KHALID Shakoor loves his new home country and the freedom he has enjoyed since moving here.
The Pakistani refugee, an Ahmadiyya Muslim, came to Australia on a special refugee visa in 1998, alone at the age of 22. Since then he has married, had two daughters Jazibah, 7, and Madiha, 4, and become a qualified glazier. The Endeavour Hills resident would love nothing more than to bring his parents over but unfortunately, his 81-year-old father Shakoor Bhai was imprisoned for eight years for selling the Koran at his book shop in Rabwah. In Pakistan, Ahmadiyya are not allowed to sell the Koran because they are not considered true Muslims.
His arrest was filmed by onlookers and uploaded to YouTube. Mr Shakoor must speak to him via relatives because Shakoor Bhai is not permitted to use a phone in prison. Mr Shakoor said he was worried for his father because of his age, the exposure he would face in prison and the length of his sentence.
He said appeals against prison sentences were rarely successful in Pakistan because judges were often swayed by ‘extremists’ who protested outside Ahmadiyya trials.
“It was very hard when dad got arrested because mum is 75 years old and it’s very hard and harsh for her,” he said.
“This happened in December; the police came with no warrant and took him away to an unknown place and we didn’t know his whereabouts for two days.
“He is in the central jail in Faisalabad, which is 45-50km from our family.
“The conditions are really harsh; it’s just a locker, they don’t get a mattress or anything and it’s quite exposed.”
The Ahmadiyya community is strong in Melbourne’s southeast. Each year it holds an Australia Day event at the community centre in Langwarrin. Mr Shakoor said the community also devoted much of its time to charity work, including doorknocking for the Red Cross, taking part in Clean Up Australia Day and tree planting.
He said the Ahmadiyya condemned jihad.
“We condemn all this extremism; Daesh, the Taliban, we are totally against it. We condemn them,” he said.
- Ahmadiyya Muslims live in more than 200 countries and there are between 10 and 20 million worldwide
- In Muslim-majority countries they are branded heretics and unbelievers and face persecution
- The sect started in India at the end of the 19th century. Followers believe in the peaceful propagation of Islam
- In 1974 Muslim leaders from each of Islam’s 72 other sects convened in Pakistan, and unanimously declared all Ahmadi (Ahmadiyya) Muslims to be non-Muslim
- The main difference between Ahmadiyya Muslims and orthodox Muslims centres on their belief in Jesus. Ahmadiyya Muslims believe the messiah returned to earth as Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, while the rest of the Muslim world is still waiting for Jesus’ return