Monday, September 29, 2008

Ahmadiyah members assured they can celebrate in peace

The Jakarta Post The Archipelago Tue, 09/30/2008 10:19 AM

Panca Nugraha, The Jakarta Post, Mataram

West Nusa Tenggara Police have stressed that members of the Ahmadiyah sect seeking refuge at the Mataram Transmigration Transit Center during the Idul Fitri holiday would be safe, with officers conducting routine patrols on site.

“The police have so far not specifically posted personnel at the location, but we are patrolling the area on a regular basis,” provincial police spokesman Comr. Tribudi Pangastuti told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

“They remain Indonesian citizens who should be protected.”

Tribudi added police personnel deployment at the transit center would depend on the situation there.

Ever since the government issued a joint decree banning Ahmadiyah activities, police have been monitoring the group and conducting routine patrols to ensure they are not targeted by hard-line Islamic activists.

“The situation remains calm as of now. There’s still no reaction from the public. The center has never been a scene of protest over the presence of the group,” Tribudi said.

As in previous years, hundreds of Ahmadiyah refugees will this year perform Idul Fitri prayers Wednesday at a small mosque in the transit center.

“Actually, we were looking forward to performing the prayers at our home village, but we will be staying here this year because we still hold refugee status,” said Ahmadiyah refugee coordinator Syahidin.

He said that after the Idul Fitri prayer, those living at the transit center, and others at the former Praya Hospital in Central Lombok would visit each other for the traditional seeking of forgiveness.

Some 137 Ahmadiyah members from 33 families are still sheltering at the transit center after being forced from their homes in Gegerung village, West Lombok, in February 2006.

As many as 57 other refugees from 15 families are still occupying the former Praya Hospital, having been forced from their homes in Praya village, Central Lombok, in June 2006.

In that time, six people have died and eight babies have been born.

Ahmadiyah advisor Syaiful Uyun told the Post the provincial office of the Religious Affairs Ministry had held a dialogue with Ahmadis in mid-September.

But there has yet to be any visit by officials to the evacuation centers, he added.

“The joint decree states that Ahmadiyah not to proselytize its teaching and live exclusively, calling for an integration with the public at large,” he said.

“But how can we mix if we are still taking refuge here? The government should have resolved the refugee issue first.”

Syaiful also said that during the dialogue, a number of people had asked Ahmadiyah members to perform a mass repentance in public, similar to that done by members of the Al-Qiyadah Al-Islamiyah sect.

“This confuses us. Al-Qiyadah is obviously a deviant sect because it acknowledges its leader Musadeq as the last prophet, and thus ought to repent,” Syaiful said.

“But we recognize Prophet Muhammad as the final prophet and pledge the same syahadah (profession of faith) as other Muslims. So what should we repent for?”

Ahmadiyah is considered heretical by many mainstream Muslims for its recognition of founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as a prophet, despite Islamic tenet insisting Muhammad was the final prophet and no prophet could come after him.

The group eventually split into two schools of thought, with one still recognizing Ahmad as a prophet and messiah, and the other considering Ahmad just a reformer, not a prophet.

The provincial administration is still monitoring the Ahmadis’ activities before it decides to return them to their homes.

H.M. Nur, head of the provincial People’s Unity and Protection Agency, said the government would persuade the communities that expelled the Ahmadiyah members to accept them back.

“If the Ahmadiyah members have abided by the joint decree, but the local communities have yet to accept them, this could also cause a problem,” he said.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

In the name of faith by Irfan Husain

By Irfan Husain

IN a moving article on this page (‘Not in the name of faith’, Sept 21), Kunwar Idris reminded us of the treatment being accorded to the Ahmadis in Pakistan.

He mentioned the three murders that took place this month in the aftermath of a television talk-show in which one of the participants said Ahmadis were ‘wajib-ul-qatal’, or deserving of death.

A few days later, the Marriott hotel in Islamabad was targeted by a suicide bomber, killing around 60 people, most of them Muslims. Before and since, many other innocent victims have been murdered in the name of faith. So what do all these deaths have in common? Two things: firstly, these people are killed because one group believes it has a monopoly on faith, and anybody who does not subscribe to their version of it should be killed; and secondly, those who murder in the name of their faith are rarely caught and punished, unless they are suicide bombers.


Over the years, intolerance has hardened and become a murderous element that is now threatening to break up Pakistan. Whether this is expressed in the form of a truck of explosives detonated outside the Marriott; an Ahmadi killed because his beliefs do not conform to mainstream orthodoxy; a Christian attacked on the grounds of his faith; or a Hindu girl kidnapped because she has no protection in a Muslim state, it all leads back to the same strain of intolerance that says:I am right, and you are wrong. And because you are wrong, I have the right to kill you.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Threat to the state by Ayesha Siddiqa - [Opinion]

By Ayesha Siddiqa

MANY in Pakistan are shocked at the bomb blast outside the Marriott hotel in Islamabad which killed more than 50 people and wounded scores. It has made people nervous about further acts of violence, making life unsafe in the capital.

