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Mind your own religion


I found it an interesting read and thought it should be shared with my readers. The figure of 108,000 is huge and impressive when it is meant the number of those who have converted to Islam (by choice?) since 1989 by a man who was once a Hindu. In the town of Matli of Badin district, Sindh, Deen Mohammad Shaikh, a 70-year-old, wishes to see the entire world becoming Muslim.

Frankly, he did not inspire me as his wish hurts my ‘perfect world’ philosophy which shapes a way to the coexistence of all human beings with different faiths, creeds, ideologies, and cultures. I have not intended to comment on this for the sake of just criticism, but the disappointment has provoked me to share those resentful feelings.  The mindset of “Muslims winning, ruling the world” has a deep meaningful connection to Muslims psychological euphoria of being “superior.” The superiority which they have inherited from their glorious history which has created winners and conquerors is a push that keeps the fire burning.

I would wait till the day when a Hindu or, for that matter, a Christian decides to convert Muslims and Muslims all over the world will go gaga, protesting, burning properties, and killing people from other religions. Hold on, how easily the great Pakistani Muslims have chosen to forget the hard work they have put in harassing, intimidating and killing Ahmaids, Christians, Hindus and many more?

The only Muslim and Pakistani Nobel laureate was Abdus Salam who won it for his work on the electroweak unification of the electromagnetic and weak forces in 1979. No one else since then has reached to that level of excellence, and brought fame to this country, but he, too, suffered from the hate and negligence from this ‘religion stricken country’. His crime was that he was a proud Ahmadi. We bask in the glory of Muhammad Bin Qasim and Mehmood Ghaznavi, but ignore the existing pride out of our extreme bias, hatred and prejudice for those whose beliefs are different. Muhammad Bin Qasim and Mehmood Ghaznavi are past and I am not fully convinced if they are my heroes, but Abdus Salam certainly is. This country needs more of such people and their religion is not my business.

I stop here, enjoy the read….

 MATLI: Such are Deen Mohammad Shaikh’s powers of persuasion that he has converted 108,000 people to Islam since 1989, the year he left his birth religion Hinduism behind.

His multi-coloured business card describes the Matli dweller as the president of the Jamia Masjid Allah Wali and Madrassa Aisha Taleem-ul Quran – an institute for conversions to Islam.

The reedy 70-year-old brandishes an embellished cane. A red-and-white keffeiyah perched on his shoulder offers people a hint to his theological leanings.

As he speaks to The Express Tribune, his arm slices an invisible arc through the air. He is gesturing to a vast expanse of nine acres of donated land where converts are invited to pitch a tent and stay. “My heartfelt wish is that the entire world becomes Muslim,” comes his response, when asked about the en masse conversions. His piety is matched only by its ambition.

But contrary to the grandiose proclamation, this preacher isn’t a repository of rehearsed sound bites. It is only after he settles down on a charpoy that he deigns to embark on the journey of a Hindu named Jhangli who became an expert in evangelism.

“I always loved Islam,” he begins. “I read the Holy Quran and realised that 360 gods were not of any use to me.”

At first he had to study the Holy Quran in secret. There was the risk of being misunderstood if a Muslim caught him with the holy book. He started fasting and in fact he would begin a day before Ramazan started.

Shaikh’s mother grew alarmed at her son’s forays into another faith. She thought that if she married him off, he would not ‘leave’. Thus, he was barely 15 when his wedding took place, followed by a quick overtaking by nature – four girls and eight boys.

But despite this, he was drawn back to his curiosity and managed to find a teacher, Sain Mohammad Jagsi, who instructed him in the Holy Quran and Hadiths or sayings of the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh).

Fortunately, Shaikh’s uncle was of the same mind and the two men agreed that they would give each other the strength. Shaikh held off until his daughter was married to a Hindu as planned, since he had already “given his word”. Then there was no turning back.

After his conversion, Deen Mohammad Shaikh made it his mission to woo others. He began in his own backyard, preaching to family, before venturing beyond this comfort zone. Encounters with the rich and powerful helped pave the way. Retired Pakistan Army general Sikandar Hayat, who owns a sugar mill in Matli, offered Shaikh money, which he turned down. Instead, he urged Hayat to give jobs to some of the new converts. Hayat and his daughter proved extremely helpful in providing assistance.

Now, Shaikh says, his fame has spread and people come to him from as far as Balochistan, members of all religions and sects, who would like to convert. A small mosque has sprung up in his residential compound along with a number of rooms where children – mostly girls – are taught how to say their prayers and recite the Holy Quran.

One of the teachers is 14-year-old Sakina, who is just 15 days into the job. “Only a few students are difficult to teach,” she says while commenting on their ability to recite a text in an unknown language.

Shaikh is aware of the difficulties converts face while taking on what appear to be the initially daunting rigours of a brand new system. He makes life easy for the first 40 days. “They only have to pray farz!” he says while referring to the mandatory parts. This relaxed schedule ensures that they can ‘confirm their faith’. He understands that if he demanded they start out with praying five times a day to offer even the optional and ‘bonus’ parts, “They would run away!” as he puts it with a look of mock horror on his face.

Other than this, he is reluctant to actually explain how he influences the people. All he offers is a nugget of fire and brimstone: “I tell them that I was a Hindu too and that they would burn in Hell if they are not Muslim.”

More than saving a soul

There are other practical considerations that accompany conversions. In order to ‘save’ the converts from influential Hindus in other districts, Shaikh packs them off to Hub Chowk while the Kalima is still moist on their lips. “Their families would beat them up (for converting) otherwise,” he explains.

