Islamic Terms are “Trademarks like Coca Cola”

May only be applied to Genuine Muslims and not to Ahmadis — Ruling of Supreme Court in Pakistan

by Dr. Zahid Aziz

The Light (UK), July 2010 Issue (p. 8)

An appeal was once filed in Pakistan against the state, pleading that its laws which prohibit Ahmadis from using Islamic terms, such as calling them­selves Muslims, saying that their religion is Islam, calling their mosques as mosque or masjid, etc., violated the right of freedom of religion guaranteed in the constitution of Pakistan. The case was Zaheer-ud-Din v. The State 1993. The Supreme Court of Pakistan rejected this appeal, with one judge dissenting with the judgment. It ruled that the state must protect certain terms that are peculiar to Islam from being used by way of deception or forgery. The judgment stated:

“It is thus clear that intentionally using trade names, trade marks, property marks or descriptions of others in order to make believe others that they belong to the user thereof amounts to an offence and not only the perpetrator can be imprisoned and fined but damages can be recovered and injunc­tion to restrain him issued. This is true of goods of even very small value. For example, the Coca Cola Company will not permit anyone to sell, even a few ounces of his own product in his own bottles or other receptacles, marked Coca Cola …. Further, it is a criminal offence carrying sentences of imprisonment and also fine. The principles involved are: do not deceive and do not violate the property rights of others.”1

According to this judgment, the words ‘Islam’ and ‘Muslim’ are on a par with brand labels such as Coca Cola, KFC, McDonald’s, Nike, Sony, etc., and may only be placed on the genuine product. And the state in Pakistan is the licence holder which decides who is the genuine Muslim and who is the fake! One would have thought the brand name owner would be Allah the Most High, but it appears that the state in Pakistan has appointed itself as the authorised holder of the Almighty’s trademarks.


  1. For the information about this court case, we acknowledge a paper by Martin Lau, which is included in the course study materials of the School of Oriental and African Studies, the University of London.