Ernest Dempsey — Persecution of religious minorities in Punjab province is again in the news; this time, the target being the Ahmadi community – yes, again! Lawyers and student mobs affiliated with a religious party are bullying the public not to use popular soft drinks produced by an Ahmadi food company.
Earlier this month, the lawyer community in Lahore (Punjab’s capital city) decided to impose a ban on Ahmadi-owned Shezan drinks, which are very popular throughout the country, on court premises. More than a hundred voted in favor of this ban and a team was also constituted to ‘enforce’ this ban.
Ahmadis have been the target of religious fanaticism worn on sleeves by Islamic fundamentalist groups. A good many lawyers are also directly part of the fundamentalist agenda partly enforced by boycott of Ahmadi products.
Lawyers are not alone in this movement against the Ahmadi sect (or religion, as they have been expelled from Islam officially in Pakistan and many other parts of the Muslims world); the JTI student, associated with the Islamic party Jamat-e-Islami, in Pubjab University (Lahore) have been bullying students on campus for years, not letting them buy Shezan drinks on campus. These students also don’t allow Pepsi to be sold on campus, for the reason that it is a ‘Jewish drink’.
Such Islamist policing in courts and universities in Punjab is a matter of concern for the staggering ideals of social justice in this country. The US and its allied forces are only concentrating on eliminating terror via military strikes on armed groups; but that alone would not do. To eradicate the evil from its root, the mindset exhibited by the lawyers in question and student groups as JTI will have to be taken into account and dealt appropriately by the government.
On the level of the general public, we need to use reason as to why such hate-driven activism must be rejected, in fact ridiculed. Computers, medicines, vehicles, and even many food items sold at groceries are directly imported from abroad or manufactured domestically under the same license issued by non-Muslim companies. So why should we let ourselves fall into the base position of refusing to accept the existence of anything but Islam?
This world is host to multiple religions, cultures, and races. If we believe in equity, we must pay respect to all these, and remember that Islam or any other system cannot survive in isolation. We are all in this life together and absolute isolation does not find any place in it. Only by giving respect do we earn respect. So all grieving Muslims should realize and accept the right of any person or group of people to leave Islam if they wanted and co-exist as a friendly fellow group sharing the land and resources, and each contributing to the progress of the society.