Daily Alfazl: 98 years and counting

Published: October 9, 2011

The list of words that the Daily Alfazl cannot use. Editors replace the words with dots, leaving readers to figure out what was redacted from the original text.

It is only at mid-afternoon that most bleary-eyed sub-editors start thinking about heading to their respective newsrooms. But for the 15-member editorial team at the Daily Alfazl, that’s usually when the paper is being sent to the press.

It is far from a conventional broadsheet. The Jamaat Ahmadiyya’s Daily Alfazl newspaper started off as a weekly in 1913. Almost a century later, the paper is still in circulation, despite the bans, threats and legal issues that followed the introduction of Ahmadi-specific laws.

At the newspaper’s office in Rabwah, in Chiniot District, the impact of those laws is tangible.

While proofers at other publications look for factual and grammatical errors, staffers at the Daily Alfazl have a different set of tasks. In 1984, a sign was placed in the proofers’ room, featuring a list of words the Daily Alfazl cannot use in line with the ‘Anti-Islamic Activities of the Qadiani Group, Lahori Group and Ahmadis (Prohibition and Punishment) Ordinance’, which was promulgated that year. Intriguingly, editors replace the words they cannot use with dots, leaving readers to figure out what was redacted from the original text. The prohibited words include ‘Muslim’, ‘Azaan’ and ‘Tabligh’.

At one point, according to editor Abdul Sami Khan, there were over a hundred lawsuits against the paper’s printer and publisher. And even though the Daily Alfazl is only circulated within the Ahmadiyya community, ‘objections’ have been raised by people incensed at the mere sight of its masthead. It has been banned several times, and its printing press was sealed for a year in 1953, during riots against the Ahmadi community. Shipments of the paper are often delayed at the post office.

This isn’t the only publication people have been ‘offended’ by. “People have had issues with the children’s magazine as well,” says Khan. According to the Ahmadi watchdog website, www.thepersecution.org, cases have been instituted against five monthly magazines and the newspaper itself, as well as books published by the community. The Daily Alfazl also receives no government advertisements, a key source of revenue for most publications.

“We used to get advertisements before 1974 [the year amendments declaring Ahmadis non-Muslims were introduced in the constitution],” says Khan. “Not anymore.” Instead, the newspaper runs ads from local advertisers or large businesses run by members of the community.

The slim newspaper — which publishes 9,000 copies daily — is primarily a journal for the community, featuring sermons and local news. A weekly edition is published in the UK.

But were Daily Alfazl tasked with refuting the allegations made against the Ahmadiyya community in the local press, it would have to produce at least a 40-page edition daily. Coverage of the community in the mainstream Urdu press mostly ranges from vitriolic diatribes to headlines that can only be described as bizarre — and at least one such headline is recycled every year without fail.  According to an official at the Jamaat Ahmadiyya press section, a story alleging that Ahmadis had enlisted in the Israeli army has been doing the rounds for several years. “When the story was first published, the government of Pakistan issued a clarification to say that no Pakistanis were serving in the Israeli army,” he said. “But that story is reprinted every year regardless.”

The Jamaat Ahmadiyya also maintains a record of anti-Ahmadi stories published in newspapers printed from Lahore. In 2010, it recorded 1,468 news stories against the community, the majority of which were in seven of the most popular Urdu newspapers in the country.

That’s not all. Pakistani newspapers also refused to run a paid-for advertisement by the Jamaat which detailed its reasons for boycotting the 2008 general elections.

Ironically, the Pakistani media has unwittingly promoted the Ahmadiyya community’s places of worship, which cannot be called mosques for legal reasons. In 2009, as furore built up over a referendum in Switzerland to ban minarets, images of a mosque in the European country were published throughout Pakistan. Editors would be shocked to realise that the Swiss mosque being defended in the Pakistani press actually belongs to the same community they prefer to vilify.

Before leaving Rabwah, my copies of the Daily Alfazl and books are wrapped up in brown paper to evade scrutiny. Or, as a Jamaat representative wryly remarks, blasphemy charges. While I only have to hide the publications for a few hours, for the editors and readers of the Daily Alfazl, this is a daily battle — one that shows no signs of ending anytime soon.

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, October 9th, 2011.

Reader Comments (44)

  • Oct 9, 2011 - 2:15PM

    Why your writings always ask for sympathy Ms.Saba?

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  • M Ali Khan
    Oct 9, 2011 - 2:16PM

    welcome to Pakistan

    where Ahmedis, the most wretched oppressed and discriminated group in Pakistan, are also called its “worst enemies” by people paranoid.

