While we persecute you

Published in The Daily Times on June 1st 2014

Persecution has existed since antiquity. You have to, however, be a special kind of unfortunate to be persecuted by Muslims. There will be no mercy. There will be no hope. No one in power will stand up for you, attempt to protect you or even throw your way two words of consolation. A caravan will be led by the vocal extremists and many silently approving groups across the socio-economic strata will walk with it, chin up. The only outrage there will be is going to be from your own community, and that too, measured — you cannot appear to be a formidable force or you will stroke the fires of hate to an extent that you will be annihilated. No one wants that, not even your enemies who want to instead poison you slowly with lethal fear, hunting you and eventually clenching the grey-wolf-like jaws on your jugular — your best will go first.

It is savagery at its worst, with everyone as an accomplice because there is a disagreement about your religious beliefs, under which many are unsure what kind of punishment is required. Yet there is no disagreement about random extremists acting out the judge, jury and executioner roles. Luckily for the rest of the world, John Locke philosophised the separation of church and state: a rather simple concept but one that prevents not just the denial of civil rights on the basis of religion but also prevents religious persecution.

From among you was a man who loved the Pakistani cricket team and was crazy about the city of Lahore. He was a cardiologist, had three sons and lived and worked in the world that John Locke helped into law. This man decided that he wanted to come back to his country and serve at a hospital where thousands are treated for free in a town called Chenab Nagar. The place was previously called Rabwah.

He was unaware that those who consider themselves the truest of believers had been distributing posters that declared treatment from this hospital was forbidden. Would knowing this stop him? We do not know. On May 26, 2014, he went with his two-year-old son and wife to a nearby graveyard where he paid respects to his parents who had passed away. In this same graveyard you buried Pakistan’s greatest mind, a Nobel laureate, Dr Abdus Salam. His grave, just like others in the graveyard, lies desecrated and the Islamic proclamations ashed-out by the authorities.

Did this man pay his respects to Dr Salam, who we do not own, celebrate or adorn national monuments for? We will never know. Some 94 men, women and children from your community were massacred by the Taliban in two mosques in Lahore on May 28, 2010. They are buried in the same cemetery. We do not know if he paid any respects to them either. We never will. He walked out towards his car. There, in front of his wife and baby, he was gunned down. Shot with 10 or more bullets in his body for being a lesser Muslim in the eyes of the killers. The man from your community, no longer with us, is Dr Mehdi Ali Qamar.

His assailants fled but this was not the reason that the perpetrators were not caught or brought to justice. The Lahore mosque massacres or the 137 others from your community who have been killed in the past three years still have their killers at large. None have been brought to justice. With other popular causes such as protesting drone attacks, yours is a bit difficult to rally around for politicians and civil society alike.

There are a few things we do know about your community: you do not take up arms and you do not retaliate. You say this is the teaching of the Holy Quran. May your message triumph.

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