The Persecution of the Ahmadis in Pakistan. 3. The Bhutto and Zia Years

by Massimo Introvigne — As we have seen in the previous articles, after the bloody Lahore riots in 1953, the Ahmadis went in Pakistan through a period in which, while they were still harassed and discriminated, they were somewhat protected from major violence. Things changed with the rise to power of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Educated in the U.S. and the United Kingdom, this wealthy lawyer served as a minister in most of the military-controlled governments that ruled Pakistan since the coup of 1958. In 1967, having been excluded from the government of Field Marshal Muhammad Ayub Khan, Bhutto founded a “socialist Islamic” political party called Pakistan People’s Party, whose motto was “Islam is our faith, democracy is our policy, socialism is our economy.” After the ruinous secession of Bangladesh of 1971, and Pakistan’s defeat in the war with India, the military called Bhutto, whose party enjoyed widespread national support, as the nation’s only hope to avoid further bloodshed. He served as President of Pakistan from 1971 to 1973, and as Prime Minister from 1973 to 1977.

The Persecution of the Ahmadis in Pakistan. 2. The Lahore Riots of 1953

by Massimo Introvigne — Because of the theological peculiarities discussed in the first article of the series, the Ahmadis were regarded as heretics by the other Muslims and persecuted since their foundation. Their bloodiest persecution was, however, a consequence of the foundation of Pakistan as a state for the Muslims of former British India. The persecution of religious minorities should not have happened, and was not part of the original project of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the father of modern Pakistan. When he was elected President of the Constituent Assembly in 1947, Jinnah promised to the citizens of Pakistan: “You are free; you are free to go to your temples; you are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed—that has nothing to do with the business of the state….

The Persecution of the Ahmadis in Pakistan. 1. Who Are the Ahmadis?

by Massimo Introvigne — One of the oldest and bloodiest persecutions of a religious minority in the world today is targeting the Ahmadis in Pakistan. In this series, we will examine where this persecution comes from and who fuels it. First, we will have a look at who the Ahmadis exactly are.

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835–1908) was born and lived for most of his life in Qadian, Punjab (for which his followers are sometimes called Qadianis). In the years 1880-1884 he wrote the four volumes of the work Barahin-i-Ahmadiyya, intended to show the superiority of Islam on other faiths, and particularly on Christianity, welcomed by many Islamic circles. In 1889, he announced to have received a divine revelation, around which a community of followers gathered.

Statistics about victims of blasphemy laws (1987-2021)

Presentation by lawyer Akmal Bhatti, director of the Minorities Association of Pakistan (MAP) to the press conference “Is Suspension Of Pakistan’s GSP+ Status Overdue?” at the Press Club Brussels, hosted by Human Rights Without Frontiers – Brussels, 9 September 2021

By Akmal Bhatti — HRWF (21.09.2021) Since 1987 to August 2021, 1,865 people have been charged under the blasphemy laws, with a significant spike in 2020, when 200 cases were registered. Punjab, the province where most Christians of Pakistan live, is leading with 76% cases and 337 people in prison for blasphemy. The largest number of inmates is in the Lahore District Jail (60). Also, at least 128 people have been killed by mobs, outside any judiciary process, after being signalled as having committed blasphemy or apostasy, without any chance to have access to an investigation, and nobody has been arrested for their murder.

A New Book on “La Famille”

by Massimo Introvigne — After Suzanne Privat’s book, another journalist, Nicolas Jacquard of Le Parisien, has published a book on the French Christian community of Jansenist origin known as “La Famille” (Les inspirés, Paris: Robert Laffont, 2021). This book is much more ambitious than the one by Privat, the author having performed a considerable amount of work in reading academic sources on the Jansenist ancestors of La Famille. He is also to be thanked for having raised several questions that were not addressed in the previous literature on this little-known subject. The book remains, however, the investigation of a journalist, which is by definition something other than an academic study, and of a French journalist. This means that he shares a certain negative attitude typical of French society, politics, and the media regarding groups described as “cults” or at least suspected of “cultic deviances” (dérives sectaires). This attitude also leads to privilege information coming from “apostates.”

Two Tibetan youngsters detained for chat group in Tibetan language

Tibet Watch — Two Tibetan youngsters named Yang Ri and Guldak were detained on 24 August 2021, in Darlak Township in Golog Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, which is governed as part of Qinghai Province. They were reportedly arrested for being outspoken about a recent notification that issued the complete replacement of textbooks in Tibetan with textbooks in Chinese. Local Authorities notified the parents and families about the change prior to the start of the fall semester, stating that from September 2021 onwards, all their children must go to school only with the newly introduced textbooks in Chinese. Photographic evidence received from sources shows police authorities sitting outdoors on the grassland explaining this to Tibetan parents.

