Standing up for the Ahmadis

Posted by Alexander Hay

If we don't resist the spread of discrimination against Ahmadis in this country, we may end up with deaths on our hands.

The Baitul Futuh mosque in London is a focus point for an increasingly embattled Ahmadi community

Shamefully, the first time many of us heard of the Ahmadhis, a persecuted minority Muslim sect from Pakistan, was after 93 were murdered in two mosques by extremists in May. Seldom discussed was that a British citizen was among the dead. Not particularly commented upon either was another fact - the persecution of the Ahmadis has come to the UK.

Not heard of this yet? You'll probably not have seen the Channel 4 news report on Sunday night either then. It reported that Ahmadis have been attacked, dismissed from work, been accused of selling non-Halal meat to other Muslims and even been threatened in leaflets and on posters openly displayed in shop windows - all in the UK. Extremists even tried to discourage support for an Ahmadi candidate in the last General Election.

The only mistake the report makes, of course, is in its claim that no laws have been broken in this (so far) low-level harassment. There have, in fact, been at least three laws broken.

The first of these is "Intentionally encouraging or assisting an offence", covered under the terms of the Serious Crimes Act 2007. This states that a crime is committed if 'he does an act capable of encouraging or assisting the commission of an offence'. Given that people have already been attacked, the toxic atmosphere of the propaganda so far unleashed comes under the terms of the act. But what crimes are being incited here?

Well, first of all, it is now illegal to discriminate on grounds of another religion, care of the 2006 Equality Act. This states that an offence is committed if the victim is treated unfairly in relation to others, is denied the same level of service and provision and is denied lawful access to premises. A reasonable case can be made for those sacked for being Ahmadis due to such incitement.

And of course, there's the good old Public Order Act 1986, which contains this doozy: "A person is guilty of an offence if he... distributes or displays to another person any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting, with intent to cause that person to believe that immediate unlawful violence will be used against him or another by any person, or to provoke the immediate use of unlawful violence by that person or another..."

So there you go, more than enough for the police to go forth and feel collars. Only, as we all know, they won't. The police take their cue from the politicians, and by implication the public, who are plainly too chicken to do anything about Islamic extremism in this country.

In part, there is racism at play here - leaning on the rabblerousers and bigots is seen as a potential provocation of this vast, faceless mass called British Islam, made up of mainly brown skinned people about whom we know very little other than a shared consensus that we should never offend 'them'.

But it also suggests an ongoing squeamishness to face up to problems in our society until they grow so large, a lop-sided and disproportionate response is inevitable. You'd think we'd have noticed that letting things take root only makes for more trouble later on. We prefer to look away, and if there is anything honour killings, the growing gap between rich and poor in this country and everything from bad schools to the near-collapse of our economy have in common, it is that very British tendency to bury one's head in the sand.

This isn't a rant about 'political correctness gone mad', though. We're all a little PC, unless we're the kind of person who blows raspberries in the middle of a funeral. And what is often meant by 'political correctness' is a resentment that you can't laugh at 'poofs', 'coloureds' and the disabled any more.

Nor is it a screed against multiculturalism. We're all different, and even the most supposedly homogeneous bloc of people has some variety here and there.

Yet it is a call for the bare minimum requirement of a civilised society - that the law is enforced without fear and prejudice and to defend those who can't defend themselves.

Or will nothing be done until an Ahmadi is murdered or a mosque in Tooting is bombed? Now is the time to act.

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Alexander Hay

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