An affiliate of the Muslim Council of Britain

Libby Brooks in the Guardian on Tanveer Ahmed and life for Ahmadis in the UK and elsewhere.

She begins with a slice of life:

Some of Samia Sultan’s neighbours don’t greet her any more, and sometimes it’s hard for her to understand why. Sultan, a dentist, lives in Glasgow, in an area of the city that is – like most Muslim populations in the UK – majority Sunni. But Sultan isn’t Sunni: she is Ahmadi. And that is the source of the problem.

“My neighbours were fine, but when they came to know I was Ahmadi, their attitude changed,” Sultan explains. It is a bright morning in Glasgow, but the boredom of the school holidays is beginning to bite, and her daughters are impatient to borrow her smartphone so that they can use its stopwatch to time their game. Sultan passes her palm gently over her older daughter’s hair as she sends her back out to play. “They would no longer reply to my greeting As-salāmu ‘alaykum [peace be upon you]” with Wa’alaykumu s-salām [and upon you peace].”

At first hearing, it seems almost negligible; a petty withholding.

No, it doesn’t, actually. On the contrary. It seems like the harshest non-physical stab humans can give each other: rejection. Refusal of a kind greeting is not at all negligible, it’s brutal.

This is one way religion is so dreadfully bad for people. Politics can be bad for us in the same way, but religion is also arbitrary, which makes it all even worse. Brutally shunning people over complete nonsense about whether Mo was the last prophet or not, not to mention murdering them, is a refinement of hatefulness that’s special to religion.

But this doorstep refusal to return the universal Muslim greeting is blunt in its intended humiliation: a denial of the basic vocabulary of belonging. Sultan shrugs lightly. “We can’t stop it by ourselves and we are taught to bear hardship with patience, so we try to be friendly.” She pauses. “But it is hard. Sometimes you think: what is wrong with me?”

Of course you do, and that’s why it’s so cruel.

(Mind you, as a non-Muslim and an atheist I wonder how the greeting works – if Sultan knows which neighbors are Muslims and which aren’t, or if she relies on appearance, or if her neighborhood is so ghettoized that everyone is Muslim, or what, and I also wonder how she greets non-Muslims if there are any. In short I’m not very keen on a specifically religious greeting that doesn’t work for outsiders, because it’s just more of the same Us and Them that motivated Tanveer Ahmed to murder Asad Shah. But that’s separate from the meanness of Sultan’s neighbors.)

The man now charged with Shah’s murder is also a Muslim. On Thursday, Tanveer Ahmed, from Bradford, released a statement through his lawyer, justifying the killing because Shah had “disrespected” Islam.

Insisting that the killing had “nothing at all to do with Christianity or any other religious beliefs”, he went on to warn: “If I had not done this, others would and there would have been more killing and violence in the world.”

Why would there have been more violence if someone else had done it? Did he do it in an especially peaceful way? I don’t think so.

Glasgow’s Ahmadi have called on all Muslim leaders and imams in Britain to publicly condemn this statement. Describing Ahmed’s words as “deeply disturbing”, community leader Ahmed Owusu-Konadu said: “It justifies the killing of anyone – Muslim or non-Muslim – whom an extremist considers to have shown disrespect to Islam.”

Indeed it does. See Charlie Hebdo, see Kurt Westergaard, see the long list of murdered atheists in Bangladesh, see the more than two decades of threats against Taslima, see the fatwa on Salman.

Speaking from his office in Islamabad, Ali Dayan Hasan, the former Pakistan director of Human Rights Watch, is succinct about general attitudes to Ahmadis: “It is shocking how much hate there is in the UK.” He refers in particular to literature distributed by Khatme Nubuwatt, an organisation that in Pakistan calls for the ‘elimination’ of the Ahmadi, but also has branches in the UK, where it is a registered charity and an affiliate of the Muslim Council of Britain. A posting on the Facebook page Anti Qadianiat (Tahafuz Khatme Nubuwwat), included the Guardian’s report of Shah’s death, with the message “Congratulations to all Muslims”.

Emphasis added. That loathsome murder-inciting group is an affiliate of the MCB – the umbrella organization that the BBC used to treat as representing non-theocratic Muslims.

Police Scotland are investigating alleged links between a prominent Glasgow Muslim leader and a banned sectarian group in Pakistan. A recent BBC investigation revealed that Sabir Ali, the head of religious events at Glasgow Central mosque, was president of Sipah-e-Sahaba, a militant political party that has accepted responsibility for deadly sectarian attacks against Shia Muslims and Ahmadiyya minorities in Pakistan, and was banned by the Home Office in 2001.

Aamer Anwar, one of Scotland’s most outspoken Muslim reformers, last week helped to broker a unique event where representatives of Sunni, Shia, Ahmadiyya and Pakistani Christian communities shared a platform for the first time, and vowed to stand shoulder-to-shoulder against extremism.

At the time, Anwar warned: “A very small minority of the community may think it’s OK to meddle in the cesspit of violent extremist politics in Pakistan, but we are united in saying that we do not want to import sectarian violence that has caused so much division and so much bloodshed to our community or to our streets.” He has since received death threats himself, which are now under investigation by the police.

Of course he has.

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