Pictured: Three Ahmadis were killed in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, over allegedly blasphemous Facebook posts in 2014.
There are over four million Ahmadi Muslims across the globe, with communities in over two hundred countries. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad founded the religious sect in Punjab in 1889, during British colonial rule of India.
Ahmadis believe that their founder was the Messiah foretold by the Prophet Mohammed in the Quran – a belief which puts them at odds with the majority of Muslims, and has been the source of ongoing persecution. In Pakistan, followers of the sect have faced legal and social discriminiation for decades, and 1974 more than a hundred Ahmadis were killed in an anti-Ahmadiyya riot in the country.
Now two Ahmadi Muslims, who fled religious persecution and found refuge in Britain, want to raise awareness of the suffering their community faces. Naseer and Amir spoke to Backbench at Morden Mosque Hall about their experiences.
Naseer grew up being bullied by his fellow school pupils, his teachers, and quite often his own friends. At school he was not allowed to read the Quran because an amendment to the country’s constitution meant that Ahmadis were not classed as true Muslims.
'In Pakistan there is a terrible situation,' said Naseer, 'while these anti-Ahmadiyya laws exists, Ahmadi Muslims are not permitted to practice their faith or openly declare it and tell others about it.'
Watch: Naseer and Amir tell Backbench about their persecution in Pakistan.
'When I passed my year 5 exams when I was a child, even at that age, my school teacher made it known to me that I was a non-Muslim. He did so by writing on my school certificate that this child is non-Muslim.'
Growing up, Naseer, whose whole family are part of the Ahmadiyya community, did not understand why people told him he was a heretic. 'Nowadays the media has filled people up with so much poison,' he explained, 'kids can't even let others know they’re Ahmadi Muslim or else they’ll be bullied.'
In 2013 Naseer’s brother was targeted because of his faith, and shot in the arm. Naseer and his family were insulted and discriminated against when they sought justice. ‘Even when I was fighting the case, the court reader was using derogatory language against me,” he said. He was described as a ‘Qadiyani’ - a derogatory term for Ahmadis.
After receiving death threats about the trial, Naseer decided to drop the case, and later became a youth leader in his local village – 'an extremely difficult task' he explains, because people were being encouraged to 'boycott Ahmadi Muslims.'
'These kinds of incidents are happening against Ahamdis every now and then. No one can say anything against the clerics. And that is why life was too difficult to continue in Pakistan and so I migrated out.' Naseer came here with his family October 11 2018 and was granted his status in March 2019
Watch Amir’s unique story, along with more of Naseer’s, in the video above.
A Backbench Report by Abbianca Makoni.