By Yasser Latif Hamdani
Will Pakistan then be willing to consider Ahmedis and other communities in Pakistan worthy of a certain amount of dignity?
The miscreants who attacked a Hindu temple in Karachi to prove their religious bona fides have been charged under Section 295-A of the Pakistan Penal Code. It is about time. Now let us also consider the state of that forced minority the faithful love to hate, i.e. the Ahmedis. Who is going to bell the cat and charge the passport offices of the country under Section 295-A for routinely abusing this community?
The state, with deliberate and malicious intent, through words written describes the founder of the Ahmadiya Jamaat as an ‘imposter’ and a ‘liar’. The state must realise that it cannot have it both ways. It cannot declare an entire community non-Muslim and then deny them the protections that are granted to other religions. If Ahmedis constitute a religious minority, then its founder falls squarely within the ambit and scope of Section 295-A. Ahmedis may be considered non-Muslim, but does that mean they are to be considered non-citizens as well?
Whatever the claims of the founder of the Ahmadi faith — and these are subject of controversy even within the Ahmadi community — it must be said that he is held in some regard by a class of people in Pakistan and therefore should enjoy the protection afforded to the founders of various faiths under Pakistani law. It may also be remembered that Mirza Ghulam Ahmed, who rose to fame within the Muslim community as the defender of the faith against attacks by the Christian missionaries and Hindu orthodoxy in the late 19th century, was praised by many Muslim ulema and scholars including Allama Iqbal, Maulana Azad and Maulana Obaidullah Sindhi, all championed by the Sunni orthodoxy — whether Barelvi or Deobandi — in Pakistan and India. It must further be stated — repeatedly — that Jinnah, the founder and maker of Pakistan, refused to bow down to mullah pressure to exclude Ahmedis from the Muslim League, thereby earning the eternal wrath of Majlis-e-Ahrar and other defenders of the Islamic faith. One such Ahrari leader, Agha Shorish Kashmiri, even invented post hoc an interview with Maulana Azad to discredit Jinnah and the Pakistan Movement, missing the several attendant ironies with which this entire sordid affair is pregnant.
The state however is a faithful reflection of the society that it represents, which has become hostage to its own inability to tolerate diversity within and without Islam. In their sectarian hatred, many of these self-styled defenders of Islam forget that they too are a target of the same hate-mongering. The Tehreek-e-Khatm-e-Nabuwat, primarily a Barelvi outfit, openly seeks to humiliate and isolate Ahmedis in Pakistani society. It seeks an open season on Ahmedis in Pakistan and either to drive them out or kill them in the process. Similarly, behind every land grab plan, cleverly disguised as a blasphemy issue as in the case of Rimsha Masih, you will find a Qadri or a Chishti or a Naqshbandi. Meanwhile, Barelvis themselves are routinely attacked and their shrines destroyed, but this does not stop them from espousing an equally abhorrent anti-minorities agenda. On that note, can anyone forget or forgive the ironic sight of Bryan Hunt, the US Consul General in Lahore once upon a time, visiting various Barelvi shrines, dressed in flowing robes, beguiled by the naïve notion that Barelvis were somehow ‘moderate Muslims’? Every Friday the US Consulate in Lahore is barricaded to protect it from these moderate Muslims.
Next, we must consider the ‘Ahle-Quran’ followers of the so-called rationalist, Allama Ghulam Ahmed Pervez, who are almost as hated as the Ahmedis in Pakistan, but that does not stop them from indulging in, espousing and supporting similar hatred against Ahmedis as well as Shias. One need not look further than the incorrigibly bigoted writings of one Dr Shabbir Ahmed of Florida, who attacks Ahmedis and Shias at every opportunity. Interestingly, a disciple of his, one Dr Asarul Islam Syed of California, has started a rabidly fanatical and fascist political party in Pakistan that has taken it upon itself to denigrate further Islamic symbols by arranging them in a flag that is reminiscent of the Nazi flag from the 1930s. Thankfully, no one takes them seriously.
The main champions of the anti-Ahmadi movement, the Maududians and their Jamaat-e-Islami, are universally hated and denounced for their ‘ghair-muqalid’ thinking by traditional Sunni ulema who have passed numerous fatwas against what they call the ‘fitna-e-Maududiat’. Then we have the Shias themselves, who are at this time the target of a planned genocide and who one would have thought would have better sense, but when it comes to persecuting Ahmedis, are on the same page as the Sunni majority. It must be stated however that Maulana Ismail, a renowned Shia leader, is said to have been rebuked by Imam Khomeini for his role against Ahmedis.
All these bitterly divided sectarian groups seek to compete in who can come up with the most creative and outrageous way of attacking Ahmedis. In the process, they have turned the country into a sectarian hellhole that reminds one of the dystopia that Ghulam Abbas described in his classic Hotel Mohenjodaro.
The Organisation of Islamic Countries and various Muslim leaders, including the president of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, have asked the world at large to make a global law against blasphemy. Presumably, this proposed law of nations will cover all religions and communities. Will Pakistan then be willing to consider Ahmedis and other communities in Pakistan worthy of a certain amount of dignity? Will the former prime ministers of the self-styled liberal Pakistan People’s Party stop making incendiary populist comments while visiting the Pir at Golra? Will such a law force the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz-led Punjab government from openly sponsoring anti-minority outfits and sectarian groups? Will Pakistan review its textbooks for their hate content against Hindus, Jews, Sikhs and others? If only that was possible, one would wholeheartedly support such a law.
Yasser Latif Hamdani is a practising lawyer.