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Ahmadiyya is a religious sect that originated in India in the 19th century. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the founder, claimed to be the Mahdi, the Muslim equivalent of the Messiah. The movement of his followers grew to several million people, and is now represented in many countries, particularly in South Asia, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Gambia, Tanzania and Indonesia. Several countries have blasphemy laws that discriminate against Ahmadis; some of these laws have been described as a legacy of Empire.


The world’s largest Ahmadi community is in Pakistan, with about 4 million adherents. The Pakistani constitution singles out Ahmadis, declaring that they are not Muslims, and the Penal Code bans them from describing themselves as such. According to Amnesty International, a general crackdown on freedom of expression is intensifying in Pakistan and the mood of hostility against Ahmadis has led to scenes such as those in May 2018, when neighbouring villagers destroyed the houses of 23 Ahmadis, who had to be evacuated to another town.

Violent jihadi groups such as Laskhar-e-Jhangvi are accused of targeted assassinations of Ahmadis in Pakistan. The worst attack to date was in 2010, when 86 worshippers were killed during an assault on two Ahmadi mosques in Lahore.


In December 2017 50 Ahmadis were tried on charges related to their religion. Sentences ranged from fines to five years in prison.


Members of the large Ahmadi community in Indonesia have found it difficult to get identity documents because the documents must show an authorised religion and Ahmadiyya is not one of them. There have been killings of Ahmadis by Islamic militants.


In 2016 a man killed an Ahmadi shopkeeper from Glasgow for, the killer claimed, “disrespecting Islam”.  He was jailed for murder.

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