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Minorities Report

Anti-Ahmadi sentiment is so pervasive among Pakistanis that even members of the community who should be hailed as national heroes are vilified.

Ahmadiyya Times | News Watch | US Desk
Source/Credit: The New York Times | Blog – Latitude
By Huma Yusuf | December 6, 2012

LONDON — On Monday, a dozen masked gunmen said to be affiliated with the ­Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba broke into a graveyard in an elite neighborhood of Lahore, the historic capital of Punjab Province. They tied up the guard, a caretaker and about 20 visitors, and then vandalized 120 gravestones.

It was a graveyard for Ahmadis, a minority sect that identifies itself as Muslim but is rejected by most Pakistanis as heretical for believing there was a prophet after Muhammad. The vandals destroyed gravestones inscribed with Koranic verses; they frown on Ahmadis’ using Muslim prayers in epitaphs.

As Pakistan grows increasingly intolerant of minorities, Ahmadis are becoming prime targets of both violence and widespread discrimination.

In 2008, within 48 hours of a television broadcast featuring a popular televangelist and clerics who argued that Ahmadis should be killed, two members of the community were shot dead in separate incidents. In the most egregious attack to date, Pakistani Taliban simultaneously attacked two mosques in Lahore in 2010, killing 93 Ahmadis.

Taking a cue from this violence, many other Pakistanis are sidelining the minority. Earlier this year the Lahore Bar Association banned the sale of fruit juices produced by an Ahmadi-owned company. Ahmadis in Rawalpindi were prevented from congregating during Eid. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s otherwise feisty media have seemed insensitive to the community’s plight.

Anti-Ahmadi sentiment is so pervasive among Pakistanis that even members of the community who should be hailed as national heroes are vilified. Extremists deleted the word “Muslim” from the gravestone of Abdus Salam, an Ahmadi and theoretical physicist whose work provided evidence of the Higgs boson’s existence; his family had had it inscribed with “the first Muslim Nobel laureate.” Salam had been systematically shunned and eventually banned from lecturing at public universities because of his religious beliefs.

The discrimination is especially horrifying because it is mandated by the state. In 1974, then Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto oversaw an amendment to the Constitution that declared Ahmadis to be non-Muslims; he was hoping to secure the support of religious political parties in upcoming elections. As the Pakistani state formally became more Islamic in the 1980s, it further curtailed the community’s rights.

Ahmadis are now prohibited by law from proselytizing, making the call to prayer, describing their houses of worship as mosques or even identifying as Muslims. In fact, in order to obtain a passport, all Pakistani citizens have to sign an oath declaring that Ahmadis are not Muslim.

After Monday’s graveyard attack in Lahore, local police filed a case against the unknown gunmen for trespassing, intimidation and wrongful restraint. But often the authorities are a direct part of the problem.

In August, police officers whitewashed religious inscriptions from an Ahmadi graveyard in Hafizabad, a district of Punjab — all in the name of averting bloodshed: members of an extremist organization had threatened to attack Ahmadis if the gravestones were not razed. In September, police officials destroyed 23 gravestones in an Ahmadi graveyard in Faisalabad, a Punjabi city, at the direct instigation of local clerics.

As they gear up for general elections in 2013, Pakistani politicians refrain from speaking out against mounting discrimination against the Ahmadi community for fear of alienating conservative voters. But how long can political expediency trump basic religious rights and human dignity?

Read original post here: Minorities Report

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