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[Huffington Post] An Ahmadi Muslim’s Plea: Be My Voice

Religious freedom (or the lack thereof) in Pakistan cannot be emphasized enough. Due to the preposterous demeanor of Pakistan’s self-righteous right-wing, many in the world today are aware of Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy problem. Much frustration has been expressed on liberal Pakistani blogs and through international media outlets — especially after the heartless murders of GovernorSalmaan Taseer and Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti — on the abuse of these laws. Even though nothing is expected to change anytime soon, at least the first vital step toward that goal is being taken: raising awareness.

Unlike the general blasphemy laws, however, the specific anti-Ahmadi Muslim laws of Pakistan have not found even this much of luck. They have been conveniently forced out of the discussion and few are aware of the existence and continuous abuse of these draconian laws. The silence of the liberal Pakistani blogosphere and the international media in this regard is baffling.

So who are the Ahmadi Muslims and what are these laws?

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community was founded in 1889 by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908), who claimed to be the long-awaited messiah. Ahmad single-handedly waged a struggle to bring about a renaissance of Islam. He declared that in this age the doctrine of violent jihad was against the teachings of Islam, a declaration met with edicts of heresy. Ahmad urged Muslims to emulate Prophet Muhammad’s example. Accordingly, Ahmadi Muslims champion a complete separation of mosque and state, promote universal human rights and interfaith dialogue and practice nonviolence and non-retaliation amid brutal persecution in parts of the world. There are more than 600,000 Ahmadi Muslims living in Pakistan with tens of millions in 200 countries.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA — the oldest Islamic-American organization — has helped foster the Islamic ideals of peace and loyalty to nation through its Muslims for Peace and Muslims for Loyalty campaigns, respectively. It recently launched the nationwide Muslims for Life blood drive campaign to commemorate 9/11 and demonstrate Islam’s emphasis on sanctity of life. The Community’s charity organization, Humanity First, has been at the forefront of disaster relief both nationally and worldwide. Help, for instance, continues to be dispensed to the victims of Hurricane Katrina to date. Ahmadi Muslims have a central leadership, the Khalifa.

It is not surprising, therefore, that Muslim clerics perceived the rapid spread of the Community in its early days as a threat. Having failed to defeat them through reason and discourse, they took to sticks and stones — literally.

After the formation of Pakistan, anti-Ahmadi Muslim groups organized to conspire and instigate massive nationwide riots. Friday sermons became an opportunity to spew venom against the Ahmadi Muslims. They were declared “apostates” and “worthy of being killed.” Extremist right-wing influence ushered in violent street protests. The State succumbed to their pressure tactics and declared the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community to be non-Muslim in 1974. In April of 1984, Pakistani President Zia-ul-Haq issued Ordinance XX. Zia was a military dictator who had taken over the country after a coup d’état in 1977. To legitimize his autocracy, he assumed de facto leadership of Pakistan’s extremist cause. Because the hatred and violence had failed to halt the progress of the Ahmadi Muslims, he decided to use force.

Under the new laws, Ahmadi Muslims were arrested for using Islamic terminology. For example, saying the Salaam (greeting of peace) meant imprisonment. Thousands of Ahmadi Muslims filled jails across the country. On one side of prison sat rapists and murderers and on the other sat those who invoked peace on a passerby. The right-wing went on to demand the death penalty. Zia conceded and introduced the death penalty for propagation of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and distribution of Ahmadi Muslim literature.

These barbaric anti-Ahmadi Muslim laws exist to date. Hundreds of Ahmadi Muslims remain behind bars in Pakistan — and hundreds have been killed.

These vicious laws are a threat to international religious freedom. They continue to embolden religious extremists in other countries like Bangladesh and Indonesia where similar demands to outlaw the peaceful Ahmadi Muslims have been put before the governments. In the case of the latter, these demands have been accepted in part, setting in a fresh wave of violence (caution: graphic). Because the hatred against the Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan was promoted and not checked by the State, it continues to be exported as far out as the U.K.

Pakistani and International media make no mention of this dangerous state-sanctioned violation of religious freedom and basic human rights. Despite the fact that Pakistan’s anti-Ahmadi Muslim laws are a blatant breach of the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, there has been no outcry from the United Nations either.

United States’ foreign policy recognizes religious freedom worldwide as one of its goals. While the persecution of Ahmadi Muslims gained momentum under Zia, the United States — a close ally — was busy funding his government and supporting the Afghan revolution. The plight of the Ahmadi Muslims went unnoticed. Three decades later, it is very encouraging that the U.S. State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report 2010 on Pakistan takes serious exception to Pakistan’s anti-Ahmadi Muslim laws. Much, however, needs to be done to effect a change on ground. I am hopeful that as a primary supporter of international religious freedom, the U.S. will continue to play a positive role to this end.

