Persecution of minority Muslim groups

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The Ahmadiyya regard themselves as Muslims, but are seen by many other Muslims as non-Muslims and "heretics" since they do not believe in the finality of prophethood since the death of Muhammad. Armed groups, led by the umbrella organization Khatme Nabuwwat ("Finality of Prophethood"), have launched violent attacks against their mosques in Bangladesh.[1]

They committed massacres against them which resulted in 2,000 Ahmadiyya deaths in Pakistani Punjab. Eventually, martial law had to be established and Governor general Ghulam Mohamed dismissed the federal cabinet. This anti-Ahmadiyya movement led Pakistani prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to declare that the Ahmadiyyas were "non-Muslims".[2][3]

In 1984, the Government of Pakistan, under General Zia-ul-Haq, passed Ordinance XX,[4] which banned proselytizing by Ahmadis and also banned Ahmadis from referring to themselves as Muslims. According to this ordinance, any Ahmadi who refers to oneself as a Muslim by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, directly or indirectly, or makes the call for prayer as other Muslims do, is punishable by imprisonment of up to 3 years. Because of these difficulties, Mirza Tahir Ahmad migrated to London, UK.

Ajlafs and Arzals[edit]

Despite Islam's egalitarian tenets, units of social stratification, termed as "castes" by many, have developed among Muslims in some parts of South Asia.[5][6] Various theories have been put forward regarding the development of castes among Indian Muslims. Majority of sources state that the castes among Muslims developed as the result of close contact with Hindu culture and Hindu converts to Islam,[5][6][7][8] while few others feel that these developed based on claims of descent from Muhammad.[9][10]

Sections of the ulema (scholars of Islamic jurisprudence) have declared the religious legitimacy of the caste system with the help of the concept of kafa'a[citation needed]. A classic example of scholarly literature supporting the Muslim caste system is the Fatawa-i Jahandari, written by the 14th century Turkish scholar, Ziauddin Barani, a member of the court of Muhammad bin Tughlaq, of the Tughlaq dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate. Barani was known for his intensely casteist views, and he regarded the Ashraf Muslims as racially superior to the Ajlaf Muslims[citation needed].

He divided the Muslims into grades and sub-grades. In his scheme, all high positions and privileges were to be a monopoly of the high born Turks, not the Indian Muslims[citation needed]. Even in his interpretation of the Koranic verse "Indeed, the pious amongst you are most honored by Allah", he considered piety to be associated with noble birth.[9] Barrani was specific in his recommendation that the "sons of Mohamed" [i.e. Ashrafs] "be given a higher social status than the low-born [i.e. Ajlaf].[11] His most significant contribution in the fatwa was his analysis of the castes with respect to Islam.[12] His assertion was that castes would be mandated through state laws or "Zawabi" which would carry precedence over Sharia law whenever they were in conflict.[12]

In the Fatwa-i-Jahandari (advice XXI), he wrote about the "qualities of the high-born" as being "virtuous" and the "low-born" as being the "custodians of vices". Every act which is "contaminated with meanness and based on ignominy, comes elegantly [from the Ajlaf]".[13] Barani had a clear disdain for the Ajlaf and strongly recommended that they be denied education, lest they usurp the Ashraf masters[citation needed]. He sought appropriate religious sanction to that effect.[8] Barrani also developed an elaborate system of promotion and demotion of Imperial officers ("Wazirs") that was conducted primarily on the basis of caste.[11]

In addition to the Ashraf/Ajlaf divide, there is also the Arzal caste among Muslims, whose members were regarded by anti-Caste activists like Babasaheb Ambedkar as the equivalent of untouchables.[14][15] The term "Arzal" stands for "degraded" and the Arzal castes are further subdivided into Bhanar, Halalkhor, Hijra, Kasbi, Lalbegi, Maugta, Mehtar etc.[14][15] The Arzal group was recorded in the 1901 census in India and its members are also called Dalit Muslims “with whom no other Muhammadan would associate, and who are forbidden to enter the mosque or to use the public burial ground”[citation needed].They are relegated to "menial" professions such as scavenging and carrying night soil.[16]


The Alawites are a secretive group that believe in the divine nature of Ali, the cousin of Muhammad. They have been persecuted in the past and survive in the remote and more mountainous parts of Syria. The ruling Ba'ath party is dominated by Alawis (President Bashar al-Assad is Alawi himself) and they have sought fatwas from Shiite clergy in Lebanon declaring that they are, in fact, Muslims.[17]


