By Mahrukh Arif:
On a day when we celebrated Martin Luther King day, I asked the same question he once did – what are we doing for others ?Â A simple question yet so deep and powerful.
Today, I chose to do something for someone. Someone who has been in jail for the past 51 days for having recited the Quran. Doctor Masood, a British Ahmadi Muslim who returned to Pakistan as he wished to help people through his medicine. BBC relates the facts – ‘Mr Ahmad, 72, was arrested at his homeopathic clinic in Lahore on blasphemy charges. Two people posing as patients came to him for treatment and had a conversation about religion instead. They used mobile phones to secretly film him reciting a verse from the Koran, and then called the police to have him arrested.’ Ahmadis are Muslims who believe in Mirza Ghulam Ahmad to be the promised Messiah of the latter days as propheticed by all the religions. They also believe that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was a prophet and provide a different interpretation of the word, Khatamun Nabiyyin, mentioned in the Quran for the prophet Muhammad. It is on the basis of this mere dogmatic difference that they are considered to be non Muslims by mainstream Islam.
Confident of state support, the Jamat-e-Islami contested the 1970 elections in Pakistan, only to suffer big reversals. Thereafter, Jamaat started a widespread anti-Ahmadiya movement in Pakistan.
In 1973, Maududi condemned them as heretics in his book, Qadiani Problem (The word “Qadian” is a derogatory term for Ahmadis used by opponents of the Ahmadiya Community). Their agitation against Ahmadis resulted in widespread anti-Ahmadiya sentiment throughout Pakistan. This anti- Ahmadiya movement led Pakistani prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to declare Ahmadis as constitutionally “non-Muslims” in 1974. Later, in 1984, the Government of Pakistan under General Zia-ul-Haq passed Ordinance XX, which banned proselytizing by Ahmadis and also banned Ahmadis from identifying themselves as Muslims. According to this ordinance, any Ahmadi who refers to himself as a Muslim by either spoken or written word, or by visible representation, directly or indirectly, or makes the call for prayer as other Muslims do, is punishable by imprisonment of up to 3 years as it is considered as blasphemous.
Doctor Masood is just one among the various cases of blasphemy registered against Ahmadis. Mr. Qasim Rashid, an eminent American lawyer, published a book titled “The Wrong Kind of Muslim — A story of persecution and perseverance” last year,Â in which he explained in detail all forms of persecutions — physical, social and political, made not only against Ahmadis but also against Christians, Hindus, Shias and every other religious minority.
The reason I chose to speak for Doctor Masood is to let the world know how absurdly blasphemy laws are being used and the urge to repeal them. A man who recites the Quran is sent to jail because “he behaved like aÂ Muslim”. Blasphemy laws that pretend to be religious laws are rather used for individual or political purposes to oppress minorities. They have no link with religion whatsoever, it has become a tool to suppress people’s freedom of religion and conscious. It is something that will undoubtedly lead Pakistan to its end as it kills freedom, democracy and all the principles for which mankind has fought for. In this day and age, how can we still tolerate such things?
So, as we remember the great Martin Luther King, I chose to speak up, to speak up for Ahmadi Muslims and I stand against their persecutions just as I stand against the persecutions of every other religious minority in Pakistan and I would like every Pakistani and non Pakistani to join me so that together, we overcome extremism.