By Shamila Ghyas
Asad Shah was what one would use as an example for a good human being. The humble shopkeeper from Glasgow was loved by his whole community — Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
Well — except a few.
We live in a world where it is the loud, violent people like Anjem Choudary who go around telling and trying to convince everyone that all ‘Kaafirs’ [non believers] deserve to die. A world in which popular scholars like Zakir Naik preach that it is “haram” [forbidden] to even wish a Christian ‘Merry Christmas.” A world where an Imam whose supposed job is to teach about tolerance instead expresses sorrow that a murderer like Mumtaz Qadri had been punished by law. Glasgow Imam Maulana Habib Ur Rehman said he was “disturbed” and “upset” by Qadri’s execution. He went on to say, “I cannot hide my pain today. A true Muslim was punished for doing which the collective will of the nation failed to carry out.”
This is our world in which Asad Shah chose to be a friendly, tolerant and kind person who left messages on facebook like, “Good Friday and a very happy Easter, especially to my beloved Christian nation.” He was murdered a few hours after he wrote this, allegedly by another Muslim man named Tanveer Ahmed. It is believed that he drove all the way from Bradford with just one aim in mind – to kill him.
Mr Shah’s killer stabbed him 30 times and jumped on his head convinced every second that whatever he was doing was the right thing to do. He believed that he was protecting and defending his religion from horrendous people like Asad. Before I go on, why is that such people only need to defend their religion from seemingly tolerant people like Asad? Why never against people like Anjem Chaudhary and Zakir Naik, who promote hatred and entice violence every single day?
Tanveer Ahmed issued a statement recently through his lawyer, claiming that Asad Shah had “disrespected” Islam. How? Simple. He was an Ahmadi. He had left Pakistan 20 years ago to move to the UK presumably for a better life where he was not persecuted for being an Ahmadi. In Pakistan (among some other countries as well), by law Ahmadis are not allowed to refer to themselves as Muslims. They are not even allowed to go to the same mosques as other “regular” Muslims or even take part in Eid festivals. People of Pakistani origin (in many countries) are asked to sign forms when renewing their passports where they declare Ahmadis as non Muslims. Only if they do so are their papers processed. But this is Pakistan where it is part of the constitution.
The murder of Asad Shah took place in the UK which shows that this sectarian hatred filled violence is spilling over. The religious vigilantes are now attacking people they consider blasphemous in other countries too. This was the time for the Muslim Council of Britain to come together and condemn the act and scream out to everyone how wrong this murder was; how they will not sit idly and let this happen to their people; and how they will protect all Ahmadis and others alike.
Instead these were their carefully chosen and minced words:
“The Muslim Council of Britain reflects the clear theological position expressed across Islamic traditions: namely that the cornerstone of Islam is to believe in One God and in the finality of the prophethood of the Messenger Muhammad, peace be upon him. We understand that this is not a tenet subscribed to by the Ahmad community. The MCB Constitution requires our affiliates to declare that Messenger Muhammad peace be upon him is the final prophet and whoever does not subscribe to that declaration cannot be eligible for affiliation with the MCB. Given this fundamental theological difference with the Ahmadi community, the MCB is not in a position to represent or be represented by the Ahmadi community.”
“Despite our clear theological beliefs, we note that pressure is mounting to describe this community as Muslim. Muslims should not be forced to class Ahmadis as Muslims if they do not wish to do so, at the same time, we call on Muslims to be sensitive, and above all, respect all people irrespective of belief or background.”
Who are these people to decide who can call themselves what? Unless they are the absolute most perfect humans who do everything correctly and follow religion to a T, they really have no right to tell anyone what they can call themselves. If they do, then they probably should not have an issue when others refer to them as intolerant. And really? An imam was praising Mumtaz Qadri. Such people will decide who gets to be called a Muslim?
In a nutshell, the MCB statement pretty much reads as:
“Hey look, murder is kind of wrong you know, but we can’t do anything about it because you insist on calling yourself Muslims. I mean dudes, you are not. You just are not because we like to play God and tell people such things. If we let you be, then what would God do? He already has so much to take care of so we are doing this for him. Okay? So please don’t call yourself Muslims, we are not cool with that. And if someone kills you, they are emotional people you know. You are really hurting their feelings and destroying their families and homes by calling yourself Muslims. And what can we do. It would be great if you can just stop calling yourself Muslims! Ok fine! Since we live in a Kaafir country we can pretend to care and will inform them, after repeating again and again that we have nothing to do with you, to back off! Happy now?”
Asad Shah was someone everyone liked. And he deserves the support from all, including the MCB, because he made them look good. When people talked to him they saw him as a good Muslim and a good person. He set a good example of tolerance. Something that most of us keep screaming we are doing at the top of our lungs, but when it comes to showing it we back off.
If this is not controlled right now and if the MCB does not accept Ahmadis as their own people and give them full support and rights, these murders will increase. And the ones who commit it will see nothing wrong in what they did either.
Shamila Ghyas is a Pakistani fantasy fiction author and journalist who writes for various publications. Her main focus is on rights of women and minorities. Nutella-holic, music obsessed, and Superman’s alter ego. Find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.