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Why this kolavari di?

By Murtaza Razvi

February 6th 2012

What have the Ahmadis done to deserve this treatment in this Islamic republic of ours? The latest bout of hate speeches against the Ahmadi community and threats hurled at them was witnessed in Rawalpindi’s Satellite Town last Sunday. Thousands gathered near a community centre on the call of banned militant outfits like the Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan and the Jamat-ud-Dawa, flanked by local leaders of the PML-N and trade unions.

They demanded not only the closure of the Ahmadi community centre but also that all Ahmadis be expelled from Pakistan. The country’s Christian minority also came in for a shock when the hate rally’s meeting point, the Holy Family Chowk, was rechristened as the Khatm-i-Nabuwat (Finality of Prophethood) Chowk.

Contradictions, social and legal, abound on the touching issue of the Ahmadis’ treatment in Pakistan. The said hate rally took place a week before Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) birthday which falls on February 5; the Quran calls the Prophet Rahmat-alil-Alemeen (Blessing for all the worlds [creation]); surely, Ahmadis are not only Allah’s creation but also His worshippers.

The rally itself was organised by a minority group of Muslims who also regard the celebration of the Prophet’s birthday as unacceptable, according to their sectarian leanings which are similar to those of the Taliban; similar groups have attacked Friday congregations of rival Muslim sects and bombed many shrines across the country, killing and maiming innocent citizens. Such groups have also targeted girls’ schools and colleges, even a women’s bazaar in Peshawar. So basically, according to their ideology, it is kosher to kill anyone not subscribing to their particularly rigid view of Islam. That makes it the majority of Pakistanis, and possibly of Muslims everywhere in the world.

As for the anti-Ahmadi sentiment in Punjab, it dates back to 1953 when anti-Ahamdi riots in Lahore had resulted in the imposition of martial law in that city. Later a judicial commission charged with an inquiry into the riots, which was headed by Justice Mohammad Munir, found that no two Muslim clerics out of the 50 odd who were consulted, could agree on a definition of ‘who is Muslim’. Therefore, the government had rejected the demand that Ahmadis be declared non-Muslim.

This was left to the country’s first democratically elected government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who in the 1973 Constitution declared Pakistan an Islamic republic, and then went on to castigate the Ahmadi community as non-Muslim through an act of parliament. Gen Ziaul Haq’s dictatorship further tightened the noose by enacting more anti-Ahmadi legislation.

Thus, in a country where on the eve of Independence, Jinnah had proclaimed “You are free to go to your temples … mosques … or any other places of worship”, Ahmadis were barred from calling their places of worship mosques; the kalema of Islam was removed from such buildings’ façade; holding prayers and congregations similar to those held by Muslims inside a building that resembled a mosque and keeping copies of the Quran in such places, were proscribed. An official declaration defaming the Ahmadi creed and its religious leader was henceforth required from citizens to acquire basic identity documents or even to open a bank account if you declared yourself Muslim. The kalema and Quranic verses were also ordered to be removed from Ahmadi gravestones. Pakistan’s anti-Ahmadi apartheid thus had the full force of the state behind it.

It can be argued that from an Islamic point of view such rulings contravene an important Quranic injunction in Sura Al Haj, which reads: [They are] those who have been evicted from their homes without right — only because they say, “Our Lord is Allah”. And were it not that Allah checks the people, some by means of others, there would have been demolished monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosques in which the name of Allah is much mentioned. And Allah will surely support those who support Him. Indeed, Allah is Powerful and Exalted in Might (22:40).

Similarly the Pact of Madina in 632 CE, signed by the Prophet with non-Muslims living in the vicinity, gave the latter full rights alongside his Muslim converts; their places of worship were accorded full protection and they too were declared as part of the same Ummah, even though the word now only appears as exclusively defining Muslims alone.

Such have been the wages of historical distortions espoused and propagated by Muslim zealots of today since the injection of petro-dollars into furthering their intolerant creed.

That said, in Pakistan, a few questions remain unanswered regarding the religious, social and official persecution of Ahmadis: whether the anti-Ahmadi legislation is legal or not; whether it is in contravention of the basic structure of the constitution that guarantees religious freedoms; whether parliament has a constitutional right to ascertain the faith of an individual or a community or not; and lastly, between Parliament and the Constitution of Pakistan, which is sovereign or supreme, the institution or the basic law that even governs that very institution?

It is our moral and intellectual bankruptcy that not a single individual has dared to legally address these anomalies that have pitted the entire state apparatus and society against one, small religious community.


Originally published by Dawn

Photo Courtesy Ayesha Vellani/White Star

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