As the American Presidental race continues, Mitt Romney has seen his religion come under severe scrutiny. He portrays himself as the candidate for the religious right, but many of that group are unhappy with his Mormon faith, which they consider to be un-Christian:
“Although Mormons are known for family centeredness, hard work and clean living, many Americans remain suspicious of them, maybe because so many aspects of their faith remain mysterious. A poll conducted in June by the Los Angeles Times and Bloomberg found that 35% of registered voters said they would not consider voting for a Mormon for President. Only Islam would be a more damaging faith for a candidate, the poll found.”
“The two million-strong Ahmadiyya community, based in Rabwah in the Punjab, risks charges of “impersonating Muslims” under the country’s controversial religious laws. Shameen Ahmad Khalid, a community leader, said: “We have people serving long jail sentences for blasphemy or for ‘posing as Muslims’.”
The laws mandate three years’ imprisonment for Ahmadis who dare to call themselves Muslims, call their places of worship mosques, recite the Koran or announce the azan, the call to prayer.
Twenty years ago, the people of Rabwah were charged with impersonating Muslims. Since the charges are still outstanding, the town’s 50,000 inhabitants have to hide their Islamic habits, keep their beards trimmed and avoid using Muslim invocations.”
These persecutions have been going on for decades in South Asia, and led to a number of Ahmadi Muslims coming over to this country and founding mosques. Sadly, many Sunnis and Shias living in this country do not consider them proper Muslims either. Nor is the situation in Pakistan likely to get better soon:
“Despite recent improvements in voting rights for Christians and Hindus, Ahmadis are effectively still disenfranchised as they are permitted to vote only as “non-Muslims”. Pakistani popular rhymes defame Ahmadis in lurid terms and militants have stamped thousands of rupee notes imploring believers to “put them to death”.
Rabwah is surrounded by mosques whose clerics host prominent annual anti-Ahmadi rallies and bellow hateful slogans from their minarets’ loudspeakers. In 2005 gunmen burst into an Ahmadi village mosque at prayer time and killed eight people and wounded most of the 30-strong congregation.
An amendment to Pakistan’s constitution in 1974 declared Ahmadis as non-Muslims. The anti-Ahmadi laws, which allow Ahmadis to be charged with impersonating Muslims, were promulgated by late dictator Gen Zia ul-Haq in the 1980s.”
Both the Mormon and Ahmadiyya sects were founded in the 19th century, and this is where the bone of contention derives from. Mormons believe that Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, was directed by an angel towards ancient artefacts which contained religious revelations; these later became the Book of Mormon. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who started the Ahmadiyya sect, claimed to be the reformer of Islam, whom some Muslims had been waiting for, and he tried to return Islam to its ‘true’ state.
One can see why these claims can be contentious. However, is that enough reason to persecute these people? As far as I can tell, both Mormonism and the Ahmadis follow the central tenets of their respective religions; Mormons believe that Jesus is the son of God who died for our sins, and the Ahmadis believe that there is no God but Allah, and that the Qur’an is the word of Allah. Who are those Sunnis and Shias, Protestants and Catholics to dictate to them that they are not Muslims or Christians?
If these religions are really divine, then it is up to the deity responsible to judge the believers and unbelievers, not the humans. Just look at the problems in past centuries when one group decided that another could not be part of its gang; The Religious Wars in Europe, or the Sunni-Shia conflict that still continues today in some parts of the world. If you believe that Ahmadis or Mormons should not be classed as the same religion as you, consider how you would feel if somebody told you that you were debarred. Religions should be open to anybody, not an exclusive club: that just breeds war and hatred.
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Filed in: Pakistan,Religion,United States