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Calls to fight hate speech after attack on Pakistani Ahmadis

Christian man also arrested under controversial blasphemy laws

Calls to fight hate speech after attack on Pakistani Ahmadis

Pakistani civil rights activists light candles in memory of the victims of an attack on an Ahmadi mosque in Lahore in May 2010. (Photo by Arif Ali/AFP)

Pakistan's minority Ahmadiyya Muslims are calling on authorities to curb hate speech against the persecuted community following a recent drive-by shooting in Karachi.

The attack comes after a Christian man in another part of the country was arrested under Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws — another example, activists say, of persecution against religious minorities in the predominantly Muslim nation.

On Oct. 12, an Ahmadi man and his two nephews were shot in the southern port city of Karachi as they returned home from a local mosque.

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Police said all three men survived the shooting, though two of them were admitted to hospital with bullet wounds and one survived only after undergoing three hours of surgery.

A spokesman for Ahmadiyya Pakistan, which represents the country's Ahmadiyya community, strongly condemned the shooting and called on authorities to apprehend those involved.

"Literature based on hatred against Ahmadiyya Muslims is being published and distributed continuously. It has become a great danger to the lives of Ahmadis," Saleem ud Din, the spokesman, said on Oct. 13.

He said Pakistani authorities have promised to crack down on hate speech as part of a national plan to combat extremism.

Instead, he said, Muslim clerics have been free to hold conferences in which hate speeches are delivered — with the full knowledge of authorities.

Ahmadiyya communities face persecution in multiple Muslim countries, where they are sometimes viewed as heretics and considered a non-Muslim faith. In Pakistan, where there are up to 5 million Ahmadis, the country's own constitution declares that Ahmadis are not Muslims and cannot call themselves Muslim.

In July 2014, a mob set fire to five houses belonging to Ahmadiyya Muslims in Punjab province, reportedly over accusations of blasphemy. A woman and two girls were burned alive in the attack.

In May 2010, 94 people were killed and 100 more injured in an attack on two Ahmadiyya mosques in Lahore, Punjab's capital. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.


Blasphemy laws

While persecution against Ahmadis persists, a separate incident targeting a Christian man shows that other religious minorities also continue to be targeted.

On Oct. 8, police in Punjab arrested a 24-year-old Christian man on charges of blasphemy. Naveed Masih was arrested after police found him with a sword inscribed with verses from the Quran.

A family member told ucanews.com that police had been demanding a bribe from the man. When he refused, he was falsely accused of blasphemy.

The man's lawyer said the arrest was unjust.

"There is no ban in Islam for a Christian or follower of any other faith to keep a Quran in his house. It is not a crime," said Tahir Naveed Chaudhry.

Rights groups say Pakistan's blasphemy laws are used to settle scores and target religious minorities in the name of defending Islam. Chaudhry, who is also chairman of the Pakistan Minority Alliance, a political party representing minority groups, said the laws have become a major tool used by extremists to victimize non-Muslims.

"The ongoing military campaign against terrorism will not yield the desired results if the government fails to prevent the misuse of controversial laws," he warned.

With additional reporting by Waheed Bhatti, Sargohda

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