Yesterday, a very close family friend – someone I have always considered an uncle – was arrested in Pakistan. His crime: he had printed verses from the Holy Quran in an Urdu publication.
My uncle is an Ahmadi, and under Pakistan’s notorious anti-Ahmadi laws, he committed a ‘crime’ punishable by at least three years imprisonment and a fine. The law states that an Ahmadi who “poses as a Muslim hurts the religious feelings of Muslims”.
In the late 80s, three of my maternal uncles spent time behind bars under these same anti-Ahmadi laws for the crime of saying the Kalimah. Thousands of Ahmadis – and every Ahmadi family have their own story to tell – have been imprisoned for their basic religious profession since the promulgation of these laws in 1984. Tired of my friends and family being jailed for their religious freedoms, I am writing this to seek answers. I am addressing you, the constitutionally accepted Muslims of Pakistan.
The state shouldn’t be deciding who is a Muslim and who isn’t.
The Pakistani state claims that you, the constitutionally recognised Pakistani Muslims, are hurt by my religious freedom.
As an Ahmadi, I am not permitted to refer to myself as a Muslim in Pakistan, not even in many otherwise liberal publications. The state tells me that this “hurts your religious feelings”.
I am not permitted to refer to my place of worship as a mosque because the state tells me that this also “hurts your religious feelings”. I cannot risk being caught reading the Holy Quran or saying my prayer because I am told this offends you too.
I cannot say the Islamic creed or Kalimah openly. Apparently, such profession of the oneness of God and the truth of Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) message also “hurts your religious feelings”.
I cannot use Islamic epithets. I cannot risk saying the Salam openly. I have to make sure I only say it in the presence of people I trust. I cannot risk printing words like Insha Allah and Masha Allah on wedding cards. The state tells me you find this equally distressing. It tells me that you have the sole copyright to these epithets. As a constitutional kafir, I have no right to use such sacred terms.
In fact, any statement or act of mine that can remotely be interpreted as “posing as Muslim” hurts you in one way or another. And for hurting your feelings, the state believes I must be punished with at least three years in jail on top of a hefty fine.
That’s what you get with a theocracy. As we see every day, it’s a terrible arrangement.
Kashif Chaudhry suggests that the people of Pakistan should protest the arrangement.