My friend, the outcast

Published: February 26, 2012

Religious parties & trader unions hold a protest against Ahmadis. PHOTO: INP

There was once an Ahmadi friend of mine who confided to me that no matter how hard she tries to identify herself as a Pakistani, her experiences of a lifetime of ‘otherisation’ and always being at the receiving end of misery do not allow her to do so. From her school days, to growing up in a neighborhood which regarded her as an Ahmadi first and then anything else, to watching people belonging to her community being ostracized, it was one incident after another of constant singling out, being branded as a ‘kafir’, ‘outcast’ and ‘un-Pakistani’ that molded her experiences.

Then, there were these reports of sectarian strife gripping Khurram Agency last week. Shias in Parachinar were the target of a suicide attack and over 30 innocent lives were lost, all because of bigotry and intolerance. The only thought that comes to my mind when I consider this attack, or what my friend used to say about her life experiences, is that how can the people who spread such bigotry and hate not know of the example of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) himself. Did the Holy Prophet (PBUH) not send Muslim refugees to Abyssinia and Christian Negus, to flee persecution? Does that not mean that he did not think that the sole criterion for judging a person was his or her creed?

History’s ultimate lesson in state-making has been to devise measures that tend to include a variety of perspectives, ethnicities, polities, religions as one single, national narrative. Those states which were able to do so survived war, economic slumps and natural catastrophes. Those which were unsuccessful on that count were relegated to the obscure annals. Pakistan has been incapable of doing that. Its founder extolled freedom of worship as a foremost pillar of state, while his successors only excluded, singled out and branded people on the basis of their beliefs.

Religion is beautiful — and it can be even more so if it is not used as a constant source of division. We, as Pakistanis, have a moral obligation as well as a national duty to embrace the ‘other’, the ‘left out’ and the ‘outcast’. Otherwise, we too run the risk of being relegated to the abyss; the darkness where only ignorance rules and death awaits.

Read more by Taimur here.

Taimur Arbab

Taimur Arbab

A former sub-editor at The Express Tribune, college teacher of Sociology and English Literaure and LUMS alumni, who leans toward the left side of the political spectrum and looks for ideas for his short stories and poems in the everyday happenings of life. He tweets @arbab333 (twitter.com/arbab333).

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Err

    Listen yes sectarian differences exist but sometimes I think they are played up by third parties to drive a permanent wedge. Majority of Sunnis here dont have problem with Shias, and they have it alot better here then any other country. In egypt mubarak exploited differences between copts and muslims, and there were false flag outbreaks of violence, including a New Year’s day bombinb of copts,which was blamed on muslims, only to later discover after the revolution, that the attacks were tied to ministry of interior.
    I dont get what the point of the article is, because your tone sounds as if you are accusing a particular sect for killings of Christians and Shias, When in fact every sect including sunnis are falling victim to violence. And you know why that is? because of absolute failure of law and order. This is a country that hasn’t brought BB’s, or Liaquats or Zia’s killers to justice, the law and order vacumn was always there from the start which means that everyone in this country is extremely vulnerable.
    So blame lack of law and order, not particular sects or people. There are crazies in every society, religion and class, but they are always brought to justice – except in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Tariq

    To send refugees to the other in your own hour of need is hardly noble. Any one with self interests can be seen to compromise principles that way. Give an example of when the Prophet gave something to the outsiders. Recommend

  • http://twitter ahmed

    You are right Err..but dont you think that this article is justified when the trader community took an active part along with other sections of a society led by our very own policy makers..and if you still thinking that we as a society are still left with some kinda principles then pretend yourself as an ahmadi for just a one day…Recommend

  • goodman

    Sad, although I study in a school in Lahore and have a couple of classmates that too are Ahmadis. We never differentiated them from any other constitutional momins.Recommend

  • http://www.twitter.com/faizaaaaan Faizan Raza

    ‘Let there be no compulsion in religion’. I think this pretty much sums up every single thing that there is about minorities and about people that don’t belong to your circle of religion.
    Killing and persecuting people just because you don’t agree with their views and beliefs is the most inhumane and nonsensical thing to do.Recommend

  • Agha

    @Err

    Lol you need to calm down hahahaRecommend

  • Ashish

    It is like Hitler hated Jews. The end is visible to all. Believe me , somewhere we are also a part of this hate . It is our prime responsibility to stand with the weaker . It is applicable to all people irrespective of nation. It is also a truth that once the fanatics are finished with the weaker , the infighting will start amongst themselves for any silly reason. They can not leave their “Roji Roti”. It is a saying that ” They came for other people , I did not say anything , they came for my neighbour , I was silent and finally they came for me , and there was nobody I can call for help.” Ahamadi’s or any minorities blood is also red as ours. Recommend

  • Mj

    @Err:
    Can we deny that the majority of attacks are carried out by people subscribing to debandi or salafi school of thought? As far as I am aware, almost no one belonging to sufi, shia, ahmadi, brelvi sects (using the word sect loosely here) is involved in terrorism. While sunnis themselves have also been victims, it is disingenuous to deny the role ideological outlook is playing in this whole affair. Recommend

  • Umer

    When in fact every sect including
    sunnis are falling victim to violence.

