By Junaid Jahangir, New Age Islam
15 June 2021
Just As Identity Is Important For Pakistani Sunnis, It Is Equally Important For Pakistani Ahmadis, Ismailis, Hazara Shias, and Others
1. Identity is important for Muslims. So much so that Muslim women in western cities refuse to compromise on their headscarf even in the face of racist and xenophobic attacks.
2. The pressing question for all Pakistanis is what if the family mercilessly murdered had been Ahmadi?
3. Canadian society has to look deep within to address what is causing young white men to engage in such heinous racist acts and crimes.
4. Media stoked spaces generalize and stereotype Muslims as Caliphate mongering, sharia imposing supremacists.
Four Afzaal family members were killed in the London, Ontario, truck attack. Not shown is the youngest son, who survived. Sana Yasir (Photo courtesy: npr.org)
Many Pakistanis in Canada were jolted by the gruesome murder of a Pakistani family in London, Ontario. They wore their colourful Pakistani suits, and they would have least expected the rage of a white Canadian who mercilessly and intentionally rammed them to death. People who saw themselves mirrored in that tragedy held vigils and prayers across Canadian cities. The Prime Minister of Canada, the Premier of Ontario and other politicians were swift to condemn the dastardly act and intensified action against the rising tide of racism and Islamophobia. However, no law can protect Muslims or others perceived as Muslims against random acts of violence.
Canadian society has to look deep within to address what is causing young white men to engage in such heinous racist acts and crimes. Partly, they will have to address the loss of middle-class jobs due to globalization and technological change. However, the economics of terrorism does not hold poverty, mental illness or lack of education as factors behind terrorism. Instead, what needs to be addressed is the narrative that preys on the perceived grievances of the people. This means that mainstream Canada will have to address the fears of young white men on their becoming a minority due to demographic changes, and on checking the narrative that is stoked by media spaces that generalize and stereotype Muslims as Caliphate mongering, sharia imposing supremacists.
However, this on its own is not going to be enough for there are two sides of the same coin. What this means is that such horrific incidents allow people an opportunity to look within. Pakistani Muslims too will have to engage in a deep introspection, as they often do in questioning whether such horrific incidents are Aazmaish (trials) or Azab (punishments) from Allah. The pressing question for all Pakistanis is what if the family mercilessly murdered had been Ahmadi? Would there have been large prayer gatherings across Canada for them? Would Canadian Muslim institutions have been actively involved in calling out government institutions for more protection against Islamophobia? Or would they have side-lined or minimized the incident with ifs and buts? Alternatively, if the incident had happened in Pakistan, would the Prime Minister of Pakistan and the Chief Minister of Punjab have come out openly to visit their mosque in solidarity? Or would the media circus have revolved less around the oppression visited upon them and more around the inanities of addressing their mosques as places of worship? Would any Ahmadi have been given a platform on Pakistani media to address their concerns, or the debate simply made about the right of Ahmadis to maintain their identity?
People leave flowers and light candles at the scene of what has been called an Islamophobic terrorist attack that killed four family members earlier this week.
Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Identity is important for Muslims. So much so that Muslim women in western cities refuse to compromise on their headscarf even in the face of racist and xenophobic attacks. This is despite the fact that Islam has given facility to Muslims on rituals and personal laws under extenuating circumstances. So, just as identity is important for Pakistani Sunnis, it is equally important for Pakistani Ahmadis, Ismailis, Hazara Shias, and others. This means that to ask them to give up something that is an integral part of their identity on the pain of kufr (apostasy) charges constitutes Zulm (oppression). Yet, Pakistanis, who do not want their identity compromised in the West and who change their Facebook display pictures to demand respect for the Prophet, are equally culpable when it comes to stripping the identity of Ahmadis and disrespecting their spiritual leaders. This then is the deeper lesson that Pakistanis ought to learn from horrific incidents that befall upon them. Unless of course they have decided that they alone remain perpetual victims. But being a perpetual victim is a hallmark of supremacism that is being witnessed through the Hindutva brigade who remain fearful and dehumanize Muslims in India. In essence, if Pakistanis wish not to be like the Hindutvavadis, they will have to stand up for vulnerable minorities amongst them. Perhaps then help will arrive from ghaib (the unseen) and Pakistanis will have a clean conscience that at least they did their part.
Junaid Jahangir is an Assistant Professor of Economics at MacEwan University. He is the co-author of Islamic Law and Muslim Same-Sex Unions. With Dr. Hussein Abdullatif, a paediatric endocrinologist in Alabama, he has co-authored several academic papers on the issue of same-sex unions in Islam. He contributed this article to NewAgeIslam.com.
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