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  • Oct 9, 2011 - 2:37PM

    Great work Saba.

    Daily al-fazl can be read on http://www.alfazl.org or http://www.alislam.org

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  • Ayesha
    Oct 9, 2011 - 5:40PM

    Thank you Saba for such an excellent article. I live in the US, but not a day goes by when I dont read Al Fazl. Thanks to the internet. Growing up as a child in Pakistan, it came naturally to us that “deen” in a sentence refers to Islam etc. I do not know if we will live to see the day when Alfazl is published without dots.

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  • MHJ
    Oct 9, 2011 - 7:28PM

    @Ayesha:
    InshaAllah never ever!

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  • Farhan
    Oct 9, 2011 - 7:40PM

    Good writing again Saba, keep the burning issues highlighted. I think like any newspaper , Alfazal should have right of Circulation. Where are Media Watch Dogs in Pakistan???

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  • M Ali Khan
    Oct 9, 2011 - 7:48PM

    @yusuf:
    because the plight of the oppressed deserve attention! its called compassion.

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  • Oct 9, 2011 - 8:25PM

    Al Fazal is one of the oldest publication in the region. It is meant for the education and training of the members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. I wonder what the govt. achieves by replacing the words Islam and Muslim by dots in the paper. In Ahmadi hearts, these words are inscribed undotted!

    So much for freedom of speech in Pakistan.

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  • Saeeda khanem
    Oct 9, 2011 - 9:24PM

    Pakistan is a country which is very much under the influence of so called ulama (maulvis)’the words mentioned in the article are banned for the Ahmadiya jamaat BUT if you see the walls in the cities of Pakistan ,they are full of filthy language written on them, people can tolerate all that rubbish but they cannot tolerate the words from Islamic literature.How sad.May Allah
    Bless them with some wisdom.

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  • Aby
    Oct 9, 2011 - 10:18PM

    @yusuf:
    Because it is the least thing which one can give.
    May be you don’t have this………………..

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  • Huzaifa
    Oct 9, 2011 - 10:34PM

    Well done.
    your story based on facts,

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  • Oct 9, 2011 - 11:33PM

    As a member of the Ahmadia Muslim Community i feel that this type discrimination can never lead to a solution and on the contrary can lead to bigger and more complicated problems.When we say that our constitution gives every right to each and every citizen of the Country to practice his personal belieifs which obviously inculde the religious beliefs,then,how can there be another law in the constituion which clearly contradicts with this law.With regard to the Ahmadi Muslim Community in Pakistan there are certain laws specifically against the community which directly contradict with the basic pronciples of the Constitution of Pakistan.

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  • Ayesha
    Oct 10, 2011 - 12:52AM

    @ MHJ, well doesnt really matter anymore, we are being published across the words without dot dot dot. Ahmadi Muslims are prospering all over the world, its Pakistan that is depriving itself from the contribution of Ahmadi Muslims. Thanks.Recommend

  • Hamza
    Oct 10, 2011 - 2:35AM

    Thank you for a great article on another important issue. I believe its matters like these which expose the hypocrisy in our society.

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  • shaheryar khan
    Oct 10, 2011 - 3:47PM

    you have done a brave move.. infect based on facts.. God bless you…

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  • athar mahmood
    Oct 10, 2011 - 4:47PM

    @yusuf:
    actually she doesnt want sympathy but shows us the other and real side of picture..

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  • athar mahmood
    Oct 10, 2011 - 4:56PM

    thank you so much Ayesha for such a brave work…well done..>

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  • Oct 10, 2011 - 6:54PM

    A marvelous article. A nice approach to give tongue to oppressed people of Ahmadiyya Muslim community whose rights are snatched under the laws of Pakistan. The clergy of Pakistani religious groups is always ready to support the people and groups who try to kill Ahmadis.

    Your writing is a fresh breeze in this poisonous condition.

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  • Realtor Imran
    Oct 10, 2011 - 7:12PM

    We have to hope and practically do something to change Pak and it’s laws. There are millions of people who have suffered from Ordinance 20 and other laws. SALMAN Taseer lost his life because of 295c.
    Ahmadiyya Jamaat will inshallah conquer all the barriers will keep on succeeding with the Flag of peace and love held by our Khalifa in his hands. We will labaiq on his orders and follow his directions.
    No wonder why Promissed Massiah came to this continent.
    One day these Munafiqeen will realize that until Pakistan step back to constitution of 1973 and get rid of all the discriminatory laws, PK will keep on suffering.Recommend

  • Talha
    Oct 11, 2011 - 1:04AM

    Thanks saba….
    Inshallah A day will come when Alfazal will be published without any problems…

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  • Hassan
    Oct 11, 2011 - 11:54PM

    I dont think there is any reason for Ahmedis to use all the above mentioned words as they are directly related to Islam and Muslims. I believe that Ahmadis are not Muslims however, they have every right to practice their religion without any persecution by extremists or fanatics. Tolerance should and must be the order of the day.