    Sunnis and other sects are falling victim to extremism by other Sunnis. Just because some Sunnis are also killed in Sunni led attacks does not mean Sunnis are not to be blamed.Recommend

  • @Err

    Your comment seems longer than the article :)Recommend

  • Parvez

    All religions are humanity based and teach tolerance along with other virtues.
    Those people who say otherwise in the name of religion are doing so for their own selfish reasons knowing full well that in a country born in the name of religion sentiment proves stronger than rational thought and manipulation becomes easy. Their task is made easier when poor governance is rife and the people are denied their basics, creating frustration and a vacuum in society readily filled by religion and nothing else. This imbalance is certainly not good. Recommend

  • Daud

    good article, we need to discuss and talk more on sectarian issues, especially regarding 295-C, and rights of minorities living in Pakistan. Its very unfortunate that some religious sects especially the right wing Islamic groups find violence obligatory which based on reward and duty or as an act of fulfillment of their religious call. What we need is a contextualization approach towards religion, i am not in favor of interfaith dialogue but there needs to be some way out so we can stop radical Islamic groups who reclaim their classic doctrines as their logic for turning to terrorism, Recommend

  • Err

    @Agha
    Because making half baked arguments and throwing generic vague accusations around is something to laugh about?Recommend

  • Err

    @MJ
    Right because during 90′s there was no such thing as sectarian violence where Sunnis and Shias on both sides were killed. Shiites have their own millitant wing Tehrik-e-Jafaria which was a notorious sectarian Shiite dominated militancy group that got banned by Musharraf later, and then re-emerged in the formed of Tehrik-e-Islamia. Sipah-e-Mohammed Pakistan (SMP) is another group that has been linked to alot of sectarian attacks on Sunnis in Pakistan. Infact some western news outlets even reported that the assassination of a Saudi diplomat in Karachi last year may have been linked to this banned group. So please spare me this one sided rhetoric. Everyone knows Pakistan has become a battlefield for the proxy war between Iran and Saudi, with both financially supporting their respective clerics and religious schools. I am not saying ALL shias support such groups, I am merely pointing out such fringe groups exist in pretty much every sect.The same can be said for Sunnis, who btw a vast majority are okay with Shiites, because if we were all crazy extremists, we would not have allowed a Shiite dominated PPP government to come in power. If anything the fact majority of the police security and citizen security by Boy scouts provided to Shiite processions on Ashura compose of Sunnis, is proof of the fact how majority of us are cooperative.
    Being a mnority does not automatically mean you are a victim. In Syria it is the minority Shiite Alawite oppressing the majority Muslims for decades and brutally crushing the protests currently taking place there. So you’re point about sectarian being an exclusively Sunni trait is pretty single minded, unless ofcourse you haven’t either done your research well enough or a defensive Shiite yourself.Recommend

  • faraz

    I had a shocking experience when a close friend, with whom I spent 5 years at medical college, told me that he was an Ahmadi only after permanently moving to US. I openly endorse secularism and express my revulsion for extremism but he didn’t trust me! He must have had a long history of bad experiences due to his beliefsRecommend

  • http://bigsaf.newsvine.com bigsaf

    @Umer:
    @Mj:
    @Err:
    The Sunni majority, at least conservatives, will have to accept some culpability for beliefs that were damaging. Not easy. Still many majority whites in the post-civil rights era resist any notion of discrimination against minority groups in the US. Vali Nasr called the 80′s the ‘Sunnification of Pakistan’. Others call it Wahhabification or Deobandization of Pak. Even the supposed enlightened Sunni sub-sect, Barelvis, disappointed, supporting Qadri. Minority Shia Muslim conservatives aren’t blameless either. They helped majority religious groups push apartheid against the Ahmadis in the 70′s. Now, you won’t see them at Dif-e-Pakistan. They’re excluded. Its made up of Wahabi/Salafi/Deoband/Sunni supremacist extremists who shared the same stage with dogmatic establishmentarians, Munawar Hasan (JI chief called the Taliban ‘brothers’), Hamid Gul (Caliphate ideologue shared stage with notorious anti-Shia sectarian serial killer, Malik Ishaq), Ijaz Chaudry (VP PTI – confirming Taliban Khan fears), Sheikh Rashid, Ejaz-ul-Haq, etc. Their supporters are most likely to be of the Sunni persuasion.Recommend

