By Shanon Shah
shanonshah at thenutgraph dot com
IN April 2009, the Selangor Islamic Affairs Council (MAIS) officially forbade the Ahmadiyah community in the state from performing their own Friday prayers. This news, however, did not make headlines — after all, there are at most only 2,000 Ahmadiyah in all of Malaysia, and at most only 600 in the Klang Valley. But from the panic-inducing headlines in the Malay-language press, one would think that the Ahmadiyah were an insidious fanatical sect bent on destroying the faith of Sunni Muslims in Malaysia.
The Ahmadiyah sect started in Qadian, in what is present-day India, in the late 19th century. They were inspired by the teachings of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. However, there emerged two sects of the Ahmadiyah movement after Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s death in 1908. There is the Lahore Ahmadiyah movement, which is inspired by his teachings but does not regard him as a prophet. Then there is the Ahmadiyah Muslim Community (AMC), sometimes referred to by other Muslims as “Qadianis”, which regards him as a prophet and messianic figure.
Majoritarian Islam does not have problems with the Lahore sect, but sees the AMC as heretical. Overall, there are nearly 200 million Ahmadiyah followers around the world. Ahmadiyah in Malaysia are part of the AMC.
The Ahmadiyah movement in Malaysia began shortly before the Second World War. Persecution began almost immediately. In the 1950s, the sultan of Selangor had an audience with the community’s leaders together with other Muslim leaders. However, things did not come to a head until 1975, when the Selangor Fatwa Council issued a fatwa declaring Ahmadiyah as non-Muslims. The fatwa called for them to repent, failing which they should be put to death by the ruler.
Malaysia is not the only country in which Ahmadiya face problems. Pakistan and Indonesia have seen a rise in violence and state persecution of Ahmadiya, too. Ironically, Ahmadiya thrive best in secular, Western countries such as Canada and the UK, where they are visited and protected by prominent ministers and members of Parliament.