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  • fareeha
    Oct 12, 2011 - 11:56AM

    Great article Saba. very nice and refreshing to read. Persecuting one of the most educated and progressive group in Pakistan shows the real direction in which we are heading as a society. If it was up to mullah minorities would not even be breathing in this country. May Allah have mercy on Pakistan and its people.

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  • nadia zafar
    Oct 12, 2011 - 8:36PM

    @ hassan… who are you to say that you believe Ahmadis are not muslims? they have the same kalima as you, the same Namaz, Quran, they believe in the Prophet (PBUH) just like you and follow the religion of Islam perhaps even more zealously than the other Muslims. If you ‘think’ you have the right to call such people non muslims, then believe me there is something very,very wrong with your religious knowledge and education. Miss Saba is showing more courage and guts than the men of this country! she has the courage to report the truth AS IT IS without prejudice or partiality. which is more than can be said about most of the so-called ‘educated’ people of Pakistan.

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  • Muhammad Junaid
    Oct 12, 2011 - 10:31PM

    The problem with us is that we follow some educated people who have studied some islamiat books and not AALIMS. This also is one of the sign of Qyamat that the illetrate and the unworthy will be followed. Due to some moulvies we criticize the whole aalim community which is very very very bad as they are the heirs of the last Prophet MUHAMMAD (S.A.W). This thing should be ended. Don,t blame aalims for everything._

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  • Khan Abdullah
    Oct 13, 2011 - 6:22PM

    Agreed with Alfazl and the pictures of Ahmedi centre being published in Pakistani Media. I am sorry for all the social unjustice with ahmedies in Pakistan, but I am sure noe of this can negate or change the very basic and established fact that Ahmedies are non-muslim and it is not acceptable for a Muslim that Islamic slogans be used for a non-muslim. VERY SIMPLE !!

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  • Hassan
    Oct 13, 2011 - 8:12PM

    Dear Nadia Zafar,
    I have the right to believe anything i want to and will naturally base my views and opinions on my beliefs.

    they have the same kalima as you, the same Namaz, Quran, they believe in the Prophet (PBUH) just like you and follow the religion of Islam perhaps even more zealously than the other Muslims.

    Sadly, these views of yours, according to my knowledge, is absolutely incorrect.

    Thanks

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  • Azeeem Ahmed
    Oct 14, 2011 - 1:36PM

    Dear Madam, your article shows that you know the meaning of Journalism and may Almighty Allah bless you and give you more courage to do the best of bests. You wrote, what the facts are, now its the responsibility of the nation to decide what is wrong and what is right but not on the basis what they learnt from society but from the core of their own hearts. Jazak Allah.

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  • Khalid
    Oct 14, 2011 - 1:43PM

    @Hassan:
    Mr.Hassan, The source of your knowledge needs to be ammended.The best way is to vist any ahmadi house.just ask to bring the youngest kid from the home.That kid will never ever lie to you.
    Nadia zafar sahiba will be definataelt hurt with your remarks alongwith thousands of others.
    Pls pray to God without any prtejudice to get the true directions.But keep in mind WITHOUT ANY PREJUDICE.

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  • Hassan
    Oct 14, 2011 - 11:09PM

    Dear Khalid,
    The source of my knowledge does not need to go beyond even the Wikipedia site. Go read there and then discuss it here.
    And why should nadia zafar be hurt by my remarks? I said what i believed. Did not say anything derogatory to her or her beliefs. Just that i dont belief she knows what is true.

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  • Deb
    Oct 15, 2011 - 3:07AM

    Ahmadis wanted and worked too hard for partition.
    Now they are getting the rewards.
    Good for them.

