Imagine something dear to you.
Imagine something that defines you.
Imagine something that is your identity.
Imagine it being the essence of your life or being.
Imagine a country and its constitution taking that thing away from you.
Imagine it telling you cannot use this identity anymore.
Imagine the people of that country telling you again and again that not only do you not have this identity but you are quite the opposite.
Imagine this happening to one community for 42 years.
Imagine being born into that? Well I can, as I was born in that country within that community.
The second amendment to the constitution of Pakistan was brought in before my birth.
A law brought to oppress and crush a community. A law passed by the so called liberal government of Pakistan to please the mullahs (religious clerics) of Pakistan. The same mullah who not so long before that were opposing the very creation of Pakistan.
In 1974 the government of Pakistan declared Ahmadi Muslims non-Muslims by passing the second amendment into its constitution.
If the law was intended to crush the Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan, it failed badly.
Yes, every time someone called me a non Muslim it felt like a dagger though my heart but it didn't kill my spirit. It didn't make me want to leave my faith. On the contrary it increased it.
For decades Ahmadi Muslims have faced persecution at the hands of other Muslims.
They have been killed , tortured and imprisoned. Their homes and businesses have been burnt and destroyed. They face discrimination, abuse and degradation day and night. They are expelled from jobs, they are stopped from progressing in their careers. An Ahmadi Muslim child learns this treatment from a very young age in schools and it stays with him in university and only gets worse. Posters and notices are put on shops barring Ahmadi Muslims from entering them. And not just that, there is a section from amongst the mullahs, media and general public who blame Ahmadi Muslims for every calamity, disaster or scandal that happens in Pakistan, saying it's a Qadiani (a term used in a derogatory way to describe Ahmadi Muslims) conspiracy. This is no less than the state sponsored apartheid of Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan. In May 2010, 86 Ahmadi Muslims were killed in a simultaneous attack on two mosques in Lahore. There has been an increase in the number of deaths of Ahmadi Muslims just because of their faith in last 7 years. In 2014 alone 12 Ahmadi Muslims were killed in Pakistan including an infant girl who died when a mob set fire to Ahmadi homes in Gujranwala.
And this is beside the fact that Ahmadi Muslims are not free to practice their religion, Islam, in Pakistan.
But Ahmadi Muslims face it all with patience, forbearance , steadfastness and humility.
Pakistan still remains the country where the largest population of Ahmadis resides. However, over the years, as a result of this state sponsored persecution and terrorism against the community many Ahmadi Muslims have left the country. Some of them have sought refugee status in the UK as well. Many have had to endure the pain of a loved one being killed and that's why they fled the country. Many had to leave as their business or shops were burnt to ashes. Many faced so much persecution and hostility at their work place that they couldn't continue anymore.
As the poet Warsan Shire eloquently put it: "No One Leaves Home Unless Home Is the Mouth of A Shark.".
Every parent wants what is best for their child. They want them to have a better childhood and education than theirs, better prospects in life. It's a parental instinct to protect and to nurture. They definitely would not want them to suffer or face any persecution they faced themselves. Every Ahmadi Muslim parent who fled Pakistan for the persecution they faced and made a safe home in the uk would tell you exactly that. Not in their wildest dreams would they have imagined that the hate filled poisonous venom that preaches against Ahmadi Muslims will follow them to the UK. Ahmadi Muslims in the UK have been facing a background level of hostility from non-Ahmadi Muslims for many decades now. It's almost everywhere, universities are worse than schools but it happens in schools too. My children go to a nice suburban primary school where very few students are Muslim. Even among that small group, there are Muslim mothers who when I say salaam ("Peace", the Islamic greeting) will not reply in kind, they say hello. You could say what's the big deal? The thing is that if they choose to say Salam to other muslim mothers but say hello to me it underlines publicly that they don't see me as muslim and they don't deem me worthy of the greeting of "Peace".
I look at the little Muslim girl in my daughter's class and think, at this age she is friends with her but at some point in secondary school or university she will tell my daughter that she is a "kafir" a non Muslim. I am not assuming the worst as it does happen to so many Ahmadi Muslim children, as it happened to my husband growing up in Yorkshire in the 90's. Living in the U.K. thousands of miles away from my homeland I should not be thinking of preparing my daughters to be ready to face this kind of bigotry!
