By Zeeba T Hashmi
September 15, 2014
The seeds of contention lie in a misplaced sense of justice where the aggressor goes scot-free and the victim is further oppressed. The government, on the other hand, fails to deliver protection and security to those who do not fall into the mainstream and are being further oppressed by society and the clergy at large. The word ‘Qadiani’ does not come easy because of its existential uncertainty in Pakistan. Despite what the constitution says about Ahmedis in derogatory terms, they are determined to stay in this country against all odds.
Ahmedis were constitutionally declared non-Muslims 40 years ago by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto government, who succumbed to the pressures of the clergy, thus opening the gates for their further discrimination and public persecution. Even more appalling is that the citizens of Pakistan cannot be given their identity cards unless they sign a statement declaring Ahmedis to be non-Muslims, a clause that is derogatory for them. Imagine the social humiliation an Ahmedi actually goes through every time he/she sees someone signing the piece of paper condemning him or her in order to be a citizen of Pakistan! As if our righteous Muslims have not screamed “discrimination” whenever they have to queue up for special registration at US airports.
While the mind remains boggled with religious onslaughts and vigilante mob tyranny, it gets even harder to understand what drove our society to excommunicate an entire community, calling them Kafirs (infidels) and relegating them to the status of a minority. “We do not like to be called a minority,” says Tabinda*, a defiant young Ahmadi woman and scholar with whom I made initial contact for my research on minorities, “The state has endorsed us with this title and, as a protest, we refrain from voting in general elections.” Imagine that: an entire segment of society is not casting its vote and still no one feels bothered by their dismay at a state that calls itself democratic.
Zia ul Haq came with his double fanged poison, passing an ordinance in 1984 that actually persecuted Ahmedis for praying in public along with other Muslims. They were forbidden to give the Azaan (Muslim call for prayers) and were even forbidden from building pillars and minarets for their places of worship. Going by that logic, any act of Islam practiced by them is apparently un-Islamic and, hence, Islam is forbidden for them.
The confusion does not even end there. With the ridiculous laws that have been overenthusiastically presented and passed by parliament, it keeps on living and thriving without expiry or introspection as it thrashes away to indirectly exterminate 0.25 percent of the population. Pressured by the Tehreek-e-Khatam-e-Nabuwat movement that started with their calls to denounce Ahmedis on a social level, eventually the government bowed down before their demands. Their mission has been to socially outcast them. I have even heard stories about people using chemical cleansers to clean their homes whenever they learn an Ahmedi has visited them.
Where is this hatred really stemming from? There is so much of it that an important international Pakistani physicist, Nobel Prize winner Dr Abdus Salam, has been deprived of national recognition and pride because of his Ahmadi connection. They did not even spare the respect and sanctity of his gravestone. Instead of praising Dr Abdus Salam for his pivotal role in the field of Physics, schools across Pakistan mount portraits of Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, the known plagiarist and convicted thief who is being presented as a national role model.
To understand the degree of hatred here is hard work even for someone trying to understand bigotry but once one finally comes to know the basis of this hate, they cannot help but be shocked. The more religion is defined, the more complex it gets, to the point that it starts becoming hegemonic. The only way out of this mess is to make human empathy above all religious definitions. Imagine how we would behave as a people if we have identity cards and passports that did not carry any religion section. This would free many people from any sort of official discrimination.
To reach such an understanding requires a lot of free will, political courage and a desire to change the things that have been withholding the development of the country. We have remained deprived of the important contributions of the Ahmadi community of Pakistan. Unless human dignity is restored, Pakistan cannot succeed socially and will always be shamed internationally for the mistreatment of its citizens.
* Names have been changed to protect their identity
Zeeba T Hashmi is a freelance columnist and may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org