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  • Khalid
    Oct 15, 2011 - 9:18AM

    @Hassan:
    Dear Hassan,Once a sahabi killed a kafir in a battle even that kafir recited the kalma.When reported to our Beloved Hadhur(P.B.U.H),He asked to that sahabi who replied that kafir recited kalma to escape his death.On this our beloved Hadhur (p.B.U.H)said to that sahabi that did he cut and saw into the heart of that kafir.
    Leave all the propoganda info against ahmadis and just think with an open heart and eye.I will say again “WITHOUT ANY PREJUDICE”.
    Thanks

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  • Hassan
    Oct 15, 2011 - 12:52PM

    My dear Khalid,
    I absolutely agree with your point here. But why should I leave or ignore all the propaganda against Ahmadis? I am not a scholar who knows much about their religion, or for that part, even much about my own Islam. But I do know for sure that if there are hundreds and thousands of very respected and highly acknowledged Ulema out there who say that Ahmedis are not Muslims, and the very basic belief of khatam e naboowat as laid down in the Quran and told to us by our dear Prophet Muhammad PBUH is negated in the religion that Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani professed, then I would willingly agree with them. I do not mean to say that it stops me from acquiring more info about it, but at least the Ulema wouldnt have done so without substantial proof of his blasphemy.

    I dont have ANY prejudice against Ahmadis. I have had very dear friends and still do who were ahmadis. they were very good guys and we went along extremely well. So the prejudice part ends there. Beliefs are something that are more stringent!!

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  • Khalid
    Oct 15, 2011 - 8:26PM

    @Hassan:
    My Dear Mr.Hassan,You are suggested to visit the website
    alislam.org

    The matter of fact is that ahmadis were declared as non muslims on 7th sep 1974 by that time National Assembly under the Prime Ministership of Z.A Bhutto.
    Do you think
    that islamic teachings gives right to anyone to declare as non muslims.
    Do you think
    that the members of the parliament at that time were so much pious and religously scholars and with strong characters without any controversy.
    My dear it was just a political decision and was made under the pressure of some fanatics.
    Moreover it is amazing that the details of the sessions in parliament are still not opened to media.I mean it has not been yet public.
    The reason is if it is public then common people will come to know the facts and truth.
    Ahmadis do believe in Khatme Nubuwat in the light of teachings of Quran and hadith.
    Do you know when the mujadid of 14th hijry century will come.
    A stanza of The founder of ahmadiyyat is:
    waqt tha waqte maseeha na kissi aur ka waqt
    mein na aata tou koyee aur he aaya hota

    So my dear the maseeha came on time as told by God and his beloved Prophet(P.B.U.H).Those who are still in wait will dye in his wait as like their elders.And those who recognise the maseeha are the ahmadi community members.
    If the founder of ahmadiyyat was God forbid not true then God would never give ahmadis so much success in all over the world in serving the islam.
    Take Care

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  • Hassan
    Oct 15, 2011 - 11:21PM

    I visited the site and came to know sm more about Ahmadis beliefs. So he claimed that he was Mehdi and that Hazrat Isa did not die on the cross but came out unconscious and then travelled to india and is buried in Kashmir.

    Muslims believe that he did not die on the cross but was taken to the heavens where he will live till resent back to earth to guide muslims in their jihad against Jews and Christians.

    Now isnt this a completely different view? Plus calling himself Mehdi (even many times he called himself Nabi and Rasool). So what is that then? Recommend

  • Oct 16, 2011 - 12:37PM

    I am banned to comment here? Only the ahmadi’s are allowed to give their point of view. SAD!

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  • Oct 16, 2011 - 12:41PM

    I want a copy of Alfazal dated 17th may 1947, in which Mr. Basheer-ud-Din (khalifa of Ahmadis) gave a statement against partition.

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  • kashan
    Oct 31, 2011 - 1:59PM

    Kudos, well said.

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  • adnan
    Nov 5, 2011 - 2:26AM

    Yusuf….You are right

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  • Amjad
    Nov 28, 2011 - 10:32AM

    Mr. yousuf, you can get said dated Alfazal from Khilafat Library Rabwah. but one thing i must say you that Hazrat Mirza Baseer-ud-din ahmed have never ever gave the statement against the pakistan or partition infect he always sport to tehreek e azadi and Qaid e Aazm Muhammad Ali Jinna so its humbly advise to you that must read the history of Pakistan movement.

    Regards,
    Amjad

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  • Kamran
    Nov 28, 2011 - 10:40AM

    Well Done Saba, Brave Job. God Bess you.
    Kamran

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  • Nadeem Faisal
    Nov 28, 2011 - 10:47AM

    Nice work Saba, also my gratitute to Daily Tribune showing courage to priunt such articles.

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  • Amjad
    Nov 28, 2011 - 12:22PM

    WELL DONE SABA, for such a great job & articles………… May God Bless you
    Amjad

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  • Yahya
    Nov 29, 2011 - 1:53AM

    Great Article!! We need to promote the voice of those who are restricted to promote love and tolerance instead of the hatred spread by Mullas

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  • MAK
    Nov 30, 2011 - 9:25AM

    Nice work and courage to write about the sect facing persecution in many ways.

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