The question for many is that if law and order agencies are unable to protect important people in high-security areas, then what can be the fate of ordinary people?

This, indeed, is an imperfect question considering that both society and state remain silent for the most part on other occasions when innocent people are murdered. The reference here is to the brutal murder of two Ahmadis in Sindh by those presumably incited by the views of a self-professed religious scholar who instructed his television viewers twice this month to kill Ahmadis for being non-Muslims and flouting the fundamentals of Islam. This is what one would call incitement to murder.

Pakistan’s Ahmadi community was declared non-Muslim by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, which, technically speaking, settled the matter of dealing with this group of people by the state itself. Without getting into whether the decision was right or wrong, the fact is that the existing laws can challenge any member of the Ahmadi community who claims to be a Muslim. So, the alim did not have to take the law into his own hands. The two people who died were not challenging the state’s decision, but were threatened because of their faith. In any case, the two individuals were Pakistani citizens, who, like other minorities, have a right to be protected by the state. The problem didn’t end here but spread to other parts of the country. For instance, when the principal of the Quaid-i-Azam Medical College issued a notice to students to refrain from engaging in sectarian or religious conflicts, there was a protest in Bahawalpur asking for the lynching of the gent.

Unfortunately, civil society on the whole including our media has been silent on these murders. The Ahmadis have been declared non-Muslim by the state but they are still citizens of Pakistan and the murder of innocent people cannot be allowed. Luckily, the MQM had the sense to throw out the alim in question from the party but where are the voices that had cried in the past for defence of media freedom? Does freedom not include the security of ordinary people? It is sad to see that the television channel in question did not have the moral gumption to sack the ‘scholar’ or the producer of the programme. It is most unfortunate that the media, which considers itself the harbinger of freedom and democracy, has remained silent on this heinous crime.

While the MQM, which is considered problematic due to its policies and attitude, had the sense to sack the former minister, media gurus have remained silent. What is worse is that the US government, which otherwise raises all kinds of issues, has remained silent and kept its partnership with the channel in question.

This is not just about the murder of two people following a different set of religious beliefs, it also depicts the level of intolerance in society, its attitude towards whoever is considered as the ‘other’, and the perception of national security. Anyone who is not considered as part of the larger group or majority is considered a threat to the state. The same attitude is reflected in the perception of the larger issue of terrorism as well.

It is rather sad that the newly elected government is unable to convince the population that the war on terror is Pakistan’s issue rather than America’s agenda. Unfortunately, the government’s inability to convince the general public is because of the growing credibility gap.

The fact that the president did not think about cancelling his foreign visit and making himself available for his people after the blast has created the impression that he is more concerned about his American patron than ordinary Pakistanis. People understand that the main source of power of the new government is not the prime minister but the president who should have spent some extra time at home before flying away. Just imagine if George Bush had left the country within hours of 9/11.

Moreover, the lack of credibility increases due to statements issued by interior advisor, Rehman Malik who tried to convince the world that the attack was aimed at the leadership when it is now known that the Marriott was not the intended venue for the VIP dinner party. The guests were invited to the Prime Minister’s House where the party was eventually held at the time of the blast.

The credibility factor is important otherwise people will continue to think that the Taliban will save the country from an external threat posed by the US. Opinion right now is divided on how to interpret the internal terrorist attacks. Most of the people who died in the Marriott attack, those who were killed earlier and those that will fall prey to the Taliban onslaught in the future constitute ordinary Pakistanis. The regime should be able to convince the people that the Taliban or other militants are as bad for the country as is US intervention. Since two wrongs don’t make a right; Pakistan must select its own options to overcome the crisis rather than aligning itself with either party. The option is to engage other states like Russia, Iran, China, India and numerous European Union states, who do not sympathise with the American intervention, in a dialogue. At the same time, a consensus must be built within the country to examine our past linkages with the militants and to review our policy. We need to eliminate terrorism for our own advantage rather than anyone else’s.

The recent terror attack has challenged the writ of the newly elected government more than any other force. Today, the Pakistani government is divided into two: the political government and an invisible one. The latter is bound to build its credibility on the ashes of the political government, especially if it appears incapable to defend the nation.

In addition, the PPP must change its individual-dominated decision-making practices. While this has been the party’s tradition, it could work in the past because of the greater credibility of leaders such as Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto. The same formula might not work now. Under the circumstances, people will feel greater unease in accepting the party’s policies.

The world is intently watching and judging the new government’s ability to fight the threat. The president must not appear as someone who cannot deliver on his promises. We need a strong leadership at this time to direct the state and society. It is only a capable leadership that can talk society out of the intolerance that eventually breeds greater violence.

The writer is an independent strategic and political analyst.

ayesha.ibd [at]

© The DAWN Group of Newspapers, 2008

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Not in the name of faith by Kunwar Idris - [Opinion]

By Kunwar Idris

LAST week three funerals took place on three successive days. The dead came from different backgrounds, belonged to different places and professions. Common to the three was their faith.

