TORONTO — An attack on a mosque in Chakwal, Pakistan, has led to calls for an investigation in Canada over allegations a Toronto-area man was part of a group that vowed “extreme measures” against the place of worship.
A mob of about 1,000 surrounded the mosque belonging to minority Ahmadiyya Muslims, according to Pakistani newspapers The Nation and Dawn, as well as social media posts, some showing video of the damage.
The incident Monday reportedly came after locals filed a petition with police claiming “infidels” were illegally occupying the building and unless action was taken “we will be forced to take extreme measures to liberate this mosque.”
One of the names near the top of the petition was Haji Malik Rashid Ahmed, whom Ahmadiyyas say is a Canadian. A news website that reports on the Ahmadiyya community, Rabwah Times, said he had spoken about the issue at mosques in the Chakwal area. A video posted by the site appears to show him talking to police in the aftermath of the attack.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada, which represents Canadian Ahmadiyya Muslims, raised the issue at a meeting with Global Affairs Canada, said Asif Khan, the organization’s director of public relations.
Khan said he informed federal officials that a Canadian was possibly involved and sent them the relevant documentation. He also asked whether Global Affairs would inform the RCMP, or if his organization should do it.
“We don’t want stuff like that here,” Khan said Tuesday. While violence against religious minorities is commonplace in Pakistan, he called the conduct “un-Canadian” and said he hoped whatever laws applied would be enforced.
I know him because he comes to our mosque in Mississauga. … He’s not a violent guy. He’s not a bad person
In Pakistan, Ahmadiyyas are prohibited from “indirectly or directly posing as a Muslim,” publicly declaring or propagating their faith, building mosques or referring to them as such, and making public calls to prayer, according to Human Rights Watch.
Such intolerance, together with regular attacks, have prompted many Ahmadiyyas to resettle in such countries as Canada, but they still face a degree of stigmatization from those who do not recognize them as genuine Muslims.
The Canadian who allegedly signed the petition concerning the Ahmadiyya mosque in Chakwal has lived in Canada for at least 40 years, said Imam Syed Soharwardy, who chairs the organization that runs the Mississauga mosque the man attends.
“I know this guy very well,” he said. “I know him because he comes to our mosque in Mississauga. … He’s not a violent guy. He’s not a bad person.” Soharwardy said he did not know what had happened in Chakwal “but in Pakistan people do these things. They should not be doing it.”
On Dec. 5, the Ahmadiyya community in Chakwal wrote to the local government asking for security at mosques. The letter said Muslim scholars “from outside” had “incited to violence,” vowing “to take forcible possession” of Ahmadiyya places of worship on Dec. 12.
On Monday, the attackers threw stones and bricks, and reportedly fired shots in an unsuccessful attempt to seize the mosque from the Ahmadiyyas. Worshippers locked themselves inside until police arrived to disperse the crowd.
The government of Punjab wrote on Twitter that “a misunderstanding developed between the two groups” and that it was “vigilantly following up.” In a Twitter post, the Canadian High Commission in Islamabad commended the Punjab government “for undertaking to hold mob leaders in Chakwal to account.”