Monday 18 April 2016

The Ahmadi, mainstream Muslims and the BBC

The general BBC reaction to Channel 4's What British Muslims Really Think has proved that the corporation still has a serious bias problem when it comes to covering these kinds of story. And, yet, as Sue wrote recently, programmes like Owen Bennett-Jones's The Deobandis show that the BBC isn't a complete monolith in this respect.

Zoe Conway's report from Glasgow on this morning's Today (from 02:31:47) also struck me as marking another step forward. 

She looked into mainstream Muslim attitudes towards Ahmadi Muslims (the Ahmadiyya community) in the wake of the murder of shopkeeper Asad Shah by another (non-Ahmadi) Muslim. and what she found was pretty ugly: Anti-Ahmadi posters are appearing; Derogatory leaflets have been circulated in a mosque saying, among other things, that even just meeting an Ahmadi in the street hurts the Prophet's heart; Mainstream Muslim children are being told by imams that saying 'hello' to Ahmadis is "haram" (a sin); and Ahmadi businesses have been boycotted, with some Muslim protesters standing outside Ahmadi shops telling people not to go in. Here in the UK. Now.

And this follows a couple of features on yesterday's Sunday (from 16:58) on "what is it like to live in Britain as a member of the persecuted Ahmadi Muslim sect" - features explicitly related to Mr Shah's murder and "the discovery of leaflets in a South London Mosque calling on them to be killed" if they refuse to convert to mainstream Islam. 

William Crawley introduced the piece by saying of the Ahmadiyya community, "Seen as heretical by other Muslims, persecuted in Pakistan and now, it's reported, facing increasing hostility here in the UK".

From the sounds of it though, it's gone well beyond being a case of "it's reported". It actually is.

An Ahmadi imam from London then described some of the "hate crimes" he's witnessed and said that "this sort of thing is happening quite frequently". He added, "Maybe some people are trying to create an atmosphere here as back in Pakistan, for example. There is a lot of persecution of the community going on. They are bring that feeling over here as well and want to create the same situation in this country".  He wants the government to sit up and take notice.

Adil Khan, an American academic, was then very interesting on the background. The persecution of the Ahmadiyya really kicked in with the formation of Pakistan - a country premised on being an Islamic state. The 1974 Pakistan constitution declared Ahmadis to be "non-Muslim" and the persecution got even worse.

Though William Crawley suggested (as you might expect from a BBC presenter) that this shows it's "more to do with politics than theology" (a milder strain of the 'It's nothing to do with Islam' meme), Professor Khan replied, "You need both". 

The more I think about where we now find ourselves with this kind of imported hatred, and how such things have been allowed to creep up on us, the more I despair at just where our politicians and (parts of the) media have been blithely leading us in recent decades (led, of course, by the BBC).

I had no idea about any of this until the past year or so. And now, unfortunately, I've had to quickly learn about it from scratch, and I don't think I should have had to.

Update: More on this can be found in a just-published piece at the SpectatorSectarianism is on the rise in Britain – as any Ahmadiyya Muslim can tell you by Hussein Kesvani.

His piece also mentions the BBC. It appears as if it was the BBC that broke the story of the murderous leaflets in a London mosque:
More recently, the BBC revealed that literature which called for capital punishment for the Ahmadis had been discovered in a London mosque with links to the group.


  1. Another BBC Narrative blowing up in their faces. At least the Hugh Sykes Rule isn't preventing them from reporting it for the time being. That's positive progress.

  2. Rare bit of praise for "The Deobandis"-a two part expose of that particular brand of militant Islam.
    Part two especially was a revelation in which assorted "Interfaith Ambassadors" basically incite harassment and even murder of the Ahmadiyya,..and Owen Bennett Jones is forensic, refusing to be blustered off course by the usual taqiyya merchants.
    Owen had seemed to be a muppet in other shows...but he was excellent on those programmes, so I finally have cause to actively praise a BBC programme.
    25 mins into part two is the main evidence for incitements uncovered...but both programmes are worth the listen.

  3. It's true the Deobandi programme was pretty good. However, whether it makes up for 50 years of deliberate papering over of the cultural cracks by the BBC I very much doubt.

    A word of warning about the Ahmadis by the way - as I had some contact with them in my previous job I know a little about them. Although it's true they are a non-violent movement, they are really sectarian themselves and live under what appears to be a sort of monarchical rule by their Sheikh (they claim to have re-established a Rightly Guided Caliphate, just as IS do). Despite having been well established in this country for over 80 years (they were one of the first Muslim communities to get established) you won't find many of them speaking English to each other. Urdu (at least I think it's Urdu) is their preferred method of communication. They are very sectarian in outlook (using each other's services rather than those of the wider community, children attending after school activities exclusively at the Mosque, their own cricket teams etc). Their women nearly always wear Hijab or even face coverings. They vote en masse in elections so as to maximise their political influence, and get local politicians to come along and genuflect to the Sheikh. They appear to be enthusiastic in following traditional Sharia law.

    They are in effect their own nation within a nation and I have some sympathy with followers of Islam who say they are not Muslims, since it is a key tenet of Islam that Mohammed was the final prophet. Their position in relation to Islam is similar I would say to that of Mormons in relation to Christianity.

    1. When I was about 9 I had a book about 'everything', a Professor Wise told his young companions about nature, science, politics etc.

      From this book I learned that Muslims live in India and some Muslim women cover their faces. I suspect that at the age of 9 I was probably better informed than most of the UK population about Muslims and that was of no consequence because 'they didn't need to know'.
      Our politicians must either be insane or corrupt to have imported this death cult and all for what purpose?

    2. To hear it from the likes of Blunkett and Straw, sheer mendacity.

    3. Oh to return to the years of blissful ignorance, pre 9-11! My own journey came in stages. I remember being somewhat distrustful of our support of the Jihadists in Afghanistan fighting against the Soviets - they seemed so cruel in their treatment of Soviet POWs. Then I was aware of the rise of Al Queda and the fact they'd declared war on the USA (and effectively its allies) in the late 90s. That prompted me to read a book on Islam - a month before the 9-11 attacks. It's amazing if you go into newspaper archives to see how little was written and reported about Islam pre 9-11 and now it virtually dominates the whole of our media one way or another.

      But our governments would always have been fully informed about Islam. I expect they thought they were taking calculated risks in supporting Saudi Arabia, and in allowing mass migration of Muslims, to provide cheap labour. But of course, that is where the failure of judgment was and is - these are insane risks that have and are being taken by our leaders.

    4. The comment about Ahmadis being insular and speaking Urdu is a straight up lie. Most of their members are from Pakistan originally - ALL sermons take place in English and Urdu. As part of their beliefs it is very important to try and integrate with their local communities, which they do. A simple google provides evidence of all their interfaith outreach as well as charity work such as helping after Cumbrian floods. The statement re Ahmadis above stinks of Anti-Ahmadi propaganda. They don't go to other mosques because they're not allowed in. They used to but they were attacked many times in Pakistan and even here in the UK an election hustings at Tooting Islamic Centre degenerated because people at the mosque thought one of the candidates was Ahmadi (there was an Ahmadi candidate, but he wasn't in attendance) and threatened him with, 'how dare you come to Sadiq Khan's mosque' - he had to hide in a cupboard. Also, they're not like Mormons. There are no laws against saying hello (Salaam) for Mormons in any countries, Mormons are allowed to worship and their churches are not burned down and they are not killed. So I'd say the parallels are pretty weak, wouldn't you?


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