Thursday, February 8, 2018

Canada: Ahmadi Muslims, including survivor of mosque attack, find safety in Sask.


"You're really always disqualified, discounted and although officially there's no policy of violent oppression, it gives permission."

Times of Ahmad | News Watch | US Desk
Source/Credit: Yahoo News
By  CBC News | February 7, 2018

Asif Mahmood is lucky to be alive — let alone living in a country where he can openly practise his religion.

In May 2010, he was inside one of two Ahmadi Muslim mosques in Lahore, Pakistan, that were brutally attacked.

That day, 94 people were killed at the mosques. Among them were Mahmood's father, two uncles and a cousin. Another 120 were injured.

"We grew up with this concept that we're not safe, anybody can actually come and attack us," Mahmood said.

"So at that moment in the mosque I was going through that same feeling that we were thinking about — it's the time we are actually facing it."

The shooting was spurred on by hate and legislation against a particular sect of Islam, called Ahmadi.

Pakistan's constitution declares Ahmadiyya followers as non-Muslims.

They can be jailed for years for simply calling themselves Muslim or performing the Muslim call to prayer, said Franz Volker Greifenhagen, a religious studies professor at the University of Regina.

"You're really always disqualified, discounted and although officially there's no policy of violent oppression, it gives permission," Greifenhagen said.

He said many Ahmadi have also been targeted and killed by fellow citizens who accuse them of blasphemy.

 Mahmood found his father's body the evening of the attack. He said the same pressure and feeling of insecurity continued for his family in the days that followed.

"We were left with no other option but to escape from the country."

Who are Sask.'s asylum seekers?

Mahmood and his family were among many who made the trek to Canada as asylum seekers.

According to a CBC News analysis of data obtained from the Immigration and Refugee Board through through an access to information request, there were 337 refugee claims for asylum in Saskatchewan between Jan. 1, 2013 and Sept. 30, 2017.

A total of 189 were accepted.

The most common reason for claiming refugee status in Saskatchewan was religious persecution, a category that included 20 per cent of claims. After that was political activism, which accounted for 54 claims.

The vast majority of religious claimants said they were Ahmadi Muslims from Pakistan, but there were also claims from Christians and Shia Muslims.

Ahmadi claims have one of the highest acceptance rates in the country, with 97 per cent of the 1,500 claims being approved. Overall across the country, the refugee claims most likely to be successful were political or religious in nature.

The high acceptance rate wasn't a surprise to Greifenhagen, who has spent years studying Islam.

Aside from their genuine religious persecution, Greifenhagen said Ahmadi Muslims are a low security threat, as they have long repudiated violence.

Their motto is "love for all, hatred for none," which is one of the first things Ahmadi Muslim children are taught.

"Right from the beginning of the founding of this movement, [they] have actively dissociated themselves from gaining their objectives through militancy and violence and so on," Greifenhagen said.

Making the move

It took a while for Mahmood to recover from the attack at the mosques in Lahore, but eventually, he and his family packed up for a better life in Canada in 2014.

Mahmood, his wife and their two kids, and his elderly mother made their way to Saskatchewan.

He said the first thing he did when he arrived was head to the mosque to pray — which was a moment of relief.

"Everybody was there doing what they want, like calling the prayer and offering the prayer. [They] were not having any pressure or insecurity that we might be under attack," he said.

Over a Tim Hortons coffee on Friday, Mahmood said he's enjoying his life in Canada, working in his field as an IT technician and adapting to the cold.

In Pakistan, he said the temperature was more like 40 C, compared to –40 C in Saskatchewan.

"But the benefits of being here are so great, that this problem is not a problem," he said.

He said only his mother, now in her 70s, is struggling to adjust.

She left behind everything she knew in Pakistan and doesn't speak English. But still, he said she would rather have her children here and safe.

He's also hoping his siblings will join him in Canada. In the meantime, he's simply grateful.


Read original post here: Canada: Ahmadi Muslims, including survivor of mosque attack, find safety in Sask.


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