Shame On Us

By Maniza Naqvi Shame

A time arrives when circumstances dictate that there is no choice.

“Of course the choice is yours”— said the nonchalant and gentle voice—typically urbane, typically sophisticated— of a seasoned diplomat in the Embassy of Pakistan. His thinning hair jet black and a sliver of mustache equally gleaming above his lips curled into a smile. His eyes shone as he leaned back in his chair behind his desk—amused. A shrug of his shoulders as he contemplated me—his finger tips delicately brought together as his index fingers touched his lips and his thumbs held up his chin. As though, he were contemplating an experiment, or a work in progress. He had dealt with me before, at an embassy reception when we had gotten into an argument about Bhutto and Benazir— Bhutto had been hanged by then and she was in jail. General Zia-ul-Haq’s era was at its zenith. I had exchanged heated words with the embassy man. Now here I was sitting before him in his office at the Pakistan embassy, there to have my passport renewed. And here I was refusing to sign a clause in the application form.

“I won’t sign this” I repeated.

“Fine,” he said, “It is entirely up to you. Then I guess we are done here.”

I sat facing him in silence. He fingered the edge of the application form that I had tossed in his direction. Then without needing to push it back towards me—there was no need, he must have known, he must have done this before—he waited for the moment when I rose from my chair, as I did and watched as I leaned over his desk and retrieved the form. I signed. I needed the passport.

He grinned. “Good girl. Your hero had the Ahmedis declared as non-Muslim through an amendment in 1974 in his newly minted 1973 constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Remember?”

“He had no choice! He was forced to!”——“Like I was today.”

“Forced, really? Who forced you? Said the embassy man, his eyebrows raised in mock surprise “No one forced anyone. You weren’t forced—the choice is always yours”.

The section I signed demands that I declare, attest to the fact that I am Muslim. Muslim in a manner that the Pakistan State defines as being Muslim. This section is called: Declaration In Case of Muslim.

It reads thus:

The above heading announces a section on page two of the Pakistan Passport Application. I ______s/d/w/of—–aged——–adult Muslim, resident of__________________ hereby solemnly declare that:

a. I am Muslim and believe in the absolute and unqualified finality of the Prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him) the last of the prophets.

b. I do not recognize any persons who claim to be a prophet in any sense of the word or any description whatsoever after Muhummad (peace be upon him) or recognize such a claimant as prophet or a religious reformer as a Muslim.

c. I consider Mirza Ghulam Qadiani to be an imposter nabi and also consider his followers whether belonging to the Lahore or Qadiani group to be Non-Muslim.

The section demands that you sign your name, the date and attest with your thumb print agreement with the three statements above. This section demands that you sign on to State sponsored cessation of thought and rationality. It demands that you consider Islam as only being something defined by the State of Pakistan—and as being only predicated on the negation of all others. Ordinance XX of the Government of Pakistan promulgated under General Zia ul Haq and still on the books forbids Ahmedis to call themselves Muslim or refer to their mosques as mosques or to recite the Kalima or greet using the Muslim salutation. The law of the land forbids Ahmedis to protest or take to court any injustice done to them in the name of religion including the destruction of their mosques.

The same type of clause is present in the National Identification Card's form.

There is silence about taking any real meaningful action against the violence and injustice wreaked upon the Ahmedi community. Witness the murderous events that unfolded at two mosques in Lahore, Pakistan on Friday May 28, 2010.

A report titled Persecution of the Ahmadiyya Community in Pakistan: An Analysis Under International Law and International Relations, in the Harvard Human Rights Journal states “The right to religious freedom was not only central to the struggle for the independent state of Pakistan in 1947; it was also an important part of a larger worldwide debate over human rights at that time Zafrullah Khan, the Pakistani representative to the session, Pakistan’s first foreign minister, and an Ahmadi, hailed the adoption of the articles as an “epoch-making event” and considered them entirely consistent with Islam’s emphatic denunciation of compulsion in religion. Re-asserting Jinnah’s ideals, Khan said the following to the General Assembly at the occasion of the adoption of Article 18 of the UDHR: Pakistan is an ardent defender of freedom of thought and belief and of all the freedoms listed in Article 18. For the Pakistani delegation, the problem had a special significance as some of its aspects involved the honor of Islam . . . . The Muslim religion unequivocally claims the right to freedom of conscience and has declared itself against any kind of compulsion in matters of faith or religious practices.”

The State of Pakistan has morphed over six decades into something beyond recognition. There must be millions like me who silently signed and continue to sign—an application form for a Passport of their country—meted out to them by embassies and consulates all over the world and the passport offices in Pakistan.

This declaration in the passport that the citizens of Pakistan have to sign in order to obtain a passport is the State sponsored terrorism which forces the Pakistan State’s home-brewed religion. It should be called “Paki-slam”—the definition of religion that the Pakistani State has foisted upon all its citizens. This is the campaign of hatred started by the Islamic fundamentalist parties decades ago in Pakistan to which every politician cow-towed including Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. In fact, if memory serves me correctly isn’t the current Pakistan Ambassador to the US a former leading luminary of the fundamentalist Islamic party that unleashed this terror in Pakistan against the Ahmedis?

The first thing that States that claim to have tolerant and open societies should demand of the State of Pakistan—in the war on terror is that Pakistan overturn this Paki-slam by removing this odious barbaric declaration. This claiming of one’s faith not only in a narrow manner of absolutism but also claiming piety and faith by negating and humiliating someone else’s beliefs should be repugnant and absolutely unacceptable to all States who claim to be otherwise.

Countries should ban Pakistanis, all Pakistanis, this includes the President, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister from traveling abroad to countries who claim to be open societies—until this declaration is removed, erased, deleted from the form.

If this is not done—The question becomes: Why NOT?

The time has come—there is no choice.

More Writings by Maniza Naqvi here

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