Featured Image: Adam Dean for The New York Times
Growing up in Abu Dhabi, U.A.E, I never knew I was an Ahmadi Muslim. Just like any other child, I was unaware of sects, unaware of the major differences between these sects. My parents worried if we ever told someone outside the house that we were Ahmadi Muslims, we could be in great danger. It was not until we immigrated to Canada that we were able to understand our true identity and who we were. It was not until I came to Canada that we able to pray in a mosque for the first time, attend events held by our community, and preach about our beliefs.
A few years later, still newly immigrated, I distinctly remember my siblings, parents and I were crammed into a small room and my dad’s phone rang early in the morning when everyone was asleep. We received the most awful news that his cousin was gunned down in an attack at the mosque and several more were injured. That was the first time I understood that people did not like us for our beliefs and we could be killed when they found out. Those who survived the attack recall that my uncle was helping others hide until he was found and killed by the attackers.
As I grew up and understood the concept of persecution and what our community faced, my parents would tell us stories about how kids would tease them. They were ostracized in school and treated differently by teachers and students. A mob once had planned to set my mother’s house on fire, and while the mob got to the street, it took a group of large women to make them leave. To say the least, my parents had endured a lot of hardships in Pakistan growing up. It is still a common occurrence to destroy the mosques that belong to the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, set them on fire, and gun people down for being Ahmadi. Ahmadi Muslims live in constant fear of practicing their religion, including being able to give the adhan (call to prayer) at their mosques.
Many Ahmadis in Pakistan and other countries fear for their lives when they go to the mosque.
Recently, due to the Coronavirus forcing Muslims to stay home and unable to attend mosques during the holy month of Ramadan, Brampton and many other cities in Ontario, Canada have granted mosques permission for the call to prayer to be broadcasted. This is a big deal as this is not a normal occurrence for any Muslim community, but for us, it seems like a big win. Not being able to attend mosques back home, having to practice our religion in secret — it feels like it paid off after all these years, being able to hear the call to prayer here in Canada. Those who do not live in the neighbourhood are unable to hear it, but through live streams, we were able to watch the historic moment take place. The video can be viewed through the following link: Canada — Historic Call to Prayer.
Many of us were able to leave Pakistan and other countries that persecute Ahmadis for practicing Islam and settle down in countries like Canada, the United States, U.K. etc. and freely practice our religion. This does not mean we do not face hardships here — people immigrate and so does their hatred. The hatred gets passed down intergenerationally; many Muslims who belong to a minority sect run into issues, especially during their school years.
Many in the city see it as just a call to prayer and others are deeply disturbed by it, which has followed with certain individuals being fired for the comments made about the decision from Brampton. Now, other cities are deciding to reverse their decision due to the backlash they have gotten from community members. In this time of uncertainty, the decision originally made was a heartfelt one, a decision rooted in solidarity that lets the Muslim community know that during this holy month of Ramadan, it is difficult having to stay at home. It is a reminder of how lucky we are to live in the countries we do, but also a reminder that bigots are everywhere. We escape one form of hatred to come here to handle another type of hatred. Nonetheless, our community will always stand by its motto: Love for All, Hatred for None.