This trick of the ‘trade’ he learnt from personal experience. He alleges that he was kidnapped along with his daughter-in-law by influential Hindus who threatened him so that he would stop converting people. “They don’t want these poor Hindus to stand up to them when they become Muslims,” Shaikh maintains.

Despite 108,000 conversions, for which a record is kept, Shaikh still doesn’t feel his work is done. He wants everyone to be a Muslim and learn from his example. He also attends the Tablighi Jamaat’s annual congregation in Raiwind, although he doesn’t believe in sectarian divisions. “All groups are like brothers to me,” he declares.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 23rd,  2012.

 

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Posted by on February 1, 2012 in Hindus, minorities

 

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Pakistan can be the next Golgotha


By Khaled Ahmed
The Friday Times (TFT)

We are trapped in our own scheming in the name of Islam. Blasphemy Law is biting the state and the government can do nothing. An illiterate dirt-poor Asiya Bibi is to die for all of us devotees of the faith. The world is begging us to do something. The Pope has appealed only to get an unworthy repartee from our bearded firebrands. The government is now hamstrung.

The President won’t pardon her because he can’t challenge the clout of the clergy at its strongest at the present moment; he has just signed on the appointment of a harsh cleric to the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII). A moderate CII former member Javed Ghamidi is on the run from Islamic terrorists as he criticises the bad law that hands down death for blasphemy without the normal criteria of justice, such as intent and level of consciousness.

Poisoning of national language: You can still write sanely in English but not in Urdu, so poisoned is the national tongue even as experts opine that true learning is only possible in one’s own language. Iftikhar Murshid writing in The News (28 Nov 2010) says: ‘Blasphemy laws have existed in British India since 1860. In 1927, Article 295 was added to the Penal Code under which “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religious belief” became a culpable offence.

‘The law was non-discriminatory and conviction under its provisions depended exclusively on conclusive evidence, as a consequence of which there were only ten blasphemy cases in the 58 years between 1927 and 1985. Since that year the number of blasphemy cases has soared to more than 4,000. In 1982, Gen Ziaul Haq introduced Section 295-B in the Penal Code of Pakistan, under which “defiling the Holy Quran” became punishable by life imprisonment. In 1986, Section 295-C was added, mandating capital punishment for “use of derogatory remarks in respect of the Holy Prophet”. Even the law minister at the time did not support the bill when it was introduced in the National Assembly “on the ground that the Quran did not prescribe a penalty for this offence”.

Liberals on the run: The enactment of Ziaul Haq’s blasphemy laws unleashed a reign of terror in which the impoverished Christian community suffered the most. The violence will continue till these draconian laws are repealed. This is unlikely, however, because the present law minister, Babar Awan, was quoted by the print media on Nov 26 as saying that ‘no one can change the blasphemy laws’. Thus, so-called liberal politicians have been just as responsible as semi-educated clerics for the distortion of the laws of Islam in pursuit of their respective political agendas’.

Huma Yusuf researching a book in Washington thinks Pakistan was ‘on the brink’ as it faced the endgame in Afghanistan. The extremism within was damaging Pakistan’s chances of implementing a credible strategy. Writing in Dawn (28 Nov 2010) she said: ‘The government has made little headway in its efforts to change the climate of xenophobia and intolerance in Pakistani society. No doubt, the right noises have been made: Zardari’s government is the first to appoint a minister for minorities; it also established the Sufi Advisory Council and the Sindh Education Department is now launching an International University of Sufism at Bhit Shah. But all this signifies little in real terms’.

For Asiya no asylum either: The PPP government has backed off from any consideration of repealing the law; it will back down also on the question of pardon. What is more, it will find it difficult to send Asiya Bibi into asylum in the West. (Times are different from when Salamat Masih was exiled even though the judge who had favoured him at the High Court was later assassinated.) The other side is just too strong; and the opposition doesn’t care that it will have very little valid ground to stand if it comes to power after the PPP.

Everybody is in a frenzy of toppling and the only party that is winning is Al Qaeda. The PPP will go along with the aroused clergy and let the victims of blasphemy law down. Asiya Bibi will either have to die to save all of us from the wrath of the mullah or she will rot in jail indefinitely as she has already done for over a year. Let us have a taste of what has appeared in the Urdu press where the battle in favour of the evil law is being fought.

Lawyers and clergy join hands: Leader of JUIF Dr Atiqur Rehman told Express (23 Nov 2010) that the entire world had laws punishing blasphemy, but he did not say whether the entire world gave death as the minimum punishment for blasphemy. Christian Minorities Minister Shehbaz Bhatti said that Blasphemy Law was being misused to persecute non-Muslims. Cleric Afzal Qadri said Blasphemy Law was abused the same way as the Murder Law but no one protested against the latter law. Wukla persons protest against Asiya Bibi: Reported in Jinnah (23 Nov 2010) the lawyers of Nankana Sahib and Sangla Hill came out to protest against the granting of pardon to Asiya Bibi and said that such a pardon would be contempt of court. They said the court should take notice of efforts to smuggle Asiya Bibi abroad.

Shujaat against Asiya’s pardon: Reported in Jang (24 Nov 2010) Chaudhry Shujaat of PMLQ – always the first to bend the knee to tumescent clergy – said that pardon given to the Blasphemy Law victim Asiya Bibi would be wrong and would entail violent reaction. JUI wants Asiya hanged? Reported in Jinnah (24 Nov 2010) coalition partner of PPP the JUIF said that Asiya Bibi should be allowed to face whatever punishment the courts hand down to her and that there should be no pardon. It supported death sentence for blasphemy and asked the government to pay more attention to drone attacks. It said it will physically resist any pardon.

