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Fleeing persecution, Ahmadi Muslims find safe haven in Nepal

Kathmandu’s Muslim community usually gathers at the Kashmiri Jama Masjid in Jamal for Jummah, or Friday prayers. But not all Muslims feel welcome at the landmark mosque.

“It’s not that we’ve received any outright threats against our community here,” said Sajeel Ghouri, representative of the Ahmadiyya Nepal Sangh. “It’s just that we don’t know what they may do if they find out we’re Ahmadis.”

“It’s not that we’ve received any outright threats against our community here,” said Sajeel Ghouri, representative of the Ahmadiyya Nepal Sangh. “It’s just that we don’t know what they may do if they find out we’re Ahmadis.”

The Ahmadiyya Muslim community was founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, an Indian religious leader, in 1889. The Ahmadis believe him to be the promised messiah, or messenger, a belief that puts them at odds with other mainstream Muslims, and has resulted in their persecution in several countries, including Pakistan, Indonesia and Malaysia.
In Nepal too, the community whose history can be traced to the mid-1990s, has faced some backlash. Older members recounted to the Post how they were subject to harassment at the hands of their neighbours who deemed them ‘infidels’. But they are also quick to point out that these incidents are a thing of the past and they no longer have issues with any other community.
“In Pakistan, we were not allowed to read the Quran, perform the Namaz or call Azaan,” said Wazia Iqbal, a Pakistani Ahmadi, who came to Kathmandu nearly seven years ago. “But here, we can practice our religion without any fear.”

Nepal is not signatory to the UN Convention on Refugees and has granted refugee status to only the Bhutanese and Tibetan populations. It considers asylum seekers from all other countries, including Pakistan, to be “illegal immigrants.”
“A lot of us are struggling to survive,” said Iqbal, who used to work as a homeopathic doctor in Pakistan. “Because we do not possess any legal documentation, it’s difficult for us to find work here.”

The majority of Pakistani Ahmadis living in Kathmandu, thus, end up working as daily wage labourers. A lot of them do not want to talk to journalists because of the way they’ve been negatively portrayed in previous reports, said community leaders.

At exactly 1.15pm, Sameen Ahmed, the young Imam, took the mic and made a final call for prayer. Shortly after, he began his sermon.
“If you’re good at everything but don’t have good relationships at home, then you’re failing,” preached Ahmed. “You have to first make peace at home, treat your children and wife well.”
Ahmed, 36, is originally from Parsa district. He recently moved to the city along with his wife and four children after being appointed Imam by the Ahmadi association.
“We all came from different cities in Pakistan, none of us knew each other before,” said Iqbal. “Here, we have become one big family.”

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