When Will World Finally Notice The Murder of Ahmadi Muslims?

30 December 2014
Published in

By Huma Munir

December 30, 2014


What happens when an influential broadcaster incites hatred against a minority group in a country where minorities have very few rights to begin with? Innocent people get murdered. What happens to the person who incited the violence? Sadly, nothing.

Aamir Liaquat, the host of a religious talk show on Pakistan’s largest news broadcasting organization, recently invited so-called Islamic clerics to promote his own agenda of prejudice. These clerics vehemently issued inflammatory remarks about Ahmadi Muslims— a religious minority persecuted for their beliefs in Pakistan and other parts of the Islamic world.

For those unaware, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is a sect of Islam founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (peace be with him) of Qadian, India in 1889. He claimed to be the Promised Messiah awaited by many religions in the world. As Ahmadis, we believe that he came in the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be on him) to revive the true teachings of Islam. However, some in the Islamic world disagree and believe that this violates the finality of Prophet Muhammad’s prophethood.

Over the last century, millions of people from over 200 countries have accepted the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. It is becoming one of the fastest growing sects of Islam, and for this reason, some clerics in the Islamic world deem it necessary to berate our community because they see it as a threat to their brand of Islam.

Back to Liaquat’s TV show. On it, the clerics viciously criticized Pakistan’s Ahmadiyya community on GEO Television, calling them the enemies of Pakistan and, shockingly, blaming them for the recent horrific Peshawar school attack that claimed the lives of 145 people, including 132 children. Liaquat nodded in agreement as one of the clerics furiously declared that Ahmadi Muslims are the root cause of every problem in Pakistan. Frighteningly, the audience of the show applauded.

The Pakistani nation is currently wrought with grief over the Peshawar attack and Liaquat is exploiting their emotional vulnerability to promote his own hate-filled agenda. What is so alarming is that Liaquat and the clerics on his show are among the most influential voices in Pakistan. And now Liaquat is taking advantage of this tragedy by providing a platform for hatred against Ahmadi Muslims who have nothing to do with this atrocity.

Within days of Liaquat's TV show, an innocent Ahmadi Muslim man in eastern Pakistan was gunned down. There’s little doubt in my mind that there’s a connection between the hate filled words presented on the TV show and the murder of this man who was shot in the back of the head.

We heartbreakingly saw the same thing in 2008 after Liaquat, along with clerics, incited hatred against Ahmadi’s on another episode of his TV show. The clerics went as far as to declare Ahmadis as “wajabul qatl” or deserving of death. Within days of that broadcast, two prominent Ahmadi Muslim leaders in Pakistan were murdered.

Ahmadi Muslims have never carried out violent or even peaceful demonstrations against the countless atrocities. They are the victims of the same oppression and violence that took the innocent lives in the Peshawar attack. In fact in 2010, militants attacked two Ahmadi Muslim mosques in Pakistan and killed more than 80 worshippers. How can the victims of such atrocity, who are familiar with the pain of being butchered at the hands of extremism, carry out such horrific attacks? This defies logic.

Truth is, Pakistani media are looking for a scapegoat and Ahmadi Muslims are an easy target. Why? Because Ahmadi Muslims are an extremely vulnerable group of people, who face a government sanctioned persecution. In 1974, the government laid out a set of criteria which defines who is a Muslim and who isn’t. Ahmadi Muslims were declared non-Muslims.

Over the next decade, the government passed more laws against Ahmadi Muslims to prevent them from professing their faith openly. They were forbidden to even call their places of worship “mosques.” If the government, the most powerful entity within a nation, refuses to protect its own citizens, it becomes easier for people like Liaquat to continue their hatemongering.

So what really happens when an influential public figure denounces minorities in a country that is built on the idea of intolerance and hate? People are murdered but the killers are not brought to justice.

Liaquat has blood on his hands. Yet his show continues to have grave consequences for Ahmadi Muslims, who are berated by the government and the media. If Pakistan truly wants to atone for the violence in Peshawar school attack, it should not allow Liaquat or anyone else to spew more hatred against an innocent group of people.

It is about time that Pakistani government, the media and the public woke up from its slumber of ignorance and put an end to the unjust policies that allow such atrocities to happen. Only then can we hope that the media in Pakistan will be held accountable for putting minorities at risk.

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Huma Munir is an ESL teacher in San Antonio ISD, Texas and  a member of Teach for America, San Antonio.  She serves as the local media secretary for Ahmadiyya Muslim Women Association in Austin, Texas. You can follow Huma on Twitter.

