Fear and silence

By Mohsin Hamid     Dawn, 27 Jun, 2010

Why are Ahmadis persecuted so ferociously in Pakistan?

 A victim of attack on Jinnah Hospital, Lahore

The reason can’t be that their large numbers pose some sort of ‘threat from within’. After all, Ahmadis are a relatively small minority in Pakistan. They make up somewhere between 0.25 per cent (according to the last census) and 2.5 per cent (according to the Economist) of our population.

Nor can the reason be that Ahmadis are non-Muslims. Pakistani Christians and Pakistani Hindus are non-Muslims, and similar in numbers to Pakistani Ahmadis. Yet Christians and Hindus, while undeniably discriminated against, face nothing like the vitriol directed towards Ahmadis in our country.

To understand what the persecution of Ahmadis achieves, we have to see how it works. Its first step is to say that Ahmadis are non-Muslims. And its second is to say that Ahmadis are not just non-Muslims, but apostates: non-Muslims who claim to be Muslims. These two steps are easy to take: any individual Pakistani citizen has the right to believe whatever they want about Ahmadis and their faith.

But the process goes further. Step three is to say that because Ahmadis are apostates, they should be victimised, or even killed. We are now beyond the realm of personal opinion. We are in the realm of group punishment and incitement to murder. Nor does it stop here. There is a fourth step. And step four is this: any Muslim who says Ahmadis should not be victimised or killed, should themselves be victimised or killed.


A stamp issued by Pakistan Post Office in 1998


The word “Muslim” erased from the desecrated gravestone, on the orders of a local magistrate in Rabwa, Pakistan                                                                                                     

In other words, even if they are not themselves Ahmadi, any policeman, doctor, politician, or passerby who tries to prevent, or just publicly opposes, the killing of an Ahmadi, deserves to die. Why? Because anyone who defends an apostate is themselves an apostate.


This is what the persecution of Ahmadis achieves. It allows any Muslim to be declared an apostate. For the logic can be continued endlessly. When an Ahmadi man is wounded in an attack and goes to a hospital for treatment, if the doctor agrees to treat him, she is helping an apostate, and therefore she becomes an apostate and subject to threats. When a policeman is deputed to protect the doctor, since she is an apostate, the policeman is helping an apostate, so he too becomes an apostate. And on and on.

The collective result of this is to silence and impose fear not just on the few per cent of Pakistanis who are Ahmadis, or even on those who are Christians and Hindus, but on all of us. The message is clear. Speaking out against the problem means you are the problem, so you had better be quiet.

Our coerced silence is the weapon that has been sharpened and brought to our throats.

This is why Nawaz Sharif’s statement in defence of Ahmadis met with such an angry response. Because the heart of the issue isn’t whether Ahmadis are non-Muslims or not. The heart of the issue is whether Muslims can be silenced by fear.

Because if we can be silenced when it comes to Ahmadis, then we can be silenced when it comes to Shias, we can be silenced when it comes to women, we can be silenced when it comes to dress, we can be silenced when it comes to entertainment, and we can even be silenced when it comes to sitting by ourselves, alone in a room, afraid to think what we think.

That is the point.


Filed under Citizens, Constitution, human rights, Islamism, minorities, Pakistan, Religion, Rights, secularism, state, Terrorism, violence

6 responses to “Fear and silence

  1. Sahal

    I want to see the Jamaat-e-Islami suffer in a similar fashion but for the sake of humanity, I would not want to impose the same on anyone.

    What I would like to see is 10 year program where the minds of our populace are moulded to want and subsequently embrace Jinnahs Pakistan back. This would entalin showing the reality. The opposition faced by Jinnah from Islamic parties, the role of Ahamadies in creating Pakistan and their achievements since then.

    Root out the evil found within us, these monsters will have to be told one thing firmly, join Jinnah’s Pakistan or see yourself burn away.

    Deen-e-kafir fikro tadbeer’e jihad
    Deen-e-mullah fi sabil-illah fasad

  2. Jamal

    Pakistan minorities nervous after Ahmedi mosque attacks
    Link: news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/10431069.stm

  3. Jamal

    In the above BBC report molvi sahab says Ahmadis should be killed, but very graciously says killing should be done by Government not by people.

    What a portrayal of Pakistan and Islam.

  4. AZW


    Thanks for sharing these links. I must say the links posted by you are extremely relevant and highly informative. Hearing this moulvi calling for death of Ahmadis and the Ahmadi fellow who spent six years of his life inside prison with murderers and rapists due to the vile blasphemy law, I cannot help but be ashamed for belonging to a community that is outright vile in its treatment towards other human beings.

    One day, we will look back and wonder about the people who boasted that other humans are allowed to be killed because their religious views do not sit well with the majority, or those who distributed sweets when Ahmadis were murdered in their mosques. Or those who saw wanton muder being perpetrated inside mosques and didn’t dare to call their mosques, mosques.

  5. That’s BULL SHIT. BBC is presenting two different statements in two versions of the video. Shame on it.