Participants: Imtiaz Alam, Khaled Ahmed, and Sadaf Arshad
Participants: Imtiaz Alam, Khaled Ahmed, and Sadaf Arshad
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.
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.”