Yesterday, a very close family friend – someone I have always considered an uncle – was arrested in Pakistan. His crime: he had printed verses from the Holy Quran in an Urdu publication.
My uncle is an Ahmadi, and under Pakistan’s notorious anti-Ahmadi laws, he committed a ‘crime’ punishable by at least three years imprisonment and a fine. The law states that an Ahmadi who “poses as a Muslim hurts the religious feelings of Muslims”.
In the late 80s, three of my maternal uncles spent time behind bars under these same anti-Ahmadi laws for the crime of saying the Kalimah. Thousands of Ahmadis – and every Ahmadi family have their own story to tell – have been imprisoned for their basic religious profession since the promulgation of these laws in 1984. Tired of my friends and family being jailed for their religious freedoms, I am writing this to seek answers. I am addressing you, the constitutionally accepted Muslims of Pakistan.
But first some lessons from history.
With the advent of Islam in seventh century Arabia, the early Muslims faced brutal persecution at the hands of the Meccan Mullahs. Offended by Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) faith and teachings, they curtailed the freedoms and rights of the early converts.
The Muslims were stopped from calling themselves Muslims. Instead, they were forced to refer to themselves as ‘Sabis’. They were punished if caught praying or reciting revealed Quranic verses. They were forbidden from going close to the Ka’aba. They were not permitted to proclaim the unity of God. They were forbidden the profession and propagation of their newfound faith, and the consequences of doing so were dire. Many early Muslims were tortured, many killed and eventually almost all were forced out of Mecca.
The feelings of the Meccans were hurt by the religious freedom of the early Muslims, who were considered heretics in their own city.
Fast forward to the current age – this tragic story is repeating itself in the same detail in Pakistan today. The Pakistani state claims that you, the constitutionally recognised Pakistani Muslims, are hurt by my religious freedom.
As an Ahmadi, I am not permitted to refer to myself as a Muslim in Pakistan, not even in many otherwise liberal publications. The state tells me that this “hurts your religious feelings”.
I am not permitted to refer to my place of worship as a mosque because the state tells me that this also “hurts your religious feelings”. I cannot risk being caught reading the Holy Quran or saying my prayer because I am told this offends you too.Read more