Sunday, May 30, 2010

Our silence enables their murder

 (Image Credit: Arif Ali / AFP / Getty Images; published in Time)

I have thought a lot about what I was going to write about the cold blooded killing of more than eighty Ahmadi Muslims in their mosques in Lahore yesterday. And though my fellow bloggers Kalsoom, Tazeen and Ahsan have written excellent pieces about this atrocity, I feel that there is more that still needs to be said.

I have covered violence against minorities in many of my previous posts. In this case however, I have a personal stake in the matter. This is because as a member of a minority sect considered sufficiently Islamic by the constitution of Pakistan I enjoy the right to call my self a Muslim, to name my place of worship a mosque, to possess and read the Quran, and to say the Kalimah (Muslim affirmation of faith) without any restrictions. I enjoy the freedoms that my fellow Muslims do not.

Moreover, I and all of the members of the sect to which I belong are very much responsible for the murder of our fellow Pakistanis. Why? Because when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was willing to sell out the right of the Ahmadis to call themselves Muslims in order to appease religious fanatics of the Jamaat-Ulama-Islam and remain in power in 1974, not only did we remain silent but our Ulema provided religious justifications for this. Similarly, when Zia-ul-Haq (may he burn in hell for eternity) passed  laws further legalizing tha religious persecution of  Ahmadis, we did nothing. In contrast, at least a hundred thousand Shiites marched to Islamabad to protest the Zakaat and Ushr Ordinance, which allowed the state to collect religious tithes because it did not correspond with the values of our sect. We were more than willing to protect our assets, but not the human rights of our fellow citizens.

I am also responsible on a personal level. A few months ago, I applied for a National Id Card for Overseas Pakistani (NICOP). During the application process, I checked my religion as Muslim and in doing so accepted the following statement, which was clearly discriminatory
I Solemnly affirm that, I believe completely and unconditionally in the finality of the Prophethood of the Prophet MUHAMMAD (PBUH), and that I am not a follower of any person who claims Prophethood on the basis of any interpretation of this word, neither I believe such a claimant to be a reformer or a prophet, nor I belong to Qadiani or Lahori group or call myself Ahmedi.
And even though I felt bad about doing this, my need for a NICOP card was more necessitated than denying this act of bigotry. I had other options. Instead of identifying myself as Muslim, I could have easily check-marked the box "Other". But I did not think to do that. This is the real tragedy of this incident.

As of last night, many Pakistanis have distanced themselves from this violence citing this incident as an act of extremism and expressing sympathy for the victims. Yet these same individuals have also affirmed the belief that Ahmadis are non-Muslims (just check out the comments in the public forum pkpolitics) and stated their support for the legislation denying Ahmadis the right to practice their faith freely; the root cause for these acts of violence in the first place. And until we deal with this underlying clause or the original sin as my fellow blogger XYZ (Cafe Pyala) puts it, violence against minorities is sure to continue.

Let's not forget about Lahore Commissioner Khushro Pervez's attribution of these attacks to the Indian Intelligence Agency RAW before they were claimed by the Taliban or Brigadier Imtiaz Billa on Business Plus suggesting that this was an American conspiracy to force the Pakistan army to conduct an operation in North Waziristan and Southern Punjab and to malign Islam and Pakistan. From the words of these idiots, it is clear that we have a lot of work to do before the injustice against Ahmadis is corrected.

P.S. It is important to note that MQM's Altaf Hussein is the only politician who has publicly defended the rights of Ahmadis. I do not support his politics, but he is definitely right on this one.