Meanwhile, please join me in doing the least we can do: take that first step toward change: raise awareness.

Follow Kashif N. Chaudhry on Twitter:

Original Post here

[Express Tribune] “If you speak up for Ahmadis, Hazaras, you are Anti-Pakistan”

I think its natural for Pakistanis in USA to speak ill of this country.. Kashif , your hate for Pakistan is admirable .. Didnt you get your Medical training from that country??? you dont love Pakistan… lets admit this.. Look at your posts”

– Ajnabi Rastay

These were the accusations levied against me recently on a Facebook forum. I was labeled anti-Pakistan. What had I done? Did I curse Pakistan? Did I burn its flag? Did I take out a “Go Pakistan! Go!” procession in the centre of downtown Manhattan?

None of the above.

All I had done was share news items on the persecution of the Hazara Shia Muslims and the Ahmadi community in Pakistan. This includedThe Express Tribune coverage of the latest massacre in Quetta that left 13 Shias dead and the expulsion of 10 Ahmadi students from a school in Hafizabad on the basis of faith. I also started a social media group condemning the genocide of Hazara Shias at the hands of SSP and LeJ militants.

It is no secret that hatred is openly spewed against minority groups in Pakistan. Such a hate conference was recently held in Dharianwala wherein religious clerics encouraged villagers to force all Ahmadi children out of their schools and all deceased Ahmadis out of their graveyards. Soon after this conference, Ahmadi students enrolled in public schools in the area were rusticated. The government, that had earlier this year declared an educational emergency, took no notice of this disgraceful incident. No one seems to care about the plight of oppressed. And when you care, your loyalty is quickly put to question.

Does speaking for oppressed Pakistanis make one anti-Pakistan?

I take serious offence to this view for two main reasons:

Firstly, the Hazara Shia and Ahmadis persecuted in Pakistan are our fellow countrymen. They are equal Pakistanis. So are the Christians and the Hindus. Therefore, voicing their concerns is being the voice of Pakistan and not otherwise. The belief that standing up for the rights of disadvantaged Pakistanis is being anti-Pakistan and unpatriotic is ridiculous. Where this notion assumes that these persecuted groups are not Pakistani enough to deserve the voice of the rest of us, it also assumes that the extremists who cause them pain are true representatives of Pakistan. As a Jinnah’s Pakistani, I take exception to this.

Second, the majority of Pakistanis are hospitable peace-loving people. The minority extremists do not represent our ideals. It is very unfortunate, then, that we have allowed the two to be associated in recent times. Our deafening silence has not helped before and is not going to help now. It merely proves to the world that we are content with being associated with extremism. It portrays intolerance as an accepted norm in Pakistan. On the other hand, fiercely denouncing extremism projects our values of tolerance and peace to the world. It shows that true Pakistanis do not accept intolerance as normal. They reject it, vehemently oppose it and disown it.

Preventing one from speaking against intolerance and extremism in Pakistan, therefore, implies that intolerance is very much Pakistani – that Pakistan and extremism are names one of another. As a Jinnah’s Pakistani true to its founding ideals, I again take offense to that.

Pakistan was founded on the ideals of religious freedom. Islam and my basic humanity compel me to speak for all oppressed peoples anywhere on earth irrespective of faith or color. As a Pakistani, however, I feel obliged to focus on my motherland. Charity, as I have learnt it, begins at home. As such, a Shia Muslim killed in Quetta or an Ahmadi Muslim martyred in the Punjab should at least create the same outcry as a Palestinian man injured in an Israeli air strike. Oppression is all condemnable, but we can only worry about our tenth-door neighbor if we have our home in order.

When early Muslims were persecuted in Makkah, a group took refuge in Abyssinia.  Did their outcry before King Najash – on the persecution at the hand of the Makkans- signify hatred for Makkah? The Holy Prophet (pbuh) himself had to migrate to Medina. His condemnation of the oppression in Makkah and his eventual emigration did not mean that he did not love Makkah. He longed to return to his motherland. Even while he was in Makkah, he condemned all injustice openly, not because he hated Makkah but because he loved it, and wanted to see a positive change.

And here we are, people content with the continued persecution of our own. You might choose to love Pakistan by remaining silent witness to its exploitation at the hands of its enemies. I, on the contrary, will continue to express my love for Pakistan by speaking up against its opponents, against those who tarnish its image globally and those who do not exemplify its true values.

