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Monthly Archives: July 2011

Love thy neighbours?


It has been ages since I last wrote a blog. My apologies for this pause, longer than what I have expected. It was fair to assume that either I have lost interest or my cause has met some success. But I still have no reason to choose either of the options. It was time for me to sit back and ensure that I am still committed despite having no signs of improvement in the status of those people I strongly feel for. But as majority decided to side with violators; likewise, the victims and their supporters decided to continue fighting for their rights.

There is a long list of things I would like to share with my readers, but a report published in a newspaper has just caught my attention. Siddique Sindhu, a Christian Pastor, who lives in Green Town of Lahore, has been receiving threats from a neighbor who, he suspects, of having involved in two robberies. Sindhu lost 0.8 million rupees goods, including jewelry and dowry for his two daughters in those robberies. Muhammad Aslam Shah, the accused, has rented his house out to around 30 boys whom he used to harass the family of Sindhu. The question here is that why he has done it and what he could achieve through harassment and robbery except creating an environment for Sindhu not conducive to live peacefully.

His wish to grab the land where Sindhu’s house is built right now was behind it in a hope to build an imam bargah later. This all has started in the year of 2009 and since then Sindhu and his family has suffered an immeasurable damage both in terms of money and peace of mind.  The accused, though, has denied all charges saying that his 28 tenants were arrested on Sindhu’s complaints, but no evidence was found against them. He is sure of his tenants’ innocence as they swore on the Holy Quran. Sindhu said that one Safdar, had introduced himself as reader to a police superintendent, told him on 15 July to withdraw the complaints or else he would implicate Sindhu’s sons in criminal cases and also get Sindhu in the legal trap of blasphemy.

Waqar Ahmed, the Lahore chapter president of National Peace Committee for Interfaith Harmony is personally looking into the matter and interviewing the neighbours to establish the facts. The response from the neighbours is encouraging and loaded with sympathies for Sindhu and they are hopeful that it will not be a case of Muslims vs. Christians.

Here I have put all the facts and the point being made here is not to determine the righteousness of anyone based on his/her religion. There is a possibility that Sindhu has overreacted to any event, but here it is a string of threatening events. My personal observations suggests that keeping in mind the current status quo of Christians, no one would dare to give a reason to the majority to single him out. Sindhu is alone in his fight for justice knowing that his position in the society being a Christian will always be challenged. He still has taken the tough route despite threats and harassment and this strengthens my belief that all cannot be a lie.

Sindhu is mindful of threats doled out to him but he is still pursuing the case. The blasphemy does strike anyone like a real threat because it has swallowed many lives, and inefficient legal system has given teeth to this law as well. Whatever has happened to hundreds of people behind this legal shield is enough to scare people away and stop them from any sort of resistance against injustice. The issues have always involved property and land grabbing from people of other religions and blasphemy gives them an excuse to hide their intentions. I want to believe his neighbours who do not take it as Muslims targeting a Christian, but simultaneously I cannot outrageously ignore the logic in Sindhu’s argument.

 

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2011 in Blasphemy, Christians

 

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FEATURE- In Ahmadis’ desert city, Pakistan closes in


A Pakistani refugee, a member of the Ahmadiyya, an Islamic minority sect, cries as she leaves a detention centre with her family on a bus in Bangkok, June 6, 2011...

By Myra MacDonald

RABWAH, Pakistan, (Reuters) – At the office of what claims to be one of Pakistan’s oldest newspapers, workers scan copy for words it is not allowed to use — words like Muslim and Islam.

“The government is constantly monitoring this publication to make sure none of these words are published,” explains our guide during a visit to the offices of al Fazl, the newspaper of the Ahmadiyya sect in Pakistan.

This is Rabwah, the town the Ahmadis built when they fled the killings of Muslims in India at Partition in 1947, and believing themselves guided by God, chose a barren stretch of land where they hoped to make the Punjab desert bloom.

Affluent and well-educated, they started out camping in tents and mud huts near the river and the railway line.

Now they have a town of some 60,000 people, a jumble of one- and two-storey buildings, along with an Olympic size swimming pool, a fire service and a world class heart institute.

Yet declared by the state in the 1970s to be non-Muslims, they face increasing threats of violence across Pakistan as the country strained by a weakening economy, an Islamist insurgency and internecine political feuds, fractures down sectarian and ethnic lines.

“The situation is getting worse and worse,” says Mirza Khurshid Ahmed, amir of the Ahmadi community in Pakistan. “The level of religious intolerance has increased considerably during the last 10 years.”

The town, renamed Chenabnagar by the state government since “Rabwah” comes from a verse in the Koran, is now retreating behind high walls and razor wire, awaiting the suicide bombers and fedayeen gunmen who police tell them are plotting attacks.

