By Zubair K Khan
According to the Indian Media reports, members of the Ahmadiyya community living in India will now be listed as Muslims in the census. They have been recognized as a sect of Islam, a religion whose orthodoxy has gone to great lengths to keep the community out of its fold. Currently the small community, scattered in Indian Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, UP, Bihar, Odisha, Telangana and Kerala, had found legal recognition as an Islamic sect in 1970. But with Islamic clerics deeming the Ahmadis heretics and successive governments found it prudent to not list people from the community as Muslims.
The Indian Media further elaborated, in various Muslim countries and specially in Pakistan, the Ahmadis have faced persecution from hard liners. Ahmadiyya originated in the late 19th century in Qadian in what is today Gurdaspur district in Indian Punjab. Its founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmed, claimed to be Imam Mahdi and messiah who would bring salvation to Muslims, Christians and Hindus. His claims to spiritual authority brought him into conflict with Islamic clerics and his followers were denounced as apostates. They have faced persecution in the Islamic world. Pakistan deemed people from the community to be outside the pale of Islam in 1974. In recent years, the community has faced violence in few other Muslim countries also.. India’s tiny Ahmadiyya community has fared better in comparison. In December last year, PM Narendra Modi lauded the Ahmadis for “tolerance and brotherhood”. He greeted the community on the occasion of their founder’s centenary, a celebration where representatives of the tiny community affirmed themselves as “law abiding citizens” who are “loyal to the nation that shelters them”. The PM’s gesture was not lost on a section of the clerics, who accused the PM of hurting the sentiments of a “large majority” of Muslims and now many might allege that there is politics behind the census recognition. Be that as it may, the official acknowledgement of the besieged community is long overdue.
If India, which is considered to house almost 170 millions of Muslims, just to ensure absolute justice and fairness to all its citizens, in spite heavy opposition by Muslim religious clergy can take such a bold decision, , then why not Pakistan. Founder of Pakistan gave his secular vision assuring freedom of religion to all its citizens. Probably either Pakistani leaders and nation lack the will or do not have the courage to repeal the notorious laws bringing bad name to the country. With this decision Indian PM has risked losing his majority Muslim voters, but to him probably secular principles are more important.
In spite Hindu dominated country now India stands with rest of the world which believes in separation of State and religion. Majority of the countries on this planet consider religion a matter between Creator and Creation. Early Islamic history also facilitates this view point. Prior to 1947, current Pakistan was part of sub continent thus share same culture, mentality, traditions and values as of India. Bangladesh separated in 1971 but never enacted any law defining the religion of its citizens. So it looks appropriate if Pakistan can also follow the footsteps of its neighbour and ex Eastern part and can nullify the discriminatory laws deeming the Ahmadiyya community to be outside the pale of Islam. Does Pakistan posses such Boldness?