When one is sitting thousands of miles away from Pakistan, every horrifying story and news event come across as more malicious than ever. Perhaps, living in safer countries, where rights are mutually respected and accepted, puts things into clearer perspective. There are times when I want to question God about why I opened my eyes into a society where religion is taken as a point of differentiation? Why was I born in a country where religious places are bombed? Why was I made to be a part of a society in which people continue to disrespect and kill others who are diverse and different?
It is unfortunate that many amongst us continue to kill for religion, money and power, however, what is most unfortunate is that we have stopped paying respects to the dead as well. The desecration of an Ahmadi graveyard in Lahore is a prime example of the brutal death of Pakistan’s conscience.
Religious bigots who continue to consider themselves as saviors of the Muslim brotherhood fail to realise that desecrating graves is not exactly aligned with the teachings of Islam. What purpose does this grotesque act serve rather than further disrespecting the dead, lying six feet under the ground seeking the peace that they could not get in the sanctuary of their own country? Is it not enough that fanatics disallow the Ahmadi community to live peacefully in Pakistan, that now they must destroy their final resting places?
It is admonishable that the culprits were not even arrested for the repulsive acts that they have committed. Where were the law enforcing agencies and what happened to the caretakers of the graveyard? No matter what faith you belong to, it is impossible to not wonder about the families of the people whose graves were disrespected in the most obscene of ways. Most of us are nothing more than living corpses who neither feel nor understand the pain of hundreds of suffering non-Muslims and Muslim minorities living in Pakistan.
More tragic is the fact that our respected Chief Justice, the custodian of human rights, fails to take any action against the mistreatment of living — and now also dead — minorities. If there ever was a suo moto action to take against anything, it would be this.
Discouraged by the law and order situation and the ubiquity of religious fundamentalism in Pakistan, many Ahmadis have been forced to migrate to other countries in the hope of being treated on equal footings with other people in the society.
An Ahmadi who now lives in Toronto shared his views on the incident, on condition of anonymity, “I am not at all surprised to hear that the intolerance has penetrated so deeply into the roots of our society. How can you expect militants and fundamentalist to respect the people who have left this world for good when they do not feel any pain for people who are alive? My family left Pakistan in the early 1990s because we were literally hounded by clerics and people who supported them. We would receive threatening letters about how if we do not accept the ‘one and only true form of Islam’ we would be killed or worse, our daughters would be raped because according to them sexually assaulting an Ahmadi woman was not considered a crime.”
“Fundamentalists believe that we use excuses such as the one I just mentioned to seek asylum in foreign countries. That is certainly not the case. Nobody wants to leave their country and everything that they possess and start from scratch. But most of us are not left with any option,” he said, tears glistening in his eyes.
Neither any social class nor any age is taken into consideration when it comes to the persecution of Ahmadis in Pakistan. Adults and children alike are mistreated for their differing religious beliefs. Workplaces, playgrounds and even schools are used as platforms to spread hatred about them. Educational institutes primarily top the list of miscreants who aim to indoctrinate young minds by filling them with hatred for anyone who does not conform to their religious standards.
Many Ahmadi students have been expelled from colleges and universities without any rhyme or reason whereas, others are abused with degrading and hurtful words. It is most ironic but when the entire world was filled with violence and disharmony over the Innocence of Muslims, a group of Ahmadi students was busy organising symposiums in Canadian universities to discourage violence by highlighting the aspects of the holy prophet and how the video was nothing but a way to instigate hatred and aggression. The symposium I attended was held at one of the local universities in the city of Windsor in Ontario. A lot of students showed up for it, some were Christians, many were Muslims and others were agnostic. Most of them came to hear about the life of one of the most revered personalities in Islam and left the auditorium with positive feelings about the religion and its followers.
For me, these students are the true saviors. They’re trying to abridge the communication gap between different communities by answering hundreds of questions which are important to address in order to build an inclusive society.
Societies which thrive on religious disharmony and bigotry perish sooner than later. It is time for us to wake up and safeguard the rights of religious minorities. It is time for us to hold their hands and stand in defiance to the fundamentalist elements who take advantage of our silence. It is indeed time to acknowledge their sacrifices and treat them with the respect that they truly deserve because their graves now seek answers.
The writer is a Reporter at Dawn.com