  • Shantanu G

    Do not blame Islam. It’s the fault of Muslims. Recommend

  • Err

    @MJ
    Right because during 90′s there was no such thing as sectarian violence where Sunnis and Shias on both sides were killed. Shiites have their own millitant wing Tehrik-e-Jafaria which was a notorious sectarian Shiite dominated militancy group that got banned by Musharraf later, and then re-emerged in the formed of Tehrik-e-Islamia. Sipah-e-Mohammed Pakistan (SMP) is another group that has been linked to alot of sectarian attacks on Sunnis in Pakistan. Infact some western news outlets even reported that the assassination of a Saudi diplomat in Karachi last year may have been linked to this banned group. So please spare me this one sided rhetoric. Everyone knows Pakistan has become a battlefield for the proxy war between Iran and Saudi, with both financially supporting their respective clerics and religious schools. I am not saying ALL shias support such groups, I am merely pointing out such fringe groups exist in pretty much every sect.The same can be said for Sunnis, who btw a vast majority are okay with Shiites, because if we were all crazy extremists, we would not have allowed a Shiite dominated PPP government to come in power. If anything the fact majority of the police security and citizen security by Boy scouts provided to Shiite processions on Ashura compose of Sunnis, is proof of the fact how majority of us are cooperative.
    Being a mnority does not automatically mean you are a victim. In Syria it is the minority Shiite Alawite oppressing the majority Muslims for decades and brutally crushing the protests currently taking place there. So you’re point about sectarian being an exclusively Sunni trait is pretty single minded, Recommend

  • Ahsan Nisar

    @Faizan Raza:

    This one verse is mostly quoted out of context. I’d recommend you to go through the background and foreground of this verse in any Tafseer of your choice.Recommend

  • Umer Khan

    It is sad that there are differences with hatred, the only reason for this is we have 3 to 4 parallel systems of education working in Pakistan, it can only alienate us, and the way our children are indoctrinated, it makes things worse. A proper one system of education can only make things better.Recommend

  • t mani

    dear Pakistani friends ,

    this is the first time I visited a pakistani blog . I am shocked to realise there is so much violence in the name of religion in pakistan .

    I wish pakistan becomes stable , secure & prosperous !!
    by
    - An Inidan friendRecommend

  • Najam Hafeez

    There was no such extreme hate 20 or so yrs ago but now when your children have to grow up in hate-filled environment any one who can, moves out of Pakistan which is more Brain-drain Recommend

  • Umer Khan

    @ t mani,

    That doesn’t mean it is happening everywhere in Pakistan, it is just one small example, humans all over the world live with differences, and there are certain negative parts in every society. Recommend

  • Reluctant Fundamentalist

    One of the best things done by ZAB was to declare Qadyanais/Ahmedis non-muslims in the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan, albeit on the pressure of right-wing parties. Recommend

  • Lone Star

    @Reluctant Fundamentalist:
    O’ really, you find it the best thing? I wish he was a bit more wiser politician, who took up the job of God. But look what happened to him, would you call his death “reward” for his “best thing”, I consider it wrath of God almighty.
    Cheers!Recommend

  • Reluctant Fundamentalist

    @Lone Star:

    You have mistaken me for a “Jiyala”. Would some “jiyala” stand up and comment???Recommend

  • JIYALA

    @ Reluctant Fundamentalist

    your wish is answered my myopic fellow citizen.
    As a scion of a family that is associated with the PPP for several decades now , I have no qualms in calling a spade a spade and condemn ZAB even though he may be the forebearer of the party. You want to know the reason why?

    because my first and foremost duty is to the fellow human beings (even the deities forgive wrongs done to the religion but do not condone wrongs done to fellow human beings)

    Just because muslims are in the majority in one particular country does not mean we should be allowed to usurp rights of fellow citizens albeit being in minority. what makes ZAB’s actions ten times worse is that he swore to protect and defend the lives and honour of Pakistanis as their ruler. Out of all the people, atleast ZAB should not have have put his interests before that of the country’s and its citzens.