Ahmadi Muslims by law can freely practice their faith in the UK and we are grateful for that. Our community has been at the forefront of promoting and practising the peaceful teachings of Islam within the UK. But the brutal and barbaric murder of Asad Shah (An Ahmadi Muslim shopkeeper in Glasgow murdered on 24th March 2016) has highlighted the issue of anti-Ahmadi sentiments within some parts of the UK Muslim community. Even physical violence towards Ahmadi Muslims is not new in this country. My own father in law, a local GP and a well known figure within the wider community was beaten up by a crowd of Muslims incited by mullahs almost 3 decades ago in Yorkshire. The statement issued by the Muslim council of Britain, that you can't force Muslims to call Ahmadis Muslims, only acts to legitimise hatred against Ahmadi Muslims. Last night (10th April 2016) the BBC reported that leaflets instructing Muslims to "Kill Ahmadis" were found in a UK mosque.
Who are Ahmadi Muslims? Ahmadi Muslims believe that their founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was the same Messiah and Mehdi whose advent was foretold by the Holy Prophet of Islam and who the rest of the Muslim world is still waiting for. I won't go into the theological arguments and the difference in beliefs between Ahmadi Muslims and non Ahmadi Muslims, I have put links at the bottom to explain that, but one argument that some non Ahmadi Muslims put, time and again, against Ahmadi Muslims is the "pretend" muslim argument, which has been described by one Twitter user as :
"Can you call someone a policeman just because he wore a police uniform for a fancy dress party?"
They say that we "pretend" to be Muslims, which is a very silly argument. Can you honestly believe that people have been pretending to be someone they are not, generation after generation for 127 years?
What do these non-Ahmadi Muslims think we do? Do we wake up in the morning and tell our children to offer salat (prayers) and read the Quran because we are pretending to be Muslims? Do we tell our children inspirational stories from the life of the Holy Prophet of Islam Mohammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) because we are pretending to be Muslims?
Do we wake up in the early hours of the morning to keep our fast then go without food and water until sunset in the month of Ramadan whilst pretending to be a Muslim?
Do we give our hard earned cash in zakat (charitable giving) pretending to be a Muslim?
Have I been wearing a hijab and covering myself according to Islamic teachings for all these years in a pretence?
We, the pretend Muslims, have been at the forefront of defending the faith of Islam and its teachings against islamophobic attacks for 127 years.
What kind of silly games are we playing here? Generation after generation after generation. And for what? To be persecuted? Looted? Burnt and killed?
Can anyone in their right mind believe this nonsense?
I do all of this because whether you like it or not, I am a Muslim. And no government, no MCB, no Khatme Nabuwat organisation can take that away from me as it is a matter between me and my Allah.
My love for the Holy prophet of Islam, Mohammad (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), is in my blood, and you can neither take that away from me nor can you stop me from proclaiming it openly and loudly anywhere in the world! I am not scared of persecution and neither are the rest of the millions of Ahmadi Muslims.
We as Ahmadi Muslims do not need a certificate from the MCB confirming that we are Muslims. We do not need a certificate from anyone. We know that our faith and our deeds will be judged by Allah on the day of judgement and only that testimony matters. The Ahmadiyya Muslim community in the UK issued a statement in response to the MCB statement and it read:
"Chapter 22, Verse 79 of the Holy Quran states "So follow the faith of your father Abraham; He named you Muslims both before and in this Book". This verse makes it clear that no individual or group can claim to monopolise the term 'Muslim' and that the term existed even before Islam itself.
Freedom of religion and belief is a fundamental tenet of Islam and so the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community believes that the people of all religions and beliefs should respect one another and should seek to establish true peace, rather than to sow the seeds of conflict and division."
In these difficult times when our religion Islam is under criticism by certain elements and Muslims are under scrutiny, the MCB and its comments have opened more avenues of ridicule by the media and those with anti-Islamic sentiments. All this "takfirism" and division should stop, we should be united in portraying the true picture of Islam, true Islam practiced by our beloved prophet of Islam, Mohammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) that teaches us to love all, and hate none.