Sunday 05 December 2010
Threatened with death in shop windows: Channel 4 News Midlands Correspondent Darshna Soni investigates allegations of hate crime against Ahmadi Muslims in the UK.
It's not known exactly how many Ahmadis have settled in Britain - because many are too fearful to even admit they belong to the religion. They are a small, peaceful community who came here after fleeing persecution in Pakistan.
But many Ahmadis are now living in fear for their lives - because they claim a campaign of hatred against them by other, extremist Muslims, is being exported from Pakistan onto the streets of the UK.
Earlier this year in Lahore, Ahmadis were targeted in a murderous attack. 93 worshippers were killed including a number of Britons. Police fought a 3 hour battle with gunmen who had stormed two Ahmedi mosques - the group's religious views are highly controversial, because they dont believe the Prophet Mohammad was the last messenger. It's a view orthadox Muslims find heretical and clerics have lobbied the Pakistani government to introduce a number of anti-Ahmadi laws.
Lutfar Rehman survived the Lahore massacre, but witnessed others being killed. He says the ideology behind the attack is now being preached here in the UK.
"I was inside the mosque when we heard gunshot and the attackers came in. Sitting next to me was a little kid, with his father, his father was trying to save him... The attacks didn't just come suddenly, they were the climax of years of hatred and abuse against us. Ive seen all kinds of problems and hatred in society in Pakistan, now the same thing is happening here."
Since the attacks in Pakistan, we've found worrying evidence that a campaign of hatred is spreading in the UK. We've spoken to Ahmadis who have been physically attacked in the street - and to others who've been sacked from their jobs because they've refused to convert.
Zaheer Mirza owns a butchers in Tooting. He says in recent months, customers have been boycotting his shop after a lefleat started to appear in the community. The lefleat states that because he's an Ahmedi, his meat is not halal. "A lot of people hate us, that's why," he says.
I spoke to others who also claim they are victims. Abdul Majeed has just won an tribunal against his former Muslim employer - the panel found Mr Majeed was sacked because he's an Ahmadi and refused to convert. He told me that he had worked for his boss for two-and-half years - and had felt sick and upset, when he was asked to leave. We were unable to contact Mr Majeed's ex-employer - but during the tribunal, it was claimed he was influenced by anti-Ahmadi conference held in south London after the Pakistan attacks.
This is how it all begins. Shops boycotted, posters going up in windows, people sacked from their jobs.
Soon after the conference, our investigation found hate leaflets openly on display. In one shop selling hair products, we found a poster warning Muslims to stay away from Ahmadis. Police in Lambeth confirmed to us that they had been asked to investigate whether the poster constituted a hate crime. I went inside and spoke to the shopkeeper, Adeel Rubani. He told me that he disagreed with the Ahmadis' religious views and felt he had an obligation to "give information to other Muslims."
When I asked him whether he thought this added to an atmosphere in which Ahmadis were being singled out and targeted, he said no. "I've never heard of an Ahmadi being attacked," he said.
But the sentiments against Ahmadis have caused huge concern - and the matter was recently debated in parliament.
The human rights campaigner and Liberal Democrat peer, Lord Avebury, warns that the hate campaign could soon become "a holocaust." He says "This is how it all begins. Shops boycotted, posters going up in windows, people sacked from their jobs."
We tracked down the organisation behind the posters. Khatme Nubbawat - or finality of the prophet - is a British off-shoot of a Pakistani group accused of leading an extremist campaign against Ahmadis. In a recent speech, one of their preachers states that the Lahore attacks were an Ahmadi conspiracy. They are based in east London, and we were given a rare interview.
"I can assure you there is no such hate campaign going on here..."Akber Choudhry, the group's spokesman told me that they are simply countering Ahmadiyya propaganda. I showed him the posters we found in shop windows, and asked if they are inflammatory. "Certainly not."
Mr Choudhry says that the CPS had investigated the posters, but found that although unpleasant words were used, no laws were broken. "If speaking unpleasantly was a crime, democracy would not exist."
The Ahmadis are now seeking independent legal advice, to see whether the CPS can be made to re-investigate any alleged hate crimes.