In a 2016 presidential election campaign speech, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton described her opponent's supporters, Republican nominee Donald Trump, as a "basket of deplorables", meaning that those who voted for her opponent were the scum of the earth. The Trump campaign repeatedly used the phrase against Clinton during and after the 2016 US presidential election to show people what she thought of them. In her 2017 book What Happened, Clinton admitted that it was one of the factors for her loss. Many Trump supporters adopted the "deplorable" moniker so that Clinton would not forget that these deplorables had a vote and used it against her.
While there is no election outcome in the balance, there is one sect of Muslims that most mainstream Muslims consider deplorable. How deplorable, you say? Out of a survey taken in Indonesia of Sunni Muslims, only 15 percent said they would not want Christians or Hindus living in their neighborhood versus 40 percent opposed to Ahmadi Muslims living there. Consider that there are 200 million Sunnis in Indonesia and only 400,000 Ahmadis, and the Sunnis would rather live next to a Christian or a Hindu than an Ahmadi. Is Indonesia the only country like this? The answer is no. Several Asian countries treat them with disdain, but Pakistan treats them much worse.
Almost 70 percent of the Sunnis in Pakistan say the Ahmadi are not Muslim. Only 7 percent of the population accept them as fellow Muslims. That is not the worst of it. If you are not Muslim, you can easily be branded blasphemous if you worship or conduct Islamic rituals. Pakistan is a country that takes its religion seriously; it's almost as if they relish killing their apostates. Religious courts are stacked against the Ahmadi (also the Shiites, Christians, and Hindus), and once accused of an ecclesiastical crime, there is no way out.
In 1974, the Pakistan government changed its Constitution to declare the Ahmadi non-Muslim. Ahmadis can only vote on non-Muslim ballots; they cannot worship in non-Ahmadi mosques or participate in normal Muslim activities. In India, the Ahmadi are considered Muslims by law, but many sects refuse to accept them. In Saudi Arabia, the Ahmadi are declined entry to perform the hajj and pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina. In Algeria, Malaysia, Bangladesh, and numerous other Muslim majority countries, the Ahmadi face persecution and discrimination.
What's wrong with the Ahmadis?
Why are the Ahmadis treated like lepers? First, let's identify the similarities with the Sunni and Shiite Muslims: 1) Ahmadis use the shahada (there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah) as a declaration of faith; 2) they recognize the five pillars; 3) the five daily prayers; 4) the Qur'an; 5) Muhammad's successors.
Second, the differences: Muslims believe that Muhammad was the last Prophet (Q33.40). The next Prophet will either be the Messiah (Jesus) or the Mahdi, coming at the end of days. The Ahmadiyya Muslims believe that their founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908), was the metaphorical second coming of Jesus Christ and the Mahdi. They believe Ahmad was sent to end religious wars, condemn bloodshed, and restore morality, justice, and peace. Ahmad recognized the noble teachings of the great religious founders and saints such as Abraham, Moses Krishna, and Confucius and explained how their original teachings converged into true Islam.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is the leading Islamic organization to reject terrorism categorically. Their term, "jihad by the sword," has no place in Islam. The Ahmadi sect is about 20 million strong, relatively small compared to a worldwide Muslim population of 1.8 billion. Two other ideals caught my attention: they are the first Islamic organization to endorse the separation of mosque and state; thus, there would be no political Islam. They also believe in universal human rights, including women's equality and education.
The Ahmadis are probably the third-largest Muslim sect in the US, behind the Sunnis and the Shiites. This sect was formed in 1889 in India and came to the US in the 1920s as missionaries to the black community during a period of racial discrimination and inequality. Ironically, the Nation of Islam which has it roots in this era, also celebrates a prophet that came after Mohammad. If the Sunni Muslims ever recognize that fact, the NOI will be treated just as bad as the Ahmadi.
The picture that accompanies this blog is Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Credit goes to Wikipedia Commons for the license to use.