Pakistan was meant to be a great nation. However, thanks to your silence, it is only moving backwards. Jinnah’s Pakistan has been hijacked by his enemies. As a patriotic Pakistani, it is my duty to continue to let everyone know that I disown extremism and intolerance that has plagued the nation. Like me, there are many others who chose to do whatever much (or little) they can to prevent our nation’s downfall at the hands of this menace.

If you chose to remain silent, therefore, by all means do.

But I’d very much prefer if you shed your self-righteous attitude and join me in being a patriotic Pakistani.

Will you?

Original Post here

[Pak Tea House] An Ahmadi’s Plea to Pakistan: Be my voice

Religious freedom (or the lack thereof) in Pakistan cannot be emphasized enough. Due to the preposterous demeanor of Pakistan’s self-righteous right-wing, many in the world today are aware of Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy problem. Much frustration has been expressed on liberal Pakistani blogs — especially after the heartless murders of Governor Salmaan Taseer and Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti — on the abuse of these laws. Even though nothing is expected to change anytime soon, at least the first vital step towards that goal has been taken – raising awareness.

Unlike the general blasphemy laws, however, the specific anti-Ahmadi laws of Pakistan have not found even this much of luck. They have been conveniently forced out of the visual field and few are aware of the existence and continuous abuse of these draconian laws. The silence of the liberal Pakistani blogosphere in this regard has always been disappointing. Tired of waiting, I attempt to break the ice – once again.

In April of 1984, President Zia-ul-Haq issued the shameful anti-Ahmadi Ordinance XX.  Zia was a military dictator who had taken over the country after a coup in 1977. To legitimize his autocracy, Zia leaned towards the extreme right. He became the de facto champion of Pakistan’s extremist cause. As if the hatred radical clerics spread and the consequent violence was not enough, it was decided that the State would intervene to “discipline” the Ahmadi Muslims.

Hundreds of Ahmadi Muslims, including three of my maternal uncles, were rounded up from various parts of the country. Some were guilty of saying the Islamic Creed, the Kalima, which is a proclamation of the oneness of God and the truth of Prophet Muhammad. Others were jailed for using Islamic epithets on wedding and business cards. Such epithets had become a copyright of the state and only state-defined Muslims were permitted to use them. The law, for instance, forbade the use of words such as “InshAllah” (God willing) and “Bismillah” (In the Name of Allah). To say the “Salaam” (greeting of peace) was also declared a crime. Each of these “crimes” was punishable by three years of imprisonment and a fine. All this in the name of “Islamization” – how ironic!

Thousands of Ahmadi Muslims filled jails across the country. The “Adhan” or call to prayer was banned. Police erased the Kalima and otherQuranic verses from Ahmadi Muslim mosques. To refer to these places of worship as “mosques” or to refer to any Ahmadi as a Muslim was declared an offence under the law. Reciting the Quran or praying in public or carrying out any other act that could be seen as imitating a Muslim were declared punishable. On one side of prison sat rapists and murderers and on the other sat those who had proclaimed the oneness of God or invoked peace on a passer-by.

Not happy with the lenient three-year imprisonment prescribed for the heinous crimes mentioned, the rightist brigade suggested the death penalty. Ahmadi Muslims were already being regularly declared “worthy of being killed” or “wajib-ul-qatal ” in sermons and religious conferences. Zia inscribed that declaration into law. He went on to introduce the death penalty for propagation of Ahmadiyya Islam and distribution of Ahmadiyya literature.

Jinnah’s Pakistan had already been dealt a severe blow in 1974 when the State declared Ahmadi Muslims to be non-Muslim. A second major blow came with the institution of these ruthless laws. These laws exist to date and continue to tarnish Pakistan’s image in the international arena. Hundreds of Ahmadi Muslims remain behind bars in Pakistan – and hundreds have been killed.

To my fellow Pakistanis, I make a humble plea. I do not ask you to accept me as a Muslim because I know I will be wrong to take God’s position of being the ultimate Judge of faith and give it to you: my faith is personal between God and me. I do not ask you to believe in my interpretation of Islam. I do not ask you to stop thinking of me as heretic: you are free to hold whatever belief you want about me.

What I ask you to do is stop being silent witness to the systematic oppression my Community endures. Stand up for me. Be my voice and fight the injustice and bigotry in the anti-Ahmadi Muslim laws of our land.  Speak up against diabolical decrees written in the name of righteousness. Charity, I believe, should always begin at home. You are my home. Ipso facto, do not turn a blind eye. End the apathy.

Lately, I have lost all hope with the ultra-conservatives of Pakistan. My plea is to the so-called moderate faction of Pakistan. What are you waiting for?  How could you possibly ignore the absurdity of the anti-Ahmadi Muslim laws that harass millions in the name of Islam? If not for me, if not for the absurdity of these laws, speak up for the honor of Jinnah and the sanctity of the Pakistan that he dreamt of – a land where all would be free and equal.

