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.
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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