In medieval Iraq, the Mu'tazili theological movement was made a state doctrine in 832, igniting the Mihna (ordeal) a struggle over the application of Greek logical proof of the Qu'ran; people who would not accept Mu'tazili claims that the Qur'an was created rather than eternal were sometimes persecuted. The most famous victims of the Mihna were Ahmad Ibn Hanbal who was imprisoned and tortured, and the judge Ahmad Ibn Nasr al-Khuza'i who was crucified.[18] Ahmad Ibn Hanbal was dragged before the inquisition, known as the Mihna, ordered by the caliph al-Maʾmūn.[19]

However, it lost official support soon afterwards. This coincided with the rise to prominence of the Ash'ari approach to Islam, of which Al-Ghazali was a staunch defender. Sunni and Shi'a Islam became the mainstream schools of Islam. As a consequence, the tables turned and some Mutazili scholars were victims of persecution themselves in the centuries to follow. Some Islamic philosophers like Averroes and Avicenna also faced persecution from fellow Muslims in their time.[20] Mu'tazilite doctrine - by now regarded as heretical by Sunnis - continued to be influential amongst some Shia in Persia and Zaydis in Yemen.[21]


At various times many Shi'a groups have faced persecution. All of the Twelve Imams of Shia Islam have been martyred and their followers persecuted by either Kharijites, the Umayyads, or Abassids. In 1513, Ottoman Sultan Selim I ("The Grim") ordered the massacre of 40,000 Shia Muslim "heretics" in Anatolia during the Safavid-Ottoman struggles.[22][23]

While the dominant strand in modern Sunni dogma regards Shiism as a valid madhhab, following Al Azhar, some Sunnis both now and in the past have regarded it as beyond the pale, and have attacked its adherents. In modern times, notable examples include the bombing campaigns by the Sunni Sipah-e-Sahaba and the Shia Tehrik-e-Jafria, two small extremist groups, against Shia or Sunni mosques in Pakistan,[24] the persecution of Hazara under the Taliban,[25] and the bloody attacks linked with Zarqawi and his followers against Shia in Iraq.[26]

Some of the worst Shia-Sunni sectarian strife has occurred after the American invasion of Iraq, steadily building up to present.[when?][27] According to one estimate, as of early 2008, 1,121 Muslim suicide bombers have blown themselves up in Iraq.[28] Sunni suicide bombers have targeted not only thousands of civilians,[29] but mosques, shrines,[30] wedding and funeral processions,[31] markets, hospitals, offices, and streets.[32] On the Shia side, in early February 2006 militia-dominated government death squads were reportedly "tortur[ing] to death or summarily" executing "hundreds" of Sunnis "every month in Baghdad alone," many arrested at random.[33][34][35]

The Saudi Arabian government has been viewed as repressive against Shias living in Saudi Arabia, mainly because it encourages the Salafi faith, which denounces Shia Islam as heretical. Shias are mainly persecuted due to the belief that they are Iranian "puppets" and traitors. In several Saudi Arabian cities, Shia azans and Ashura demonstrations are banned.[citation needed]

Sunni Madhabs[edit]

Yaqub Beg's Uyghur forces declared a Jihad against Chinese Muslims under T'o Ming during the Dungan revolt. The Uyghurs thought that the Chinese Muslims were Shafi`i, and since the Uyghurs were Hanafi that they should wage war against them. Yaqub Beg enlisted non Muslim Han Chinese militia under Hsu Hsuehkung in order to fight against the Chinese Muslims. T'o Ming's forces were defeated by Yaqub, who planned to conquer Dzungharia. Yaqub intended to seize all Dungan territory.[36][37]


Certain small groups - the Kharijites of early medieval times, and Takfir wal Hijra- follow takfirist doctrines, regarding almost all other Muslims as infidels whose blood may legitimately be shed.[38][39]