The very least you can do, my friends, is take that first step towards change – raise awareness. This is essential for a prosperous and progressive Pakistan

Original Post here

[Newsline] Curbing the Dengue Epidemic: What the Government Should Do

A girl with dengue fever, left, walks with a woman carrying her saline solution as she receives medical attention in a hydration tent in Rio de Janeiro in 2008. Photo: courtesy AP / Ricardo Moraes

Two things are vital during an epidemic. First, people should be aware of the disease and be able to utilise healthcare resources when needed. Second, unnecessary panic must be avoided so as not to overwhelm these same resources. The media, where it can help to educate the masses, can sometimes be counterproductive by creating excessive hysteria. Rather than exaggerate the dangers of an outbreak of disease, the media should emphasise essential public health measures to help curb the menace.

The Pakistani media and the Punjab government both appear to be in a state of panic, which is contagious. The government has called in experts from Sri Lanka to help deal with the multiplying cases of dengue fever. The whole nation is grateful for this gesture of generosity by our friendly neighbour. As a medical scientist, however, I wonder what special expertise they possess that Pakistani doctors lack. There is no vaccine for dengue, no medical cure for the virus, the disease is self-limiting in the vast majority and requires timely administration of intravenous hydration, as well as blood and platelet transfusions for those who have contracted the haemorrhagic form. In case of shock, ICU care is critical. I am confident we have the ability and competence to provide such care.

Instead of looking abroad for answers and being hostage to the media frenzy, the health ministry should be looking to establish effective models to help in the early detection, treatment and serial follow-up of patients with dengue fever. Medical literature describes several such models. When a dengue epidemic broke out in Rio de Janeiro in 2008, for instance, the Albert Einstein Hospital in São Paulo, Brazil, sent a multidisciplinary team of volunteers with supplies to set up “hydration tents” across the city.

A hydration tent covered an area no more than an average family house, included a waiting room with 20 seats, a medical office with two tables and one stretcher, a small room for blood count tests and a room for intravenous fluid replacement with 30 armchairs. The tent was open and operational around the clock. It was equipped with supplies for blood draws, intravenous solutions and an automated blood cell analyser that released results within a minute. It also had basic symptomatic medication for fever and vomiting. Each team, working in 12-hour shifts, consisted of four doctors (two internists and two paediatricians), three nurses, six nursing assistants, two administrative clerks and one lab technician.

Primary care units, as well as city and state hospitals would refer patients to the tent. The routine procedure consisted of an initial screening, including vital signs (temperature, blood pressure, etc.) tourniquet test and blood sampling for a complete blood count (CBC). Once screened, the patients were seen by a doctor and evaluated clinically through a detailed history and examination. If clinical and laboratory data suggested dengue fever, the patient was assigned to one of three groups:  ORT (oral rehydration therapy), IVT (intravenous rehydration therapy) and DWR (discharge with recommendations).

ORT consisted of supervised fluid intake; either at water fountains installed in the tent or by volunteers who constantly offered the patients filtered water. In addition, the patients received instructions about fluid ingestion at home.

Patients were reassessed after rehydration (ORT or IVT) with a new CBC. Patients showing improvement were discharged and instructed to return if they experienced symptoms of disease progression. They also received an ID card (to present on revisits) with data on their blood work and vital signs. In case there was no improvement, patients received another course of IVT. If they continued to be refractory or worsened, they were transferred to a tertiary care hospital immediately.

Studies show that the early detection of dengue, followed by intravenous fluid administration in patients with complicated dengue fever or dengue haemorrhagic fever (DHF), has a major impact on its overall prognosis. Also, the balance between the demand for a healthcare utility and its availability during an epidemic is invariably tilted in favour of the former. In a country like Pakistan where this equation is tilted at baseline, a further dip can induce widespread chaos.

At the hydration tents, all DHF cases (about 3% of all patients seen) were transferred to tertiary care hospitals. Of note, there were no deaths reported among these patients. Equally noteworthy was the fact that 25% of all patients seen at the hydration tents were treated on-site, avoiding unnecessary referral to overloaded hospitals.

Effective models, such as hydration tents, can prove vital in dengue epidemics. They can help shorten the waiting lines at hospital ERs, broaden access to health care, improve the shortage of hospital beds and allow early detection and treatment of severe cases. Implementing hydration tents as an emergency measure should therefore be a priority in the Punjab. This will help decrease deaths and improve health care access in the most simple and cost-effective way.  If materialised, I am confident this measure will prove to be a key factor in taming the current epidemic.