Rana Sanaullah in the breach as always: Daily Jinnah (24 Nov 2010) reported that religious parties in Sheikhupura in Punjab came out in strength supporting the death sentence of Asiya Bibi blocking all roads and causing traffic jams and saying that they will not allow pardon to her and will react to sending her out of the country for asylum. Rana Sanaullah for Asiya death: Law minister of Punjab Rana Sanaullah was quoted by Jinnah (24 Nov 2010) as saying that he was in agreement with the punishment meted out to Asiya Bibi under Penal Code Section 295C and that Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer was acting like a spoiled child (bigra batcha) by supporting her and trying to win a pardon for her. He said by doing dalassa (compassion) to Asiya he was causing a Muslim-Christian conflict (fasad).

Cities rise against Asiya’s asylum: Daily Jinnah (24 Nov 2010) reported that a number of cities staged protests against the alleged shifting of Asiya from Sheikhupura jail to Islamabad before sending her away to the US to avoid her being hanged under orders from a sessions judge. The processions were arranged by power religious organisations such as Tehreek Hurmat Rasul, Sunni action and Sunni Ittehad Council. Friday was named as the grand protest day against Asiya’s asylum.

Famous columnist Hamid Mir wrote to say that Afiya had confessed to blasphemy and now had to face the music. But some years ago he was less quiescent, which is a measure of how extremist Pakistan had become. He had written in Jang (26 June 2006) that the PPP’s imprisoned leader Yusuf Raza Gilani had stated in his book that when in 1990 Nawaz Sharif became prime minister and wanted to change the Blasphemy Law but Ms Bhutto in the opposition did not help him in parliament. Still later Ms Bhutto returned to power in 1993 and wanted to change the Blasphemy Law but this time Nawaz Sharif did not help her.

That kind of a game is still on.

Pakistan bride, Osama bin Laden bridegroom: Pakistan will not stop having death wishes. Usually nations on their way down have a single death wish. Pakistan has many. It wants the Qadianis killed and wants to use blasphemy to hang them but is netting others instead. It is like a fisherman who will kill other fish to get at the one he wants. Christians as a community are threatened after we in our stupidity have broadened the net of blasphemy by including all prophets. Since the Bible has stories of Prophets that Muslims consider insulting – Noah, David and Solomon get a raw deal – the entire Christian community led by the bishops might have to be hanged collectively. Pakistan may the next Golgotha.

So be it, because most of us will die anyway after Al Qaeda takes over. Pakistan is a bride in her conjugal chamber waiting to be ravished by Osama bin Laden. We got Pakistan from Jinnah and are now ready to hand it over to the minions of bin Laden. What gives me just a shred of satisfaction as I ready myself to die as a secular person is the fact that all Barelvis who are now baying for the blood of a poor Christian woman will be disembowelled by the ‘superior’ Muslim followers of Al Qaeda and made to hang in the various squares of Pakistan. We have had the foretaste of it in Swat and elsewhere in the Tribal Areas.

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2010 in Blasphemy, Christians

 

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Even death is not easy if you are an Ahmadi…


I look forward to the day when I have something pleasant and positive to share with you. But today again something very depressing, ugly, and unfair forced me to express what I feel, but with a heavy heart. I am proud of being a Pakistani because I value this independence and freedom we have as citizens of this country. What could have been our lives in Hindustan If we still share a country with those who deny us our rights and freedoms on the basis of religion?  This thought makes me shudder and I can say with much confidence that it happens with many of us. Then how people of a country who have fought for their rights being a minority can give the same treatment to their minorities?

In my view, it is sheer hypocrisy and the recent incident is an insult to humanity. The police in Sargodha district of Punjab province has forced a family to to exhume the body of one of their family members, Shehzad Waraich, because he is an Ahmadi and has no right to be buried in a Muslim graveyard. Apparently, the police was asked by some religious clerics to do so and the police did it as a preventive measure to control the law and order situation.

1984 will always be remembered as a black spot on Pakistan’s history because it divided our society further. Ahmadis were declared non-Muslims and restricted from following many religious practices. Since then an unending chain of violations, prejudice, hatred and torture has been continuing. Since 84 almost 30 cases of humiliating dead from Ahmadi community have been registered.

I always preferred to assume that we still respect dead ones at least regardless of their religion, but such incidents take that assumption away from me. No, we are all strong defenders and protectors of “our religion” that we exhume the dead and ask the relatives to bury him somewhere else because he is not “one of us”. What religion such people actually follow which preaches to humiliate those who are no more the part of this world is beyond my understanding? The influence of religious clerics cannot be and should not be  that strong to manipulate police job unless the police also believes in this division and humiliation.

This is not an ordinary incident which can go unnoticed and I expect a strong reaction from all those who believe in humanity. And I am hoping to see some strong action against those police officials and the religious clerics who are at the forefront to defame Islam and humanity. We badly need to change our perspective and mindset and only a healthy mind can ensure a healthy society. We are stinking and the stench is strong enough to hide.

Below is the story:
BBC

Pakistan Ahmadi man forcibly exhumed

Police in Pakistan have forced a family of the Ahmadi sect to exhume the body of a relative because it was buried in a Muslim graveyard.

Officials in the Sargodha district of Punjab province say they took the unusual move after anti-Ahmadi Muslim groups threatened peace in the area.

Ahmadis consider themselves Muslims but a 1984 law barred them from identifying themselves as followers of the faith.

The law also put restrictions on their religious practices.

