On May 28th 2010, two Ahmadiyya mosques in Lahore, Pakistan were attacked by suicide bombers and from what we understand, more than 80 people were killed. I strongly condemn these vicious murders that are the products of hate and ignorance. These attacks have not been committed by followers of the Islam I know and love.
Just to give some brief background: The Ahmadiyyas are a ‘minority’ group, a sect of Islam that dominant Muslim groups do not agree falls under the category of Islam. The main difference in mainstream Islam and Ahmadiyya Islam is the belief in the last messenger and prophet of God. The majority of Muslims believe that Prophet Muhammad was the last prophet whereas the Ahmadiyyas believe there were prophets after him. The dominant Muslim majority believes that to be a Muslim one must declare and believe that there is only one God, Allah, and that the Prophet Muhammad was his last prophet, so any deviation of this main belief would not be considered Islamic. It was in 1974 that the Islamic Republic of Pakistan declared Ahmadiyyas to be non-Muslim. Ten years later in 1984, the then President of Pakistan, General Zia, made it a criminal offense for Ahmadiyyas to call themselves Muslim or even to say the Muslim greeting of ‘Asalam-u-alaikum’, a charge for which one could be imprisoned. The Ahmadiyyas were also the major victims of the blasphemy laws, and if convicted, they could be sentenced to death. Note that the judicial and law enforcement system in Pakistan is not the same as we know it here in North America. Some Ahmadiyyas who were charged with such violations of Pakistani laws, however, did not even make it to court to be sentenced but were attacked and killed by so-called Muslim civilians and usually without any just inquiry into their murders. Whatever your religious differences may be with whichever group, I am hoping we can all agree that it is not a reason to kill.
Pakistan’s blasphemy laws also target Christians, single women, various minority groups, or any one who does not agree with the strict interpretations of the dominant religion. I strongly feel that it is the terrorists who need to be charged with blasphemy laws and any one else who promotes hate and violence, as that is the most un-Islamic act that I am aware of. Who gets to decide what is ‘un-Islamic’ anyway?
As a social worker I have worked with hundreds of members of the Ahmadiyya community to help them seek asylum and settle in Canada along with other social work issues. I have worked with the many traumatized widowed Ahmadiyya women and their children and can attest to the devastation faced by these families. I have been extremely passionate about this work but it did come with some criticism. This criticism was mainly that Sunnis (dominant Muslim sect) should not be helping the ‘anti-Islamic’ Ahmadiyyas. My specific faith label is not the issue here, my values of social justice are, and I would claim that social justice are the very values my personal faith has taught me. My Islam is one of peace and justice. More importantly and to put it very simply, whether one is atheist, agnostic, Christian, Ahmadiyya, Ismaili, Shia, Sunni, Hindu, Jewish or whatever – you do not kill people for having diverging beliefs from yours (or for any reason).
Let’s all be a part of the solution and stand up for a better world!"
About the Author:
Tahmena Bokhari is a college professor, social worker and social activist who is both Canadian and Pakistani.