Original Post here

[Newsline] Will Qadri’s Death Sentence be his End?

Right-wing Outrage at Qadri's Death Sentence

An anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi passed a verdict yesterday that sentenced Governor Salmaan Taseer’s murderer to death.

Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri’s crime was doubly heinous: he not only showered bullets on a fellow human but also brought disrepute to Islam by claiming to represent the religion in the act. He has no remorse and he would do the same if given a second chance, he claims.

The Pakistani blogosphere is already replete with arguments in favour and against the death penalty. Many are happy that the brave Taseer family finally has closure. Others protest it as an attack on Islam.

Just hours after the verdict by Justice Syed Pervez Ali Shah, a protest was carried out in Lahore labelling Justice Shah a non-Muslim and making him the target of filthy outrage. “Jawaniyaan Luta’ain gey Mumtaz Qadri ko bachayein gey” (we will sacrifice our youth to save Mumtaz Qadri) was the newly found slogan of this group. The madness did not stop at this. A speaker at the protest offered five million rupees in exchange for the judge’s murder. “Any brave soul?” he questioned. Sunni Tehreek leadership did not surprise us one bit either. “This decision was made to please the Jewish lobby,” said Tehreek leader Sahibzada Ata-ur-Rehman.

Qadri is an iconic figure for the right-wing (bay)ghairat brigade. As such, his sentence is not the defeat of one man but that of a dangerous vision. What we must not forget, however, is that this deadly ideology will never be completely defeated without hitting at its roots.

Today, Pakistan has unfortunately become a factory of Qadris. Sentencing one Qadri will not rid us of the factory that now has franchises in all parts of the country and is aspiring to become a monster enterprise. Take this video for instance:

Mufti Hanif Qureshi, leader of the Shabab-e-Islami group, used the most vile language against Governor Taseer and invited his audience to kill him during a sermon, days before his assassination. “That rascal, scoundrel, apostate governor is uttering rubbish like a filthy dog,” he said. He went on to accuse Taseer of being a Sikh, showing his obvious contempt for non-Muslims. He accused the governor of blasphemy without any evidence and called for his murder. He made sure his message was clear to all, having the crowd echo the words “death” and “murder” multiple times.

In this case, Mufti Hanif Qureshi was the factory and Qadri the product. And mind you, there are thousands of these factories all over the country that have taken us captive. It is these that must be closed down – and quick.

It is very regretful that our authorities keep ignoring the open expression of hate and incitement to violence by so-called religious clergy. Instances to this effect are numerous and unending. For decades, extremist clergymen have been making calls for violence against Ahmadi and Shia Muslims and non-Muslim minorities within Pakistan. The state has remained silent. It has failed to protect its citizens against evident terrorism. If anything, it has – through its discriminatory laws – promoted such behaviour and endorsed extremism in the process.

In an independent state with an independent judiciary, no one must be allowed to take the law in their hands. Hate speech must be checked. Speech that is hateful, threatening, abusive, or insulting, and which targets a person on account of skin colour, race, ethnicity and religion, must be forbidden. Unless this is taken seriously and unless hate factories such as Mufti Hanif Qureshi are checked and stopped from spreading hate and instigating open violence on Pakistani soil, a mere death sentence will not change us for the better.

So, coming back to the question will Qadri’s sentence mean his end? No, it won’t. But it is definitely a bold step towards that end. If followed up with the institution of more stringent laws against hate speech and the instigation of violence, it could be the basis of vital change. Pakistan Zindabad!

Original Post Here

[Express Tribune] Jinnah’s Pakistan, hijacked by clerics

Jinnah and Pakistan

With the partition of the Indian subcontinent, Pakistan came into existence on August 14, 1947. The valiant and astute Muhammad Ali Jinnah led the minority Muslim community of united India to a separate homeland to fulfill the demand for freedom of religion, profession, and speech.

Jinnah was an outstanding lawyer who had studied law in London. He had a modern outlook on the world and was strongly secular. Part of the oath under which he took office reads:

“No subject … in Pakistan shall, on grounds only of religion, place of birth, descent, color or any of them be ineligible for office.”

He was absolutely clear that the new state he was founding would accommodate people of all faiths and descent without any prejudice. To assert this point, he appointed a non-Muslim as his first law minister. The Muslims in his cabinet consisted of Sunni, Shia, and Ahmadis alike. He believed that Islam endorsed a secular democracy and the two were perfectly compatible.

“The great majority of us are Muslims. Consequently, we have a special and a very deep sense of unity. But make no mistake: Pakistan is not a theocracy or anything like it” he said in an address in 1948.

