Is Pakistan Just a Huge Trumpistan?
Originally published in The Huffington Post
I am a Pakistani immigrant to the United States. With the recent rise of Islamophobia here in America, we Pakistanis have suddenly become experts on minority rights. My social media timelines are filled with my friends urging the West to accommodate Syrian refugees escaping persecution, and be more accepting of pluralism. I also see them condemning the Western media for having double standards, and not giving enough airtime to aggrieved Muslims.
Many of us have also erupted into fury – and rightly so – over the GOP’s recent Islamophobic comments, many now comparing the current climate of anti-Muslim animus within a large section of the Republican party to the Nazi era in Germany.
All this outrage is justified, and I have written extensively on this unsettling rise in Islamophobia in the United States. But it surprises me how we – as Pakistanis – are so concerned about minority rights in distant lands, while ignoring them in our own.
Everything we hate about trump, aren’t we already doing to the Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan?
1) Special IDs: In his anti-Muslim tirade, Donald Trump first suggested that Muslims carry special identification badges. He was rightly slammed for this Islamophobia and compared to the Nazis who required the Jews to wear a special Yellow Star.
Now consider this. For the last four decades, Muslim citizens belonging to theAhmadiyya Muslim Community have been forced to carry such discriminatory IDs – identification that has left them disenfranchised. The state mandates that all Pakistani Muslims abuse the Spiritual leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community to obtain a ‘Muslim’ passport.
Imagine Trump suggesting that all Christians would have to testify – in writing – to the falsehood of Prophet Muhammad to be considered Christian in the United States? Even Trump would probably consider this ludicrous (even though we can not be so sure anymore).
2) Closing Mosques: Mr. Trump also recently said he would consider closing down Mosques in America. He was once again called an Islamophobe for intending to curtail the civil liberties of American Muslims.
Many don’t know, but what Trump merely suggested, we in Pakistan have been successfully implementing against the Ahmadiyya Muslims for decades. The Pakistani State-Mullah nexus has been responsible for closing down, sealing, torching, or forcibly occupying over a 100 Ahmadiyya Mosques. Yet, while we readily criticize Trump, there is no outcry against this ongoing Islamophobia in Pakistan.
Just two weeks ago, an extremist Sunni mob ransacked an Ahmadiyya Mosque in Pakistan’s Jhelum district and took it over.
3) Refugee Bias: Many Republican politicians have suggested that we close our doors to Syrian refugees – especially the Muslims. We have all condemned such suggestions as inhumane, unAmerican and Islamophobic.
But we forget the fact that every year, numerous Ahmadi Muslims are forced to flee Pakistan to seek refuge in neighboring China, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Nepal, and – like me – in Western nations. We are angry at Western politicians for not being accepting of refugees, while we continue to create numerous refugees of our own.
Numerous Hazara Shias and Hindus have also emigrated out for the same reasons.
4) Media Bias: After the Paris attacks, Many fellow Pakistanis expressed strong outrage over the Western media’s bias towards Muslims.
But we conveniently discount how our own media treats our minorities? When was the last time we saw a spokesperson of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community on television? Even as almost 100 Ahmadi Muslims were mercilessly gunned down in Lahore in 2010, the media in Pakistan blacked out the victims. The official response of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community was censored by the media.
And in the wake of the recent attack on Ahmadi Muslims in Jhelum, not a single TV channel called on an Ahmadiyya representative to give their point of view on air. We complain about media bias in the West and yet we completely censor the wrong kind of Muslims.
5) Right to Assembly: Like other faith groups, Muslims are allowed to hold conventions in the United States. Though Marco Rubio suggested he would consider shutting down some Muslim Cafes and Diners, I have no idea what that even means.
6) Right to Vote: Muslims, of course, are able to vote in the United States. We even have Muslim lawmakers in the government. In Pakistan, Ahmadi Muslims have been unable to vote for many decades now. This disenfranchisement leaves them completely unrepresented in the country’s politics and government.
7) Equal Academic & Work Opportunities: America is a land of opportunity where there is no religious test to the academic and work ladder. Things are different in Pakistan where discrimination against Ahmadi Muslims is common at work and school. The University of Engineering & Technology in Lahore, for instance, has anofficial clause that forbids Ahmadi Muslims to faculty positions. In the Punjab Medical College, over twenty Ahmadi Muslim medical students were rusticatedmerely for their beliefs.
8) Right to Self Identity: Unlike the United States where everyone has the right to identify as they choose, Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan can be imprisoned for three years – under the country’s anti-Ahmadiyya Ordinance XX – for identifying as Muslim. Imagine Catholics being rounded up in America for identifying as Christian.
9) Holding Highest Positions: We were all furious when Ben Carson suggested that a Muslim could not be trusted as the President of the United States. But why are we not alarmed by the fact that in Pakistan, Ahmadi Muslims and non-Muslim minorities – despite being loyal tax-paying citizens – cannot hold the positions of President and Prime Minister? This, despite the fact that the founding father who drafted the Pakistan Resolution was an Ahmadi Muslim.
10) Freedom of Religion: While Muslims have no restrictions to practicing Islam in the United States, Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan have severe restrictions on their religious freedom. They are not permitted to say the Kalima (Islamic Creed), Salam, Azaan (Call to Prayer) etc. They are forbidden public prayer, reading the Quran, or identifying their place of worship as a Mosque. Each of these acts by an Ahmadi Muslim carries a three-year sentence under the country’s law.
So Pakistani fellows, everything we hate about Trump, we are already doing – and much more – to the Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan. How is it fair then to decry Islamophobia in the West, while turning a blind eye to the rampant – and far more putrid – anti-Ahmadi bigotry in Pakistan? This only makes us a bunch of hypocrites, a dishonest people. We dislike Trump but fail to realize that ours is a very huuuuuuugeTrumpistan.
Next time we speak of how minorities are treated in the West, let us also reflect into our own attitudes towards our own minority communities. Let us raise our voice to end our apathy – and their agony. Let us not be that person who cheers in Trump’s rallies. Let us also not be that guy who stays silent when Trump spews his anti-Muslim bigotry. Let us emulate the good Americans who vocally condemn Trump’s rhetoric and stand up with integrity for the rights of American Muslims.
Let us also stand up for the rights of our own. Let us make it known that we will not allow bigotry to flourish in our name anymore. This responsibility falls especially on Pakistan’s majority Sunni Muslims. Reclaim those spaces you have allowed the extremists to occupy, and help write the narrative for a pluralistic and tolerant Pakistan.
For only once we are free of sin can we cast the first stone.