‘Law and order situation’

Shehzad Waraich, a farmer in the Bhalwal area of Sargodha district, died on 30 October and was buried in a shared graveyard designated by the government.

“The police approached the relatives of Mr Waraich on 31 October and asked them to remove the body from the Muslim graveyard as this could lead to a law and order situation,” Salimuddin, an Ahmadi community spokesman, told the BBC.

“The family complied with the request and exhumed the body. They have now buried it in a different graveyard reserved for the Ahmadis several miles away from the village.”

The police said the family was asked to exhume the body because the burial was “illegal”.

“They buried Mr Waraich in a Muslim graveyard, which is against the law,” Javed Islam, the Sargodha district police chief, told the BBC.

“Members of the Khatm-e-Nabuwat organisation and some local people approached the police and conveyed their objection to the burial. The objection was within the ambit of the law, so we acted accordingly,” he said.

Khatm-e-Nabuwat is an anti-Ahmadi religious organisation that acts as a watchdog on their activities.

Mr Islam said that he was not concerned about the moral aspect of the exhumation of Mr Waraich’s body – his job was to enforce the law.

Ahmadis in Pakistan are often mobbed and lynched by extremist elements who critics say are encouraged by favourable laws.

The Ahmadi spokesman, Salimuddin, said it was the 30th incident since 1984 in which an Ahmadi body has been forcefully exhumed by the administration to satisfy the opponents of the community. “The administration always sides with our opponents, and has a convenient argument that they are trying to maintain peace,” he said.

 
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Posted by on November 4, 2010 in Ahmadis

 

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Two more Ahmadis murdered in target killings


The principle of “live and let live” is no more valid in this part of the world. The desire to see the world around you having a perfect uniformity in mindset and beliefs remains unfulfilled, but leaves horrifying stories behind. The society has grown intolerant beyond understanding and the biggest cushion they could ever get has been offered in form of religion. Here the mechanics of religious bias and fervor work through high emotions, quite away from the world of rational. It is more like a jungle world where the atmosphere smells nothing like human but the human world smells like jungle with all wildness and brutality.

After two Christians were shot dead on blasphemy charges, two Ahmadis were just killed. Both are clearly target killing where it looks obvious that the motives behind are religious. It is a coincidence that both murders took place in Sindh and looks their religious identity dominated their national identity as Pakistanis which eventually could not be tolerated by some from majority.

Since 1984, Ahmadis have been paying the price for a crime which in the first place should have not been a crime, and if it is then death cannot be its punishment. How many more to go to end this intolerance is a question which arises after every murder. Quaid since beginning of Pakistan’s journey has made it clear that this land is for everyone from all religions and casts, but later “true Muslims” decided to kill the element of freedom and secularism existed earlier. And they did it very well.

Many people think in terms of solution to this insanity and so did I. We need to reach out to those religious people who are moderate and respect all regions. Those who believe in religious freedom and preach tolerance according to what Islam has taught them. The voice of secular sounds like “voice of a Kafir (infidel)” to extremists and the real message is somehow lost in the process. The killings are a constant reminder that as a society our growth has stopped somewhere and it is the decline of moral values and humanity. Modern world can offer us new gadgets to stay connected, but it still has not invented anything to transform human minds and hearts.

Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

Two more Ahmadis, Dr. Najam al-Hasan and Pir Habib al-Rehman have
been murdered in religiously motivated killings. Once again, no one
has been arrested and the likelihood of anyone being prosecuted is
virtually nil.

Dr. al-Hasan was leaving his clinic in Karachi, the capital of Sindh
province, and had just entered his car when he was shot dead by a
group of assailants, who remain unidentified. Dr. al-Hasan was just 39
years old and a professor at the Dow Medical University, Karachi.

Pir Habib-al-Rehman, a resident of Sanghar city, Sindh province, was
on his way to his farm when two masked assailants approached his
vehicle and shot him twice. One of the shots fired struck his head. He
was rushed to the hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival. Pir
Habib al-Rehman was a US citizen and had been in Pakistan on personal
business. He is the second US citizen in two years to be killed for
being an Ahmadi. In 2006 Pir Habib’s brother, Dr. Pir Mujeeb
al-Rehman, was also killed for being an Ahmadi Muslim in Sanghar city.
Previously in September, 2008, Dr. Abdul Mannan Siddiqi, also a US
citizen, was brutally killed in Mirpurkhas.

Since the anti-Ahmadiyya Ordinance XX in 1984, 20 Ahmadi doctors have
been killed in sectarian attacks, ten of whom were murdered in Sindh
province. Dr. Najam al-Hasan becomes the second Ahmadi to be killed in
Karachi this year because of his religion. Such violence is a result
of the continuing hatred that is spread throughout Pakistan against
Ahmadiyya Muslims.

Violent assaults against Ahmadis are carried out in the name of
religion and all too often they are premeditated and well organised.
It is most unfortunate that certain parts of the media in Pakistan are
being used to incite the sentiments of people against Ahmadis and
inflame the already raging fire of sectarianism in the country. It is
unacceptable that some of the main media and press is aiding the
fundamentalist and extremist agenda by openly declaring Ahmadis to be
Wajibul Qatl (must be murdered) which is leading to the deaths of
innocent Pakistanis. The fundamentalists encourage these deaths by
claiming that the killers will be entitled to place in heaven.

The recent attacks on Ahmadis in Lahore have shown that it is open
season for extremist and fundamentalist mullahs to spill their venom
against Ahmadis which has resulted in the persecution of Ahmadis in
various cities and towns of Pakistan. This lack of law and order is
resulting in increasing agitation and lawlessness in Pakistan which
does not bode well for the country moving forward.

