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Freedom of Religion or Belief — [Ms Karen Buck in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:30 pm on 12th March 2020.

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Photo of Imran Ahmad Khan Imran Ahmad Khan Conservative, Wakefield 2:30 pm, 12th March 2020

I am an Ahmadi Muslim. I had hoped to make a speech in the debate, but for some reason the Speaker’s Office did not furnish Ms Buck with my name.

Ahmadis are a peace-loving community whose motto is, “Love for all and hatred for none.” At the core of Islam is a belief that if we wish to love and serve God, we must love and serve his creation. To that end, Ahmadis focus on humanitarian activities, such as providing healthcare, education and clean drinking water for those who need them. Ahmadis work to foster understanding between faith groups and support charities throughout the United Kingdom and, indeed, the world. Sadly, however, as both the hon. Gentleman and Jim Shannon mentioned, Ahmadis suffer vicious persecution around the world. The main source of fuel for that persecution is in Pakistan, but what happens in Pakistan does not stay in Pakistan.

I know that from my experience in the Yorkshire market town of Batley. In August 1985, when I was 11 years old, my parents organised an inter-faith meeting in the town hall. It was interrupted and disturbed when, according to West Yorkshire police, more than 1,000 extremists, led by Pakistani hate preachers funded by the Pakistani state, were bused in from around the country. The mob brutally attacked my English mother and my father, a dermatologist; my eldest brother and I; and a Welsh Ahmadi schoolteacher who was with us. My first cousin, a GP, was by chance driving through the market town that day. He saw the mob and saw his family and friends being attacked, so he stopped. He was recognised, pulled from his vehicle and savagely beaten up.

With the help of riot police, we somehow managed to find sanctuary in the local police station, which was adjacent to the town hall on the market square. Many fanatics continued to pour in, and they besieged the police station. The stand-off lasted hours. Finally, the police were able to secure our release from what was in essence a hostage situation by releasing the violent fanatics they had arrested for attacking us, the stallholders and police officers. Those peddlers of hate were released to allow us to go under armed escort to Pinderfields Hospital, where my father was still practising and my mother and grandmother had been nurses, to receive hospital treatment.

That targeted attack against my family in ’85 was inspired by the President of Pakistan, Zia. He had sent his hate preachers to the United Kingdom that month, asking them to rid the UK of the cancer of Ahmadis. Our MP at the time—the Member for Batley and Spen, Elizabeth Peacock—spoke with the Home Secretary frequently, but nothing was done. From that moment in the ’80s, Muslim extremists seemed to get a feeling that they had an exceptional status above the law in the United Kingdom, which began to pervade.

These things have consequences; like an infection, they jump over species. We saw that in what followed. On 7/7 we had attacks related to the West Yorkshire area, and in June 2016 we had the awful murder of Jo Cox.