Last May, 86 people were killed in two Ahmadi mosques in Lahore, capital of Punjab; others were attacked elsewhere in the province. Many fled to Rabwah where the community gives them cheap housing and financial support.

Among them is 15-year-old Iqra from Narewal, whose shopkeeper father was stabbed to death last year as the family slept. “I was sleeping in another room when my father was attacked,” she begins in a small voice, pulling a black scarf across her face to cover her mouth in the style of Ahmadi women.

“The attacker wanted to kill all the Ahmadis in Narewal,” her brother Zeeshan continues. “My elder brother tried to help my father and he was stabbed and wounded too.”

Later police found the attacker hiding in a mosque. He had believed the mullahs when they told him that all Ahmadis were “wajib ul qatl”, or deserving of death.

Battleground for power

The Ahmadis follow the teachings of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who in the town of Qadian in late 19th century British India called for a revival of a “true Islam” of peace and justice. His teachings were controversial with Muslims and Christians alike.

He argued that Jesus did not die on the cross but escaped and travelled to India and was buried in Kashmir. And he claimed to be the metaphorical second coming of Jesus, destined to put Muslims back on the true path.

Many Muslims were offended by the suggestion he had come as a prophet, breaching a basic tenet of Islam that there can be no prophet after Mohammad, whose teachings are believed to be based literally on the word of God, perfect and therefore final.

Yet his call for peace, hard work, temperance, education and strong community bonds resonated, and over the years the proselytising movement acquired millions of followers worldwide.

At home, however, their history has been intimately bound up in Pakistan’s own descent from its relatively optimistic birth.

Lacking a coherent national identity, it has become a battleground for competing political, religious and ethnic groups seeking power by attacking others.

“The mistake of the Ahmadis was that they showed their political strength,” said an Ahmadi businessman in Lahore.

Better education he said, meant they obtained good positions in the army and civil service at first; strong community bonds made them an influential force in politics up to the 1970s.

But they also made an easy target for the religious right who could whip up anti-Ahmadi sentiment for political gain.

Ahmadis follow two different schools of thinking, but will argue, often with detailed references to the Koran in both Arabic and English, that they do not dispute the finality of the Prophet Mohammad. Their erudite theological arguments, however, had little chance against the power of the street.

After anti-Ahmadi violence, they were declared non-Muslims in 1974. In the 1980s, their humiliation was completed when legal provisions barred them from associating themselves with Islam, for example by using the call to prayer or naming their place of worship a “masjid” or mosque.

“You can say you don’t consider me to be a Muslim but you can’t force me to also say I am not a Muslim,” complains Ahmed, the amir, the pain clear in his voice.

Yet in the newspaper office in Rabwah, a white board displays the words they are not allowed to use — they could be accused of blasphemy, which carries the death penalty.

Spreading to other sect

Many Pakistanis, if you ask about treatment of the Ahmadis, shrug it off — it’s an old story, they say, dredged up by westerners who do not appreciate the importance of the finality of the Prophet.

Yet there are signs the attitudes first directed towards Ahmadis are spreading to other sects. In a country which is majority Sunni, and where insurgents follow Sunni Islam, Shi’ites and even Sufi shrines have been bombed.

A 2010 study by Pakistani analyst Ayesha Siddiqa of students in elite colleges found that while 60 percent said the government was right to declare Ahmadis non-Muslims, a sizeable 18 percent believed Shi’ites were also non-Muslims.

These and other findings led her to conclude that radicalism was growing even among the educated youth — it is often, wrongly, blamed on poverty — which in its extreme form could lead people into violence.

Their tendency, she wrote, to see different groups with an unquestioned bias, she wrote, “especially coated with religious overtones or padded with religious belief prepares the mind to accept the message from militant organisations.”

In the nearest town to Rabwah, the central square as been renamed “Khatme Nubuwwat” Chowk, meaning the finality of the Prophet. Beyond, low jagged hills spike up above the dusty land, the summits of much bigger rock formations below the surface.

Many of the Ahmadis had been active supporters of the movement which created Pakistan and when they first came here they were inspired by a verse in the Koran, describing “an elevated land of green valleys and springs of running water.”

Now they are surrounded by a very different country.

Rabwah itself is open to the outside world — despite the high walls guarding individual houses, it is not a walled town.

“Under the circumstances we try to tke the best measures we can to protect ourselves,” says the amir. “But what we can do is very limited. We don’t have a mindset or training for that.

And in any case, he adds, “How many people can leave Pakistan or Rabwah?”

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2011 in Ahmadis

 

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