He believed in a Pakistan wherein the mosque would be separate from the state.

“You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State” he said.

In the struggle for Pakistan, Jinnah was not faced with the Indian Congress and the British alone. He also had to endure intense animosity from hard-line Muslim clerics and counter their vile propaganda. He was accused, by the ultra right-wing, of blasphemy, and they considered him a great heretic for his secular ideology.

Prominent clerics like Maulana Maududi urged common Muslims not to side with Jinnah. Maududi wrote:

“It is forbidden to vote for [Jinnah’s] Muslim League.”

Despite this, the resolute Jinnah was successful in garnering support from the masses in most Muslim-majority areas.

Today, the nation finds it hard to uphold the very ideals it was founded upon. As it passes through dangerously volatile times, it has forsaken its founding principles of freedom and secularism.

But how and why did Pakistan turn against itself?

Even though he tried his best to steer it toward a secular democracy, Jinnah did not live long enough to see it become one. Over the coming years, Pakistan took a very troubling turn. In a matter of nine years, it became an “Islamic Republic,” and in a little over two decades, it had essentially become a theocracy.

The same extremist clerics who had opposed Jinnah and his struggle for Pakistan gradually claimed ownership of the State. They formed political groups that used religion to amass public support. Their demonstrations of street power, frequently violent, meant that sectarian hatred and intolerance was the order of the day.

Even governments avoided a clash with the radical right and became increasingly wary of arousing any negative religious sentiment and consequently losing popular vote. This only furthered the extremist cause, and in time, the original path Pakistan started on was completely forsaken. Pakistan, it is now said, was formed for the Muslims and is meant to become an Islamic theocracy where theShariah, as interpreted by the hard-liners, is to be the ultimate law.

One tragedy after another, Jinnah’s Pakistan was dealt with massive blows. His Pakistan was no more his; it had been hijacked by forces of extremism and intolerance.

Non-Muslims could not hold the highest office in any of the core institutions anymore.

In 1953, there were widespread riots against the Ahmadi Muslims, a sect that extremists considered heretics.

The harassment of Shia Muslims and other minority groups also increased and went largely unchecked.

In 1974, the government yielded to intense pressure and declared the Ahmadiyya sect non-Muslim. 

Tout de suite, the State had taken authority to decide its people’s religion, and the two were no longer separate.

General Zia ul Haq took over the country and became its third military president in 1977. To legitimize his dictatorship, he sought to please the right-wing and set to Islamize Pakistan. Amongst other things, he introduced the controversial blasphemy laws that stated death as the punishment for any derogatory remark against the Quran, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and other Islamic holy personages.

For Ahmadis, Zia also promulgated an ordinance in 1984 that criminalized the practice of their faith. Zia’s rule was the toughest for citizens who did not adhere to what had now become the state-backed perversion of Islam. Jinnah’s secular Pakistan had drifted into the hands of his enemies.

Jinnah had warned of this in his August 11th, 1947 address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan. He said:

 ”As you know, history shows that in England, conditions, some time ago, were much worse than those prevailing in India today. The Roman Catholics and the Protestants persecuted each other. Even now there are some States in existence where there are discriminations made and bars imposed against a particular class. Thank God, we are not starting in those days.” He continued: “Today, you might say with justice that Roman Catholics and Protestants do not exist; what exists now is that every man is a citizen, an equal citizen of Great Britain and they are all members of the nation.”

In the same address, he said:

 ”My guiding principle will be justice and complete impartiality, and I am sure that with your support and cooperation, I can look forward to Pakistan becoming one of the greatest nations of the world.”

Jinnah knew that a secular form of government could bridge differences and bring together people of all faiths and backgrounds to build a strong Pakistan. Just as the Catholics had learned to live with the Protestants, he was optimistic that the Pakistan he was founding would be a successful nation, a beacon of tolerance and an example of unity in diversity. However, the men who opposed Jinnah’s ideals before partition stood in his way yet again.

Founded on freedom of religion and practice, Pakistan is one of the biggest violator of religious freedom today. For Pakistan to succeed, it will have to reverse the dangerous turn it took and get back on the path that Jinnah laid before it. The blasphemy laws must be amended, everyone must be equal citizen of the state, the anti-Ahmadi laws must be revisited and the state must remain separate from the mosque at every cost. Pakistan must educate itself and look for the unity that Jinnah so cherished in the diversity across the land.

In February 1948, Jinnah said in an address:

 ”You have to stand guard over the development and maintenance of democracy, social justice and the equality of manhood in your own native soil. With faith, discipline and selfless devotion to duty, there is nothing worthwhile that you cannot achieve.”

