Published On:17 May 2012
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

Kashmir mufti takes aim at Ahmadiyyas

By Sudha Ramachandran

Bangalore: Kashmir's Grand Mufti Mohammed Bashir-ud-din is stirring the communal and sectarian cauldron in the valley again. Barely four months after he issued a fatwa targeting Christians in the state, the cleric has the Ahmadiyyas in his crosshairs.

He has called on the Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) State Assembly to pass legislation declaring the Ahmadiyyas - an Islamic reformist movement founded in British India - non-Muslim.

The decision to press this demand was made by religious leaders of the J&K Muslim Personal Law Board at a meeting convened by Bashir-ud-din a week ago. Ahmadiyyas are declared non-Muslims in other countries "and they should be declared as non-Muslims here as well," a statement issued by the Grand Mufti said. Referring to the "increasing activities" of the Ahmadiyyas in Kashmir, it said that declaring them non-Muslim would address the "grievance of all the people."

The Ahmadiyyas are a small minority, perhaps just a few hundred strong, in the Sunni Muslim-dominated Valley. Given the extreme discrimination they have suffered across South Asia, Bashir-ud-din's call is likely to stir deep anxiety among the community in Kashmir.

In January this year, the grand mufti issued a fatwa calling for expulsion of three Christian priests from the state for allegedly "luring" the valley's Muslims to Christianity through "baits and inducements".

Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Head of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat
A sharia-law court that Bashir-ud-din presides over summoned the priests for interrogation and claimed later that they had confessed to converting Kashmiri youth to Islam. Anti-Christian sentiment surged in the valley and calls for killing the priests and burning down churches and Christian schools resounded on the Internet. The Christian community in the valley has been gripped in panic over the past several months.

It is the turn of the Ahmadiyyas now to face the intolerance and wrath of Kashmir's religious radicals.

Ahmadiyyas are followers of a Muslim cleric Mirza Ghulam Ahmed (1835-1908) from Qadian in Punjab, who declared himself to the new prophet of Islam and started the Ahmadiyya movement at the turn of the 20th century. In his lifetime, Ahmed was generally ignored by orthodox Muslims. But on his death, there was a surge in his following. A concerted attack on his teachings began thereafter.

In 1935, Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Usmani, a religious scholar of the Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Hind wrote a thesis against Ahmad's teachings and declared him a false prophet. Anyone who accepted him as a prophet was liable to be stoned to death, Usmani declared.

Ahmadiyyas believe in the basic tenets of Islam. It is only on the issue of the final prophet that they differ with the ummah. The latter regards Mohammed to be the final prophet, Ahmadiyyas believe Muhammad to be the final law-bearing prophet but teach the continuity of prophethood. They consider themselves to be Muslims. Orthodox Muslims do not think so and regard them to be apostate. They have subjected Ahmadiyyas to much violence.

Violent anti-Ahmadiyya riots rocked Pakistan in 1953. In 1974, prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto bowed to orthodox clerics to amend the constitution to declare Ahmadiyyas non-Muslim. General Zia-ul Haq's military regime took it further. It promulgated Ordinance XX targeting the Ahmadiyyas. As a result Ahmadiyyas are prohibited from "indirectly or directly posing as a Muslim," declaring or propagating their faith publicly, building mosques or even referring to their places of worship as mosques. They are forbidden from making the Muslim call to prayer.
Besides, under the "blasphemy law" as Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code is known, the Ahmadiyya belief in the prophethood of Ahmed is considered blasphemous as it "defiles the name of Prophet Mohammed". Blasphemy is punishable with the death sentence in Pakistan.

There are around four million Ahmadiyyas in Pakistan. Members of the community have been attacked and killed, their property has been destroyed and graves dug up. In 2010, Islamic radicals attacked Ahmadiyya mosques in Lahore during Friday prayers killing around a hundred people.

In Bangladesh too Ahmadiyyas face discrimination. Although they have not been declared non-Muslim, the government in 2004 banned the publication, sale, distribution and preservation of books and booklets on Islam published by the Ahmadiyyas.