It is also deplorable to learn that during the current national
emergency (flooding) Ahmadi victims have been denied aid and have been
turned away from shelters. In view of the fact that the government of
Pakistan has been asking for millions of dollars in international aid
they have a duty to explain this to the funding countries. The aid is
being provided for all Pakistanis and this includes the extremists,
fundamentalists, Ahmadis and Christians alike. The AHRC calls on the
government of Pakistan to end this inhumane and barbaric treatment.

The AHRC urges the authorities in Pakistan to safeguard the security
and dignity of all its citizens irrespective of race, religion or
creed. In particular it is the Ahmadis who have been denied basic
fundamental human rights and whose tormentors and killers are never
brought to justice.

In the case of the recent killings the government of Pakistan must
show its sincerity to the world and the countries funding the aid by
ensuring that minority groups will receive the same degree of aid that
the majority are receiving. The killers of Dr. Najam al-Hasan and Pir
Habib al-Rehman must be brought to justice.

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2010 in Ahmadis

 

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Is aid only for Sunnis?


Pakistan is going through a rough patch since deadly terrible floods have hit the country creating the worst “humanitarian crisis. One third of Pakistan’s population has been affected by this horrifying natural calamity which is yet to end. Around 20 million people have seen this phase of their lives ending and the disaster has turned them into helpless refugees. Except the support and aid being generated at home, the crisis needs huge aid packages for rehabilitation of these people from international community. After the United Nations’ appeal for funds, the USA and the Britain respectively have come forward generously so far. But the pledged aid looks so small in the face of destruction. After 2005 earthquake, the floods put the whole nation in a painful and helpless situation where the generous hearts too are hesitant in offering what they could due to suspicions and lack of trust in the government.

Under these circumstances, where 20 million Pakistanis have become affectees, how can anyone think in terms of religious bias and prejudice. The reports exposing that Ahmadis are being isolated and denied aid, food and shelter among relief camps sound so unbelievable. Not in my wildest dreams, I ever thought that religious bias could be strong to this extend where in the midst of death and suffering, Ahmadis are receiving this discriminatory treatment. Families were thrown out of camps on the excuse that other people did not want to live with them at the same place. At some places, aid never reached those areas where Ahmadi families were living. Ahmadis had to spend days and nights on rooftops of their inundated houses or some left to stay with the other members of Ahmadi community. What sort of Muslims and Pakistanis are we; what made us to be proud of ourselves? Is this one of the reasons that even while fighting against the worst disaster, we never forget to express our bias and hatred for those who have different notion of religion. Till how long I will survive with this belief that humanity is the best religion and all biases and prejudices look small in front of it. This attitude of people has added more pain into what we have been suffering in form of floods. Please people we need to be united and it is the right time to rise above these prejudices. We need to have concentrated efforts with positive and constructive minds and big hearts. All the victims are affectees and above all human beings, nothing more than that. The best religion is humanity which is the core of all existing religions and the violation of this core is an insult to all religions and beliefs.

Below is the article:

An article from The Express Tribune forwarded by the Asian Human
Rights Commission

PAKISTAN: Ahmedi families are denied shelter in relief camps

The government and local clerics refused to shelter around 500
flood-affected families belonging to the Ahmadiya community in South
Punjab’s relief camps. Not only that, the government also did not
send relief goods to the flood-hit areas belonging to the Ahmadiya
community, The Express Tribune has learnt during a visit to the
devastated Punjab districts of Muzaffargarh, Dera Ghazi Khan and
Rajanpur.

For its part, the government claims that all relief goods are being
distributed among survivors without discrimination. And that all
survivors have been sheltered in relief camps without distinction. The
flood-devastated families from the Ahmadiya community have strongly
criticised the government’s “discriminatory attitude” even at a time
when the entire country is reeling from the ravages of the worst
flooding in living memory.

Of the 500 Ahmadi families, 350 belong to DG Khan, 60 to Muzaffargarh
and 65 to Rajanpur district. According to Ahmadiya community leaders,
over 2,500 members of their community have been displaced and are now
living with their relatives while some of them have left for Rabwah,
the community’s headquarters.

Aziz Ahmad Khan, a local leader of flood victims from the Ahmadiya
community in DG Khan, told The Express Tribune that all members of his
family have complained of discrimination in DG Khan. He said 200
families from Basti Rindan and Basti Sohrani, 60 from Chah Ismaeel
Wala, three from Rakh Mor Jangi, 18 from Ghazi Ghat and 12 from Jhakar
Imam Shah of Ahmadpur. Khan alleged that 200 families, who have been
displaced from Basti Rindan and Basti Sohrani by flooding, took
shelter in a state-run school at Jhok Utra but within days the local
administration forced them to leave the school. He said the local
administration later told them that people from the surrounding areas
did not want the Ahmadis in the relief camp. And that the
administration could not allow them to stay at the camp as it could
create a law and order situation.

“So we left our cattle and other belongings in the area and took
refuge in the homes of our community members on higher grounds,” he
said, adding that some of them even migrated to Chanabnagar.

Muhammad Iqbal Sohrani, a member of the Ahmadiya community told The
Express Tribune that around 40 Ahmadi families who took shelter in a
state-run school at Jhakar Imam Shah near Sumandri, some 40 kilometres
from DG Khan, have not received any relief either from philanthropists
or from the government. He alleged that relief packages were being
distributed through local lawmakers who have been told by the district
administration that the Ahmadis are not eligible for any support.

Saleem Chandia, another Ahmadiya community member, said that he along
with 40 other community members rented a house but after two days
their landlord was forced by local clerics to evict them. Chandia said
they were offered help by their own community members after wandering
for several days in search of shelter.

