Monday, February 26, 2024

Living as an Ahmadi in Pakistan: ‘Our home became an environment of fear’

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When they’re found out, shops refuse to serve them, estate agents won’t rent to them, and their neighbours stage a ‘social boycott’. Raza Hamdani talks to Shafiq Ahmed about what life is like for Ahmadi Muslims in Islamabad.

I am waiting for 30-year-old Shafiq Ahmed* outside a cafe in Islamabad. He was very clear that this meeting should be in a busy public place. I get a table in a corner so we are away from the noisy environment.

After shaking hands, Ahmed looks around and, after a brief pause, says: “I think we should sit at that table in the middle.” I follow him and as he sits down, despite the cold weather, takes off his jacket and hangs it on the back of his chair. “I moved to Islamabad along with my family in the hope that we may not be targeted because of our beliefs in the federal capital. Alas, how wrong was I.”

Ahmed and his family are Ahmadi, part of a religious movement that considers itself to be Muslim and follows the teachings of the Quran. The Ahmadiyya believe that Ghulam Ahmad was the Mahdi (a prophet who, according to the hadith, would appear at the time of the second coming of Jesus Christ, and fill the world with justice and equity prior to the Day of Judgement), while Sunni and Shia Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad was the last of the prophets. Many consider Ahmadis to be heretics.