The Indian government recognizes Ahmadiyyas as Muslim. A landmark high court verdict in 1970 reinforced this position, arguing that Ahmadiyyas are Muslims as they believe in two of the basic tenets of Islam i.e. that there is no God but Allah and that Mohammed is his messenger.

However, orthodox sections among India's Muslims have refused to accept Ahmadiyyas as Muslims. The Darul Uloom Deoband, a leading seminary declared Ahmadiyyas to be non-Muslim and called on the Saudi government to stop them from performing hajj. Ahmadiyyas are not allowed to sit on the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board too. Muslim organizations keep raising objections to Ahmadiyyas being regarded as Muslim. In 2010, for instance, Muslim organizations were up in arms because government school textbooks in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh referred to the Ahmadiyya movement as a reform movement among Muslims.
The Kashmir grand mufti's call for legislation declaring Ahmadiyyas non-Muslim must be seen in this context. While his demand is unlikely to be conceded, it could encourage tensions, intimidation and violence.

A Kashmiri Ahmadiyya who spoke to Asia Times Online on condition of anonymity said that it is the Ahmadiyya belief in non-violence that irks South Asia's religious radicals today. He pointed out that the founder of the Ahmadiyya movement had emphasized "jihad of the pen rather than the sword" in furthering the cause of Islam, arguing that the Koran authorized jihad only as defensive action and that too only under certain circumstances. "The Ahmadiyyas' efforts to spread Islam through writing and persuasion have not gone down well with those who favor violence," he said.

Kashmir's Ahmadiyyas did not support the decade-long insurgency that erupted in 1989. They do not support Kashmir's accession to Pakistan either as they "do not want to meet the fate of their kin across the border in Pakistan." "Our situation in India is far better than it would be in Pakistan," the Kashmiri Ahmadiyya said.

Jammu & Kashmir is India's only Muslim-majority state. The valley is overwhelmingly Muslim.
For centuries, Kashmiri Muslims practiced a gentle variant of Islam, one that was influenced heavily by the teachings of Sufi saints and Hindu Rishis. The eclectic and syncretic nature of the Kashmiri Muslims' beliefs enabled the emergence of Kashmiriyat, a pluralistic and tolerant cultural ethos that Kashmir's Hindus and Muslims once shared.

That shared ethos came under severe pressure when an anti-India insurgency backed by Pakistan erupted in Kashmir in 1989. It turned its guns first at the Pandits (the valley's Hindus) , who were labeled "stooges" of the Indian state. Several Pandits were assassinated. "Hit lists" naming Pandits were announced over loudspeakers at mosques. At mass protests, people shouted slogans calling for the creation of an Islamic state in Kashmir.

This divided Kashmir along communal lines as never before. It resulted in the flight of around 300,000 Pandits from the valley.

The Pandit exodus and the decade-long insurgency that followed dealt a deadly blow to Kashmiriyat. Pandits have not been able to return to their homes in the valley. Thus to many Kashmiris the concept of Kashmiriyat rings hollow.

Kashmir has a long history of communal harmony. Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs have lived together here peacefully for centuries. In 1947, when the rest of the sub-continent was engulfed in communal violence, Kashmir was a rare haven of peace, prompting Mahatma Gandhi to observe that it was Kashmir that provided him with "a ray of hope".

That ray of hope came under a cloud in the decades that followed with Islamic militants in the valley and Hindutva groups across the Pir Panjal range in the Jammu region stirring communal hatred.

The decline of Sufism and the growing grip of orthodox Islam in Kashmir since the 1990s lies at the root of the current intolerance displayed by a section of Kashmir's religious leaders towards other religious minorities and Muslim sects. Such intolerance does not have support among the masses but displaying it comes in handy for clerics jostling to project themselves as true guardians of the faith.

[Sudha Ramachandran is an independent journalist/researcher based in Bangalore. She can be reached at sudha98@hotmail.com]

(Courtesy: Asia Times Online)

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Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on May 17, 2012. Filed under , , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

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