Unfortunately, recent events have shown that Pakistan is still far away from taking that vital turn. The government has shown little resolve to go after the perpetrators of religious hate and violence and definitely no will to even trigger a dialogue on the controversial laws of the land. With Pakistan headed toward a steep decline, the solution lies in bold courage and reform. Jinnah’s Pakistanis will have to wake up sooner than later and reclaim the land from his opponents. Pakistanis must bring about a rebirth of Pakistan – Jinnah’s Pakistan

Originally Posted Here

[The Record] Muslim group saving 30,000 lives to mark 9/11

Read the original post here.

As communities throughout the country undertake special events to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a Muslim group with strong North Jersey ties is launching a nationwide blood-drive campaign.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA has begun Muslims for Life, a nationwide campaign with a goal of collecting 10,000 units of blood in September. Locally, the organization’s first drive is planned on Monday in Rutherford; subsequent drives next week are planned in Englewood and Clifton.

“We wanted to find a way to save lives,” said Kashif Chaudhry, a doctor at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center who is youth president for the Ahmadiyya mosque based in Clifton. “The best thing we could think was to donate blood.”

He added, “You can potentially save three lives per unit of blood. We are trying to save 30,000 lives, 10 times more than the unfortunate number of people to die 10 years ago on 9/11.”

Early this summer the organization decided to conduct 200 blood drives nationwide leading up to the 10th anniversary.

“We hope to rectify the image that Islam does not respect life,” said Chaudhry. He said that in addition to the death and destruction inflicted on America on Sept. 11, law-abiding Muslims lost something, too. “Our faith was hijacked” he said. “The terrorists extorted it. … We will honor our country, America, and we will prove from our actions that we stand for life and not death.”

The four blood drives to be conducted in North Jersey in the coming week are among 20 similar events planned by the Ahmadiyya group statewide.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA was established in the United States in 1920. It is the only Islamic organization to believe in a messiah, Mirza Ghulam Ahmads, who claimed to be the second coming of Jesus of Nazareth. The group believes that Ahmad, who died in 1908, had been sent by God to divest Islam of fanatical beliefs and practices, to end wars, and to institute peace and justice, according to Ahmadiyya literature.

“We reached out to churches and synagogues and hospitals and universities,” said Chaudhry. “We’ve spoken to mayors. They have all helped us phenomenally. Some churches contacted us before we could get in touch with them.”

Chaudhry expects locally to average about 50 units of blood per drive to contribute toward the goal of 10,000 units. He doesn’t want people to lose sight of why the drives are being held.

“This is America. We are honoring 9/11,” he said. “We want everyone to know that.”


[The Record] Op-Ed: At the center of Ramadan is the daily fast

Read the original Post here.

IF YOU know a Muslim, you are sure to have heard about Ramadan and the tradition of fasting in Islam.

Ramadan is the ninth and holiest month of the Islamic calendar, and it began Aug. 1 in the United States. Millions of Muslims across the country and many more across the world will spend the month fasting.

Even though it is singular in its details, the practice of fasting as a form of spiritual exercise is not unique to Islam. Almost all religions advocate fasting in one form or the other. Our Founding Fathers and the Pilgrims attributed their successes to prayer and fasting.

An entry in President George Washington’s diary reads, “June 1st, went to church and fasted all day.” When the country was on the verge of war with France in 1798, President John Adams proclaimed a day of fasting and prayer to avoid war. During the war with Britain, both houses of Congress under President James Madison desired to spend a day in “fasting and prayer.” President Abraham Lincoln is also well-known to have called the nation to prayer and fasting for national peace and unity on three different occasions during the Civil War.

A typical day in Ramadan starts very early, before the dawn. Muslims spend these early hours in meditation and prayer and in reciting from the Quran. The fast kicks off with the suhoor or the morning meal, which is the counterpart of the regular breakfast. This is followed by the fajar or morning prayer, which is said before the sun rises. The whole day is spent without eating or drinking anything.

With a prayer of gratitude to God, a Muslim breaks his fast at sunset with the iftar or the evening meal. Following the practice of Prophet Muhammad, dates have traditionally been a part of iftar meals.

From sunrise till sunset, the duration of the fast will roughly be 15 hours this year. During this period, a Muslim who fasts is required to abstain from all evil deeds as seemingly small as they may be. Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said, “If a person does not avoid false talk and false conduct during fasting, then Allah does not care if he abstains from food and drink.” It is prohibited to use bad language, to engage in any fights or to indulge in worldly pleasures during the fast. Since it is more of a spiritual exercise, a Muslim is expected to spend as much of his time as possible in the remembrance of God.

