FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 19, 2019
USCIRF Welcomes Release of Religious Prisoner of Conscience Abdul Shakoor
WASHINGTON, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today applauded the release of Abdul Shakoor, an Ahmadi Muslim who had been unjustly imprisoned since December 2, 2015. Shakoor had been adopted by Commissioner Johnnie Moore as part of USCIRF’s Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project.
“Last month, in Dubai at the World Government Summit, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan gave a profound speech about his desire to reform Pakistan. He remembered a more pluralistic Pakistan of his youth, and he professed his desire to have a society that protected humanity, embraced the rule of law, and saw knowledge as a sacred duty. Recalling the golden age of Medina, he argued that these values are not at enmity with a religious and mainly Islamic society. As I tweeted then, ‘one of the best ways he can prove his reform agenda is real -taking the country back to the era he fondly describes is ... Promote Tolerance, Embrace Religious Freedom, and Guard Minorities.’ Abdul Shakoor’s release comes as welcome news to those of us who have been engaging with Pakistan’s government and civil society on issues related to religious freedom and peaceful coexistence between religious communities. We hope and pray this once again becomes the trend in Pakistani society, and no longer the exception.”
Pakistan’s Ahmadiyya community has faced growing discrimination and persecution by authorities and society in recent decades. On December 2, 2015, officials from Pakistan’s Counter Terrorism Department raided Mr. Shakoor’s bookstore and arrested him. Authorities accused Mr. Shakoor of selling Ahmadiyya literature, which is illegal in Pakistan. He was subsequently sentenced to a total of eight years in prison. Mr. Shakoor, 83, had filed numerous appeals to his sentence before being released earlier this week.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze and report on threats to religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at Media@USCIRF.gov or Kellie Boyle at firstname.lastname@example.org or +1-703-898-6554.