Arrested in Islamic Pakistan for reading the Koran: Ahmadi sect under siege
A 72-year-old British doctor is in prison in Pakistan for “posing as a Muslim”, charges that reveal an escalating ideological fight that often spills over into violence.
Masood Ahmad is a quiet, reserved widower who returned to Pakistan to open a pharmacy in 1982 after decades of working in London to pay his children’s school fees, his family said.
He is also an Ahmadi, a sect that consider themselves Muslim but believe in a prophet after Mohammed. A 1984 Pakistani law declared them non-Muslims, and Ahmadis can be jailed for three years for posing as a Muslim or outraging Muslims’ feelings.
Some mullahs promise that killing Ahmadis earns a place in heaven. Leaflets list their home addresses.
Three years ago, 86 Ahmadis were killed in two simultaneous attacks on Friday prayers in Lahore. There have been no mass attacks since then, but targeted killings are rising: last year 20 Ahmadis were killed, up from 11 in 2009.
And legal prosecutions are on the rise, say Ahmadis, some of which they say are linked to property grabs.
Ahmad was arrested in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore last month when two men posing as patients questioned him about his faith and used mobile phones to secretly record him reading a verse from the Koran.
“He (the patient) said you are like a father to me, please help me with some questions,” said the doctor’s older brother, Nasir Ahmad. “When (my brother) answered, they began beating him and dragged him outside by his neck.”
One of his accusers, Islamic teacher Muhammad Ihsan, told Reuters that Ahmad had preached to them illegally.
Last year 20 cases against Ahmadis were registered, up from 10 cases in 2009. A bank clerk was arrested for wearing a ring with a Koranic verse and an entire family was charged for writing a Muslim greeting on a wedding invitation.
Mullahs have twice sought the arrest of an entire town of Ahmadis – 60,000 people – for holding religious celebrations. Residents were serving food, giving out sweets and displaying bunting, the complaints said.