By Nasim Rehmatullah
National Vice President
Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, USA
Last week, Pakistani terrorists committed unprecedented acts of brutality against the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Equipped with semi-automatic weaponry, grenades, suicide vests and ball bearings, they savagely attacked about 3,000 Ahmadiyya Muslims gathered at two mosques for Friday prayers. In the end, nearly 100 members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community were brutally murdered. In the following days, these terrorists have murdered at least 15 more members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in homes and hospitals.
As these events unfold, the Pakistani Government is blatantly incompetent and helpless because of laws the Pakistani government implemented in 1974 and 1984. As National Vice President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA, this shocking news shook me to my core. I am one of those who emigrated from Pakistan decades ago to escape the deadly grip of Pakistans infamous anti-blasphemy laws against Christians, Jews and those who the government has labeled non-Muslim. Those very same laws remarkably still in full force and effect today have now dealt their most devastating blow to Pakistans religious minorities. Indeed, last week’s attacks rank among the worst single atrocities ever leveled against a minority religious community.
What drove these mad men to murder men, women and children and injure hundreds more? The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community believes that Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani is the messiah whom the Prophet Muhammad foretold would appear. Its members believe that God sent Ahmad, like Jesus, to end religious wars, condemn bloodshed and reinstate morality, justice and peace. As part of its effort to revive Islam, members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community actively spread Ahmads teachings of moderation and restraint. Pakistani government and terror groups, like the majority of the Muslim world, consider the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community to be non-Muslim. This ideological divide is what has fueled an unrelenting terror campaign against its members.
Nowhere is the terror campaign more active than in Pakistan. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has approximately four million members living in Pakistan. For over six decades, this community has endured senseless persecution at the hands of religious extremists who have government support its mosques burned, its graves desecrated, indeed its very existence criminalized. Members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community profess to be Muslims, but their belief is irrelevant under the law. The Second Amendment to Pakistans Constitution, passed in 1974, explicitly deprives them of their Muslim identity. Moreover, Pakistans anti-blasphemy criminal ordinances explicitly target the activities of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Specifically, Ordinance XX, passed in 1984, prohibits its members from publicly declaring their faith, propagating their faith, building mosques or making the call for Muslim prayers. In short, virtually any public act of worship or devotion by a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community can be treated as a criminal offense punishable by fine, imprisonment or death.
Emboldened by these anti-blasphemy laws, religious extremists have systematically targeted this community, as well as other religious minorities, including Christians and Jews. Just last week, another militant terrorist group attacked a church in Karachi, and this trend continues. If attacks against all religious minorities continue to go ignored, militants will continue to expand the scope of their attacks. This is how terror plots have moved outside of Pakistan’s borders and onto American soil. To protect the American people from becoming victims of terrorists, the power to persecute must be taken away from extremists.
Redressing the tragic plight of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community should be in America’s best interest. Indeed, America is one of the largest investors in Pakistan’s future. It is firmly committed to assist Pakistan to combat extremism, violence and lawlessness within its borders. If Pakistan does not successfully defeat those extremists who aim to uproot democracy and terrorize minorities, America, too, can face a grave security threat. But the battle against Pakistan’s extremists cannot be won unless all levels of government in Pakistan scrutinize and reform the laws and policies that give ammunition to these extremists. It is simply not enough to apprehend and uproot extreme groups like the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) – who take credit for yesterday’s attack – without first addressing the root problem. America must push Pakistans Parliament to repeal the anti-blasphemy laws in order to dismantle the extremist apparatus that endangers the world. America must not be misled by Pakistan’s claim that democracy and freedom of religion exists. America must promote its own security by addressing the root cause of the problem of terrorism in Pakistan.
Nasim Rehmatullah is the National Vice President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, USA – the oldest Muslim Organization in the U.S.