01/13/2004, 00.00
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Islamic Inquisition for Ahmadiyya sect

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – The Religious Affairs Ministry banned all Ahmadiyya publications, following pressure by Islamic fundamentalists who declared the group to be "non-Muslim".

Hifazate Khatme Nabuwat Andolon (HKNA), the anti-Ahmadiyya movement,  conducted all-day rallies, petitioning the government to decree the Ahmadiyya a non-Islamic movement.

For now the government has limited itself to banning publications, sales and preservation of all Ahmadiyya books (which from Jan. 8 can no longer be printed). Yet the HKNA gave an ultimatum: the orthodox Muslim sect must be outlawed in 2 weeks; otherwise there will be retaliations.

The Ahmadiyya is a religious community of about 100,000 persons in Bangladesh, who recognize Mohamed but do not consider him the last prophet. 

The government's decision to prohibit Ahmadiyya books was applauded by fundamentalists, but leaves a large part of public opinion perplexed.

Shahajan Ali, a 45 year-old Muslim social service worker, told AsiaNews that "the Ahamadiyya should be labeled 'non-Muslim', because they don't follow Mohamed, the last and greatest prophet of Islam."  However,  Sumona Chisim, a 40 year-old woman, said: "I saw the images of the aggressive HKNA rallies  on TV. The  Ahmadiyya never caused anyone any problems and they practice their faith peacefully. The government should ban HKNA instead, but for reasons of popularity they end up appeasing them."

Sheik Hasina, former Prime Minister and current leader of the Awamy League, the opposition party, stated in a press conference that in Islam no one has authority on orthodoxy: "Only God can judge who is Muslim and who isn't; the government has not the power to do it." And she  added: "Before banning Ahmadiyya publications, the government should ban Moududi's books, as they contain many statements against Islam and Mohamed." Abul Ala Moududi is the founder of the Islamic party, currently part of the government coalition.

In general, Bangladesh citizens fear the fundamentalists' increase in power. One student said, "Today was Ahmadiyya's turn; in the future they could violently eliminate other minority groups in the country as well."

Fr. Bijoy Edward Pereira, rector of the Diocesan Intermediate Seminary, said that for now no one is threatening a ban on Christian publications. He was quite "displeased by the government's lax policy toward more aggressive Islamic organizations." Upon the foundation of Bangladesh in 1971, the state declared itself secular. In 1988, the constitution was amended to define Bangladesh as an Islamic state.  

There are around 200 million Ahmadiyya members throughout the world. The movement was born in the XIX century in what is currently Pakistan, founded on the desire to revive Islam by emphasizing non-violence and tolerance. The greatest disagreement with the Muslim community is found in the fact that the Ahmadiyya believe there can be other prophets after Mohamed, which is considered blasphemous by mainstream Islam.   (RR)
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