Op/Ed: A Direct Threat to American Safety

by QASIM RASHID TIMES-DISPATCH COLUMNIST

On May 28 in Lahore, Pakistan, seven terrorists attacked two mosques belonging to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, killing 94 and injuring more than 125. These mosques were specifically targeted because their attendees are Muslims who reject extremist and dogmatic beliefs. As a human, I find this crime against humanity incomprehensible. As a family man, I suffer the loss of members of my extended family as heart-wrenching. As a Muslim, I see the hijacking of my faith as infuriating. As a Muslim who believes in the Messiah, I experience the systematic execution of my people as beyond expression in words. In America we honor our Founding Fathers, celebrate our intellectuals, and peacefully adhere to the law. The Pakistani Ahmadiyya Muslim Community was pivotal in founding Pakistan. It has produced the only Pakistani Nobel laureate and the first Pakistani United Nations president. Its members abhor and condemn violence, unwaveringly responding peacefully in the face of ongoing persecution. Yet, Pakistan enforces blasphemy laws that restrict Ahmadi Muslims from basic freedoms of speech and conscience. Ahmadi Muslims cannot vote, run for office, nor sit on a jury. Ahmadi Muslims are to Pakistan what African-Americans were to America before the 14th and 15th Amendments. Pakistan’s minority Jewish and Christian groups face similar human rights violations. Since these blasphemy laws passed in 1974 and 1984, Pakistan has seen consistent increases in terrorism and intolerance. Pakistan’s future depends on revoking these laws, as does America’s safety. Why America’s safety? Consider momentarily that Faisal Shahzad, the failed Times Square bomber, was no accident. Shahzad, and those like him, were not born as murderous terrorists. They were taught to be terrorists. The Taliban is not their teacher, but their employer. Their true teacher was and is the government of Pakistan, whose state-sanctioned persecution of its own citizens empowers the likes of the Taliban. After Shahzad’s failed attempt, Ahmadiyya Muslims launched a worldwide media campaign, warning that Shahzad was not an anomaly, but a byproduct of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Our voices went unheard. But who now can ignore the deafening silence of the departed? A terrorist grown in Pakistan is still a terrorist when in America. The only difference between May 28 in Lahore and May 1 in Times Square is that, unlike Pakistan, America does not sanction terrorism. Police action in Times Square overpowered the terrorist, and thankfully no one died. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Lahore reported Taliban threats to the police in the days and weeks preceding the attack. In return, police inaction assisted in this atrocity. Both the U.N. and the U.S. House have passed resolutions condemning Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Amnesty International relentlessly condemns Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Yet, the state-sanctioned persecution continues. But why is this of any surprise? The Pakistani police who let 94 innocent citizens die are the same police enforcing Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. These are the police who arrest members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community for “posing” as Muslims, declaring the Unity of God, or calling their mosque a mosque. Why should any Pakistani trust such police in the war on terror? Perhaps more relevant to Americans, why does our government trust such police in the war on terror? For the departed, these questions were never answered. The 94 murdered members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community are now safe from blasphemy law persecution. All it cost them was their lives. For the 4 million members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community still living in deplorable conditions, unenforceable resolutions are a farce. We can take action now and legislate a peaceful future. Or, we can do nothing and be resigned to the violent future that blasphemy laws have pre-determined. If we choose the latter, I fear the day when May 28 in Pakistan finds its way to America. Or is it already too late?

Qasim Rashid is a student at the University of Richmond School of Law.

http://www2.timesdispatch.com/rtd/news/opinion/op_ed/article/ED-RASHID05_20100604-182008/349054/

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