Pakteahouse: Maudood A. Bhatti: I was born a Muslim. Until the second amendment was passed in Pakistan’s constitution in 1974, I remained a legal Muslim. I was very young when this happened, too young to remember it well. Hence, I did not have the opportunity to carry out and observe Islam’s practices before I was declared non-Muslim by State and before these practices were banned on me.
I practiced my faith later on in my teenage years just as any other Pakistani Muslim; observing the five daily prayers, reciting the Holy Quran etc. I also played cricket with all kinds of friends – Shia, Sunni, Christian etc. Even though I was declared a non-Muslim under Law by this time, no one made a big fuss about it except for an occasional use of “Mirzai” or “Qadiani.”
Then came Ordinance XX, promulgated on 26th April, 1984 by the infamous dictator, Zia ul Haq, and all of a sudden, my Muslim activities became illegal for me and for others from my community. I could not call myself a Muslim anymore or call my mosque a mosque or call the Azan before prayer. Weird, right? In a span of a few years, I had traveled the whole spectrum from being a recognized Muslim to a state-labelled non-Muslim.
Then came my visa application for the US. From a legal perspective, I think I briefly became Muslim when I stepped into the US Consulate for my visa interview because, technically speaking, the US Consulate is not part of Pakistan and Pakistani law therefore does not apply there. By the Grace of God, I was granted US visa together with my family and we left Pakistan in less than a year following the Ordinance.