Mansoor Ahmad, a resident of Muzaffargarh, told The Express Tribune
that over 800 members of the Ahmadiya community were displaced from
Bait Nasirabad, Masroornagar, Hussainwala and Shahjamal. At least 100
members of the community, from Hussainwala and Masroorabad, were
trapped at Shahjamal. He claimed that they had asked the district
police officer (DPO) and the district coordination officer (DCO) to
provide them a boat or to rescue the trapped people but they did not
take notice.

Ahmad claimed that the trapped Ahmadis were rescued by their fellows
on a broken boat. He said local clerics have issued an edict that the
Ahmadis should not be provided help.

Naseem Ahmad, from Rajanpur, told The Express Tribune that their 500
community members from the areas of Basti Lashari, Basti Allahdad
Dareeshak and from Basti Azizabad were displaced. Their houses were
washed away and the government and local clerics ignored them. He said
that they were not allowed to stay in state-run schools or in camps,
therefore the majority of them were living on the rooftops of their
inundated houses.

“The Ahmadiya community itself rescued trapped people and delivered
relief to them,” community spokesperson Saleem-ul-Din told The
Express Tribune by phone.

He said that the community did not want any relief package from the
government for its members. However, the government should protect the
property and livestock of the Ahmadis.

Hassan Iqbal, Commissioner DG Khan, told The Express Tribune that he
would check the situation. He asked the Ahmadis to directly approach
him if they face discrimination anywhere in the district. However, DCO
Muzaffargarh Farasat Iqbal said that the Ahmadis have not contacted
him.

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2010 in Ahmadis, Tragedy/Crisis/Disaster

 

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Failing Pakistan’s Minorities


By Taufiq Rahim, July 30, 2010

“I would like to believe that peace is possible because without it, there is total darkness.”

These were the grim words that my friend left me with as I returned to Dubai from Lahore on July 11 after a short trip to Pakistan. Family members of his perished in the recent attacks on Ahmadi mosques in the city and he was tasked with identifying their bodies at the morgue. It often seems when reading a Pakistani newspaper that you are in three or four simultaneous war zones. The day I arrived on my most recent trip to the country, Pakistan was hit with its most deadly attack of the year, in its tribal areas, resulting in 102 fatalities.

Amidst the ongoing violence there appears to be a more vigorous targeting of religious groups and sites, particularly in urban areas, culminating in the bombing of a prominent Sufi shrine, the Data Darbar in Lahore on July 1, killing more than 40 worshippers. The number of deaths from sectarian attacks has already reached 302 for 2010, compared to 190 for the whole of last year. It harkens back to 2007, when 441 Pakistanis died in sectarian violence. The difference then was that the targeting was mainly outside of Pakistan’s main cities (i.e. the sectarian clashes in Parachinar in FATA). This trend represents an ongoing effort by a number of militant groups to delegitimize the government and further undermine its authority; it also raises the fear of ‘sectarianizing’ an already volatile climate in Pakistan, which could lead to much greater levels of violence.

On May 28, gunmen raided two Ahmadi mosques, one in the Garhi Shahu area and another in the Model Town area of Lahore. 93 people were killed as they attended Friday prayers.  I visited the Model Town mosque on July 10, where witnesses described the horror of that day and expressed a complete lack of confidence in the authorities ability to protect them from another attack. The attack itself started with gunfire and then a grenade was thrown at the imam’s pulpit inside the mosque. Two of the gunmen were apprehended by the worshippers, and prevented from exploding their suicide belts. According to an official of the community that I met with there, the attackers were no more than 16 or 17 years of age. This place of worship now resembles a war zone. While the bullet holes and other damage have since been repaired, new protective features are prominent: barbed wire, bars on all the windows, massive steel doors, barricades, snipers on the roof, and guns everywhere.

The events at the Ahmadi mosques were not a huge surprise due to the community’s historical ostracization. Ahmadis themselves are a small minority in Pakistan who are officially deemed non-Muslims – due to beliefs that conflict with mainstream Islam – by the country’s constitution since 1974. They are prevented from not only preaching their faith, but also from ‘posing’ as Muslims; this includes using the ubiquitous Islamic greeting ‘salaam alaikum’ and quoting from the Quran, punishable by jail time. The climate, suffice it to say, in Pakistan is extremely hostile to Ahamdis. Even the Pakistani media when reporting the recent attacks, refused to call their places of worships ‘mosques‘.

For residents of Lahore, the more recent attack on the Data Darbar shrine was a particular shock, as it is at the heart of the city’s Islam, the burial site of a respected Persian Sufi saint known as Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh, who lived in the 11th century. Both Hindus and Muslims of the subcontinent have a high regard for venerated spiritual figures, and their burial grounds are often visited by hundreds of thousands of people annually. In Mumbai, one of the most popular tourist destinations is the Haji Ali Dargah, dedicated to a returning pilgrim from Mecca nearly 600 years ago. These sites become places of gathering and resting, and some visitors also come with individual prayers seeking the intercession — or tawassul — of the deceased saints for everything from wealth to help with having children.

In orthodox interpretations of Islam, the veneration of Sufi mystics after their deaths represents a form of shirk or heresy, as it placing a partner beside God. In the utmost of puritanical interpretations particularly in salafi thinking — which the Taliban essentially adhere to — this type of heresy is itself a form of apostasy and thus a visitor of the shrine becomes a legitimate target of jihad. In this frame of thinking, regardless of the fact that some of these locations are at the heart of culture and community, they can be attacked legitimately by militants. Many years ago, Saudi Arabia was populated with Sufi shrines, but most were destroyed or isolated, under pressure from clerics, influenced by radical interpretations of Islam.

