Leading the fight for religious tolerance abroad, failing at home

Ahle-Sunnat-Wal-Jamaat rally

Our diplomats achieved another notable success this week when the UN Human Rights Council adopted by consensus a resolution tabled by Pakistan on Combating Religious Intolerance and Discrimination. The resolution was presented on behalf of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), an international organisation founded in 1969 consisting of 57 member states and has been presented as part of a broader effort to counter Islamophobia. Indeed, the resolution is an impressive achievement and worthy of praise. But we should be asking ourselves whether we are living up to our own demands.

Is is important to understand that the UN did not adopt a resolution condemning Islamophbia, it adopted a resolution condemning religious discrimination and intolerance. A full copy of the resolution is linked here so you can read it yourself.

It is worth noting that section 1 of the resolution:

“Expresses deep concern at the continued serious instances of derogatory stereotyping, negative profiling and stigmatization of persons based on their religion or belief as well as programmes and agendas pursued by extremist organizations and groups aimed at creating and perpetuating negative stereotypes about religious groups, in particular when condoned by Governments…”

This could easily be considered a description of the situation in Pakistan. Setting aside for the moment the issue of terrorist attacks and target killings, before any shot is even fired there is “derogatory stereotyping, negative profiling and stigmatization of persons based on their religion or belief.” Anti-Ahmedi conferences are held regularly which project hate and incite violence based on their belief.

Shia too are not only openly killed, but are openly defamed and stereotyped by groups like ASWJ that operate with impunity and some believe the support of the state.

The resolution tabled by Pakistan’s diplomats and approved by the United Nations is deserving of praise. Now it is time to prove whether our words are hollow.

American Imam’s Powerful Answer To Islamophobia

Assistant Imam Ahsan ZahidWhen American Imam Ahsan Zahid was woken by a phone call early on Friday morning, he had a terrible feeling that the call was bringing bad news. Only he didn’t know just how bad it was. A fire was engulfing a building at the Quba Islamic Center. Zahid had seen someone lurking around the property with his face hidden, but he prayed that his fears were unfounded. However fire investigators confirmed the worst: The fire was an arson attack.

Whatever the attacker hoped to achieve, he failed. A building may have been destroyed, but buildings can be re-built. The tens of thousands of Muslims who live in the area may be concerned, but they are going nowhere. Most importantly, though, Zahid was able to make the tragedy into a blessing by turning for guidance to the one thing that can make such a transformation: Sunnah.

Zahid did not respond by offering a bounty for the attacker. He did not take out a protest march with the slogan “In the service of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), we are willing to die”. He did not respond with calls for jihad. He responded with love, and in turn he received an outpouring of love.

In a time when media headlines are filled with threats and counter threats and violence seems to be the only thing that anyone knows anymore, what is needed more than ever is for more people to be like Zahid and follow the example of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and answer enemies with love and forgiveness. A bullet can make a heart bleed, but kindness can make hearts blossom.

Pakistan Ulema Council Conference Exposes Root of Our Problem

Tahir Ashrafi

Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) recently convened its conference in Lahore where the top issues were discussed. A report by Raza Rumi notes the unprecedented support for minorities given by PUC chief Allama Tahir Ashrafi, and a resolution was passed saying, “government had the responsibility to protect the lives, wealth, honor, dignity and places of worship of all its citizens regardless of their faith.”

This message of tolerance and inclusion is welcome, but it is a paragraph late in the report that exposes the root of our problem.

In his speech Allama Tahir Ashrafi said madrassas were guarantors of peace in the country. Maulana Muhammad Ali Sherazi said an education system given by Christians was a conspiracy against Islam, which had become a victim of the west. “True education is spread through religious seminaries, which are the fort of Islam,” he added.

Is there any better representation of what ails us? In one moment, Ulema calls on government to protect minorities. In the next moment, they accuse non-Muslims of using education as part of a ‘conspiracy against Islam’.

Which is it? Are We are told note to be suspicious and hateful, and then we are given reason to be suspicious and hateful. If government has a responsibility to protect minorities, doesn’t that responsibility include doing something about the lessons in intolerance being taught at certain madrassas?

Ridding ourselves of the curse of religious extremism, the root cause of terrorism in our country, will require us to move beyond mere words of tolerance. We must shed our victim mentality and stop pretending that the threat is coming from outside and not inside our own house.

Appeal to Authorities to Protect Ahmadi Citizens

Ahmadiyya Persecution Statistics

19 Ahmadis were killed in 2012. 7 were killed in 2013, but 16 more survived attempts on their lives. Ahmadis face discrimination and accusations from all corners, yet there has been nothing done to protect these citizens – and yes they are Pakistani citizens, even if Second Amendment and Ordinance XX relegate them to secondary status. This abandonment of our citizens has given a black eye to the nation and international outcry is beginning to rise. Today the Asian Human Rights Commission has issued urgent appeal for authorities to provide immediate protection to Ahmadis from targeting and persecution.

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-079-2014

Please write the letters to the authorities calling them to provide security to Ahmadiyya community without any lapse. The high police officers must be charged for the negligence for not providing security to a community which constantly remains under attack from fundamentalist Muslims. Ahmadis have all the constitutional rights of any citizen of Pakistan including the right to life. The Punjab government must initiate an enquiry into the target killings of Ahmadis.

The AHRC is writing separate letters to the UN Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Religion or Belief and on Extra-judicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions calling for their intervention into this matter.

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Millions Ceasing To Be Pakistani

Statistics on targeted violence against religious groups in Pakistan

In his oft-quoted speech of 11 August 1947, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah famously said, ‘Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal, and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus, and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.’ Nearly 70 years later, that ideal is not only further than ever from realisation, we may actually be in a period in which religious intolerance threatens to alienate millions of people, and possibly the nation’s very future.

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