By Fasi Zaka (Courtesy Express Tribune)
I have never really been vocal about rights for Ahmadis, even privately, but my compassion trigger is easily pulled if there are atrocities against Pakistani Hindus and Christians. Part of this can be ascribed to my belief in the prejudice that the Ahmadis are a relatively well-off community, making the Christians and Hindus of Pakistan uniquely guilty of a double crime, first for not being Muslims and second for being poor. These two communities seem especially vulnerable.
I have changed my mind. And it’s not because of the attack in Lahore that killed so many Ahmadis. The whole country, Muslim and non-Muslim, is under attack by the Taliban.
What really helped me see the inhuman treatment of the Ahmadis in Pakistan is the absence of condemnation for it. Nawaz Sharif in his condolence message said Ahmadis were our brothers; it’s been enough to get the Pakistani religious world on his case. While sympathy is not outlawed for Ahmadis, it may as well be.
Those of us with a passport have declared that “I consider Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani to be an impostor prophet and an infidel and also consider his followers, whether belonging to the Lahori, Qadiani or Mirzai groups, to be non-Muslims.” Most of us do not believe that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani was a prophet, but do we have to rub it in? Imagine if the UK put in that sort of column for a prophet of another faith.
We have declared not just that we don’t believe in Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, but added the connotation that he was an imposter. People who follow imposters must be crooks, right? Let’s stop the pretence that they are equal, or human.
But no, we are a peaceful people, right? Of course we are. I read a very poignant anecdote in columnist Mosharraf Zaidi’s article recently; he described how an old friend would never say salaam to him in return. His friend is an Ahmadi, he can go to jail for that. I cringe when I see Pakistanis stumbling over one another to felicitate a white westerner who chooses to say salaam when greeting us in our country. Why not put him in jail too? He could be an atheist, whereas at least the Ahmadis believe in the oneness of God.
But, you see it’s not about that. Ahmadis are a secretive people up to no good. They won’t even tell you they are Ahmadis. But who wouldn’t be secretive if they could go to jail for saying they are Muslim, or responding in kind to a salutation of salaam. Or for that matter having a Quran in their home, the same kind you and I have.
Sunnis don’t believe in the imam of the Shias. What about Barelvis and Bohris? Its time their special treatment ended. If anything we have been too moderate. We need to cut diplomatic relations with Indonesia because they refuse to declare Ahmadis non-Muslim as it may open a Pandora’s Box of declaring other groups the same. Why is the amir of the Jamaat-i-Islami, Munawar Hassan, silent on this? He could address this diplomatic issue, after all he did want to cut off diplomatic relations with many countries over the Facebook fiasco.
Pakistani Ahmadis aren’t allowed to go for Hajj, but Ahmadis from other countries are. Maybe we should cut off relations with Saudi Arabia too. Also, since we Muslims believe in equality, I would suggest all non-Muslim countries make it mandatory that we wear special collars to identify us as Muslim when we visit. Or is that going too far since we haven’t, obviously, in the case of the Ahmadis?
The truth is the bulk of this country doesn’t like Ahmadis. They are Pakistan’s Palestinians. Their humane treatment and acceptance
will decide whether we are a people who can move forward in the future, or if we will become a fragmented warlord state divided on sectarian lines.
And yes, Ahmadis are worse off in Pakistan than Christians and Hindus. We want to forcibly convert Christians and Hindus. But Ahmadis shouldn’t exist. Period.
Published in the Express Tribune, June 15th, 2010.