On the border of our constituency is one of the
largest Mosques in Western Europe, able to accommodate 10,000 worshippers. It
is little wonder therefore that Mitcham and Morden and the wider South West
London region is home to a thriving Ahmadi Community. They help make up a
global Ahmadi community numbering millions.
Around the world, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is
often denounced as ‘non-Muslim’ and faces widespread persecution. The most
notable example in the UK came in 2016 with the brutal murder of shopkeeper
Asad Shah in Glasgow.
As Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for the
Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Siobhain has launched a 5 part inquiry into the
persecution faced. Those invited to give evidence have addressed the history of
this issue, the scale of persecution faced worldwide, and the overspill of this
persecution in the UK.
At the end of the inquiry, a report will be launched –
the first ever of its kind – to reveal the findings.
To coincide with the ongoing inquiry, Siobhain led a 3
hour debate in the House of Commons.
She took the House on a global tour from Africa to
Asia, Greater London to Glasgow before focusing particularly on the persecution
faced by the Ahmadi Community in Pakistan and then turning to the shocking
overspill of hate into the UK.
In Algeria, just 6 months ago, 50 Ahmadis were tried
on charges related to their religion, with sentences ranging from fines to five
years in prison. They help total the 280 Ahmadi Muslims across Algeria who have
been arrested on the grounds of their faith in the last 2 years alone.
In Egypt, earlier this year, that Interior Minister
issued orders for the arrest of 25 innocent Ahmadi men and women.
In Burundi, earlier this year, 13 young Ahmadis were
arrested in Bujumbura City where they were attending a religious education
class. The Secret Service raided the Mosque and arrested the children on
alleged charges of terrorism.
In Indonesia, Ahmadiyya Muslim is not an authorised
religion. So when an Ahmadi tries to secure identity documents, requiring an
authorised religion to be shown, they simply cannot get them. Furthermore,
Ahmadi Mosques have been burned down, Ahmadis have been denied their voting
rights, and they have been driven out of their homes.
But it is in Pakistan that the world’s largest Ahmadi
Community exists, with an estimated 4 million members. In 1974, Prime Minister
Bhutto amended the Pakistan Constitution to declare Ahmadis as non-Muslim for
the purposes of law. 10 years later, under General Zia, the Government of
Pakistan made it a criminal offence for Ahmadis to call themselves Muslim,
refer to their faith as Islam, call their place of worship a ‘Mosque’, make the
call for prayers, say the Islamic greeting, or propagate their faith.
Since that year, the statistical persecution against
Ahmadis in Pakistan is simply staggering.
260 Ahmadis have
have been assaulted for their faith.
Ahmadiyya Mosques have been demolished and 22 have been set on fire or damaged.
Ahmadis’ bodies have been exhumed after burial.
66 Ahmadis have even been denied burial in a common cemetery.
And for an Ahmadi in Pakistan, their
persecution continues when they come to vote. This point is particularly
pertinent due to the upcoming elections in the country. For an Ahmadi is
prohibited by law to vote as a Muslim. They must either sign a declaration that
they are not an Ahmadi or acquiesce to their status as non-Muslim, with a
violation of this requirement punishable with imprisonment. This has
effectively denied them the right to vote for nearly 40 years. What’s more,
this separate electoral list for Ahmadis is published and publicly available,
enabling extremists to target, intimidate and harass the community!
Above the front of the Baitul Futuh Mosque in Morden
hangs a welcoming banner that reads “Love for All, Hatred for None”. The Ahmadi
community in South West London have raised thousands upon thousands of pounds
for good causes and Siobhain is proud that they are a vital part of the fabric
of Mitcham and Morden.
As their MP, she have a duty to stand up to the
persecution that they face and our country has a duty to press those
Governments around the world that allow such persecution to flourish.