Following massive protests blocking US airports, an American judge has blocked an order by the American President blocking citizens of Muslim countries from entering the US. It is an incredible moment that is unfolding before our eyes. While Pakistan was not included in the first list of countries banned, we do not have to stretch our imaginations to predict that we could be next.
Though should express concerned about the spread of bigotry and intolerance in the world, we should also take this moment to reflect on our own bigotry and intolerance. Some have asked if there could be a religious test forced on Muslims.
Have we forgotten that Muslims have already been forced into religious testing, not by the Americans, but by ourselves? Every time you get or renew your passport, you are forced into a religious test.
Where are the crowds blocking airports in Islamabad and Karachi demanding the rights of Ahmadis? Is there a judge in this country courageous enough to block this act of bigotry and intolerance?
Donald Trump’s orders are extremely worrying, but it is comforting to see the resistance of the American people. We can see the madness in Trump’s bigotry. When will we wake up and fight back against the Trump-ism that has already taken root here?
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has dealt an important blow to the forces of obscurantism and extremism today by renaming of Quaid-i-Azam University’s (QAU) physics department to the Professor Abdus Salam Center for Physics and creating a new programme named the Professor Abdus Salam Fellowship to grant five annual fellowships for Pakistani PhD students in the field of Physics.
Dr Muhammad Abdus Salam is a national hero, though he has been treated very badly and nearly forgotten only because of his religious sect. By openly recognising Dr Abdus Salam in such a public and lasting way, PM Nawaz has dealt an important blow to extremism in the country. It is a first step only, but it is a crucial one to undoing the normalisation of hate and sectarianism that has taken root in so much of our society.
15th October 1979: Joint Nobel Physics prize winner and Imperial College of London professor Abdus Salam, originally from Pakistan. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
Today is the 20th death anniversary of Dr Muhammad Abdus Salam, the first Pakistan to receive a Nobel Prize, which he was awarded in 1979. He was also awarded Sitara-e-Pakistan (1959) and Nishan-e-Imtiaz (1979) along with dozens of other honors both nationally and internationally. In a just world, he would be honoured as a hero. But the respected physicist did not live in a just world. He lived in Pakistan.
Dr Muhammad Abdus Salam was not only the first Pakistani to receive a Nobel Prize, he was actually the first Muslim to receive the Nobel Prize. After his death, this honour was noted on his headstone. Today, however, his grave has been defaced and the word ‘Muslim’ removed on the orders of government officials. His crime? He was an Ahmadi Muslim.
Today we express our sadness not only for the loss of Pakistan’s great hero Nobel Prize winner Dr Muhammad Abdus Salam, but for our own country that is so psychologically insecure that we cannot even honour its greatest citizens.
Their country was founded as a homeland where they could finally be safe. Their religion would not be an issue. Their mosques would be be secure, and their children would not face discrimination. Here, their community members flourished. They were in government, they were successful doctors and scientists. Alhamdulillah, life was good.
Then something happened. A dark fog began to gather in the words they were hearing in the streets, and they began to worry that even here they would not be safe. They tried to protect their children, shooing them out of the room when the TV anchors were talking about politics. There was talk about banning their religion, demolishing their mosques, turning them into second class citizens in their own country.
They told themselves it couldn’t happen here. The father of the nation had declared this nation would be a homeland for them, too. But it did happen. The political movement was too strong, their neighbors were too apathetic, or did they secretly hate them too? The constitution was amended, and their religion was blacklisted. They found themselves attacked with impunity. Their mosques were demolished. They were forced to endure every type of humiliation. They were mocked and ridiculed and their faith was spit on.
The nightmare came true.
Army’s anti-terrorism campaign has been a huge success. We know this because we are reminded of how successful the Army has been by their crack media team such as the series of Tweets from General Asim Bajwa declaring operation Zarb-e-Azb “a phenomenal success” further projected by media that has been recruited as just another wing of ISPR. Gen Bajwa’s Twitter profile proclaims that “Truth Prevails”, and as far as we know everything that the Army’s top PR manager says is the truth, and the successes and sacrifice of our brave soldiers should be appreciated. However, without denying the great successes of Gen Raheel and Zarb-e-Azb, if “Truth Prevails”, we must also face the limits of military power in finally ridding our country of the menace of terrorism.