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Saving Our Humanity In The Face Of Peshawar Tragedy

20 December 2014
Published in Blog

By David Peduto 

December 20, 2014

My thoughts remain fixated on the terrible attack at Army Public School in Peshawar, Pakistan. The killing of 145 people, most of whom were but children, is a hard thing to shake. Coming in the wake of a terrible hostage taking in Sydney and amidst the ongoing wave of evil and subjugation propagated by ISIS, the attack has left many asking what has happened to humanity. If people in the world cannot recognize so much as the innocence of children, then what possible hope can we have for our future? If the flag bearers of the world to come are taken away from us, then what does this say about the world and time in which we live?

This is an event that touches us all. According to the Islamic tradition, the Prophet Mohammad once said that to kill one is to kill all of humanity. Whether you accept him as a prophet of God or not, certainly we can all accept the universality of the statement. It asserts the same sentiment of John Donne that no man is an island. Like it or not, we’re in this together.

Since the attack, I have seen tweets flatly stating “Shame on Humanity.” I have seen a cartoon of a freshly dug grave with only the word “HUMANITY” etched on the tombstone. I have seen pictures of the aftermath of what one can do to another, to so many others, in the confines of a school building. It’s saddening, challenging, and leaves anything but optimism for all those exposed to it.

But while the event challenges our belief in humanity, may our response reaffirm our faith in it. We cannot define ourselves by what happens to us. Rather, how we give definition to ourselves is by how we deal with the cards that we are dealt. This is as true on an individual level as it is on an international one. Even in the wake of such terrible tragedy, we have been about the work of defining our humanity.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, people in Peshawar were lining up to give blood to the victims. In cities across Pakistan, the United States, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere, candlelight vigils have shed light on the power of solidarity amidst human tragedy. If we believe in humanity, as such events so clearly demonstrate that we do, then surely we believe in the power of good will. It is just such good will that I have seen manifested in an effort to assuage the pain of those most closely affected by the event.

And if we believe in humanity, then we must put all humans in it. We must not allow ourselves the convenience of dismissing the perpetrators of such crimes as “animals” or any other type of non-humans. No, we must face the fact cold and true that the people responsible this attack and others like it are just that – people. We must accept the fact that somehow there are people in the world who feel justified in committing such a heinous act of violence. We must accept the fact that there are conditions in our world, our very human world, that have brought people to the point of accepting wanton killing as a righteous act. We must accept the fact that there exist man-made reasons as to why people feel that it is okay to kill. It is in the hope that by understanding such reasons that we can work to remove the ills that lead to such inhumane acts in our society.

Finally, may we resist the urge to see this attack as but another event in the saga of terrorism that we so readily apply to a place like Pakistan. For many, this act is but the latest indication of the way things have always been and will always be in that faraway country. It need not be this way – indeed, it shouldn’t.

I do not believe in inevitability so much that I do not think people are incapable of righting a wrong. While we cannot change what has been done, we have all the power in the world to shape that which has yet to come. Considering ourselves powerless to positively change the way things are is hardly a testament to the human spirit. We’ve always accepted the challenge and, despite our faults, have been done better for it. That is the humanity I know.

In the wake of such tragedy, may we recourse to our shared humanity and be about the necessary work to mitigate such evil in our time and for our future. We owe it to ourselves, and to the 145 souls we lost but a short time ago.

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David Peduto is a student of Islam, the Middle East, and Arabic. He lives in Boston where, when he's not working for a Big Data company, he enjoys paddle boarding on the Charles River and performing improv comedy.

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Taliban versus Education: Who Will Win?

18 December 2014
Published in Blog

By Yahya Bedair 

December 18, 2014

In an act of utter cowardice, Taliban attacked a school in Peshawar and murdered 145 people. The shocking news is even harder to swallow when one learns that out of the 145 people killed, 132 of them were children. Aged 12-16, these educated children had the potential to make a great impact on their country in the future. But does Taliban want a better Pakistan?

The excruciating news of the Peshawar attack reminded me of the similar violent assault on the Noble Peace Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai. In 2012, Yousafzai was shot three times while boarding her bus to school. She remained unconscious for days and was left hanging between life and death just for promoting women’s right to education. She was targeted because her advocacy for education went against Taliban’s ban, which infuriated the extremist group.

At this point it becomes clear that education is the anathema to Taliban. They tried to kill Yousafzai, they failed. They went on a shooting spree at a school in Peshawar- and they will fail. One thing we need to put in mind is that education will never play in Taliban’s favor. Taliban’s main asset is ignorance; the extremist group relies on recruiting people who can commit acts against Islam- in the name of Islam. To achieve that, it takes some overwhelming ignorance.

