Incomprehensible. That is the only word I can use to express my feelings about the indifference of people, the authorities, and the media towards the attacks against the Ahmadi community in Lahore on Friday. Attacks that were carried out in broad daylight, killing over 90 people and injuring many others. Attacks that turned into a hostage situation with over 1500 people at risk of being killed or fatally injured.
I am disappointed that there is no one to protest and lament the killings, especially since the Ahmadi community seems to have been silenced by years of discrimination and persecution. I was six years old and attending a Quran class when the maulvi sahib blatantly refused to teach two of my friends, Maham and Rija. I remember his words, his eyes flaming with hate as he refused to let them sit in his class, or even touch ‘their’ Quran. I did not understand why no one protested, why they had chosen to leave the room silently, as if the hate and discrimination was expected. I found myself in the same dilemma on Friday, when after one of the largest attacks against them in the history of Pakistan, this was the only official statement issued on behalf of the Ahmadi community:
Despite what has happened no Ahmadi has taken to the streets in protest; no Ahmadi has displayed anything but patience. Instead we have turned towards God and prayed for the victims, for their bereaved relatives and for the long term peace and prosperity of Pakistan. We will continue with this example no matter what is thrown at us in the full certainty that God is with us and always will be.
The only reality check regarding this horrifying episode has come from a woman who was attending to one of the people wounded in Friday's attacks. She refused to accept a bouquet from Interior Minister Rehman Malik, and went on to lambast him for inadequate security provisions at the sites of worship. It was indeed ironic to see dozens of security guards accompany the interior minister to his trip to the hospital to visit the survivors of Friday's attacks. If only half of those were present to guard the two sites that came under attack, this incident could have been prevented, or, if nothing else, casualties could have been minimised. There is thus absolutely no justification for this act of negligence.
Meanwhile, the social networks have also been abuzz with outrage. Twitter, in particular, was flooded with messages of condemnation, shock, and horror. Many were disgusted by the way in which media outlets were describing the sites that were attacked as 'worship places’ instead of ‘mosques.’ Others accused the media of downplaying the casualties. Someone remarked how a popular news channel's comments suggesting ‘worship places should have their own security’ were derogatory and inhumane. There were debates on whether the media channels will count those killed as ‘martyrs,’ and if not, then why not?
Here's the thing: I do not care whether those killed on Friday will be labeled martyrs or not. It does not make a difference to me whether the authorities have traced the terrorist outfit responsible for this attack. I remain enraged that most of us refuse to recognise the attacks as a human rights issue, and, most importantly, as a violation of minority rights. And by ‘most of us,’ I am referring to those of us who are neither politicians, scholars, clerics, or media personnel. I have lived in Pakistan long enough not to expect the authorities to be sensitive towards the real issues of the people. But the public framing of Friday's attacks is about the underlying hate, discrimination, and religious bigotry that has been suffocating us for years. This is about those of us who choose to use religion to justify inhumanity despite the gory images showing attacks on innocent civilians.
There is no justification for killing unarmed civilians - no religion or legal system allows a bunch of people to take the law in their hands and carry out barbaric acts of terror.
Today, I must confess that I am scared of the uncertainties the future holds. I fear that this attack might be one of many to come. And most of all, I fear that another attempt will be similarly downplayed and labeled an act of terrorism, rather than a violation of minority rights. The stabbing of an Ahmadi man at Narowal on Monday further strengthens my fears, especially as the threats of the assailant to “not leave any Ahmadi alive” serve as uncanny reminders of state-sanctioned discrimination against the Ahmadi community.
I feel that in our attempts to prove ourselves so-called pious Muslims and patriotic Pakistanis we have left humanity far behind. Our sympathies have become political, and our humanity has been compromised. Somewhere in our tussle to become pioneers of Islam and the darling of the West, we have stopped being human. For every atrocity that unfolds around us, we have a home-made conspiracy theory, a religious justification, or a history lesson with which to identify the culprits. But amid this information overload, the atrocities go ignored, priorities remain distorted, and the massacre continues.
For every one who witnessed the horrendous killings of Ahmadis this past week, I have one question: how many Garhi Shahos and Gojras will it take for us to stop abusing religious beliefs to justify killing innocent people?
The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.
The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.