Salam Sahab, we have failed you

January 30, 2012

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Illutration by Faraz Aamer Khan

Yesterday marked the 85th Birthday of Dr.Abdus Salam, theoretical physicist and the only Pakistani Nobel Laureate. He is not our national hero, his name is rarely ever mentioned, in his life the only befitting ‘honour’ we could provide him was a life in self exile, in his death however we went a step ahead by blanking out the term ‘Muslim’ from his epitaph. A member of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, a member of the Scientific Commission of Pakistan and the Chief Scientific Adviser to the President, Salam was one of the most prolific researchers in theoretical elementary particle physics. No minister or high government official attended his funeral.

He was an Ahmadi.

Happy Birthday Salam Sahab, we have failed you.

Over 5,000 gathered in Rawalpindi yesterday, blaring witness to the systematic hate, prejudice that has been curtailed by a whole series of ordinances, acts and constitutional amendments against the Ahmadiyya community, that had been the cause of Salaam’s self exile four decades ago. Nothing has changed since, for the Ahmadis it has only gotten worse.

The rally called out by traders’ associations was attended by activists of Jamaatud Dawa, Jamaat-i-Islami, Sipah Sahaba (banned organisation) and Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat in Rawalpindi,  claimed that a ‘worship place’ belonging to the Ahmadiya community was built without permission, The irony of protest on land encroachments by parties who themselves have been involved in extortion and land encroachments is immeasurable. But it was not long until the real incentive became clear.  A few weeks ago anti-Ahmadi banners had appeared in the same area, threatening the residents to leave, claiming their existence was unconstitutional and any restraint from them could lead to ‘repercussions’.

Terrified, no one spoke.

If you are Pakistani passport holder chances are you have signed a declaration claiming Qadianis as non-Muslims, this means that you declare them prohibited from calling themselves ‘Muslim’, to call their ‘places of worship’ mosques, to pray in ‘Muslim mosques’ or ‘public prayer areas’, to give azaan, to greet others with salaam, to publicly quote from the Quran – these amongst others could get one up to three years in prison.

Now they want to take away their right to worship. Through intimidation and hate mongering, speakers at the conference yesterday blatantly announced that there will be a 100,000 Qadri’s raging against the Ahmadis, issuing an ultimatum to the Ahmadiyya community to stop praying.

If they do and if the authorities fail to take action against the open call for aggression and violence, you and I will be responsible for authorising prejudice, for remaining silent in the face of aggression, for letting the hatred breed within our society, for not standing up for one of our own and for allowing men driven by their convoluted faith kill in the name of God.

If being party to vigilantism burdens your conscience, voice your concern, stand up and be counted.

Our state reminds me of Faiz’s words that he had scribbled in Dr. Abdus Salam's diary when they met at an airport.

'Nisar mein teri galiyon kay aye watan kay jahan Chali hai rasm kay koi na sar utha kay chaley' (My salutations to thy sacred streets, O beloved nation! Where a tradition has been invented- that none shall walk with his head held high)

jo koii chaahanewaalaa tawaaf ko nikale nazar churaa ke chale, jism-o-jaan bachaa ke chale (If at all one takes a walk, a pilgrimage One must walk, eyes lowered, the body crouched in fear)

Sana Saleem blogs at Global Voices,  Asian CorrespondentThe Guardian and her personal blog Mystified Justice. She recently won the Best Activist Blogger award by CIO & Google at the Pakistan Blogger Awards. She can be found on Facebook and tweets at twitter.com/sanasaleem.

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