Pakistan, in fact, suffers from a serious education problem. According to the UNESCO, Pakistan has the “world’s second highest number of children out of school, reaching 5.1 million children in 2010.” Moreover, the country has 49.5 million illiterate adults, two-thirds of which are women. These figures make Pakistan the host of the third largest illiterate population in the world. These numbers make Taliban feel safe and comfortable. It provides a fertile ground for recruiting people who are easily deluded into joining and accepting the group’s twisted doctrine. Hence, it comes as no surprise that Taliban attacks schools and girls like Malala Yousafzai because these children prove to be the biggest threat to Taliban.

Therefore, the silver lining of this tragic attack is that now we know that the group is very vulnerable and weak. These attacks were meant to scare people from sending their children to schools, but I believe it should encourage them instead. Your children’s education is Taliban’s death sentence. Promote education in Pakistan and work on building more affordable, public schools to the destitute and Taliban will no longer have a place among the Pakistanis.

**In the memory of the 145 killed, you will not be forgotten. Many times we take the privilege of education for granted, but this attack should always remind us that not many enjoy this privilege.**

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Yahya Bedair is a freelance writer. He recently graduated from Brandeis University with a degree in Politics and minors in Economics and Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies. Follow him on Twitter at @TheYB92

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What We See and What We Don’t in Pakistan bombings

07 November 2014
Published in Blog

By David Peduto 

November 7, 2014

It happened again. On Sunday, November 2, another terrorist attack took place in Pakistan. At least 56 people were killed in a bombing near the country’s Wagah border crossing with India.

Without even looking at a picture from the scene, you can probably draw a pretty good image of it. Pools of blood, white sheets, people crying. All these terrorist attacks, they all look the same.

While a picture can say a thousand words, what is missing from it can say millions more. In the pictures, we see blood, we see shrouds, we see the tears. These are all readymade images that we can apply no matter the place or the people involved. As one of the characters from John Steinbeck’s novel, East of Eden, would have it, we’ve come to see what we expect.

A challenge I would pose, however, is for us to contemplate that which we cannot see in these pictures. Since this idea of believing in something we can’t even see may seem ridiculous, allow me to explain.

As a practicing Christian, I’ve come to find that so much of my faith is based on just that. I cannot see God. I cannot testify to the acts of Jesus through my personal experience. Heaven is some land in the hereafter of which I’ve heard much but of which I can draw no memory.

But hearsay is not heresy. Nor does belief belittle our being. It is belief that serves as the foundation of any faith. The power of the unseen has a potency unknown to the mere mortal works of man. Belief sustains, motivates, and enables us to believe in some Greater Good to which we can all contribute.

An example.

What you do not see in any pictures from this attack at Wagah is a middle-aged man who lives and works a stone’s throw away in Lahore. He is sitting behind a desk, eyes framed by glasses, with his nephew and myself seated before him. He has the bags under his eyes that a fifteen-hour workday might produce, but a tenacity in the pupils above that seem to operate on a different body clock.

He is a cardiac surgeon who loves what he does. He is the one to whom the “impossible” cases are sent, and then he sends the patients home with better hearts. He’s operated on everyone from government officials to street sweepers. He is a man who believes that no single life is greater than any other. It is to protecting the most valuable gift we have – life – that he has dedicated himself.

And it is for this reason that he gets animated when the topic of terrorism comes up in our conversation. He despises it, he tells us. It undoes everything that a man like him aims to do. It is an affront to his very humanity, let alone his profession. He tells us that “a suicide bomber can kill 200 people like that,” with a loud snap of his fingers, while he and his colleagues will spend however long necessary to save a single life.

The conviction and goodness of this man comes to mind in the wake of this terrorist attack so close to his home. At this moment, he may well be working to save one of the lives that the terrorist involved aimed to end.

I recognize that you have never met or even seen this doctor. But, believe me, I have and am relaying this story to you in as true a form as my memory will allow. He is there, in Lahore, with so many other kind-hearted individuals who just as vehemently despise this act of terror.

A person like this doctor may not be who we see in the pictures from this event. In a similar vain, he may not be the kind of person we would expect to live in a place like Pakistan. But I speak from experience when I say that he does, and that he and so many others make up the overwhelming majority in the Land of the Pure.

So if you see a picture from this attack, or of any other, believe that there is more to complete the image. Because there is. Just because a man like this doctor in Lahore is not caught by the camera does not mean that he is not there. He may not be what we expect, but that is more a reason for us to assess our expectations than to paint a place or a people with the broad stripes of terrorism.

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David Peduto is a student of Islam, the Middle East, and Arabic. He lives in Boston where, when he's not working for a Big Data company, he enjoys paddle boarding on the Charles River and performing improv comedy.

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