Editor’s note: This is a guest blog post by Saadia Faruqi. Saadia is an interfaith activist, blogger for Tikkun Daily and The Islamic Monthly, and a speaker on American Muslim issues. She lives in Houston, Texas and is currently writing a collection of short stories set in Pakistan. Follow her on Twitter @saadiafaruqi
Last week the western media resounded with reports of the murder of Dr. Mehdi Ali Qamar in Pakistan. CNN, among others, ran a story: world renowned anchor Wolf Blitzer invited Hussain Haqqani, ex-ambassador to the U.S. to talk about this latest killing. Yet for many Pakistanis themselves, whether those at home or in the U.S., the news hardly made an impact.
Since the number of men, women and children killed in Pakistan is sadly increasing each year, why was this piece of news given so much importance? People from all walks of life are killed, women are kidnapped and raped, and children lose their lives as if it is of absolutely no value. Who cares about another doctor being killed? Why did the media showcase another horrific, if everyday occurrence?
Perhaps it was the fact that Dr. Qamar was an American citizen and one of the best cardiologists in this country. He came to the U.S. as an immigrant and rose to the top of his field. When everyday people die we feel sad, but if a bright and intelligent light is suddenly extinguished we feel inexplicably grieved.
Perhaps the media noticed because Dr. Qamar had gone to Pakistan out of the goodness of his heart. He had wished to perform humanitarian tasks, to train local doctors at a heart institute in Pakistan so that the people there could get superior treatment at little or no cost. For this noble and selfless cause Dr. Qamar was gunned down in front of his wife and child.
Most importantly, the western media paid attention because Dr. Qamar belonged to a minority sect of Islam called Ahmadis. Some people use the term Qadianis to denote these followers of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad from Qadian, India who claimed to be the Messiah and Mehdi prophesized by the Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. For some mainstream Muslims, Ahmadis are not Muslims, and because of their faith they are targeted in many countries of the world. In Pakistan, this discrimination is institutionalized in the constitution. Ahmadis are not allowed to call themselves Muslim, use Arabic terms or greetings, even to call their place of worship a mosque. Drastically, this state-sponsored discrimination encourages miscreants to take matters in to their own hands and Ahamdis are often injured or killed. Muslim clerics in Pakistan and elsewhere laud these murders and announce that the murderers will earn reward in heaven.
It was the for sake of such a reward, therefore, that Dr. Qamar was killed last week. A few weeks earlier, another Ahmadi had been shot inside the very jail that was holding him for blasphemy charges. Some years ago almost a hundred Ahmadis were killed in two mosque attacks in Lahore, Pakistan. We all see the pattern but we are unable or unwilling to stop it. When will this madness in the name of Islam end? When will we sit up and notice that people are dying because of bigotry and intolerance? When will we raise our voices against it? What does Dr. Qamar’s murder, and the murders of countless others like him, say about us as Muslims, or even as human beings?
Islam teaches is that human beings are to be respected and protected regardless of their faith. Allah expects us to be the best of mankind, who are to transform this world into a peaceful haven. Yet we condone or excuse the murder of minority groups like Ahmadi, Shia and Druze. The Quran does not allow the murder of innocent people simply because they belong to a different sect of Islam. No matter how offensive some Muslims may find the beliefs of these groups, there is no excuse for abuse, injury or murder.
A country that prides itself as a Muslim country must retain the true Islamic teachings.