Islamic fundamentalists in Pakistan have demolished a century-old place of worship and adjacent residential area belonging to the country’s long persecuted minority Ahmadi community.
An Ahmadi spokesman denounced Wednesday night’s attack in the eastern city of Sialkot, saying a mob of over 600 men from the majority Sunni Muslim community took part in the destruction of the century-old compound.
A mobile phone video of the attack was also circulating on social media.
There were no casualties because the buildings were empty at the time of the attack due to ongoing renovation work, the spokesman told VOA.
He also noted the importance of the property, saying Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who founded the faith in British-ruled India in 1889, had briefly lived and worshiped there.
Plans were in place, he added, to reopen the sacred compound for visitors and Ahmadi worshipers.
Just days before the destructive attack, alleged the spokesman, local police had raided and illegally sealed the buildings under pressure from Islamists to stop the renovation work, citing sectarian tensions.
But police officials insisted the worship place had been shut years ago to avoid sectarian violence.
Ahmadis consider themselves to be Muslims but their belief that the founder of the sect was a “subordinate prophet” runs counter to the belief of the country’s Sunni majority that the Prophet Mohammad was God’s last direct messenger.
The sectarian tensions prompted Pakistan in 1974 to declare Ahmadis non-Muslims, though critics say vested political interests were behind the move to please Islamists.
Targeted killings of members and leaders of the minority sect in Pakistan are common and the community regularly complains of social discrimination over accusations of blasphemy.