February 21, 2023
Religious history is replete with extraordinary and chilling accounts of sacrifices by men and women in defence of their faith.
These sacrifices take a variety of forms. In some cases, these adherents refused to renounce their faith in exchange for their lives and paid the supreme sacrifice, which is death.
On January 11, 2023, nine Ahmadi Muslims were murdered in cold blood by jihadist terrorists at their mosque in Mahdi Abad, in Burkina Faso, in front of their families. Their crime was their refusal to abjure their faith.
According to AFP, the terrorists arrived at the Ahmadi Mosque during the evening prayers, had discussions with the members on doctrinal issues.
Thereafter, the terrorists declared the beliefs of Islam Ahmadiyyat as false and ordered them to recant.
The news agency, quoting the surviving members and relatives, stated that the Ahmadi Muslims refused to renounce their faith and one by one, were shot dead by the terrorists.
The deceased were the Imam, Alhadi Buoreima Bidiga, 67, Maniel Alhassane, 70, Maliel Ousseini, 67, Hamidou Abdouramaei, 66, and Ibhrahim Soulely, 66.
The rest were Soudeye Ousmane, 58, Majuel Agali, 52, Drahi Moussa, 52, and Abdramane Agouma, 43.
Following the massacre, AFP said, the terrorists warned the rest they would suffer the fate that befell the departed should they continue to profess their faith as Ahmadi Muslims.
What happened in Burkina Faso is part of the continuing wave of persecution of Ahmadi Muslims that has and continues to sweep through pars of the Muslim world since the past 124 years.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community was founded by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in Qadian, India, in 1889.
He announced himself as the much-awaited Messiah in the latter days expected by all the major religions, including Islam and Christianity.
Besides, he added, that he had been commissioned by God as a prophet, explaining that his prophethood was attained through his total obedience to the Holy Prophet Muhammad – peace and blessings of God be upon him.
AlHe also opined that Jesus Christ, according to the Holy Quran, had died contrary to the prevailing belief among the generality of Muslims.
Hazrat Ahmad’s claim to prophethood, in particular, was viewed as offensive and derogatory to the status of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, regarded by the majority of Muslims as the “Last Prophet.”
This, they contended, was blasphemy – punishable by death.
Therefore, killing him and his followers, in their estimation, would be a ‘meritorious act in the sight of God’.
Above all, he condemned the clamour by sections of the Muslim clergy at the time for jihad, so called ‘holy war’ against the British colonial government, describing their interpretation of ‘jihad’ as warped.
Rather, he explained that the word means striving for moral and spiritual upliftment.
The creation in 1947 of an independent Pakistan, where the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has its international headquarters, gave rise to intense agitation culminating in attacks against Ahmadi Muslims by Islamic extremists.
A constitutional amendment in 1974 by Parliament declared Ahmadi Muslims to be a non-Muslim minority.
Ten years later, then military dictator, Gen. Mohammad Zia ul Haq, as a strategy to shore up his military regime played the religious card – promulgated the Ordinance 20 that effectively criminalised the practice of Ahmadi Muslims.
Since they had been declared non-Muslim, any manifestation of their faith in line with Islamic practice was described as ‘posing’ as Muslims, and is punishable by a three-year jail term.
The most egregious part of the Ordinance was the section on blasphemy – that prescribes the death penalty for anyone describing the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community as a prophet.
Since then, many Ahmadi Muslims continue to be arrested and detained by the authorities. Others are targeted and killed without anyone being held to account. Their mosques are vandalised and demolished.
In 2010, two Ahmadi Muslim mosques in Lahore were attacked by jihadi terrorists during Friday prayers, leaving 98 worshippers dead. No one has been arrested.
In many parts of the Arab world, Ahmadi Muslims have no place in the religious space. Known Ahmadi Muslims suffer various degrees of persecution.
In Muslim majority non-Arab countries such as Bangladesh, they suffer restrictions.
Charges levelled against Ahmadis in some countries are absurd, where men and women were arrested and detained for praying in buildings not registered as mosques and collecting dues without authority.
It is important to underscore that the defeat of the invading Russians in Afghanistan in the late 1990s by the Mujahadeen resistance, who were supported militarily and financially by some powers in the West, Middle East and Asia, and emergence of the Taliban, introduced a new dynamic into the geo-political and religious landscape in the Muslim world.
The establishment of the so-called Islamic government in Afghanistan by the Taliban generated renewed fervour among religious zealots – giving birth to Al-Qaeeda and other groups, whose objective was the overthrow of governments in targeted countries and replicate the Afghanistan experience.
They include Al-Qaeeda in the Magheb, Al Shabbab, Boko Haram, etc., who are financed by some Muslim governments. This is the unintended consequences of the proxy war in Afghanistan.
The killing of Ahmadi Muslims in Burkina Faso and the arrival of Burkinabe refugees in northern Ghana, who are fleeing jihadist violence, illustrates the extent to which religion is being exploited as a tool for political destabilisation.
Previously, if the jihadist threat was seen as distant, now it exists at our doorstep. An eye-opener has presented itself for the development of strategies to combat the so-called Islamic extremists, who are motivated by vested political interests. Religion is only a façade.
Key among them is the vigorous monitoring of the activities of Muslim non-governmental organisations operating in the country so as to identify their real rather than ostensible objectives for the purposes of neutralising them.
Besides, intensive surveillance should be mounted on beneficiaries of scholarships for the study of Islamic Theology in universities in those countries to obtain intelligence on their intentions, including indoctrination of the Muslim youth with jihadist ideology.
Nevertheless, it is going to be a long struggle.