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PA's Moderate Muslims Face Threats

A moderate Islamic sect has been labeled heretical by PA clerics, leaving followers open to persecution, murder.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 5/31/2010, 1:25 PM / Last Update: 5/31/2010, 2:20 PM

Flash 90

The teachings of the moderate Ahmadiyya sect of Islam have been labeled apostasy by Palestinian Authority clerics, leaving its members open to persecution and even threats of murder. PA leaders have refused to step in, saying the status of the Ahmadiyya community is a matter for the courts to decide.

Arutz Sheva's Hebrew news service spoke to Mohammed Sharif Ouda, head of the Ahmadi community in Israel, who discussed the problems facing Ahmadi Muslims in the PA and worldwide.

Ouda began with a brief description of Ahmadi beliefs. Ahmadi Muslims follow the teachings of Mirzam Ghulam Ahmad, who they believe was the Muslim messiah. Ahmad preached that Islam had been distorted, and urged his followers to return to what he taught was the true Islam – a peaceful Islam that renounces violence and defines “jihad” as a form of inner struggle, and not an armed struggle.

The PA clerics' ruling on Ahmadi Islam poses a danger, he said. The penalty for apostasy in Islam is death, and while the PA has decided not to impose the death penalty on its Ahmadi residents, the decision to label them apostates puts them in danger nonetheless, he said. “They're encouraging the cold-blooded murder of Ahmadis,” he charged.

Ahmadi believers living in PA-controlled areas have been beaten and have had their property destroyed, Ouda added. In addition, the apostate label means they can be stripped of their rights in court, he said. He gave an example of an Ahmadi Muslim from Shechem who was ordered to divorce his wife and give up his property.

Ouda said he had appealed to PA officials to defend the community, but in vain.

There is an Ahmadi community in Gaza as well. "In Gaza," Ouda said, "the death penalty is enforced for various crimes, and members of the Ahmadi community hide their true beliefs."

Ahmadi communities in Egypt and Pakistan face persecution as well, Ouda related. In Egypt, members of the community can be arrested simply due to their beliefs, while in Pakistan a Muslim cleric recently declared that non-Ahmadi Muslims may not so much as say hello to an Ahmadi.

Despite persecution, the Ahmadi movement is flourishing, and has followers in 190 countries, Ouda said, among them Germany, Canada, Britain, and the United States.