They were Ahmadis — and that was good enough reason for the unknown gunmen to kill them.

The first to be shot dead — on Sept 8 — was Dr Abdul Mannan Siddiqui at Mirpurkhas during a midday round of his hospital wards. Seth Yusuf, a Nawabshah trader, was shot dead the next day as he headed home after saying his prayers. The third funeral was Sheikh Saeed’s who was shot, like the other two during the day while at his pharmacy in a lower middle-class colony of Karachi.

Ahmadis as a community are not new to murder. It is only that more of them are now being murdered than ever before and more brazenly as the murderers enjoy a kind of impunity. None of them has ever been caught and convicted. The tragic irony of it all is that the 1974 amendment to the constitution declaring Ahmadis “not Muslims”, which was intended to settle the ‘problem’ for all times to come, (as the PPP leadership then claimed and still boasts of) had in fact exacerbated it. According to the Ahmadiyya central office since 1974, 105 Ahmadis have been murdered. Among them have been scientists, doctors and educationists. In the 26 years, before the amendment (1947 to 1973) their number was only 18. The destruction of their properties and places of worship increased in even larger proportion.

This month’s gunning spree (three wounded are still struggling for their life) followed soon after a prime-hour discussion on one of the more popular television channels commemorating the 1974 amendment. That programme ended with a verdict by a participating mufti of an extremist school that for deviating from the conventional view of the finality of the prophethood of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) the Ahmadis deserved to be murdered. A condescending compere followed it up with a lyrical oration heaping insults on the founder of the Ahmadiyya movement.

If festering prejudice needed an impetus to murder, the compere of the Sept 7 programme and his chosen scholars provided it. A measure of understanding, perhaps, can be shown to politicians and priests when they are persuaded to whip up religious emotions to the point of violence only to divert the attention of the people from other woes. But the mass media that stands for full freedom of expression with matching social responsibility should not be seen as joining them.

The union of international journalists must have studied the contents and tenor of the broadcast in question before advising its counterpart here to abide by its code of honour and isolate the odd offenders rather than invite intervention by the government. Sensibly, the freedom to project one’s own religious views does not imply the freedom to instigate violence against others. This stipulation must stand at the core of both the ethics of the media and the law of the land.

The three men murdered were peaceable, law-abiding citizens. Those who knew Seth Yusuf, as the people of Nawabshah indeed had for 50 or more years, would not have ever thought of doing him the slightest harm. He was a God-fearing man in his seventies. His murderers were obviously strangers who were either indoctrinated or paid to kill him only because he was the chief of the district’s Ahmadiyya community.

Young Sheikh Saeed’s elder brother and his uncle, a professor of medical sciences at the Jinnah Postgraduate Centre, were gunned down at the same place and for the same reason in the last two years. This is a situation in which even an indifferent investigating agency could get a clue as to the identity of the killers only if it felt concerned, if not about the dead, then about its own credibility.

Most poignant has been the death of Dr Abdul Mannan Siddiqui. Tributes to him flowed freely and generously. To the lawyers of the district he was a benefactor of mankind. The hospital staff looked up to him more as a father than as an employer. The head of the district police thought he was a great man the like of whom are not born everyday. The association of the doctors summed it all up: Mannan’s murder is the murder of humanity.

The treatment of the humblest of mankind often took the deceased doctor to the far end of the desert. Holding frequent and free medical camps at Nagarparkar, the farthest outpost on the border with India, was his wont. The ranas and waderas would swear by his professional integrity and humanitarian concerns.

It is a pity, but should cause no surprise, that no leader of the government had spoken on Mannan’s death — to condemn the killers or to commiserate with the bereaved. The lone and powerful voice has been of Altaf Hussain, the MQM chief. His instant condemnation of the killers and tribute to Dr Mannan for his selfless service to humanity came like a gust of fragrant breeze blowing through a stillness laden with the stench of prejudice.

After specialised studies in America, Mannan was planning to settle down there when his father Abdur Rehman Siddiqui (also a doctor) reminded him that his first duty was to his own people. Mannan hurried back and went on, as if in vengeance, to raise his father’s humble clinic to the standard of a modern hospital that was free for the poor. He was the only son of his late father. It hurts deep inside when the life of a man, who is the age of your son, is cut short. Mannan was just 44 as is my son. It is now up to his admirers and the patients he healed to keep alive the legend of his and his father’s service of 60 years.

As for the devout anchorman and his ponderous scholars, they may have to go to Mirpurkhas and the desert beyond to learn that the worth of a man lies not in schism but in service. After all it is a Dutch and Christian woman who takes care of the lepers here whom the faithful shun.

To kill a man for his belief is inhuman and cannot be Islamic for Islam is a religion of humanity. And it is for our leaders to realise that by employing religion in the service of politics they have made this Islamic Republic into a world metaphor for dictatorship, brutality and terror where the youth are trained to kill and women, by many accounts, are buried alive.

kunwaridris [at]

© The DAWN Group of Newspapers, 2008

Monday, September 1, 2008


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