The Uyghur Tribunal’s Second Session Launched in London

by Ruth Ingram — The independent Tribunal aiming to examine evidence of China’s human rights abuses against the Uyghur people in China’s Xinjiang autonomous region, opened against a volley of attacks against the proceedings, which the CCP claimed were a “political farce” and “pseudo court” “used by terrorists and anti-China forces to smear China’s anti-terrorist efforts in the Xinjiang region.” Objecting to the aim of the tribunal, which is to assess whether a genocide has been carried out by the Chinese government against its own people, the Chinese Embassy in the UK joined forces with the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Government of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region to jointly condemn the event, slated as “another group of ‘actors and actresses’ getting together with anti-China forces” “in an attempt to offer sensational but fake materials to Western media and make stories about the ‘evil China.’”

FECRIS Admits: Hamburg Case Lost Against Jehovah’s Witnesses Was “A Lesson”

by Massimo Introvigne — On November 27, 2020, FECRIS, the European Federation of Centres of Research and Information on Cults and Sects, an umbrella organization for anti-cult movements in Europe and beyond, significantly funded by the French government, lost a landmark case at the District Court of Hamburg, in Germany, where it was found guilty of 18 counts of untrue factual allegations against the Jehovah’s Witnesses. On May 24, 2021, Bitter Winter published a commentary of the decision. On May 30, 2021, i.e., six days after Bitter Winter’s article (and six months after the decision, proving that it was indeed answering Bitter Winter, and without our article it would never have commented the judgement in public), FECRIS published a press release about the case.

Brainwashing, Italian-Style: Some Want the “Plagio” Back

by Massimo Introvigne — In previous articles, we explained how the 1981 Constitutional Court decision on “plagio” made it impossible in Italy to prosecute religious leaders for the alleged crimes of “brainwashing” or “mental manipulation” of their followers. The decision concerned the leader of a Catholic group, but the Constitutional Court ruling also saved Eugenio Siragusa from the charge of “plagio,” leveled for the first time against the leader of a new religious movement. Siragusa was the founder of the Cosmic Brotherhood, a UFO religion. He had been arrested in 1978 and accused of “plagio” against two rich American members of the Cosmic Brotherhood, who had made important donations. The Court of Catania, Sicily, acquitted him in 1982, acknowledging that “plagio” no longer existed in Italian law.

Brainwashing, Italian-Style: “It Does Not Exist,” Said the Constitutional Court

by Massimo Introvigne — In the previous articles, we discussed how article 603 of the Fascist Criminal Code of 1930 incriminated what would be later called “brainwashing,” and how its use in 1968 against Aldo Braibanti, a gay Marxist philosopher accused of “brainwashing” its pupils into homosexuality, generated a long-lasting controversy. Today in Italy many of the older generation confuse in their memories the Braibanti case and the Grasso case that occurred ten years later, in 1978. Many “remember” that it was the Braibanti case that brought the Italian Constitutional Court to declare the illegitimacy of the crime of plagio, but their memories are failing them. The Constitutional Court never reviewed the Braibanti case. It did, however, review the case of Father Emilio Grasso, a Catholic priest and the leader of a Catholic community called Redemptor Hominis.

Brainwashing, Italian-Style: The Braibanti Case

by Massimo Introvigne — In the previous articles of the series we saw how, at the end of a century-old legal evolution, in 1930 Mussolini’s Justice Minister Alfredo Rocco, prevailing against the opinion of the committee that was drafting the new Italian Criminal Code, included in it an article 603 incriminating what would later be called “brainwashing.” The committee was concerned that the provision may be arbitrarily used against those who would persuade others of ideas some judges or prosecutors might regard as unacceptable. It was, however, much ado about nothing. If Mussolini believed that the new provision could be used against opponents of the regime, he was up for a disappointment. In the Fascist era, nobody was convicted for “plagio.” In fact, the “plagio” provision never led to convictions even after the end of the Fascist regime, until things changed in the 1960s.

Brainwashing, Italian-Style: The Fascist Law on “Plagio”

by Massimo Introvigne — In the first article of the series, we have seen how the term “plagio,” which also means in a different context plagiarism or copyright infringement, was used in Italian law to identify the enslavement of human beings, and the 1853 code of the Grand Duchy in Tuscany had included for the first time a provision incriminating psychological, rather than physical, enslavement, although it was never enforced and was not included in the Italian Criminal Code of 1889, known as the Zanardelli Code. In 1930, the Zanardelli Code was replaced by the Rocco Code, named after the Fascist Minister of Justice, Alfredo Rocco.

Brainwashing, Italian-Style: The Birth of “Plagio”

by Massimo Introvigne — In Italy, we often hear the expression “plagio,” coming from the Latin plagium, used as a synonym for “brainwashing” or “mind control.” We may read, for example, that a “victim” was “subject to plagio” by a “cult.” This use of the word “plagio” is rooted in the old article 603 of the 1930 Italian penal code, which under the heading “plagio” mandated a jail term of five to fifteen years for those who reduced one or more other persons to a “total state of subjugation,” depriving them of their free will. Article 603 was repealed by the Constitutional Court in 1981.

Gnosticism, “Dark Legends” on Scientology Founder Discussed by Scholars

The session "Gnosticism and New Religions: The Case of L. Ron Hubbard" held on August 30th during the first day of the annual meeting of the European Academy of Religions at the University of Münster (Germany), was chaired and moderated by a member of our Scientific Committee: Rosita Šorytė; one of the speakers, Professor Aldo Natale Terrin, is also part of the same Committee. It is therefore necessary to give space to this article written for Bitter Winter by FOB's President Alessandro Amicarelli. But this is not the only reason for publishing this paper.

