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Peaceful Co-existence – Possible in Pakistan?


As a die-hard patriot who still harbours hope in the goodness of the Pakistani people, and the resilient strength of this nation, this 23rd March 2012 I found myself thinking. The day commemorates the resolution which became perhaps the most important founding document of this country. Our forefathers believed in why Pakistan was created. My mother’s most important memories as a young girl are of the times when she worked as a political activist in the Women’s National Guard in which women worked to support men in the Pakistan movement. When she and her family were struggling to help out their brothers and sisters who had migrated to the newly founded country called Pakistan. Migrants who had sacrificed homes, lives and more, just for the dream of a country where they could live on their own terms.

And the reason both the muhaajireen (migrants) and the Muslims already living in the areas that today comprise Pakistan did what they did was because they believed in the cause – that Muslims, like any other race or followers of any faith, have the right to live life on their own terms – terms that may be religious, traditional or cultural. At the same time, minorities, it was very clear, in this new state that was to be called Pakistan, would have a right to co-exist in complete peace and security, and will not be punished for believing in a different god.

Some 64 years later, sad things have happened. If we just take the last couple of years as an example, we see examples of the oppression and persecution of minorities like the Ahmadiyyah sect. We see stories of many who are forcefully converted to Islam. The recent most story is of Rinkle Kumari who was forced to become Faryal, while her heart I have no doubt remained that of Rinkle Kumari. Over the last 120 years, claims of caretakers of the Bherchondi shrine in Sindh point in the direction that on an average at least 250 people are coerced into accepting Islam every year.

This is insane. And it saddens me at many levels.

It saddens me because, at the risk of being called an apologist, and a risk I am willing to take, I know that Islam is not about force. Faith, like love, is a matter of the heart.

Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful, says in the Qur’an: “Let there be no compulsion in religion. Truth has been made clear from error. Whoever rejects false worship and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that never breaks. And Allah hears and knows all things.” [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 256]

What, then, are we forcing people to convert to? A soulless, dead declaration which will in fact act as a repellent against Islam? If I ever meet Rinkle Kumari, I would want to go hug her, and tell her that my dear sister, please know that what they converted you to is not Islam. It is a product of bigotry and a complete lack of awareness about Islam’s true essence.

Having said that, I will not say to Rinkle Kumari that I have failed her. That WE have failed her. Because the obstinate believer in goodness of my people that I am, I believe that a bigger majority of Muslims in Pakistan would not and will not commit or approve of atrocities and hate crimes against minorities.

This saddens me because many Rinkle Kumaris have been wronged on my homeland….my home land Pakistan,  for which I refuse to use the sarcastic slur word “land of the pure” because I believe that a lot of purity still does exist here.

But on 23rd March, in retrospect, what saddened me even more was that because of these extremist incidents and attitudes, we are borderline apologetic for having believed in wanting to create a homeland where Muslims could peacefully practice their faith. And may I add, without harming or marginalizing the minorities. Ever so often, we hear people say “what was the whole point in getting an independent homeland for Muslims?”. It seems we are being forced to choose sides. If you believe that this country was rightfully created to safeguard rights of Muslims, does that make you someone who is against the rights of minority communities?

Politically correct or incorrect, I still believe it was the right thing to do…..to want to have a homeland where the sound of azaan resonates through the air five times a day, but where my Christian brothers can peacefully visit the church whenever they want to…..that was the idelogy on which Pakistan was based.

Muslims were not getting their rights back then, so they struggled for them, fought for them, and got them, under Quaid e Azam’s leadership. We may not realize that today, but we are blessed that they did. So here I say it, loud and proud, that I am thankful for the gift of an independent homeland where I can practice my faith. And that does not make me a bigot who is aiming to undermine minorities. There is always a middle ground. Always. Let’s stay there.

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About FarahnazZahidi

Journalist, writer, blogger & activist. Currently working for The Express Tribune. Focus on human rights, health, gender, peace & Islam. Idealist. Wannabe photographer. Chaai, traveling, reading, friends and motherhood.

