Originally posted on Guardian, here
In 2013, I organised an event at University College London for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Student Association UK titled Innocence of Muhammad. The aim of the event was to portray the true and peaceful character of the prophet of Islam, in light of the wild and violent responses of some Muslims to the slanderous video, The Innocence of Muslims. Unfortunately, towards the end of the event, a prominent member of the university’s Islamic society entered and distributed leaflets calling for the social boycott and “capital punishment” of Ahmadi Muslims.
As an Ahmadi myself, I am sadly familiar with such harassment. This minority community of Islam faces persecution in countries like Pakistan and Indonesia, and we are often treated with open hostility by many orthodox Muslims in the UK. The reason can seem arcane to those not of the Muslim faith: Ahmadis, who believe in their founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as the expected Messiah and Mahdi of Islam, differ from the mainstream belief that prophethood ceased after Muhammad, as orthodox Muslims believe is laid out in the Qur’an.
I reported the leaflets to the university union and the matter was resolved internally. I thought that was the end of it. It was then a great shock to read media reports of similar leaflets recently discovered in the Stockwell Green mosque. Their discovery came a few short weeks after the fatal stabbing of another Ahmadi, the shopkeeper Asad Shah, in Glasgow. The man charged with his murder, also a Muslim, later released a statement saying Shah had “disrespected” Islam.
These are difficult times for my community in the UK. The leaflets in question were written by the now dead leader of an organisation called Khatam-e-Nabuwwat, meaning “the Seal of Prophethood”, which in Pakistan calls for the elimination of Ahmadis. This organisation also has branches in the UK, where it is a registered charity and an affiliate of the Muslim Council of Britain. A posting on the Facebook page Anti-Qadianiat (Tahafuz Khatme Nubuwwat), included the Guardian’s report of Shah’s death, with the message “Congratulations to all Muslims”.
It couldn’t be any clearer that Khatam-e-Nabuwwat is a hate organisation dedicated to the demonisation and social ostracism of Ahmadi Muslims. Yet somehow, it isn’t obvious to the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) who, until this past week, registered the Khatam-e-Nabuwwat organisation as one of their affiliates. Only after the furore raised in the media at this did the MCB release a statement that it would temporarily suspend the affiliation of Khatam-e-Nabuwwat, and would launch an independent investigation into whether it really is a hate organisation. But what further proof do they require?
The MCB cannot be ignorant of the history of Khatam-e-Nabuwwat. It was founded in Pakistan as a movement under the umbrella organisation of Majlis-e-Ahrar-ul-Islam by Syed Ata Ullah Shah Bukhari in 1953. The next year, Majlis-e-Ahrar along with Khatam-e-Nabuwwat sent an ultimatum to the then prime minister of Pakistan, Khawaja Nazimuddin, to remove all Ahmadis from leading government positions and to declare Ahmadis as non-Muslim. Unless these demands were met, Majlis-e-Ahrar and Khatam-e-Nabuwwat threatened “direct action”. The government refused to capitulate, and the two groups responded by setting ablaze Ahmadi homes and businesses, resulting in the death of hundreds of Ahmadis, the demolition of mosques and the displacement of thousands. Thus was Khatam-e-Nabuwwat born, bathed in the blood of its fellow citizens.
Since then, Khatam-e-Nabuwwat has been instrumental in doing exactly what its leaflet claims – encouraging “Islamic” theocracies around the world to enact legislature making Ahmadi Muslims liable for capital punishment. Indeed, in Pakistan, Ahmadi Muslims are liable to three years imprisonment and a fine under its anti-Ahmadiyya laws, or death under its blasphemy laws, both of which were lobbied into existence by Khatam-e-Nabuwwat clerics.
The “independent investigation” into whether the activities at Stockwell Green mosque (where Khatam-e-Nabuwwat is based) spread hatred is utterly defunct – especially since it ends with a disclaimer that “the investigation panel shall not involve itself in matters of theology or in actions/conduct/laws in countries other than the United Kingdom”. In other words, the MCB investigation is little more than a rigged jury, since all the evidence of Khatam-e-Nabuwwat’s hate-mongering is widespread in “countries other than the United Kingdom”. Do the crimes of an organisation abroad cease to be relevant when considering their potential harm in the UK?
It is easy to point the finger and blame Khatam-e-Nabuwwat for anti-Ahmadi hate speech, but the reality is that the MCB is also culpable. After Shah’s murder, the MCB released a statement, expressing its condolence and grief at his murder, but re-affirming that Ahmadis aren’t Muslim, despite Ahmadis self-identifying as such. Thus, the MCB has taken a position that is fundamentally at odds with the British values the MCB claims to hold dear: namely that a person must be accepted in accordance with their own self-identification. The right to self-identify, and to be acknowledged by others in accordance with that identity, is the cornerstone of religious tolerance.
By sitting in God’s seat of judgment, the MCB enables hate organisations to take it one step further by acting as God Himself, dealing out death to whomsoever they deem heretical. Until the MCB recognises this, its rigged “independent investigation” won’t be worth the paper it’s written on.