Nelly Ippolito Macrina, obituary

On 22 August, a few days after the departure of her husband, Dr Giuseppe Macrina, Dr Nelly Ippolito Macrina, recently retired Vice-Prefect of Florence, died in Florence.

She was an outstanding civil servant and held various roles at local and national level.

At the Ministry of the Interior she dealt extensively with civil liberties and was responsible for the Affairs of non-Catholic Faiths, and directed the Observatory for Religious Freedom. Her last assignment was as Vice-Prefect of Florence.

Around 50 Tibetans arrested on suspicion of keeping photos of the Dalai Lama

Military search operation in Dza Wonpo Town enforced eight months on from the death in custody of 19-year-old Tenzin Nyima. On 22 August, around 200 military personnel and nine military vehicles arrived in Dza Wonpo Town and carried out mass arrests of around 50 people. The town is located in Sershul County, Kardze (Ch: Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in the eastern Tibetan region of Kham. None of the detainees in Chinese police custody are allowed to meet their family or friends and the official reason for their arrest has not been disclosed.

Are “Brainwashing” Theories Coming Back?

by Massimo Introvigne — In the fourth article of this series, we saw how the combined action of scholars of new religious movements and courts of law marginalized both theories of “brainwashing” and their use as a legal weapon against “cults.” The idea that “cults” practice mental manipulation or “brainwashing” survived in the popular media, and inspired laws and court decisions outside the United States, particularly in France. However, the arguments formulated by a large majority of the leading scholars of new religious movements, and mentioned in the Fishman decision, do not refer to the United States only. “Brainwashing” and mental manipulation remain concepts rejected as pseudo-scientific by a vast majority of the scholars of religion (although accepted by a minority, and by some psychiatrists and psychologists who do not specialize in religion). In the second half of the 1990s, James T. Richardson, who had played an important role in criticizing anti-cult “brainwashing” theories, systematically surveyed with some colleagues all American court cases where the word “brainwashing” appeared.

The Fall of “Brainwashing” Theories in the Late Twentieth Century

by Massimo Introvigne — One of the most tragic consequences of “brainwashing” theories applied to religious minorities is that they were used to justify the illegal practice of “deprogramming,” created by Ted Patrick in California and flourishing in the 1970s. If their sons and daughters had been “brainwashed,” these parents felt justified in hiring “deprogrammers” who claimed to be able to kidnap the “cultists,” detain them, and persuade them, more or less violently, to abandon the “cults.” In the same years, the academic study of the new religious movements was born, both in the United States and the United Kingdom. The scholars who studied the movements criticized as “cults” found that conversions to them happened much in the same way as conversions to any other religion, and only a small percentage of those attending the courses and seminars of groups like Unification Church, studied in depth by Eileen Barker and where allegedly miraculous techniques of “brainwashing” were used, joined the groups. Empirical evidence confirmed that there was no “brainwashing” or mental manipulation, and these labels and theories were not less pseudo-scientific than the ancient claims that “heresies” converted their followers through black magic.

How “Brainwashing” Theories Were Applied to Religion

by Massimo Introvigne — In previous articles, we saw how the CIA coined the word “brainwashing,” and accused Communists of using sinister mind control techniques. At some stage, the CIA started believing its own propaganda and launched a secret experiment codenamed MK-Ultra, where it tried to “brainwash” so-called volunteers. The project failed, and proved that “brainwashing” techniques may reduce the unfortunate victims to vegetable-like human wrecks, but cannot install in them new ideas or loyalties. One who, without probably being aware that the secret MK-Ultra Project was being planned, had anticipated that the only possible result of violent “brainwashing” would be the production of zombie-like victims was the founder of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard. He had a peripheral involvement in the Cold War discussion about “brainwashing” as the Church of Scientology published in 1955 (and then rapidly withdrew, reportedly following a suggestion by American governmental agencies) a booklet called Brain-Washing: A Synthesis of the Russian Textbook on Psychopolitics.

Testing “Brainwashing” Theories: CIA and the MK-Ultra Experiment

by Massimo Introvigne — In the first article of this series, we saw how CIA propaganda created the word and a theory of “brainwashing” to explain why intelligent people might embrace such an absurd doctrine as Communism was, and to accuse the Soviet and Chinese Communists of sinister practices depriving their victims of their free will. Paradoxically, the CIA came to believe in its own propaganda, and tried to replicate the Communist “brainwashing” in its own experiments. The CIA secret “brainwashing” project was codenamed the MK-ULTRA project. Originally, it was only mentioned in a handful of publications critical of the US government, and often dismissed as supporting conspiracy theories. Later, however, the CIA became the defendant in several lawsuits filed by “volunteers” who had suffered permanent damages in the MK-ULTRA experiments and their relatives, the most important of which resulted in a 1988 settlement. Through the lawsuits, several key documents became public.