Continued persecution in Pak

Continued persecution in Pak

Representative image. (Credit: iStockPhoto)

If the intensity of violence, hatred and discrimination that any sect faces is an indication of the persecution then, in Pakistan, the Ahmadiyyas would top the list. The Ahmadiyya order was founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahmed in 1889 in Qadian, district Gurdaspur in our Punjab (Ahmed is also one of the names of the Holy Prophet). For this reason, they are also referred to as Qadianis.

Broadly speaking, he proclaimed that he was the mehdi or messiah who was expected to lead the quam as a latter-day prophet. This notion came into direct conflict with the orthodox Muslim belief in the finality of the Prophet Mohammed. Mirza Ghulam Ahmed gathered a large number of followers among Muslims all over the world, but most of all in South Asia. The community is estimated to have about 40 lakh members in Pakistan alone today.

As a general rule, those perceived as apostates or heretics always get harsher treatment from self-styled guardians of faith than even the infidels. Consequently, the mainstream Muslims, who never accepted the claim of the founder of the sect, constantly sought to torment and tyrannize them. The attacks on Ahmadiyyas became more pronounced after the creation of the Islamic State of Pakistan.

This happened despite the fact that some members of this community served their nation with distinction. Among them was Zafarullah Khan, the country’s first foreign minister, later the President of the UN General Assembly, and the International Court of Justice. He was a formidable opponent for Krishna Menon over the Kashmir issue whenever it came up in the United Nations. The only Pakistani scientist to win the Nobel Prize, Abdus Samad, whose bust adorns the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, also belonged to this sect.

As anger at what was considered heresy by the Ahmadiyyas spread in Pakistan, over 200 of them were slaughtered in riots in 1953 and this set the tone for the years to come. They were killed, boycotted. Their mosques vandalised and students expelled from schools and colleges. A hate campaign has been carried out in the media against the community all through Pakistan’s history since its Independence. As the Economist put it, they were “viciously hounded as heretics.”

In 1974 the government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto passed a law whereby the Ahmadiyyas were declared non-Muslims. Subsequently, during Zia-Ul-haq’s rule, they were forbidden to call themselves Muslims or even act and behave like them. Eighty-six of them died in riots in 2010. Quranic verses have regularly been erased from graves of the Ahmadiyyas. Even the Nobel laureate Abdus Samad had to suffer the ignominy of having the word ‘Muslim’ removed from his tombstone. This persecution of Ahmadiyyas is not confined to Pakistan. Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bulgaria, Egypt and, of course, Saudi Arabia are some of the counties where violence has been unleashed against them. Sporadic attacks against them have been mounted even in the United Kingdom.

India’s Supreme Court has yet to deliver its verdict on the CAA. But, if it does accept religion as a criterion for citizenship, there appears to be no reason why a sect officially excommunicated in Pakistan should not be included among those given refuge from oppression, especially because this faith was born on Indian soil. Swami Vivekananda’s words quoted, perhaps inadvertently, by a BJP spokesperson, that he was proud to belong to a country that “sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations” did not envisage any exclusions.

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