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Saturday, April 17, 2021

Pakistan Targets American Ahmadis For Alleged Digital Blasphemy

Pakistani authorities have demanded two leaders of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in the United States to shut down its official website, citing alleged violations of Pakistan’s blasphemy and cybercrime laws.

Pakistani authorities have demanded two leaders of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in the United States to shut down its official website, citing alleged violations of Pakistan’s blasphemy and cybercrime laws.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) issued a legal notice last Dec. 24 to Ahmadiyya Muslim Community U.S.A. Spokespersons Amjad Mahmood Khan and Harris Zafar to take down the website TrueIslam.com. Otherwise, authorities would impose fines up to $3.14 million or criminal sanctions that include 10-year jail sentences.

“Pakistan wants to impose its abominable blasphemy laws on the whole world by targeting U.S. citizens and U.S. websites,” Khan, who is also a Los Angeles-based lawyer, said in a Jan. 13 report by Washington-based Religion News Service (RNS).

Khan called Pakistan’s move “a new frontier in persecution of Ahmadi Muslims in the digital space” in the RNS report and “an unprecedented effort to suppress the rights of U.S. citizens” in a tweet.

Zafar described the charges as “frivolous” and that the legal notice “is harassment of a U.S. citizen,” adding that he “will not be silent at this attempt of extremists to further persecute a peaceful global community.”

According to the constitution and the penal code in Pakistan where 4 million Ahmadis live, Ahmadiyya sect members are non-Muslims and can be punished with harsh penalties, including a death sentence, for calling themselves Muslims or for participating in religious activities publicly.

Pakistan passed the cybercrime laws in 2016 to regulate Internet use and to allow the PTA to censor online content “if it considers it necessary in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security, or defense of Pakistan.”

In 2017, Pakistan issued the first death sentence to Taimoor Raza, a Shia Muslim, over alleged digital blasphemy, claiming that he insulted Prophet Muhammad.

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