Saturday, June 18, 2016

Perspective: The Cost of Defending Ahmadis? | Hussain Nadim

Humza stirring a debate on this complicated issue in a live TV show backed with very little substance to defend or argue with has a potential to only make the situation more controversial than it already is.

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Source/Credit: Daily Pakistan
By Hussain Nadim | June 18, 2016

Hamza Ali Abbasi isn’t wrong when he says that it is easy to talk about the rights of any minority groups in Pakistan but when it comes to talking about the rights of Ahmadis one can’t hide from the backlash that follows. As brave as Abbasi has been with his recent comments on the Ahmadi issue and deserves recognition, there are few problems with this approach of managing a controversial issue of the Ahmadi group in Pakistan.

For one, the Ahmadi issue in Pakistan is both a political and a religious one. Humza’s comments on whether the State should be allowed to decide who is (or not) a Muslim reflects his very little understanding on the subject both at the religious and political level. Whether we like it or not, Pakistan is an Islamic Republic no matter if Jinnah wanted it to be otherwise. In such a country, religion is more than just an individual belief, and the State holds the authority to define the parameters of religion. The real question Hamza Ali Abbasi should be asking is if Pakistan ‘should’ be an Islamic republic or not because that will decide the States neutrality on different Islamic sects and religious groups including the one on Ahmadis.

Humza stirring a debate on this complicated issue in a live TV show backed with very little substance to defend or argue with has a potential to only make the situation more controversial than it already is. Well-intentioned Humza, perhaps, does not realize that he might end up causing more danger than safety to a community that prefers to silently survive in Pakistan than resort to social or political activism – the fact that Ahmadi community depoliticized itself in 1970’s and opts to remain absent from the social and political life of Pakistan is a good enough evidence that the community avoids any limelight.

Second, choosing the right forum to discuss the Ahmadi issue is even more important than the debate itself. Mainstream media, especially the talk shows in Pakistan are very little beyond the ratings and can’t provide a serious or sustainable environment to discuss important issues. Hamza Ali Abbasi isn’t the first one to raise the Ahmadi question, our very own Mubashir Lucman launched his career by running back to back shows supporting Ahmadis and caused a massive stir. What most Ahmadis thought might bring some level of change with someone defending them on the mainstream media didn’t take too long to disappoint them when Lucman took a U-turn and instead ran anti-Ahamadi programs.

To believe that any serious change in the circumstances of Ahmadis can be caused through discussions on the mainstream media has been tried, tested and proven wrong. If anything, mainstream radical media can only damage and marginalize the Ahmadi community further. Better platforms to argue the Ahmadi case might be at the policy, constituency level and most importantly at the educational level including the universities. Given that anti Ahmadi sentiment runs deep not only amongst the illiterate but widely across the highly educated class in Pakistan reflects the need to change the discourse around Ahmadis at the school and university level. It’s a slow process and will take decades, but eventually produce results, not just high ratings for a Ramzan show.

Also very important is the optics. Hamza Ali Abbasi with his privilege background in the entertainment industry and somewhat secular outlook can defend Ahmadis and will have little or no impact. People who already agree with him will agree and share his videos, those on the other side of the religious aisle will be quick to discredit him for his lack of understanding on the issue, despite the fact that all he really is talking about is common sense protection of a certain community. Pakistan is deeply fractured when it comes to the Ahmadi issue with an overwhelming majority either against the community or oblivious to its persecution. What Ahmadis need is a support from more people like Ghamdi’s, Taseer’s or Sharif’s who are in a position to argue on religious or political bases that can have a policy impact.

This isn’t to say that Hamza Ali Abbasi shouldn’t have the freedom of speech to say what he likes, but despite all his good intentions, his lack of understanding on the subject, unfavorable professional background, and choosing the wrong platform to discuss the issue may do the exact opposite of what he wants to achieve. He is a brave man who may not fear his life but what he says on the TV may just put the lives of innocent Ahmadis at a further risk.

Hussain Nadim is PhD Candidate and Coordinator South Asia Study Group at University of Sydney
Tweet to @HNadim87

Read the original post here: Perspective: The Cost of Defending Ahmadis? | Hussain Nadim

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1 comment:

  1. Am I missing something! I heard and viewed the discussion that did not require any religious knowledge but put the Maulana's on defenses. All Hamza Ali Abbasi was asking was that if 'the State' has any right to declare to which religion a subject belong to. He agreed that religious scholars have the right to say or declare whatever they want and they do but does a state have any right to decide what religion a person belong to? So called Maulanas obviously did not have any answer but generated a better discussion on Dawn News' Zara Hat Kay. Of course it will take decades to change the minds thinking as Hussain Nadim Sahib mentioned because it took decades to make the minds poisonous from a very early age that have now matured to the extent that it has become cashing business for religiously biased.


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