Then they came for me


Rubina Saigol May 29, 2010

“They came first for the Communists I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. "Then they came for the Jews And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. "Then they came for the trade unionists And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

"Then they came for me And by that time no one was left to speak up.”

(Martin Niemöller)

Today, I was reminded painfully of the lines above. I watched in horror as scores of Ahmadis were gunned down mercilessly in their places of worship. Lahore was under siege. There were mindless bloodbaths in Model Town and Garhi Shahu where members of the Ahmadi community were butchered as they said their Friday prayers. Their only fault: a difference of belief.

Today, I write these lines with the burden of conscience lying heavy on my soul. For the past few months I was getting phone calls from desperate members of the Ahmadi community who were requesting me to write about their plight and their impending doom. At a conference last week, I was approached by one of them who gave me materials documenting atrocities against his community. I saw a desperate plea in his eyes as he asked me to tell the world about threats to their lives. The pangs of guilt and remorse are intense today because thought I kept planning to, I had not yet picked up my pen.

Lahore was a sleepy little town when I was growing up. Garhi Shahu is close to the Convent of Jesus and Mary where I went to school, and where we were taught about equality, love, tolerance and justice for all humankind. I realised with painful agony what it means to remain silent. To these murderers we are all condemned groups. Next they will come for Christians, then Parsis, then Hindus, then women, Marxists, socialists, feminists — in short for anyone who disagrees with their version of the truth.

A state protects all its citizens as its foremost duty in the social contract. Yet, it is the second amendment in our constitution that seeks to exclude people. It is our constitution that differentiates between citizens despite declaring all citizens equal before law. Our social contract even chooses to define who is and is not a Muslim. Our bureaucratic procedures further reinforce such prejudices by forcing our citizens to demean the Ahmadis, or else we will not be issued our passports! This is the worst kind of hate speech, for it is inscribed on the state with official approval.

I write with a heavy heart for we as a nation have lost our way. Today, religious prejudice and bigotry are not only a part of our official procedures or imposed by an exclusionary state; they surround us in all our interactions from the most personal to the political, from the private to the public.

It is not enough to say that the culprits should be apprehended and brought to book. It is not enough to say that our laws and policies need to be reviewed and overhauled. These are all important but we need to do much more. We need to change the media where bigotry has become an art form; we need to change our curriculum where hate is integral to our understanding of those who are different. We need changes all the way from our families and communities, our places of worship to our official structures and systems to root out the ugliness within us. We need to confront the monster within so that our innocent fellow-citizens are not condemned to death for no fault other than a difference of belief.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 30, 2010.

COMMENTS (22)

don wallman | 10 years ago | Reply As a young boy growing up in Sanawar India, everyone looked the same to me, you all had the same colour skin, some had long hair some the same as mine “short” but you all had black hair with a few gray haired gents. When India had its independence in 47, I had to move and I was sent to an orphanage in England in 49. Many, many years later I found out there was a bloodbath as you decided to kill each other. This I did not understand, as far as I was concerned you were brothers. So, tell me. Why do you like killing each other? You must do because you keep doing it. I realise now you all made a choice to kill each other, I know I did not tell you to kill each other. NO, how I see it, the unkindness and the hate is taught to you by the people you most respect. These people convince you not to think for yourself. You are to say do and think whatever it is they want you to. And at the end, they seem to be teaching you to hate one another. What is sad, you fall for it hook, line and sinker then start blaming each other for ALL your misery. All over the world the people become zombies, murdering each other because a holy man tells them to. People bow down to these people worshipping them for showing them the way to hate and kill one another. At 74, all I can do is shake my head knowing deep within, all of us are stupid. Do you think an intelligent person would kill and keep killing each other for THOUSANDS of years? You ALL make a choice. You may choose to keep killing each other, in doing so you are dead. Or you may choose to LOVE one another, and in doing so you will be alive because your heart will be where it is supposed to be, and that is, in the land of the living. I wish you all love from my heart, be at peace and CHOOSE to co-create in love and peace. Please awake from the hypnotic sleep and live with joy in your heart. Next time you have an unkind thought or wish to do an unkind deed against your brother, ask yourself. What would LOVE do and think. Fakha Wrote: Clergymen that were against the idea of Pakistan, they continue to conspire against Pakistan. This is high time to eradicate all these anti-humanity and anti-Pakistan elements without showing any mercy. But I doubt any one in the echelons of power will follow the Mustafa Kamalism to get us rid of this menace. End of quote. The words you write will not heal, one can not expect to be loved by another when you ask people to eradicate them. Saying that promotes hate and killings. Begin by thinking LOVE and holding love in your heart for all then as more and more people do you will find love spreading throughout the land, much the same way as hate has spread. All started with a thought. Peace, Donald.
Salman Ahmad | 10 years ago | Reply I don't know how to say this correctly without offending anyone but the issue with general mindset is that they all condemn such attacks on minorities today but ask them "Do you want Islamic Shariah?" and my estimation is 90% of them would say "Yes", even I would find it difficult to day "No" to such a question. Don't believe me? Go out and ask this question from 10 people around you and see if my statistics are wrong
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