As we in the US commemorated the tragedy of 9/11, there were calls to end world terror. But it is disturbing to know that the situation in Pakistan is not any better. On September 7th, GeoTV, a leading Pakistani television channel that has also wide viewership via cable networks in North America, aired a special program on 'Aalim Online,' a religious broadcast hosted by anchor Dr. Aamir Liaquat Hussain. Mullahs from various sects were invited to malign the non-violent Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Repeatedly, Dr. Hussain and his fellow Mullahs stated that Ahmadis were 'worthy of death' ('wajb-ul-qatl') and that all of their religious activities in Pakistan should be terminated.
Within two days of the 'fatwa,' masked assailants murdered two prominent Ahmadis in the Sindh province. Both were heads of their local Ahmadiyya Community chapters. The first, Dr. Abdul Mannan Siddiqi, age 46 years, was an American citizen, a physician who was trained in cardiology in Philadelphia. He returned to his land of birth in Mirpurkas, Sindh when his father called him back with the express purpose of serving the poor and needy of the area. To this end, he operated a hospital in Mirpurkas as well as free clinics in remote areas of Tharparker. As a physician who has served in similar regions, I cannot but fathom the loss of service to humanity with Dr. Siddiqi's murder. Ironically, he was shot while finishing medical rounds at his hospital. The second Ahmadi victim, Mr. Sate Muhammad Yusuf, age 70 years, was local Community head of Nawabshah, Sindh. His assailants targeted an elderly man who could hardly ascend a flight of stairs. Both murders occurred shortly after the 'fatwa' of death to Ahmadis issued by the Mullahs on 'Aalim Online.'
So what are the issues here? First, GeoTV was irresponsible in airing an incitement to violence. Even if the assailants had not expeditiously carried out the Mullah's order, as they did, the urging of viewers to kill is a basic breach of ethical principles and, frankly, the laws of most countries. In the wake of the murders, this point has been highlighted by several agencies including the International Federation of Journalists and Asia Human Rights Commission. But second, and perhaps most disturbing about the state of affairs in Pakistan, is that while the world mourned lost lives from 9/11, GeoTV's 'Aalim Online' aired its special program in celebration of the 34th anniversary of the Pakistani government's constitutional amendment declaring Ahmadis to be 'non-Muslims.' Notably, host Dr. Hussain is a former Pakistani Minister for Religious Affairs.
Thus the real war on terror demands a rebuke of elements in Pakistan's media, clergy, and its discriminatory laws. GeoTV should apologize, retract its incitement to violence, and remove its fiery anchor from 'Aalim Online.' Further, to promote free speech, opportunities should be given to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community to directly provide its actual beliefs. Conversely, the hate-filled Mullah of Pakistan should be censored from further calls to murder, as no sane nation would accept such acts as constituting free speech. Furthermore, the laws of Pakistan instituted to promote intolerance against Ahmadis or any other religious minority should be repealed. It is neither the job of media, mullah, nor government to play God.
Finally, the lessons of 9/11 are that as a global community and as Americans there is a greater need to understand one another. Our tragedies of recent and past demand that we consult our sources directly. For this reason, I invite readers to visit any of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Mosques in North America or to log onto www.alislam.org, its official website, to know the superlative love that Ahmadis hold for their Master Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, and the peaceful Islam that he taught. The response from the Khalifa of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, on 9/12 is most telling. He cited the Holy Quran's message (2:154-157) of patience, perseverance, and prayer, especially during this holy month of Ramadan, against the murderous calls and deeds of the Mullah. It is hopeful that most Pakistanis, who are fair-minded, would subscribe to the same message of peace. Perhaps this is what the Mullahs fear most.
Dr. Sohail Husain is Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Yale University.