Fasting in the month of Ramadan is mandatory for all Muslims except those who are ill or on a journey. For such, the number of days missed may be repaid at a later time. For every fast missed deliberately, however, alms enough to feed 60 hungry people are to be paid as expiation.

The essence of fasting is manifold. Physically, it is a great endurance exercise. It makes us experience hunger and empathize with the millions around the world who go without food every day. It is alarming to note that approximately every 5 seconds, a child dies of hunger in the world. With stress on eating less and giving out more to the less fortunate, these conditions may be improved.

Ramadan also lays heavy emphasis on charity. It is obligatory for all Muslims to give out zakat — a fixed portion of their wealth — to charitable endeavors. In Ramadan, Muslims are urged to spend far more than just this obligatory part. The reward of charity work is multiplied manifold in this blessed month.

The end of Ramadan is marked by the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr. This celebration is held to express gratitude to God for having enabled the faithful to partake of the blessings of Ramadan. The Eid-ul-Fitr in the United States this year will be celebrated Aug. 30.

As millions of fellow Americans spend the next few days in striving to improve their physical, moral and spiritual faculties, they will also be expressing their gratefulness to America’s pluralistic ideals and multiculturalism. In respect of these values, please join me in wishing America “Ramadan Mubarak” or “Ramadan Karim” — a very happy Ramadan.

Kashif N. Chaudhry, a New Milford resident, is a physician and member of the Muslim Writers Guild of America.

[The Record] Ten years after 9/11, U.S. Muslims still battling stereotypes

I was interviewed by “The Record” for a piece on 9/11. Read Online Here.

Ten years have passed since al-Qaida terrorists hijacked four planes in an attack that killed nearly 3,000 people and wiped the World Trade Center from the New York City skyline.

But time has done little to dispel the deep mistrust some Americans feel toward Muslims, believing they are sympathetic to terrorists and have not done enough to root out radicalism in their communities.

Muslim leaders have ramped up outreach to show they’re as American as anyone else, but have been unable to shake the specter of terrorism. That mistrust has played out across national and local levels in racial profiling, congressional hearings on radicalism in Islam and virulent opposition to the building of mosques.

North Jersey has a large Muslim community with deep local roots and some members serving in public office. But Muslims here have hardly been immune from tensions over Islam in America.

“Sept. 11 was a major rude awakening. All of a sudden our religion was hijacked by someone who flies into buildings,” said Mohamed El Filali, the outreach coordinator for the Islamic Center of Passaic County in Paterson.

New Jersey was inextricably linked to the disaster, having lost so many of its residents to the attacks and later learning that a few hijackers made a temporary home in Paterson. Suspicion and fear were rampant in the aftermath.

Tensions surfaced sharply with a North Bergen Muslim cleric’s proposal to develop the Park51 mosque near Ground Zero. Richard Zuendt, a member of the Bergen County Republican Organization and co-founder of, said the mosque plan showed that Muslim-Americans were not understanding or tolerant of their neighbors, a sentiment shared by other Americans who protested the project.

“They don’t feel the way we do,” said Zuendt, of Garfield. “They don’t feel our hurt. If they felt our hurt, they would not want to open a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero.”

Muslim-Americans across North Jersey said the “us versus them” scenario was unfair and that their civil liberties as Americans suffered when their homes and non-profits were raided, when their houses of worship got extra land-use scrutiny, or when they were subject to tougher questioning when they came up for public-service jobs.

In a recent high-profile case, critics assailed Governor Christie’s appointment of Clifton lawyer Sohail Mohammed, an Indian-American Muslim, as a state Superior Court judge. During his confirmation hearing in June, Mohammed was grilled by lawmakers on topics like his Muslim affiliations and beliefs on Shariah law, or Islamic religious law, and the Palestinian political party Hamas.

State Sen. Gerald Cardinale, R-Demarest, who vigorously questioned Mohammed, said he had the right to assess how people’s beliefs might affect their work.

“The majority of Muslims pose no threat,” Cardinale said in a recent interview. “What I believe is that most of them are as fearful of the extremist minority as we are and our goal should be to overcome the extremist minority tendencies.”

Cardinale said those Muslim extremists want to “destroy American culture” and impose Shariah law, which he said makes women into cattle or slaves. But Muslims say critics are using terms like Shariah to inspire fear, while spreading misinformation about what those terms actually mean.

Muslims interviewed about Sept. 11 said they were resentful of what they called guilt by association. Kashif Chaudhry of New Milford, a Muslim youth leader, said Muslims were being subject to the same kind of prejudices that other religions and ethnic groups had faced in the past in the U.S.

“The perception that the whole community was terrorists or terrorist sympathizers — we hoped that would go away with time,” said Chaudhry.

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