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Sectarian threats in the UK

01/09/2010

In early June I blogged about the sectarian attacks on two mosques in Lahore, in which over 70 people were murdered. The mosques belonged to the Ahmadiyya community, a Muslim minority group who have increasingly become a target for sectarian Islamist groups in Pakistan, who allege that the Ahmadiyya represent a deviant sect of Islam.

Partly because of official persecution in Pakistan, the Ahmadiyya moved their headquarters to the UK in the 1980s. But the presence of Ahmadiyyas in the UK goes back over a century and predates the waves of immigration from South Asia since the 1960s. It is a worrying development therefore that some of the sectarian animosity faced by the Ahmadiyya in South Asia seems to be gaining traction in the suburbs of Britain.

According to the Surrey Comet, a police investigation has recently been launched following a leaflet campaign calling on Muslims to murder ‘Qadiyans’, which is often used as a derogatory term for the Ahmadiyya. Thus far, the person or organisation behind the leaflet campaign is unknown, though it is – at the least – an attempt to stoke up tensions between Ahmadiyyas and other Muslims in Surrey.  The area is home to the Baitul Futuh mosque complex, a focal point for British Ahmadiyyas, and the leaflets reportedly make positive references to the mosque attacks in Lahore.

This is a reminder of the sectarian dynamic at the core of some versions of extreme Islamist theology, which transcends culturally-specific contexts. While the Islamist narrative is often seen as an outpouring of political frustrations (over foreign policy, for example) or social dislocation, the hostility to this small community (and other minority religious sects) is an integral part of the ideology espoused by numerous organisations, from al-Qaeda to the Taliban.