By Faiza Mirza
Religious persecution of people from Ahmadiyya community is not a new development in Pakistan. Ahmadis have long been marginalised from the time when they were declared non-Muslims in the amendment introduced in 1973’s Constitution. Since then, they have been facing the wrath of many Muslims who have fundamental views and refuse to trade, dine and even sit with them.
Whether it is about banning a certain juice brand, expelling Ahmadi students from universities or failure to recognise the only Pakistani Nobel Laureate, the hatred fuelled by religious clerics knows no boundaries.
Academic institutions remain an arena of conflicting views, hence often turning into another platform for religious fundamentalists to brainwash impressionable minds.
The University of Sargodha, which is in close proximity to Rabwah, is one of a very few universities which houses and educates students from Ahmadiyya community. The university has reportedly been a congenial institute where administration and management support students from different beliefs and schools of thought. However, ubiquity of miscreants, who use religion for their political interests, has contaminated the otherwise pleasant environment.
“I received a text message from my best friend, a week back, which said we should stop being friends because you are an Ahmadi and my allegiance with you is not considered appropriate within the parameters of my religion,” said a student of University of Sargodha.
“A couple of days ago, during a laboratory session, some students disrupted the lecture and started preaching how Ahmadis are non-Muslims and are wajib-ul-qatal (eligible to be killed),” said another student on condition of anonymity.
According to a student, the so-called religious sermon took place in the presence of a teacher, which signified his involvement in the ‘brainwashing’ and ‘hate speech campaign’ against the Ahmadiyya community.
Brochures and booklets, entailing details of how Ahmadis should be prosecuted, are also being circulated amongst the students. So far, Ahmadi students have not been threatened, however, students report that they are constantly being followed and other students have boycotted them completely.
“Nobody sits with us. Nobody is willing to talk to us. Most importantly, people enter the lecture session and use abusive language against our religious clerics which is why we have stopped attending classes,” added another student.
“We miss lectures and when we go back, asking for notes and presentation slides, nobody provides us with the material.”
According to the account of events narrated by various students, the religious repression is only prevalent in the Department of Pharmacy.
The Dean of the department, Prof Dr Muhammad Zahoor-ul-Hassan Dogar said, “I am not aware of any such events, however, I must say that a couple of such incidents took place a year and a half ago in our Medical College. I looked into the matter personally and punished the students responsible for such horrendous propaganda against the students of our university.”
“I understand that it is difficult for students from Ahmadiyya community to trust any of us because of the reasons that we all know, however, unless these students report such incidents, we will not be able to take action against the culprits,” he added.
Most of the students are of the view that since the majority of the other students were treating them as social outcasts, reporting this incident, to appropriate authorities, will further infuriate the perpetrators.
“I do not feel safe living in the dorm anymore so I now travel from Rabwah to Sargodha every day. I tried to inform a couple of officials, however, I was hesitant because the issue is still hot and I do not want to invite more enemies,” said a female student.
Muhammad Akram Tufani, representative of Students Tahaffuz Khatam-e-Nabuwat, on being asked about the primary reason which instigated this campaign against Ahmadi students, said, “Ahmadis call themselves Muslims and that is unacceptable for us.”
“They think they are better off than us religiously and they preach other students about their religion. We will not have them preach their religion to Muslim students,” added Tufani.
However, Dogar said that Tufani has no connection with the students of the university and reassured that he cannot influence them in any way.
Students belonging to Ahmadiyya community said that this campaign was initiated on false accusations. Students and certain faction of teachers have been saying that a religious leader from Ahmadiyya community came to discuss our religion with other students; however, this is completely untrue.
Living by the ideology of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, which emphasised primarily on coexistence, all the citizens of Pakistan are entitled to live according to their own religious beliefs. Spreading hatred and creating religious divergence have never benefited us as a nation and will continue to hamper our growth.
The religious vendetta against different minorities is an open question mark to our psychological growth. Unless we curb our hostilities toward other people and provide them with equal opportunities to live, we will not be able to succeed as a nation or even as an individual.
Students, who are responsible to build the foundation of the country, should not be targeted. Mixing education with religious politics can have disastrous effects, which is why it is best to keep our prejudices aside and exist together without sidelining people who perhaps have much to offer to us as a nation.