise any contemporary Muslim scholar as legitimate as they claim to be the ‘real Islam’ – thus treating all other Muslims as non-Muslims.  This last point was the thrust of the debate in Pakistani courts in 1953 and parliament in 1974.  In comparison, the Lahori Ahmadiyya do not practice this isolation and thus integrate much better.  So, what kind of ‘integration’ are you expecting from the Muslim community while the group itself is self-isolated?  You also write that Muslim *qazis *are refusing to perform the marriage of Ahmadis.  Did you know that having an Ahmadi’s performed by a non-Ahmadi (derogatory term for Muslim used by Qadianis) is punishable by excommunication?
4. You do not mention how Mr. Jehangir Ali has been ‘threatened’, and whether he has approached law enforcement about the threats if they have cross the threshold of criminality?
5. Isn’t an issue of mosque custody an issue for the Wakf Board, and then for the courts of law in India?  Doesn’t the community around have a say if they do not consider the current custodians part of the community or the Islamic tradition?  If not, then you are implying that it is a family property – in which case it should still go before a court of law.  Your article quotes Ali as ‘tackling this legally’ — would you not agree?
6. You used unrelated facts to paint a disjointed picture of global antagonism against Ahmadiyya, which you say has now entered India from Pakistan.  For a number of years, the Qadiani headquarters in the United Kingdom has funnelled about a third of its international funds into India.  That money is being spent on proselytizing to the Muslim community in India.  In addition, the Qadiani attacks on Muslims in Western media have reached unprecedented proportions.  Should there not be a reaction to it, although some of the reaction may be misguided?  By comparison, other offshoots of Islam like Bahais, Druze, and even Lahori Ahmadis, do not do any such propaganda.  It is one thing to invite people to a parochial viewpoint — it is quite another to tell them that they are not real Muslims unless they believe in the ‘preacher from Qadian’.  Finally, have you or your paper received any advertisement or other media spend from the Qadiani Ahmadiyya?  This question is relevant as the Wimbledon Guardian (U.K.) printed articles that were not newsworthy while double-page advertisements were being channelled to them — and the thrust of the articles was the same: impending terrorism against Ahmadis. 
7. I agree with your conclusion that the Qadiani Ahmadiyya should not have to ‘fend for themselves’, and we should help them. However, any such help starts with community dialogue and mutually binding agreements.  For a messianic movement whose aim is ‘ghalba-e-Ahmadiyyat’ (dominance of Ahmadiyya over all Muslims), this is a tough task and in their 120-year-old history, they  have managed to poison relations between Hindus and Muslims, Christians and Muslims, and now with Muslims.  What they believe is inconsequential, and they should have the full right to profess it.  However, religious-freedom laws are unanimous in the principle that one group’s religious freedoms end where other people’s freedom starts.  Muslim communities should be secure in not having interference in their religion, their epithets and their heritage — and that was the essence of the laws passed in Pakistan.  Although the laws are sometimes abused, their goal is to ensure that ‘mother of the believers’ refers to a wife of Muhammad (saw) and that a mosque is a place where all Muslims are free to select their Imam and pray.  As an example, were I to write an alternative narrative of the Ramayana and then spend millions disseminating it to Hindus as the ‘real Ramayaan’, I would definitely not be a darling of Hindu pandits.  However, if I were to ascribe a new name to my religion, the majority of law-abiding citizens would tolerate it — just as Sikhism arose out of Hinduism and Jainism is disinguished from Hinduism, or Mormonism is an offshoot of Christianity.  Newsweek recently wrote that the [Qadiani] Ahmadiyya religion is an offshoot of Islam — almost no Muslims would disagree with that.
Our opinion is that the Qadiani Ahmadiyya have to adopt a ‘cult-like’ control of their followers and a continuous propaganda campaign in the media  to divide them from the ‘other’ which has unfortunate repercussions.  Were they to either integrate, or peacefully isolate themselves, these problems would mostly go away.  Religious freedom is not the problem — cult-like control of a closed and isolated organisation is.