Persecution of Ahmadis: a problem in the DNA of Pakistani society
Life for Ahmadis has never been easy in Pakistan. They live in a state of fear of being accused of blasphemy all the time. In a recent development, a 100-year-old mosque of the Ahmadi sect was destroyed by an angry mob in the town of Sialkot.
The city administration, trying to cover up the matter, stated that the mosque had failed to obtain a written approval from the authorities for renovation, thus it was decided to destroy the section of the building that had been recently renovated. However, contrary to those claims, the Ahmadiyya Jamaat presented a copy of a No Objection Certificate (NOC) stating that the mosque had obtained permission to be renovated.
In any case, the argument from the government officials seems very vague and unacceptable, as by no means does the law allow the authorities to accept help from a mob of religious fanatics to demolish any illegal construction.
While many Sunni mosques are built on illegal land acquired or renovated and expanded against regulations without any NOC for adding additional floors, they are never abolished or sent any notice from the authorities.
The media, as usual, did not cover the Sialkot story properly, nor was an investigation into the matter launched by higher government authorities.
It is not the first such incident. Three years back a chipboard factory owned by an Ahmadi was burned down on allegations of blasphemy in the city of Jhelum, and there are many incidents where the Ahmadi community is being targeted or persecuted.
It is the height of hypocrisy that Pakistani society always demands and protests for the rights of minorities in India, Israel, Myanmar and other countries while in our country, we oppress minorities in each and every possible way.
A few decades ago when Hindu extremists destroyed the Babri Mosque in India, protests erupted across Pakistan, and people in Pakistan still accuse India of marginalizing its Muslim minority and deliberately destroying their historic mosques. Yet the demolition of a historic Ahmadi place of worship in Sialkot is justified for the majority of the population in Pakistan.
This double standard and hate toward Ahmadis and other communities is proof that as a society we Pakistanis have a genetic disorder of hating others on the basis of belief, and this genetic disorder is being created by ourselves. Even the children in many families in Pakistan are taught to hate Ahmadis and do not form relationships with or trust them, as Ahmadis are deemed a threat to the religious mainstream.
One wonders why 96% of the population is afraid of only 1% of the population and conceive them as a threat.
Life for Ahmadis in Pakistan is all about somehow surviving the wrath of the majority of the population. They are treated as third-rate citizens and hated for their religious beliefs.
Such is the level of hatred that shops in major markets across the country carry a poster on the entrance door that Ahmadis are not allowed, or we do not do business with Ahmadis. Religious clerics freely declare Ahmadis to be a threat to the Sunni-dominated population and beliefs, and this creates a hostile atmosphere for Ahmadis where they even hide their identities in order to be saved from the fanatics.
For the state, the persecution and marginalization of Ahmadis never matter, as Ahmadis only constitute around 1% of the total population. So political parties, in order not to lose religious and popular votes, never intervene or take steps to save the community from exploitation at the hands of Sunni clerics and the Sunni population.
The problem is getting worse as general elections are approaching and every single political party in order to attract voters in some way endorses the hatred against this community. Unfortunately, intellectuals and journalists, who play a vital role in bringing positive changes to the social fabric of any society, are either reluctant to speak up or are under the influence of their set religious belief systems, so they choose to remain silent or they write and talk about usurping all the rights of Ahmadis. It gives them the approval and ratings from the general population.
The Ahmadi problem is not even considered a problem and generally, it is considered that if Ahmadis declared themselves as Muslims they would be spared and no one would target them or try to marginalize them.
According to the constitution of Pakistan, Ahmadis are declared non-Muslims, but Ahmadis call themselves Muslims. The law that was passed by Zulfiqar Bhutto to appease the religious clerics in order to save his government has been haunting Ahmadis for the last four decades, and there is nowhere to hide or run.
With almost every Sunni and Shiite Muslim brought up with the belief that Ahmadis are blasphemers and use the name of Islam to exploit religion, there is very little hope that the problem of the Ahmadis will be addressed in near future. In fact, if someone tries to take steps to provide a little relief he is deemed a blasphemer as well.
The tragedy is that Ahmadis persecution and marginalization is not even considered a serious issue. While the media and state choose to remain silent, the Ahmadis are left to the mercy of religious clerics and their millions of blind followers. The state, by declaring Ahmadis non-Muslims in 1974, laid the foundation for their massacre and exploitation, as this step by the state vindicated the stance of fanatics that Ahmadis were blasphemous, and the rest of the population created a narrative that has resulted in Ahmadis being the most vulnerable community.
Until the state denounces the policy of hatred and extremism and stops intervening in the personal faith and beliefs of its citizens, there is no hope that Ahmadis will be even considered human in this society. For now, life for the 5 million Ahmadis in Pakistan is all about somehow surviving the wrath of the majority of the population.
The persecution and marginalization of the Ahmadi community is actually a crime by both society and the state. It seems we as a society need DNA surgery in order to get rid of the hatred and extremism in our genes toward the faith and beliefs of others.