In Pakistani cities today, the proliferation of madrassas has made the religious schools the educational destinations of many youth. In Karachi, a city with around 20 million people, the Pakistani government often does not provide adequate educational facilities for students. Religious groups visit families living in so-called katchi abadis or impoverished informal communities within Karachi, and offer their children not only paid education but also food and sometimes lodging. Some of these schools — but certainly not all — offer environments that foster extremism, limit critical thinking, and offer no curriculum aside from religious teaching. In essence, they create a vulnerable cadre of youth who could be influenced to participate in sectarian violence, particularly targeting religious minorities and others viewed as lapsed Muslims. While economists have asserted that madrassas are not the dominant institution in Pakistani education nationwide, it does not negate the fact that there are over 1,800 madrassas operating in Karachi, and an undetermined number are influenced by extremist groups such as the Sipah-e-Sahaba. In fact, studies specifically indicate that there is a particular link between sectarian violence and madrassas, which is also cited in the recent Brookings report on madrassas.

The potential cross-section of Pakistan’s citizens who come into the crosshairs is vast. Among religious minorities, aside from the Ahmadis, there are Christians, Ismailis, Shiites (Twelver), Parsis, and small Sufi groups. The rising violence against the Shiite community (17-26 million population of Pakistan’s some 180 million) has been part of the rising trend in sectarian attacks. While in the 1980s this was more commonplace, large-scale attacks, particularly in the cities, had remained largely absent until the last two years. In December 2008, at least 27 people were killed at a Shiite mosque in Peshawar. A funeral procession for a murdered Shiite cleric was attacked in February 2009, resulting in more than 25 dead. The Taliban then claimed an attack on Shiites during the holy celebration of Ashura in Karachi, in December of 2009, in which 43 people lost their lives. Then again in February of this year, blasts targeting a bus of Shiite worshippers and a subsequent hospital where they were being treated resulted in 18 dead. In between and since there have been other sectarian attacks of a smaller scale.

The potential ramifications of this intensifying violence targeting multiple groups, is potentially catastrophic, beyond even the immediate violence. The Pakistani state is losing its authority very rapidly. The government is consistently viewed as absent and completely incompetent, apparent in many conversations with a wide range of Pakistanis that I’ve been having; more damaging is that the Pakistani Army is not trusted to stop the attacks, and confidence in that institution is very low. Sectarian strife is also sliding down a slippery slope. It could very quickly lead to a larger armed confrontation between the Barelvi movement that represents perhaps half the population and are opposed to the Taliban, and the Deobandi movement, that is much more supportive of a religious philosophy that demonizes Sufis and is sympathetic to the Taliban. The Barelvi were especially taken aback by the damage at the Data Darbar.

The rising sectarian strife and religious violence is prodding Pakistan to have a more reflective conversation on its identity as a nation. Opposition leader Nawaz Shariff came out surprisingly after the attacks on Ahmadis, to call them group his “brothers and sisters”; he was, however, roundly criticized by clerics shortly thereafter. Yet, Pakistan’s national flag itself has a white strip to represent its minorities and their equal status in the country.

For a long time, the government due to its confrontation with India, coddled extremist religious groups such as Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan and its offshoots. Now the national security threat comes from within, and national leaders — whether it’s the army, politicians, or civil society — need to start having a more involved conversation to acknowledge and protect Pakistani’s pluralistic identity and ultimately stop the slide to more sectarian violence. This conversation must confront directly sectarian and extremist philosophies that condition citizenship or legitimacy of Pakistanis based on a religious standard. More importantly, it should lead to real action that curtails religious incitement by clerics, politicians and other prominent figures. Without an honest and open discussion on these issues, Pakistan will continue to suffer the consequences from rising sectarian violence.

Taufiq Rahim is a Visiting Scholar at the Dubai School of Government, and blogs at TheGeopolitico.com.

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2010 in Ahmadis

 

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Pakistan sect endures persecution


Is religion bigger then human life? When the Creator could not do injustice while distributing His blessings upon people; who are we to decide the fate of others? If only “your religion or belief” is superior then how come everyone else is alive, being fed, and being blessed by God regardless of his/her creed, sect and religion. Allah, Khuda, Bhagwan, and God are all names of one superior power who is the most generous and divine. He is the One Who gives life and feeds Christians, Sikhs, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, and even atheists and gives everyone a right to choose his path with all the responsibility of results. When I am allowed to choose my path by my God, then I do not expect the whole society to interfere. When He wants me to be alive then no one else has a right to take my life because I have a different notion of religion. Taking a human life is a sin and those who commit it must understand that no reward is offered for criminals not even in Islam. They must cease committing all crime against humanity in the name of Islam or any other religion.

Below is the article published in Los Angeles Times on Ahmadis:

Pakistan sect endures persecution

Reporting from Faisalabad, Pakistan —
Rifles slung over their shoulders, the guards pacing in front of Naeem Masood’s fabric shop glower at anyone who walks by. It’s not thieves or vandals that Masood is worried about. He needs protection from assassins.

In April, the 29-year-old boyish-faced Pakistani found his father, brother and uncle slumped over in the seats of their car, their faces and chests riddled with more than 60 bullets. All of them were dead, victims of what Ahmadis in their Faisalabad enclave say was a deadly warning from extremists: Renounce your sect or leave the city.

