Clerics in Sultanpura who complained that an Ahmedi place of worship looked too much like a mosque are unsatisfied with changes made to the building’s facade and are demanding that the building’s dome be demolished, The Express Tribune has learnt.
The administration of Baitul Hamd, the worship place, covered the chhatri (flattened dome) at the entrance by installing a hoarding in front of it on May 4. A day earlier, Misri Shah police had removed some tiles with the Kalma and Quranic verses from the building entrance.
They had done so after Rana Muhammad Tufail, a cleric, and Advocate M Badar Alim Sheikh filed an application with the police complaining that the worship place looked too much like a mosque. They had sought a case against the Ahmedis under Sections 295-B and 298-C, which were made part of the Pakistan Penal Code via the ‘Anti-lslamic Activities of Qadiani Group, Lahori Group and Ahmedis (Prohibition and Punishment) Ordinance’ of 1984.
A local Ahmedi said on the condition of anonymity that Tufail and Sheikh had sent messages via other people to the place of worship warning that they were unsatisfied with the changes and the chhatri of the building must be demolished, failing which they would make it impossible for them to live in the area.
Tufail said that under the law, Ahmedis were non-Muslims. “We will not let them make their worship place like a mosque. They are misleading Muslims. We have told the police to stop them, otherwise we will organise protests and they will be responsible for any untoward incident,” he said.
Sheikh accused the Ahmedi community of taking the law into their hands and “posing as Muslims”. He said the Constitution of Pakistan had declared them non-Muslims. He said that they would pursue legal action against the Ahmedi community “to make them mend their ways”.
Fazal Ahmed, a member of the Baitul Hamd administration committee, said that they had tried their best to make the place look less offensive to the complainants, but they were still not satisfied. He said the place of worship had been around since before Partition. Another Ahmedi said it had been around since 1960.
He said the police had told them that they had done 75 per cent of the job, and needed to finish the rest by demolishing the dome. He said no cleric had asked them to do so directly, but the police were pressing them. He said that they would not demolish the dome themselves. “Let the police or the clerics do it if they want,” he said.
Muhammad Riaz, the investigation officer in the matter, said that the police were trying to resolve the matter amicably.
According to 295-B of the Pakistan Penal Code, “whoever wilfully defiles, damages or desecrates a copy of the Holy Quran or of an extract therefrom or uses it in any derogatory manner or for any unlawful purpose shall be punishable with imprisonment for life.”
According to 298-C, “any person of the Qadiani Group or the Lahori Group (who call themselves ‘Ahmedis’ or by any other name), who directly or indirectly, poses as a Muslim, or calls, or refers to, his faith as Islam, or preaches or propagates his faith, or invites others to accept his faith, by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representations, or in any manner whatsoever outrages the religious feelings of Muslims shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 21st, 2012.