Monthly Archives: May 2011

[Newsline]: Hiding Behind the Drones

I wrote the following piece for Newsline. Read the full article by clicking here.

Down with the drones: Imran Khan has waged a war against drone attacks, and it seems to be resonating with Pakistani citizens.

Imran Khan promises to free Pakistan of injustice, poverty, homelessness, illiteracy and unemployment while empowering women and securing equal rights for religious minorities. But Khan’s critics label him a Taliban sympathiser who garners support by using the anti-US card when anti-US sentiments already are high. Whereas Khan staunchly opposes the drone strikes in Pakistan and repeatedly blames them for rising terrorism in the country, critics feel he has not been vocal enough in condemning religious fanatics across Pakistan. And while he has not protested against suicide attacks on the civilian population, he is on his way to lead a second sit-in against CIA-operated Predator drones, this time in the country’s financial capital, Karachi. His claim: the menace of terrorism (which the US claims the drones contain) can be uprooted within 90 days under his leadership if the drones stopped raining ‘hellfire.’

Is the US really the reason for growing terrorism in Pakistani society? Are drones targeting innocent civilians? Would terrorism be contained if the drones were to stop?

Drone attacks began in 2004. Only nine strikes occurred in the first four years of the program. Since January of 2008, however, there have been over 230 incidents of drone attacks in Pakistan’s north. But the history of terrorism in Pakistan precedes these events by decades.

From the 1986 Pan Am hijacking in Karachi to the 2008 Mumbai attacks, Pakistan has been implicated in many acts of global terrorism. Even foreigners have found Pakistan a fertile haven for terror. As such, many international terrorists in recent history have been proven to either have trained in Pakistan or been arrested on its soil. Here are a few of those names: Waleed bin Attash of Yemen who killed 17 people in the 2000 USS Cole attack; Ahmed Ghailani of Tanzania who was responsible for the death of over 200 people in the twin US embassy attacks in Kenya and Tanzania;Khalid Sheikh Mohammad of Kuwait who masterminded the 9/11 tragedy; Umar Patek of Indonesia who killed hundreds in Bali; senior Al-Qaeda operative Abu Faraj al-Libbi of Libya; and now Saudi-born Osama bin Laden.

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[Newsline] I Still Wait: An Ahmedi Looks for Support

I wrote the following piece for Newsline. Read the full article by clicking here.

No religious freedom: Jinnah’s Pakistan was dealt a severe blow in 1974 when Ahmedis were declared a non-Muslim minority.

Laws are meant to discipline and protect. In Pakistan, not all laws do either.

Recently, especially after the cold-blooded murders of Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti, a good part of the Pakistani blogosphere voiced opinions against the abuse of the Blasphemy Law. Much has been said – a stronger part of which has been silenced – on its exploitation. However, what I still long to hear from my Pakistani friends is a strong word of condemnation on the specific anti-Ahmedi laws of the country.

The situation is so bleak that many people are completely unaware of these draconian Laws. In April of 1984, Zia-ul-Haq issued the opprobrious anti-Ahmedi Ordinance XX. As if the hatred spread by the mullah brigade was not enough to castigate them, it was decided that rigorous imprisonment and fines would be utilised to chastise the Ahmedis.

Many Ahmedis, including three of my maternal uncles, were rounded up in 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 (pbuh). How ironic. Others were jailed for using words and epithets on wedding and business cards that are supposed to be used by state-defined Muslims only. The law forbade the use of words such as “InshAllah” (God willing) and “Bismillah” (In the Name of Allah). To say the salaam was also declared a crime. Each of these ‘crimes’ was punishable by three years of imprisonment and a fine.

The mullah brigade did not stop there. An important question arose: was the three-year imprisonment enough for such heinous crimes? The death penalty was suggested. Ahmedis were declared worthy of being killed or wajib-ul-qatal. The Azan or call to prayer was banned in Ahmedi places of worship, which were refused the title masjid or mosque. To refer to them as such or to refer to any Ahmedi as a Muslim was declared an offence under the law. Reciting the Quran or praying in public or carrying out any other acts that made the perpetrator appear a Muslim were declared punishable with three years in jail. On one side of prison sat rapists and murderers and on the other sat those who had recited the Kalima or said the salaam.

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Op-Ed: A new day for the Muslim-American community

This Op-Ed was published in the New Jersey Record. Original Post –

Osama Bin Laden

PRESIDENT OBAMA in his historic Sunday night address described Osama bin Laden as a mass murderer. “Osama was never a Muslim leader. He was a mass murderer,” he said.

When bin Laden orchestrated the Sept. 11 attacks, some Muslims hailed him as a hero of Islam. Throughout the past decade, he has been an inspiration for radical youth and an institution for radicalizing others. He exploited religion as a lethal weapon against humanity.

This is why at his death, religious parties in Pakistan are silent. A protest was held in the Pakistani city of Quetta, the first of its kind after his death, and in the same city where he was given the titles of “martyr” and “supreme fighter.”

As a Muslim-American youth leader belonging to the Islamic-American organization the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA, I venture to explain just why President Obama was right and Osama sympathizers wrong in celebrating bin Laden as a Muslim leader.

Islam categorically rejects violence in all its forms. The Quran forbids Muslims from committing iniquity and causing disorder. It advocates against murder and compares the killing of one person to the killing of all mankind.

It also repeatedly highlights the importance of acting righteously and making peace between men. Did Osama follow these injunctions? No. Obama 1, Osama 0.

In the presence of such strong condemnation of violence from Islam, Osama had to exploit jihad to legitimize his nefarious plans. An Arabic word that literally means “struggle,” Osama perverted the meaning of jihad to a violent struggle against innocents.

Prophet Muhammad had clearly stated that the greater jihad was a struggle against oneself, against one’s inner temptations. The only time fighting is allowed in Islam is in defense and specifically to protect the freedom of religion.

Muslims are enjoined to protect all houses of worship including churches and synagogues.

Peace, freedom

Muslim-Americans live in complete peace and enjoy total religious freedom, something uncommon in many Muslim countries. Still, bin Laden bombed churches and mosques and was responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians, most of them Muslims themselves. Did he follow the injunctions of the Holy Quran? No. Obama 2, Osama 0.

The vast majority of Muslims in the world are peace-loving citizens loyal to their countries of residence, loyalty being an important injunction of Islamic teaching. Prophet Muhammad said, “Loyalty to one’s homeland is part of faith.” In contrast, Osama brainwashed already disturbed youth and turned them into perpetrators of terror against their own homeland.

Failed Times Square bomb plotter Faisal Shehzad is one such example. Did he follow the injunctions of the Holy Quran? No. Obama 3, Osama 0.

An icon of terror

Bin Laden was an icon of terror, a cold-blooded mass murderer. I am grateful that Obama and the majority of my fellow Americans understand this fact.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA continues to present the real teachings of Islam. As part of the national “Muslims for Peace” campaign, I, along with scores of Ahmadi Muslim-American youth, are reaching out to approximately 2 million Americans distributing fliers that highlight the importance of peace, love and loyalty in the Islamic faith.

The death of bin Laden does not end the threat of terror, but the response it generated in the Muslim-American community is a message of hope.

Just like Obama, the vast majority of Muslim-Americans recognize the difference between a mass murderer and a true Muslim leader.