March was not a good month for religious minorities in Pakistan. But now days it can be said without fear of error that no month is safe for religious minorities in Pakistan -- it’s just that some months are worse than others. Here’s a sample of what should not have happened in March in Pakistan:
March 15th - A Hindu allegedly desecrates a Holy Quran in Larkana, Sindh province. Within hours a mob of enraged Muslims storms the Hindu temple where the reported desecration occurs and sets the temple on fire -- after first looting and vandalizing it, of course. Luckily, no one is killed. . .
March 27th - Yet another Christian is sentenced to death for blasphemy by a Muslim judge in Pakistan. The sentence is delivered to cheers from a courtroom packed with fanatic Muslim clerics and their zealous followers. Had the Judge ruled differently, the cheers would have quickly turned to howls of outrage and the blasphemy accused -- and the Judge -- would have most likely been murdered at the hands of vigilante Muslim mobs or assassins.
March 28th - In Islamabad, Pakistan’s capitol, an Ahmadi Muslim college professor and his mother are viciously attacked and stabbed to death in their home by unknown assailants. The fact the murder victims are well-known Ahmadis, that there are no suspects, and no police investigation has begun leads observers -- especially the victims’ Ahmadi family and friends -- to the sad realization that these latest inhumane atrocities against Ahmadi Muslims will go unpunished, as usual. . .
March 31st – In Tando Allahyar, a town near Hyderabad, an Ahmadi prayer center is attacked and vandalized by a mob of Muslims on allegations of desecration of the Quran. The Ahmadi missionary in charge of the prayer center, Imam Tahir Ahmed, is brutally beaten by the mob, and when the police eventually arrive, the Ahmadi missionary and another Ahmadi man are promptly arrested on blasphemy charges. No one is arrested for viciously assaulting the Ahmadi missionary. . .
The common elements of cruelty, injustice and blatant disregard for the human rights and lives of others that characterize all four of these incidents can be summed up in one word: “blasphemy.”
Since 1974, when Pakistan’s Constitution was amended under pressure from the Muslim ulema (scholars) to officially declare Ahmadi Muslims to be outside the fold of Islam, the lives of Ahmadis, Shias, Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and anyone else deemed an apostate or enemy of Islam (as determined by the Muslim ulema) have been in jeopardy from religious extremism and intolerance. And this situation is only getting worse.
Virtually all secular and religious scholars in Pakistan acknowledge it was the government’s 1974 Constitutional 2nd Amendment declaring Ahmadis non-Muslims, along with the 1984 penal codes known as Ordinance XX, that created and now foster the draconian environment of religious hatred, persecution and violence directed against Ahmadis, Shias, Christians, Hindus and others.
The fact that the vast majority of Pakistan’s Sunni Muslims don’t seem to have a problem with this sad state of affairs is a tragic barometer of both the denial and often deadly consequences of the growing fanaticism, intolerance and persecution directed against the country’s religious minorities. It’s like someone being told they have terminal cancer who insists they are perfectly healthy and have never felt better!
A fitting analogy is the “boiling frog” scenario, where a frog is placed in a pan of cold water on a stove. The heat is then turned on very low, so the frog thinks the water is only getting a little warm. The frog accepts and adjusts to the gradual rise in water temperature without realizing -- until it’s too late -- that his warm home is also his execution chamber.
This is exactly what is happening in Pakistan to those who support or deny or ignore the persecution and murder of the innocent, be they religious minorities or not. And this is exactly how Hell becomes an accepted way of life and how (like the frog in hot water) very few people wake up and recognize the seriousness of their plight. By the time the fire is raging at its hottest, it’s usually much too late to escape the inevitable.
Not everyone is waiting patiently in their ignorance or denial while they slowly get cooked. Some are trying (with varying levels of commitment and success) to stand up and fight against the barbarism of the blasphemy laws. This array of people includes the surviving victims of the blasphemy laws, secular and interfaith human rights workers, journalists with both conscience and backbone, and anyone else who can clearly see the moral, social, cultural and spiritual extinction that awaits Pakistan if the cancerous evil resulting from its blasphemy laws is not dealt with forcefully and soon.
The million-dollar question then becomes: how do you reverse Pakistan’s ever-increasing downward spiral into social chaos, religious intolerance, persecution and the state-supported extermination of the “infidels” -- a label with an ever-widening definition of who that is? And if this downward spiral is not reversed, the outcome for Pakistan and its people will be a sad but predictable social, political, moral and spiritual collapse into chaos. Some would argue that such a fate is well on its way to fruition.
But I have not lost hope, in spite of all that I know about Pakistan, its history and its people. This is because I am an Ahmadi Muslim who still believes that Pakistan and its citizens can become what its name promises: the Land of the Pure. And I also still believe in a living God Who has all Power to change Pakistan and its people into an expression of the highest Good instead of a manifestation of the lowest Evil.
But, as God Himself says in the Holy Quran, He does not change the condition of a people until they change their hearts. This seemingly impossible requirement actually reflects our God-endowed ability to willingly choose to do good rather than evil. Unlike Christian doctrine, which teaches that man is born in sin with no ability to overcome its influence and effects, Islam brings the good news that man is born pure and sinless and can return to that state with sustained effort to love God and His creation, and by striving to become more and more righteous.
In short, it means that reformation and redemption from evil is possible -- in fact, it is God’s fundamental purpose for our existence here on Earth. We are designed by God to be capable of embodying most of His divine attributes so we may attain righteousness and nearness to God in this very life.
All that is needed to start this process is for us to want that reformation and redemption -- for ourselves, for our loved ones, for our country and for the world. We can start by praying for the people of Pakistan to want one thing: that God should love them and that, by their actions, they become deserving of God’s Love. We can all start with that one, simple step -- seeking God’s Love by repeating regularly this prayer of the prophet Da’ud (David):
O God! I ask for Your Love and for the love of those who love You,
and love of the actions that bring me close to Your Love. My Lord!
Make me such that Your Love is more pleasing to me than myself,
and my wealth, and my family, and cool sweet water.
[ Tirmidhi Kitabudda’wat ]
In this modern age of the internet and the ability to communicate with almost anyone anywhere in the world, let us use the power of social media and the power of prayer to start a positive change in the world by changing ourselves: “O God, I ask you for Your Love…” Pass it on.[ with Imam Shamshad A. Nasir; appeared online at AhmadiyyaTimes.com April 25th, 2014 at this link: http://ahmadiyyatimes.blogspot.com/2014/04/perspective-only-love-can-heal-hate_27.html and in print in the May issue of Asia Today newspaper (www.AsiaTodayAZ.com); and an abridged version ran in the Al Akhbar Newspaper on April 16th, 2014 ]