No Pakistani minority is as victimized as the country’s 4 million Ahmadis, who believe in Islam but are viewed by the rest of the country as heretics. Because they revere another prophet as well as the prophet Muhammad, the Pakistani government has declared Ahmadis “non-Muslims,” made it a crime for members to refer to their places of worship as mosques and even barred them from extending the common Muslim greeting, salaam aleykum.
The Ahmadi community’s vulnerability was evident May 28, when Pakistani Taliban gunmen stormed two Ahmadi mosques in Lahore, Pakistan’s second-largest city, and killed more than 90 people caught in a maelstrom of gunfire, grenades and suicide bombings.

Though Pakistan is a multiethnic and multilingual society, it has a long history of marginalizing minority groups. Shiite Muslims have been the target of radical Sunni Muslim groups for years. Last year, in the central Punjab city of Gojra, a mob of 1,000 angry Muslims set more than 40 Christian homes ablaze, killing seven people.

The plight of the Ahmadi community, however, provides a window onto the intolerance that permeates Pakistani society. Ahmadis say the risk they face is heightened by the fact that, in a society where hard-line religious parties wield unchallenged clout, they are viewed as traitors to Islam.

Ahmadis consider themselves Muslims but believe that their late-19th century founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, was a prophet of God, a belief viewed as heresy by Pakistani Muslims who regard Muhammad as Islam’s final prophet.

The sect’s marginalization was set into motion in 1974 when Pakistan’s parliament enacted the law branding Ahmadis as non-Muslims. The crackdown on the Ahmadis intensified in the 1980s during the rule of Gen. Zia ul-Haq, who ordered a maximum three-year prison term for any Ahmadi who called himself a Muslim, carried out the Muslim call to prayer or referred to an Ahmadi place of worship as a mosque.

“As a result of Zia’s decrees, the state facilitated the mullahs who were already against us,” said Syed Mehmood, spokesman for the Ahmadi community in Faisalabad. “That’s when the persecution started. Hundreds of Ahmadis were jailed just because they said Salaam aleykum.”

Mehmood said the persecution continues today, forcing Ahmadis in Faisalabad to find creative ways to survive. As a result of the killings of the three Ahmadi businessmen in April, along with recent kidnappings and other acts of violence against Ahmadis, community members routinely change their routes to and from home, vary the time of day they arrive and leave work, and lie when asked on the phone about their whereabouts. Many of them have put their social lives — going to parties, meeting friends for lunch or tea — on hold.

At Zaheer Malik’s Toyota dealership, a gleaming glass and silver-paneled building out of place amid the cinder-block merchant stalls on the outskirts of Faisalabad, tall, broad-shouldered armed guards stand watch in the parking lot as well as at the foot of the stairs leading to Malik’s second-floor office.

Malik, a wealthy Pakistani Ahmadi in his mid-30s, says he has received several threats recently, including one in May in which a man came to the showroom and urged his driver to quit. “They told him, ‘Your boss is not a Muslim and we might do something to him,’ ” Malik said. ” ‘It’ll be better if you leave the job. We don’t want you to die with him.’

“For last the month, I can’t go to the gym, I can’t go anywhere to have dinner, can’t go to parties, I just stay home,” Malik said. “Every day I’m changing schedules, changing cars. Every day I’m telling someone I’m in Lahore when I’m really in Faisalabad, or I’m in Dubai when I’m actually in Karachi.”

Omar Ahmed, 27, keeps a pistol with him at all times and stations armed guards outside his jewelry store. Ahmed took over the shop after his father, Ashraf Pervaiz, was killed in the same hail of bullets that killed Masood’s father, Masood Javed, and his brother, Asif Masood. Ahmed says that if he could leave Pakistan, he would. But his predicament is the same as Naeem Masood’s: As elder sons, they have to stay for the sake of their families and the family businesses.

“We’re in a battlefield every day,” Ahmed said. “We have to live with the fact that we are Ahmadis.”

Ahmadis say they don’t expect much help from city police, who they say have shown little interest in solving crimes committed against their community. Masood said he recently visited police headquarters to ask whether investigators had made any progress finding the killers of his father, brother and uncle.

“They said, ‘You tell us the names of the gunmen, and we will go and capture them,’ ” Masood said.

Rao Sardar, a top Faisalabad police official, said it’s not a question of police indifference but a simple matter of manpower. The Faisalabad district has a police force of 7,000 officers charged with securing a population of 8 million, he said.

“That’s a very low ratio, and that’s the problem,” Sardar said. “We’re doing all we can do.”

Ahmadis say police indifference is only part of the problem. Laws that brand Ahmadis, a minority regarded elsewhere in the world as a Muslim sect, as non-Muslims only serve to breed intolerance within Pakistani society, large segments of which are illiterate and easily swayed by radical imams and the country’s powerful patchwork of religious parties.

A neighborhood’s lack of reaction to an act of persecution against an Ahmadi often provides an example of that intolerance. A year ago, Laeeq Ahmed was driving home from work when, a few hundred yards from his house, gunmen sprayed his car with bullets. Ahmed’s wife, Nuzhat Laeeq, rushed to her husband, who was still alive but unconscious, and pleaded with bystanders to help. The crowd ignored her, she said.

Ahmed died the next day in a hospital. Later, witnesses of the slaying described to Laeeq what had happened, how the gunmen had celebrated afterward by chanting, “We have killed an infidel!” Despite the presence of witnesses, however, the crime remains unsolved.

“We believe that the government, its legal system and the people here won’t help us,” Laeeq said, speaking in a hushed, quavering voice behind a black veil. “The police won’t give us any kind of investigation. We have left our fate, and this case, up to God.”

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2010 in Ahmadis

 

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