By Aisha Fayyazi
March 17, 2012
The LUMS Abdus Salam
Chair, once established, will be responsible to work in the spirit of
everything that embodies Dr. Salam, who was inspired by the Quran for his ideas
on the electro-weak theory and ‘Theory of Everything’ — excellence, tolerance
Eqbal Ahmed, renowned
Pakistani intellectual and writer, may God rest his soul in peace, in an
interview with David Barsamian talked about prejudice, extremism and violence
and about how his father was murdered over a land dispute in Bihar. He said
something profound during this interview: “It is what you choose to do with
your experience that matters.” When Daniel Pearl was brutally murdered in
Karachi in 2002, his family “chose” to use that horrific experience to dilute
hate that is pervasive in the world. They have formed the Daniel Pearl
Foundation that performs peace concerts all over the world, and has launched an
interfaith dialogue series between Judea Pearl, Daniel Pearl’s father and Dr.
Akbar S Ahmed, the Chair for Islamic Studies at the American University. This
dialogue helped to alleviate the growing mistrust and resentment between the
Muslim and Jewish communities, and between Pakistanis and Israelis in the US
and weave commonalities between the two Abrahamic faiths.
An even more
significant step has been taken by Dr. Adil Najam, Vice Chancellor at the
Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) for launching a fundraising
campaign for the Abdus Salam Chair. Dr. Abdus Salam, one of the greatest
scientists produced by the Islamic world and having received the Nobel Prize in
Physics in 1979, deserves such an honour by LUMS, Pakistan’s number one ranked
institute by the Higher Education Commission. But what makes this gesture
significant is that it is courageous, even though the intent of LUMS is only to
honour the intellectual contribution of Dr. Salam.
Dr. Salam was an Ahmadi.
This community has since the 1950s faced systemic discrimination by the state.
The anti-Ahmadiyya movement, started by Maududi, led Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to
declare them non-Muslim under the constitution and was ultimately solidified in
the Ziaul Haq era. To date, there are hundreds of Ahmadis in jail for saying
“Assalamulaikum”, which is a crime. Their tombstones cannot have the Kalima
written on them. Their mosques are not places of worship but places of
potential violence. Given the lethal combination of bigotry and extremism,
these are places prone to suicide bombings and shootings. On May 28, 2010, two Ahmadi
places of worship were attacked in Lahore by militants and 93 Ahmadis were
slaughtered. When the places of worship are not attacked, mobs demand that they
be closed down. Ahmadi students are routinely expelled from educational
institutions because of their faith.
This persecution is a
direct violation of Article 20 of the constitution of the Islamic Republic of
Pakistan 1973, though I have been told that the Supreme Court does not feel
that way. Nonetheless, this continues to happen precisely because the populace
has not been sensitised about the right of a community, regardless of its
beliefs, to practice and promote their values in Pakistan. Ironically, Pakistan
was created to establish freedom from the tyranny of the majority, yet today it
is cornering this and other peace loving minority communities and leaving them
no choice but to flee the country.
This is where academic
institutions can make all the difference. By virtue of being the harbinger of
knowledge, this one institution LUMS will not only honour the man who gave
Pakistan its only Nobel, but also make a bold step of the symbolic gesture that
his religion is of no consequence, and hence a personal matter. It is this
message that needs to permeate society — the notion that the state ought not to
distribute the pursuit of happiness based on what you believe.
Tragically, the laws
themselves are designed to reward the one with mala fide intent — the
compendium of blasphemy laws, which is supposed to punish offensive language or
actions against any religion and not just Islam, is often misused for personal
grievances. Contrary to popular opinion, this law has not affected non-Muslims
as much as it has affected Muslims. Hundreds suffering under this law are Ahmadis.
The punishment for the offence is the death penalty.
This is a community
that gave us the likes of Sir Zafrullah Khan, whose contributions to the cause
of Pakistan were second to none and who was described as one of the ablest men
in India by none other than Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Zafrullah
authored the Pakistan Resolution and worked tirelessly to make the Pakistan
Movement a success. This community has contributed to Pakistan’s industry,
trade and commerce. This is a community that has thousands of young men serving
in the Pakistan Army; many of them lay down their lives to protect us. This is
a community that has never taken up arms or responded with hate literature of
its own — “Love for all and hatred for none” is their motto.
With such extreme
detestation against this community, and a general sectarian environment, LUMS
has given us an opportunity to undo the wrongs that we have collectively
written against them with the pen of our silence. The LUMS Abdus Salam Chair,
once established, will be responsible to work in the spirit of everything that
embodies Dr. Salam, who was inspired by the Quran for his ideas on the
electro-weak theory and the ‘Theory of Everything’ — excellence, tolerance and
But like everything
worthwhile, there are significant challenges to this. The fundraising is
underway but for this to happen major contributions need to be made.
Today we have a chance
to stand up and be counted on the right side of history. Congratulations LUMS
for at least raising our consciousness and taking the first step. Kudos to LUMS
for setting up this Chair to honour not just a man, but also a citizen of
Pakistan who deserved more recognition and reverence than he got.
The writer is a
technology and media professional and a freelance writer based in Lahore.
Source: The Daily Times, Lahore