5 responses »

  1. We have forgotten how it feels to be a minority, we divided the sub-continent to get a place of our own for our peace and security, our grandfathers havent forgotten that..maybe thats why things were better during our grandfathers time, every one could live peacefully because they had tasted the atrocities and suffered by being a minority and hence were not willing to put anybody thru the heck they went thru..but as years passed, people forgot, new generations forgot or hadnt a clue of how it felt to be a minority….
    What goes around comes around… we should be careful and respect the minorities…what if they got together and did the same to Pakistan what we did to sub-continent some 70 years ago! Point to ponder. Cruelty in any form to any living being is not accepted in Islam.
    Once the Prophet Muhammad (peace upon him) said: ‘ A woman was punished because she imprisoned a cat until it died. On account of this, she was doomed to Hell. While she imprisoned it, she did not give the cat food or drink, nor did she free it to eat the insects of the earth.’
    The Prophet was asked, “Messenger of God, are we rewarded for kindness towards animals?” He said: There is a reward for kindness to every living animal or human.
    Hence if we wont practice Islam, the way it should be, then the whole ideology of Pakistan is at risk and this is something we must never take lightly…
    Tables turn, countries split, kingdoms fall mainly due to suppression and injustice! God bless our nation and beloved country Pakistan and give us guidance to stay united regardless of colour, creed, religion! aameen ya Rab!

    Reply
  2. Your words have this fragrance of patriotism and yes i think alike =) Good work.

    Reply
  3. Thanks for sharing this frank post with the readers. I have been reading about the Ahmaddiya and have come to know about the discriminations they have faced not just in Pakistan but also elsewhere in the subcontinent. Ours is an age marked by ridiculous levels of intolerance and I am reminded of one of my Professor’s statements here. According to him “The only thing we learn from History is that we do not learn anything from History”

    Such are the times we are a part of!

    Reply
  4. Tarannum Zahidi Ahmed

    If looked carefully, teachings of all major religions are very similar. Faith is a very personal choice and it guides us to live in peace and harmony with others.

    Reply
  5. Now it has been proven in Supereme court that 3 hindu gilrs including rinkle kumari reverted to Islam with thr own choice. and the whole propoganda of forced conversions was actually forced assertion against islam by anti Islam secular lobby. thr is no concept of forced conversion in Islam the Holy Quran clearly states no compulsion in religion. thus even if someone is forced to read the Kalima it is not only a major sin but also the person who is forced to read Kalima does not become Muslim. because to be Muslim you have to bring Emaan on Islam you cannot force anyone to bring Emaan it because it is a matter of conviction. The problem secular hypocrites who spew disinformation of forced conversions is that they don’t realize that despite the fact Islam is the most deamonized religion in the world still it is fastest growing religion in the world and majority of people who are reverting to Islam are women. If 1000s of women can revert to Islam in Europe and USA every year so if 3 hindu women revert to the truth of Islam than their should not be any hype or propoganda to revert them back to kufur and apostasy. and This thing that every year by average 250 hindus are forced to revert to Islam is a very serious and false accusation against Muslims and Islam. If hindus were forced to revert to Islam than majority in subcontitent today would have been Muslim but despite Muslim rule all over India for atleast 700 years still majority in Indian subcontinent are non Muslim. as a devout Muslim and Islamic fundementalist I believe in co-existence and I believe non Muslims and their religious sites and freedom should be protected by Government and the Muslim majority as Islam obliges us to do. and for the sack fo argument if their are any cases of so called forced convertions those who are involved in this insanity should be punished but those who who writte the articles above under the guise of human rights should stop spreading forced assertions if non Muslims revert to Islam in Pakistan with their own choice. you should also realize that quite often when non Muslim weather they are hindu,Christian or Qadiani if they revert to Islam their community disowns them and spreads disinformation of forced converstion to revert them back to kufur. I think now that it has been proven in Supereme court that hindu girls reverted Islam with their own choice the forced assertions against Islam should stop. Taking care of non Mulsims rights is our responsiblity but protecting the rights of new Muslims and protecting our religions form fitnas and false propopanda is also our responsiblity. In Pakistan minorities are non treated idealy but their condition is much better than the condition of minorities in India. we can’t even imagine the mass persecution and state bakced discrimination which minorities suffer in India. Sachel report is great example of that. in the end I just want to say that forced converstion is great crime against Islam and humanity but forced assertion against Islam is also a great crime we should not spew disInformation nor we should oppose the religion we claim to believe in.

    Reply

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