Jhelum: a tale of bigotry and hypocrisy in Pakistan | Shahrukh Wan - Ahmadiyya Media Library


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Friday, 11 December 2015

Jhelum: a tale of bigotry and hypocrisy in Pakistan | Shahrukh Wan

We as a nation are very globally conscious; when a Muslim teenager in Texas was arrested for making a clock, we headed towards social media to highlight Islamophobia in the west. When Muslim actors faced criticism in India, we made sure that Hindu nationalists knew that we were listening but when it comes down to our own discriminatory behaviour towards Ahmedis we tend to remain silent.

A few weeks back, our ‘enlightened’ citizens decided to put their faith in gossip; appointing themselves as judge, jury and executioner they marched towards defending their religion from the wraths of a defence-less community. Burning down a factory and a mosque while displacing dozens of people, these self-appointed crusaders may have slept that night thinking that they had protected their city from the ruthless arms of minorities.

But the same night, two-year-old Sabiha Ahmad was among dozens who were forced to flee the city, leaving behind their livelihoods. These families now face uncertainty in a nation that refuses to recognise her or her kind: the Ahmedis. The response of the media, the people and the government remained lukewarm at best. Ignoring the underlying problem of bigotry in our society, the government chose to remain silent rather then take on the conservative electorate.

The prosecution of Ahmedis is nothing new. Pakistan has gone out of its way to isolate and victimise the community just because their religious belief does not correlate with the beliefs of the majority. The country has even gone as far as passing constitutional amendments that unfairly target the Ahmedis. Even universities, which are supposed to be hubs of intellectual curiosity and social change, are not immune to integrating this blatant form of discrimination. One of the leading engineering schools in the country asks for an oath to be taken by the faculty to make sure they do not accidentally hire an Ahmedi.

Imagine the same incident happening in India: a mosque being burned down. Better yet, imagine the Indian Constitution making it illegal for Muslims to practice their religion freely. Imagine it were Sunni Muslims who had to face this kind of harassment, intimidation and persecution. Would you not be outraged? Yes, we all would be, and fairly so, but the fact is this outrage has become conditional. Pakistanis — or at least the vast majority of them — do not feel the sympathy or pain of the suffering of those prosecuted by us as a nation because changing ourselves is far tougher then pointing at others to change.

Ahmedis are one of many communities who face repeated prosecution in Pakistan; Shia Muslims, Christians, and Hindus have not been spared from these ‘social purifiers’ either. Pakistan’s only Nobel laureate in Physics, Dr Abdus Salam, has been erased from Pakistani textbooks just because he belonged to the Ahmedi community — even his tombstone was not spared. According to the Sindh government’s figures, around 20 to 25 forced conversions take place every month in the province, mainly targeting the sidelined Hindu community. The ghosts of Gojra, a Christian colony which was burnt down, still lingers in the memory of Pakistani minorities. More recently, Pakistan’s Capital Development Authority (CDA) justified its slum razing by claiming that they host a large number of Christians, which could cause ‘demographic problems’ for the capital city.

We have integrated this bigoted behaviour in our social fabric. We may laugh at Donald Trump for making bigoted statements towards American Muslims but our actions reflect a deeper and more alarming presence of the same behaviour. The fact is that today even questioning a social ill can lead one being labelled a Jewish agent, Indian sympathiser or, worse, a ‘liberal’. Pakistan risks becoming an ideologically bankrupt state, where any difference of beliefs or opinions can lead to social exclusion. In a nation where everyone is a judge there will never be any hope of any justice.

The writer is the CEO of the Centre for Youth Activism of Pakistan. He is pursuing a degree in International Development from the University of London. He tweets @shahrukhwani

Read original post here: Jhelum: a tale of bigotry and hypocrisy in Pakistan |  Shahrukh Wani

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