Intolerance and bigotry

Editorial April 19, 2010

KARACHI: There are few things more shameful than the appalling treatment meted out to religious minorities in the country both under the law and by society in general.

Article 20 of the Constitution states that “every citizen shall have the right to profess, practise and propagate his religion.” Yet this right, which Muslims loudly protest for on the relatively rare occasions that it is violated in the West, is something that most do not seem to be willing to grant to their own fellow citizens.

This hypocrisy has most recently come to the fore with the discrimination, violence and threats of violence faced by the Ahmedi community in Faisalabad. Ever since the Ahmedis were declared non-Muslims in 1974 through an act of parliament, they have suffered at the hands of the state and large sections of society.

According to the constitution, they are classified as a minority but even then they should be entitled to equal treatment under the law. However, the reality is far from that as the travails of the Ahmedi community in Faisalabad all too clearly suggest. The sad fact remains that politicians remain intimidated by extremist groups who make it difficult for any public official to actively support minorities.

It is seen as “un-Islamic.” Faisalabad has recently seen people handing out pamphlets urging people to boycott businesses owned by Ahmedis. This is against the very spirit of Islam.

It is a travesty that the government is not protecting the Ahmedis of Faisalabad as it would other citizens. According to news reports, a cleric has been issuing edicts justifying robbery and violence against Ahmedis. How is this not a criminal offence? Why has no action been taken against him?

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