The Kuomintang Sufi Chinese Muslim General Ma Bufang, who backed the Yihewani (Ikhwan) Muslims, persecuted the Salafi/Wahhabis. The Yihewani forced the Salafis into hiding. They were not allowed to move or worship openly. The Yihewani had become secular and Chinese nationalist, and they considered the Salafiyya to be "Heterodox" (xie jiao), and people who followed foreigner's teachings (waidao). Only after the Communists took over were the Salafis allowed to come out and worship openly.[40]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Bangladesh: Breach of Faith". Retrieved 20 August 2016. 
  2. ^ Jamaat-i-Islami Federal Research Division US Library of Congress
  3. ^ Persecution of the Ahmadiyya Community in Pakistan: An Analysis Under International Law and International Relations
  4. ^ Ordinance XX
  5. ^ a b "Islamic caste." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2006. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 18 Oct. 2006
  6. ^ a b Burton-Page, J., Hindū, Encyclopaedia of Islam. Edited by: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C. E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel and W. P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2006. Brill Online.
  7. ^ Muslim Caste in Uttar Pradesh (A Study of Culture Contact), Ghaus Ansari, Lucknow, 1960, Page 66
  8. ^ a b Singh Sikand, Yoginder. "Caste in Indian Muslim Society". Hamdard University. Retrieved 18 October 2006. 
  9. ^ a b Sajida Sultana Alvi, Advice on the art of governance, an Indo-Islamic Mirror for Princes P122, State University of New York Press, ISBN 0-88706-918-5
  10. ^ Ahmad, Imtiaz, "The Ashraf-Ajlaf dichotomy in Muslim social structure in India", Indian economic and social history review 33 (1966) pgs 268-78
  11. ^ a b Das (1996), pp. 138-139
  12. ^ a b Das (1996), p. 124
  13. ^ Das (1996), p. 143
  14. ^ a b Ambedkar, Bhimrao. Pakistan or the Partition of India. Thackers Publishers. 
  15. ^ a b Web resource for Pakistan or the Partition of India
  16. ^ Dereserve these myths Archived 2008-05-16 on Wayback Machine. by Tanweer Fazal,Indian express
  17. ^ Lebanon - Religious Sects
  18. ^ “Do not envy anyone who has not been harmed for the sake of this affair.” « A Resource of Translated Islamic Texts
  19. ^ Ahmad ibn Hanbal -- Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  20. ^ Science, civilization and society
  21. ^ Ash'ariyya and Mu'tazila
  22. ^ St Thomas More Studies
  23. ^ The Ottoman Conquest
  24. ^ RELIGION-PAKISTAN: Shia-Sunni Tensions Surface on Campus Archived 2012-01-15 on Wayback Machine.
  25. ^ BBC News | SOUTH ASIA | Hazara people's long suffering
  26. ^ BBC NEWS | Middle East | Crushing Iraq's human mosaic
  27. ^ Civil War
  28. ^ March 14, 2008 The Independent/UK "The Cult of the Suicide Bomber" by Robert Fisk "month-long investigation by The Independent, culling four Arabic-language newspapers, official Iraqi statistics, two Beirut news agencies and Western reports"
  29. ^ over half of the 20,000 fatalities worldwide from terrorism in 2006 occurred in Iraq according to the American National Counterterrorism Center Report on Terrorist Incidents 2006 p.3 Archived March 26, 2009, on Wayback Machine.
  30. ^ Al Jazeera English - News - Car Bomb Blast Near Iraq Shrine
  31. ^ Iraqi funeral procession bombed; at least 26 killed
  32. ^ Nasr (2007), p. 203
  33. ^ Iraq's death squads Archived 2007-10-01 on Wayback Machine.
  34. ^ Iraq 'failing to tackle death squads'
  35. ^ "Iraq militias' wave of death, Sectarian killings now surpass terrorist bombings," The Boston Globe, April 2, 2006
  36. ^ Fairbank, Liu & Twitchett (1980), p. 223
  37. ^ Fairbank, Liu & Twitchett (1980), p. 224
  38. ^ new global threat: Transnational Salafis and Jihad, The Middle East Policy
  39. ^ House of Commons - Foreign Affairs - Minutes of Evidence
  40. ^ BARRY RUBIN (2000). Guide to Islamist Movements. M.E. Sharpe. p. 79. ISBN 0-7656-1747-1. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 


  • Das, Arbind (1996). Arthashastra of Kautilya and Fatwa-i-Jahandari of Ziauddin Barrani: an analysis. Delhi: Pratibha Publications. ISBN 81-85268-45-2. 
  • Fairbank, John King; Liu, Kwang-ching; Twitchett, Denis Crispin (1980). Late Ch'ing, 1800–1911. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-22029-7. 
  • Nasr, Vali (2007). The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future. W. W. Norton & Co. ISBN 9780393066401.