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The Demonization of Ahmadis in Pakistan
By iNewp Citizen Journalist
Published: June 4, 2010
Even during the immediate aftermath of last Friday’s brutal attacks on two Ahmadi mosques in Lahore, Pakistan, even as Ahmadis around the world attempt to comprehend the savagery that has swept through their community, there are those who doubt the religious hatred which motivated these attacks. These skeptics claim that the attacks are simply the latest in a series of attacks by Islamic extremists against innocent Pakistani citizens, attacks in which militants target people indiscriminately. Therefore, they claim, these attacks should receive no special treatment or discussion.
This is disingenuous at best. The extremists who perpetrated these attacks were aided by the government, media, and people of Pakistan.
The government’s role in this tragedy began in 1974, when it declared Ahmadis to be “non-Muslim.”
As Pakistan is an Islamic state, this had wide-reaching ramifications for Ahmadis. A further injustice occurred in 1984, when it became illegal for Ahmadis to practice their faith. One of the consequences of these laws was that it became a trivial matter to accuse an Ahmadi of blasphemy, a crime in Pakistan punishable by fines and prison. Though the rule of law is tenuous at best in Pakistan, the situation is even worse for an Ahmadi.
It is commonplace for the government to ignore Ahmadis who have been threatened, harassed, or attacked.
Occasionally, this is taken to the cruelest extremes: murderers of Ahmadis, often religiously motivated, face no consequences. Local and provincial governments are no better; they often claim to be taking action while sitting idly, ignoring the plight of their citizens. This gross mistreatment of the Ahmadi community is exemplified by the fact that even today, almost a week after the attacks in Lahore, the government, led by President Asif Ali Zardari has not issued any statements condemning the attacks or offering condolences to the community.
Alongside Pakistan’s government, the media has chosen to ignore the needs of the Ahmadi community. If an Ahmadi is murdered, it goes unreported; if an anti-Ahmadi rally takes place, the views of the Ahmadi community are not represented.
After the Lahore attacks, the Ahmadi community held a press conference which went completely ignored by Pakistan’s news outlets. That an average Pakistani citizen’s knowledge of Ahmadis comes from the community’s opponents is only a natural consequence of the lack of fair reporting.
Finally, and perhaps most dishearteningly, the people of Pakistan are complicit regarding their government’s treatment of the Ahmadi community. It has become extremely difficult for Ahmadis to advance in government careers or work for many Pakistani companies—because of their beliefs.
An Ahmadi can also expect to be ostracized or treated poorly by friends and family who don’t share their beliefs. Many Ahmadis, in order to protect themselves, do not associate with those outside of the religion or are extremely discreet about it.
In Pakistan, Ahmadis are stripped of many of their fundamental rights. They have few allies. The government has abandoned them, the media ignores them, and the Pakistani people have left them to bleed. To say that the Lahore attacks, attacks which deliberately targeted Ahmadis, are not worthy of special attention is beyond callous—it’s dead wrong. The Lahore attacks, which left more than ninety people dead, were not acts of random, extremist violence. They were premeditated attacks which could have only occurred in an atmosphere created by the widespread institutional and social bias against the Ahmadi community.
To correct the misperceptions about Ahmadis inculcated in the Pakistani population will take time, but the government must stop treating Ahmadis as second-class citizens.
All courses of action which will achieve these ends begin with the repulsion of the Second Amendment to the Pakistan Constitution, which declares Ahmadis to be non-Muslim. The government must also repeal the blasphemy laws which have been used to oppress countless people, not only Ahmadis.
Equality under the law is an ideal which the Pakistan government must strive for, regardless of the citizen’s religion. Only when these laws have been repealed will peace be on the horizon for not only the beleaguered Ahmadi community in Pakistan, but other minority groups like the Christians and Sikhs who all call Pakistan their home.
(Cover Picture: AFP) — Article Contributed By: Nurul Ain