09/13/2022MASSIMO INTROVIGNEA+ | A-
In some countries, asylum is denied to Ahmadiyya devotees coming from a city where they are in the majority. But they are killed even there.
by Massimo Introvigne
On September 9, I attended the 14th annual gathering of Italian Ahmadi Muslims, held in San Pietro in Casale, near Bologna. It was a festive day, yet the memory of persecution in Pakistan is always there when Ahmadis gather.
One story I heard is that immigration authorities in Italy sometimes refuse to grant asylum if the Ahmadi refugee is from Rabwah, since the Ahmadis are in the majority there, thus are not persecuted. I have heard similar stories in other countries too.
On the face of it, the attitude of the immigration authorities may be understandable. Rabwah is a city in Punjab, Pakistan, where Ahmadis are more than 90% of the population. Some estimates even put them at 97%. Who has ever heard of a majority persecuted by a minority?
Yet, this is actually what happens in Rabwah, and immigration authorities are wrong. Both national laws against the Ahmadis and provincial Punjab measures also apply to Rabwah. Majority they may well be, but they still do not enjoy the political rights and can be prosecuted if they call themselves Muslims—even in Rabwah.
Extreme administrative limitations of political and religious freedom already creates a “fear of persecution” that entitles applicants to asylum according to the international conventions. But are at least Ahmadis in Rabwah free from the risk of physical violence and death? The answer is no.
Ahmadi graveyards are attacked all around Pakistan, and they are attacked in Rabwah too—together with Ahmadi believers who go there to take care of their graves.
But there is more. On August 12, Naseer Ahmad, a 62-year-old Ahmadi father of 3, was stabbed to death at the main bus stop in Rabwah. A radical Sunni Muslim asked him to chant slogans in praise of Khadim Husain Rizvi, the leader of radical Islamic organization Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, whose bloody story has been told in a Bitter Winter series. When Naseer Ahmad refused to chant, he was stabbed to death and died on the spot.
The assassin was identified as one Shehzad Rizvi, and reportedly he traveled from Sargodha, Punjab, to Rabwah just to “create an incident” with the Ahmadis there.
Ahmadis are not safe in Pakistan. They are not safe in Rabwah either. No matter where they lived in their home country, Pakistani Ahmadis should be granted asylum in democratic countries.
Massimo Introvigne (born June 14, 1955 in Rome) is an Italian sociologist of religions. He is the founder and managing director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), an international network of scholars who study new religious movements. Introvigne is the author of some 70 books and more than 100 articles in the field of sociology of religion. He was the main author of the Enciclopedia delle religioni in Italia (Encyclopedia of Religions in Italy). He is a member of the editorial board for the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion and of the executive board of University of California Press’ Nova Religio. From January 5 to December 31, 2011, he has served as the “Representative on combating racism, xenophobia and discrimination, with a special focus on discrimination against Christians and members of other religions” of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). From 2012 to 2015 he served as chairperson of the Observatory of Religious Liberty, instituted by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to monitor problems of religious liberty on a worldwide scale.