The 75-year-old Dr. Rasheed Ahmad was the victim of a hate crime and of the climate of growing anti-Ahmadi intolerance.
by Marco Respinti
On February 19, 2023, a 75-year-old Ahmadi Muslim, Dr. Rasheed
Ahmad, well-known in the area for his humanitarian service to the most neglected villagers, was brutally shot dead in Goteriala, a village in the Gujrat District, in Pakistan’s Punjab Province. The news was broadcasted by the International Human Rights Committee (IHRC), a non-profit and non-governmental organization focusing on freedom of religion or belief based in London.
The victim was hit by several shots in the health center where he worked, the “Dr. Rashid Jatt Clinic,” a homeopathy clinic that he established to serve the poorest villagers.
The tragedy is an international incident that goes beyond Pakistan’s borders. Dr. Ahmad was born in Pakistan but years ago became a Norwegian citizen. In this new hate crime, a foreign citizen was murdered in Pakistan because of his faith.
“As a Scandinavian,” the Secretary General of IHRC, Nasim Malik, who lives in Sweden, told “Bitter Winter,” “he knew me and my work in denouncing the persecution of the minorities in Pakistan and specially the Ahmadiyya Muslims. Dr. Ahmad’s heart was full of humanity. He was a retired doctor in Norway who traveled back to his native Pakistan to serve the inhabitants of his village, Goteriala, even at the risk of his own life.”
The assassination of Dr. Ahmad appears to have been premeditated. Those living near the place of the murder, IHRC reported, knew the killer as an outspoken and active opponent of the Ahmadis, a Muslim community that both the Muslim government of Pakistan and private thugs persecute as heretical. In Pakistan, religion-based hate crimes, including lynching, happen daily. The problem is the tolerance of local police, which sometimes escalate to complicity with the mobs.
These staggering crimes, including lynchings and assassinations, in Pakistan grow out of a cultural milieu that not only prepares and allows these horrible acts but is the most difficult enemy to oppose. Social media campaigns are used to perpetuate a climate of hatred against those that Sunni Muslim conservative clerics label as “blasphemers.” This is a murderous label in a country where blasphemy, real or imaginary, is punished with the death penalty by a state whose sentences are often enforced by bloody mobs even before being pronounced.
One revealing example is a video recorded on February 3, 2023, by Mufti Abdul Wahid Qureshi, a prominent Pakistani Sunni Muslim cleric, aboard a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight that he then posted on Twitter. Mufti Qureshi called for a total boycott of businesses owned by Ahmadis, and appealed to the Pakistani Minister of Aviation, Khawaja Saad Rafique, asking that the PIA will no longer do business with Ahmadi Muslims.
“I’m Mufti Abdul Wahid Qureshi, your brother,” the cleric says in his video, “speaking to you while on a flight of PIA from Lahore to Karachi. At this moment the ketchup sachet that you can see, is of the Shezan company, which is owned by Qadianis.” “Qadianis” is the derogatory term that opposers use to stigmatize the Ahmadis, especially in Pakistan. It comes from Qadian, the holy city of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community in the Indian Punjab (the Punjab province having been divided between India and Pakistan since the Partition of India in 1947), which is the birth and burial place of the founder of the movement, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835–1908).
That ketchup brand “is being thoroughly promoted,” Mufti Qureshi incited, “in our very own Pakistan International Airlines”. He continues: “Our Aviation Minister, Khwaja Saad Rafique, is the son of an eminent personality. He should take notice of it, and all those friends that are watching this should forward and convey this message to him about what is going on! We should boycott them socially.”
Everyone will of course recognize the same astounding intolerant rhetoric used in the 1930s Nazi Germany against the Jews. We all remember how this kind of chauvinistic social defamation paved the way for the Holocaust. If it wants to stop this slippery slope in the country, the Pakistani government should openly turn its back to this murderous subculture. And the Norwegian government should do something to protect its nationals who are killed in foreign countries for their faith.