    that was the darkest hour for our country’s democratic rule. As a jiyala I profusely apologise to our ahmadi brethren. God will give justice to all those who have been wronged!Recommend

  • FJ

    @Err:
    I am tired of listening to this shallow argument that killings in Pakistan are not about sects. Yesterday, 20 Muslim Shias were shot dead based on their faith…sunnis were separated and only shias were killed. Would you like to say something about it? You would never understand what Shias and other minorities in Pakistan go through. I have been discriminated right from school till my college by my friends. I could see the intensity of differences soon after Muharram starts. Shias are 15-20% of this country but tell me who else is targeted on their faith basis more than shias? Accept the reality that the target killing and shia genocide is specific to this sect andnot sunnis. Open up your eyes. Click ‘ShiaKilling’ tab on ET main page but you wont find ‘sunni killing’ or Christian Killing’ or Qadyani Killing’ tab…WHY?Recommend

  • FJ

    @Err:
    …and how about minority Sunni Khilafat (so called) in Bahrain oppressing Shia majority???…how come Saddam Hussain oppressed shia population (who are in majority in Iraq)??? the fact is shia are being oppressed in Sunni majority countries and you should put your bias aside and accept it!Recommend

  • Silent Observer

    @FJ:

    Ms. Clinton says that Pakistan will face devastating consequences if it goes ahead with IP gas pipeline. In the backdrop of this statement, even a child could tell who is behind these “shia killings”…..

    This is similar to what happened in 2001. Did some body say “bomb you off to stone ages”? I think I am having some problem with my hearing…!!!Recommend

  • rex minor

    Pakistan is the first so called muslim country whose Parliament is excommunicating muslims, a phenomina which the Catholic church under the leadership of he Pope practices. This law was enacted during the time Mr Bhutto was he Prime Minister and was masquerading as a Pope of Islam. Under this law Ahmedi muslims are classified as non muslims.
    Urdu language is the main culprit, which is poor and not suitable to translate Qincomplete to tanslate the arabi in the saga which translare Quran suras in urdu. Learn arabic language and do not rely on translations or the mullahs! Arabic language must be made compulsary for school children. Muslioms say their prayers in arabic and not in local laqnguages.

    Rex Minor Recommend

  • Amjad

    @Najam Hafeez: Maybe you can explain then why most Chinese want to leave China or why most Indians want to leave India too? In a recent survey of Chinese millionaires, most said they wanted to emigrate and do you forget that India is the number 1 source for immigrants to western countries like Canada since they all want to leave? The truth is that people leave for a better life and opportunity for their kids- be it from Pakistan or any other country. As for the silly hatred among some sects for others, this is supported by money from Iran or Saudi Arabia. It should be stopped the same way Europe was able to get over the killings of Catholics and Protestants. Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain and many other Muslim countries have issues with sectarian killings. It should stop everywhere through tolerance and education.Recommend

  • Saad

    @Tariq:
    What about when Prophet Muhammad SAWS invited Christian visitors to stay in the mosque and worship in the same place. What about the Pact of Medina which called Jews and Muslims and other people of Medina, one same Umma. What about the conquest of Mecca when he forgave all and not a single person was forced into Islam.Recommend

  • A well wisher

    @Parvez:

    “All religions are humanity based and teach tolerance along with other virtues.”

    The problem is that Abrahamic religions claim their faiths alone are the true and absolute truth and thus create an “us vs. them” dogma that is responsible for all the historical religion induced wars, intolerance, bigotry and terrorism. While Christianity has reformed to a large extent, Islam still adheres to medieval ideas of Jihad and intolerance of non-believers. Recommend

  • A well wisher

    @Amjad:

    I think you miss the point. Of course people from China and India immigrate to other countries for better economic opportunities. However, a relatively higher proportion of Pakistanis, especially Ahmedis, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs etc, leave Pakistan to escape persecution. Many Tibetans also leave their country due to persecution. As for India, there is no migration due to religious persecution.Recommend

  • FJ

    @Silent Observer:
    Now please do not start telling me that US is behind this. US might be behind it to some extent but the main culprit is Saudi Arab! …and you know why they hate Shia Muslims because it started since the time of Prophet (PBUH&HF)’s death. It is a historical fact which only those understand who have read the Islamic history. So basically US is just using this hatred of extremist wahabis, nasibis against Shia to gain their own goals…but that does not mean that US hates Shia…or is it? No, it”s the Saudi hatred which we are intensely facing especially because of Zia ul Haq! Target Killing of shias did not start after 9/11…it’s been there since 1980′s.Recommend