#IStandWithAhmadis, and so should you

Religion is like family; not everyone gets to choose.

Noman Ansari December 05, 2015
Here in Pakistan, we often feel affronted by the mistreatment of the minorities overseas, we identify with racially, religiously, or culturally. Any occurrence of a mosque defiled, or a Muslim man or woman being abused in the West, is quickly shared across social media captioned with angry messages.

This, of course, is fair enough. As someone who considers himself to be a member of this planet rather than defined by race or religion, I feel humanity should know no boundaries. That being said, it is difficult to fathom how the volume of our outrage is directly proportional to the distance of the tragedy from us.

A Muslim man attacked because of his religion in the US shall result in Muslims in Pakistan calling a meeting of humans, elves, hobbits, and wizards to discuss the incident while waving their sabres and staffs. On the other hand, a destruction of an Ahmadi place of worship next door will barely merit a whisper.

The #IStandWithAhmadis is a social media campaign set to last 10 days and is generating considerable buzz on Twitter. Through #IStandWithAhmadis, plenty of people on social media have shown their support for the Pakistanis who have been facing systemic persecution and human rights abuses for the last 50 years.

For those interested, the ‘IStandWithAhmadis’ website is an excellent resource to support, mobilise, educate, and spread loving awareness.

There are five million Ahmadis in Pakistan, and the only frustrations they should face are bijli problems, paani issues and supporting a cricket team that loses habitually – you know, like the rest of us. Instead, they have to learn to walk across broken glass in their own nation because they never know when some lunatic will make their life a living hell.

Recently, a mob in Jhelum, Punjab, burned a factory, while another mob in a nearby town destroyed Ahmadi homes and their place of worship. Later, the monsters who committed these crimes were seen cheering as they danced around the wreckage.

A gut-wrenching report from Tanqeed.org shares more about these events, including how the police had to pretend to arrest Ahmadi boys in order to save them:
“When the enraged mob reached the said worship place, the police had to intervene and in a rare incident of fairness rescued three Ahmadi youth from inside the worship place.”

Unfortunately, the law enforcement officials were mostly part of the problem:
“Police came with their minds made up that Qamar Tahir had burnt pages of the Holy Quran and thrown them in one (of) the factory boilers. God forbid, why would he commit such a heinous act? We are practicing people, but the police pointed at Qamar Sahib saying that he had committed that act.

On Tahir’s arrest, his sons questioned the police, so police arrested them also. One of the boys is still a young teenager, less than 18-years-old. I saw that they were manhandling the boys, slapping them and pulling their hair, says Imran. After the arrests, police personnel arrived again at the factory twice, within a span of 30 to 45 minutes. On the last trip, the District Police Officer (DPO) arrived and went to the boiler where the religious scripture was allegedly thrown. The factory staffer who is allegedly behind the blasphemy charges was the one with the police, Imran says. I did not see the DPO consulting any senior managers of our office. Instead, he went straight to the boiler with the complainant and then left. Qamar’s boys were later released.”

Here, things took a turn for the worse,
“That is when factory staffers saw men gathering outside the factory on motorbikes, and began to be alarmed. Imran and his Ahmadi colleagues quickly gathered and decided to leave the area. Within 45 minutes, Imran and a few families from the colony nearby which holds about eight homes of Ahmadi residents, had begun to organise an escape. Because Imran and some of the others did not have families, it was easy for them to leave the residential area. However, the youth were told by their elders to return to the area near the factory. The mob was at the brink of breaking down the factory gate, and loudspeakers had begun calls of protest and violent actions against Ahmadis. The young Ahmadi youth were needed to assist those hiding out and get them to safety.”

Amongst the influential, reaction has been sadly muted in Pakistan.

Of course, when Israelis cheer as they bomb Gaza, our rage-o-meter kicks into overdrive, almost as if we only care about Muslim lives when they are threatened by non-Muslims.

The elephant in the room is that Ahmadis aren’t considered Muslims by Pakistan (as per the Constitution of Pakistan). Regardless of belief differences, does any Pakistani deserve to be treated like a second class citizen? Let’s be realistic. Most religious people follow their religion because they were born into it. Religion is like family; not everyone gets to choose.




In Pakistan, Ahmadi children are left orphans, Ahmadi women are left widows, and Ahmadi families are left homeless with alarming regularity. Meanwhile, culprits have the audacity to target this minority group because they don’t fear reprisal. Neither our politicians nor our law enforcement officials will take this issue seriously until we make our voices heard.

Personally, I can’t imagine what it is like to live like an unwelcome foreigner on your own soil. This is one of the reasons why #IStandWithAhmadis and so should you.
Noman Ansari The author is the editor-in-chief of IGN Pakistan, and has been reviewing films and writing opinion pieces for The Express Tribune as well as Dawn for five years. He tweets as @Pugnate (twitter.com/Pugnate)
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.