Social Issues

Pakistan seeks to impose online censorship on Ahmadis abroad

Islamabad, Feb 3 (efe-epa).- The authorities in Pakistan have extended the persecution of the Ahmadi religious minority living abroad with an attempt to close a website of this community in the United States.

The administrators of the website have been threatened with charges of blasphemy, a crime punishable by death on Pakistani soil.

Amnesty International (AI), Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists on Wednesday, in a statement, denounced the attempt to shut down the website by the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) and called for an end to the persecution of Ahmadis.

“The PTA’s efforts to close down their US website shows that even then,a life free from discrimination can be out of reach (for this community),” AI’s Deputy Regional Director Samira Hamidi said.

The Pakistani Ahmadis are a Muslim sect founded in the 19th century in India by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, whom they consider a prophet, which clashes with the Islamic belief of Muhammad as the last messenger of God.

This minority community are seen as blasphemers by the orthodox Muslim groups and have long been victims of religious persecution.

As per the country’s penal code, they are prohibited from “impersonating Muslims”, calling their places of worship mosques or selling texts of their sect, which could lead to penalties of up to three years. They are even forbidden from using the typical Muslim greeting “assalamu alaikum”.

Official government documents, such as passports, mention them solely as Ahmadis.

PTA had sent a legal notice in December to in which it said that the page violated Pakistan’s Constitution and warned them that they would face blasphemy charges for calling themselves Muslims and a $3.1 million fine if they did not shut down the website.

This website provides information about the history and beliefs of the minority community, as well as its activities on American soil, such as blood donation campaigns and support for war veterans.

“It’s obvious the PTA seeks to prosecute US citizens operating a US-based website,” said lawyer Amjad Mahmood Khan, one of the administrators of the website.

“This is an unprecedented act to extend the reach of Pakistan’s abominable blasphemy laws to US citizens, and it’s a new frontier in persecution for Ahmadis worldwide,” added Khan.

A spokesperson for the Ahmadi community in Pakistan refused to comment on the actions of the Pakistani authorities.

The Pakistani authorities have, using the threat of legal action, also looked to compel Google and Wikipedia to delete so called sacrilegious content against Islam, for including Ahmadi doctrine in their searches and encyclopedia content. EFE-EPA


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