Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is gravely concerned by a dangerous anti-Ahmadiyya campaign that has been trending on social media in Pakistan. The campaign began two days ago, after unverified reports emerged stating that the Government of Pakistan will include members from the Ahmadiyya community in the Minorities’ Commission it intends to form.
Since then, extremely hate filled content against this peaceful religious community has been spreading, first on Twitter and then on Facebook. The material which is of gravest concern is a tweet made by the State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Mr. Ali Muhammad Khan in the late evening of 29 April 2020. The tweet endorses beheading as an acceptable form of punishment for blasphemers.
It is completely clear from the context and the tweets issued before and subsequently by the Minister, that when he says “blasphemers”, he is referring to Ahmadiyya community members. However, even if this were not the case, the tweet clearly contains an incitement to violence against persons based on their beliefs or faith.
MRG is extremely concerned for the Ahmadiyya community’s safety at a time of high social tension due to COVID-19 in Pakistan. Such a dangerous statement coming from a State Minister inherently risks enhancing the sense of legitimacy among the religious hardliners that the government will support an act of killing someone in the name of religion, or that they can easily get away with the murder or violent attack against any Ahmadi.
The Minister’s tweet had received 24.5K likes and 3.5K retweets within the first 24 hours of being issued. While many responses to the tweet further generate hatred against the Ahmadiyya community, there are also comments regarding other religious respect and harmony issues such as the release of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who was previously accused of blasphemy. MRG also worries that these comments may indirectly trigger violence against the Christian community in Pakistan.
MRG urges all social media companies operating in Pakistan to ensure that all hate and dangerous speech is removed from their platforms.
MRG urges the Government of Pakistan to disavow any statements threatening the Ahmadiyya community and immediately put into place every necessary measure to ensure the community’s safety.
MRG urges that appropriate action is taken to investigate and sanction Minister Khan under Pakistani Criminal Law and/or under Parliamentary Disciplinary Procedures.
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