Sunday, June 12, 2016

Perspective: We remember but will we learn? | Ayesha Malik


Ahmadi Muslims reject the notion of violent jihad, advocate the separation of mosque and state and believe in religious freedom for all – views that have angered passions of Pakistan’s religious right. 

Times of Ahmad | News Watch | UK Desk
Source/Credit: The Huffington Post
By Ayesha Malik | June 11, 2016
“Sorrow prepares you for joy…[and] shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place… Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.”

While the poetic richness of the thirteenth century mystic poet Rumi’s words is without question, their poignancy exudes a profundity that is both cheerful and elegiac. They are profound not merely in the lushness of their lexical expression but the abundance of its meaning – in the midst of weighty literary allegories stands the uncomfortable truth that the inner journey of shaking the yellow leaves from the boughs of our hearts is a painful and difficult one, albeit rewarding. It was this erudite dichotomy that led me to analogise Rumi’s words to some of my most constructive life lessons borne out of some incredibly arduous experiences.

Reflecting on Rumi’s words, I was also reminded of my long held belief that the perception of suffering is very different from the reality of suffering. When the suffering becomes personal, our perceptive capabilities thereof are greatly elevated and enhanced. Hence, when at 17, sectarian violence struck home as my 37-year-old uncle was kidnapped by the extremist Lashkar-e-Jhangvi group in Pakistan and eventually murdered, in a country where such crimes of violence are routine, the perception and reality paradigms unfolded before me for the first time. I watched his youngest off spring, two-and-a-half year old twin boys, clasping a picture of their father as people poured in for condolences, they said – “we’re taking baba for a walk.”

It took me a long time to make sense of, come to terms with and fold these wounds away in a remote corner of my mind. They never really went away. While we would struggle to explain the untimely departure of my uncle, Mirza Qadir Ahmad, what was clear was that he was targeted because of his religion. Qadir Ahmad hailed from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, a minority Muslim sect and a revivalist movement in Islam that was founded in the late 19th century in a small town in the Indian Punjab. The Community is deemed heretical by mainstream Muslims because of its founder’s claims to be the Promised Messiah and Mahdi awaited by all major religions and as foretold by the Prophet Muhammad. Ahmadi Muslims reject the notion of violent jihad, advocate the separation of mosque and state and believe in religious freedom for all – views that have angered passions of Pakistan’s religious right.

Eleven years and fourteen days following Qadir Ahmad’s murder, the siege of terror would return to our homes and hearts on 28th May 2010, the day that would mark the deadliest attack on Ahmadi Muslims on Pakistani soil. On that fateful summer afternoon, armed gunmen opened indiscriminate fire on two mosques belonging to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Lahore, killing at least 86 people. Uncles, cousins, nephews and friends – I had almost every shade of male relative praying in the mosques at the time. While those who survived were left to recount the horrors of the ruthless massacres that unfolded before their eyes, the mourning for those martyred would be infinitely more painful. When days of condolences with countless friends descended upon me, an internal struggle to rationalise the perception and reality hypothesis also took hold, and I was overcome by feelings of helplessness and sadness as I went from house after house of widows, grieving mothers and fatherless children.

As we commemorate the carnage that besieged Lahore six years ago, there is fresh blood in every corner of Pakistan yearning to be salvaged from a plight that has plagued the country’s religious minorities since its inception. While Ahmadis maybe the most disenfranchised minority in Pakistan – two-in-three Pakistani Muslims saying Ahmadis are not Muslim according to a Pew Research poll – Shias, Christians and Hindus have also been targeted, murdered and marginalised in the nation’s almost seventy-year troubled history. According to a recent report by the Jinnah Institute on the State of Religious Freedom in Pakistan, between 2012 and 2015 approximately 351 instances of violence were carried out against minorities (Muslim and non-Muslim) by religious extremists. The report betrays a heightened religious depravity ravaging Pakistan’s socio-political and ethical fabric.

It is ironic that a report that is published by an Institute that shares its name with the founder of Pakistan – a tireless advocate of pluralism – should have to share its ink with statistics that are antithetical to Jinnah’s fight to create a nation state based on secular principles. Not only is such religious decadence at odds with the egalitarianism Jinnah espoused but ironically also stands fiercely in contravention of the example of the founder of the Islamic faith itself. The Prophet Muhammad called for the peaceful cohabitation of all religious denominations, famously declaring a covenant with the Christian monks of Saint Catherine’s monastery wherein he went as far as to state that Muslims were to help re-build churches if any were to be destroyed. The Charter of Medina (a vibrant multifaith city where the Prophet emigrated) similarly contains wide protections for people of all religious affiliations.

For Pakistan’s religious clerics, who claim to be acting to safeguard the legacy of Muhammad, the prototype of religious veneration, their irony is therefore profound. Not only do they invert Muhammad’s religious and moral ideals, they use their skewed perceptions thereof to sanctify their heinous actions. In doing so, they also disparage the legacy of the Prophet’s namesake – Muhammad Ali Jinnah – whose hopes and aspirations for the nation he struggled to help create are emulated in his address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on 11 August 1947: “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship…” Today, these words ring like eerie echoes bouncing off abandoned walls. For a country that prides itself on its tradition of generous hospitality and opening its homes to others, it is time Pakistan opened its heart and embraced all peoples.


Read original post here: Perspective: We remember but will we learn? | Ayesha Malik


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