'Heretical' Ahmadiyya sect raises Muslim hackles
They proudly claim to be Muslims but are laughed off by mainstream Islam as "fakes". The dispute goes beyond mere ridicule. From Pakistan to Indonesia, the Ahmadiyyas are often killed for believing in their own line of subordinate prophets after Mohammed. Now, as they try to assert themselves in India, the sect's very birthplace, a conflict looks likely.
In Delhi's Constitution Club last month, a Quran exhibition held by the Ahmadiyyas had to be called off because of shrill protests from Jama Masjid Imam Ahmed Bukhari and an All-India Muslim Personal Law Board member.
Yet the Ahmadiyyas - a minority within minority - believe if there is a place to thrive, it is India.
"This is one of the few countries where we have the same rights as others," Syed Tanveer, the spokesperson for Ahamiddya Muslim Jamaat, told HT from Qadian, Punjab.
Backing them is the National Commission for Minorities, which is now examining if Bukhari and All-India Muslim Personal Law Board member Kamal Farooqui attempted to curb the Ahmadiyyas' religious freedom.
Bukhari and his brother Yahya, among others, were briefly arrested on September 24 for disrupting the exhibition.
Politically, the Ahmadiyyas are seeking legitimacy from Congress MP Pratap Singh Bajwa, who represents in their religious nerve-centre - Qadian in Gurdaspur.
"Bajwa had judged us well and found us to be law-abiding. That's why he supports us," Tanveer said.
Minority watchdog chief Wajahat Habibullah said: "An attack on the religious freedom of Ahmaddiyas clearly falls under our jurisdiction."
Despite the proposed intervention, the Ahmadiyyas are unlikely to find acceptability because of a worldwide fatwa (edict) against them.
"The commission has to serve notices to 150 million Muslims of India who will never allow Ahmadiyyas to call themselves Muslims," Bukhari said. Habibullah is facing attacks for visiting the Quran exhibition.
The conflict could escalate in India, where the Ahmadiyyas want to spread themselves.
Muslims generally believe there can be no prophets after Mohammed. The Ahmadiyyas have their own TV station in the UK, where their "caliph" lives in exile.