Ahmadi in America: Why Shahbaz Bhatti’s death gives me hope

Published: March 5, 2011
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Jerald Bhatti, a brother of Pakistan's slain Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti, stands next to his casket. PHOTO: REUTERS

My life in America has been a breeze compared to the life I would have had in a Pakistani village had we stayed there after I was born. But try telling that to a misfit outsider transplanted to Texas.

I happen to be an Ahmadi by birth and by practice.

It is common knowledge that in Pakistan, where I still have family, anti-Ahmadi conferences take place regularly.

During these conferences, audiences are taught that they have a religious duty to kill Ahmadis. As a result, some uneducated Muslims who are unable to read the Holy Quran for themselves, are misled to believe that the blood of innocent Ahmadi is something that will be rewarded in the After Life.

My family in Pakistan fears much more than the mockery and taunts I experienced on the playground at school in America, as the following incident will elicit.

In America, my name, my appearance (especially when I wore a kurta with blue jeans before Vogue said it was okay), and my spoken English were different to my conservative classmates in grade school.

To add to the drama, America was at war with Iraq. Needless to say, being different meant I was the target of classroom jokes and cafeteria pranks.

One day as I was being teased as usual, the unimaginable happened. Kasey, one of the more popular girls in school, martyred her celebrity reputation by scolding the ‘cool guys’ for mocking me.

For an immigrant boy who was never too good at witty comebacks, Kasey’s help felt like divine intervention.

Fast forward to 2011

Even today, protesting Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws is political suicide. But more than just a career ended when governor of Punjab and outspoken blasphemy law critic Salman Taseer was shot to death.

And with the assassination of Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti this week, more than just his life has ended if his death does not jolt the conscience of Pakistan out of its coma.

It is just too bad that advice is least heeded when it is most needed. Bhatti has been buried, but I have to admit, this has left me thinking: who’s funeral is it?

When he died, Shahbaz Bhatti became my Kasey all over again. Though I am not a Christian and he is not a Muslim, he made the ultimate sacrifice to be my outspoken protagonist in the face of bullies.

It really doesn’t matter whether I am an immigrant in America or Ahmadi in Pakistan. Bhatti strove to safeguard the basic human and civil rights of minorities and was killed for it. Is it any surprise other countries try to limit visas from Pakistan?

As unexpected as it may seem, however, there is hope in the deaths of Taseer and Bhatti. Their life and death show that good-hearted men can emerge from the corrupt circus of Pakistani politics and even challenge the violent religious orthodoxy with their lives.

For this cherished, hope-granting knowledge, they did not die in vain.


bilal.rana

Dr Bilal Rana

An anaesthesiologist and clinical instructor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. He is currently pursuing a post-doctoral fellowship in critical care medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He has contributed to various publications in the US.

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

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