Shedding Light on Different Experiences of Growing up Ahmadi

Featured Artwork: Alona Savchuk

grey-line-png-6

Qadiani: a word commonly used to refer to those belonging to the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. The elders in our community can recall moments from their childhood when they were tormented in front of crowds of classmates and called by this infamous religious slur. They would hear this on the playground, where their mothers would feed lies into their daughters’ minds that Qadianis are not good people. Children being children would follow in their parents’ footsteps and call Ahmadi girls such names at school. They would outcast them, including teachers who would be aware of the Qadianis in their classrooms. A child growing up listens to their parents and believes they are always right. Hateful propaganda begins in the home, and children carry these beliefs on with them. The issue arises when they refuse to break the cycle of sectarian hate and pass it along to their own children. Qadian is a small town in northern India, the birthplace of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of the Ahmadiyya movement. The Pakistani government uses the slur “Qadiani” to refer to members of our community in official documents to this day.

You might be wondering by now why I continue to define and talk about such derogatory terms. See, even before I decided on my major in university, I knew that I wanted to serve and help my community in any way possible. As I come to my final year of university as a Human Rights and Equity Studies major, I have shared my story and my family’s story a few times. I have written research papers about it, but I thought now is the perfect time to shed light on others who have experienced the same and give them a platform to share their stories. 

Before you read further, I just want to give a trigger warning, as the following content contains violence, abuse, death, and persecution. I asked my Twitter mutuals who were kind enough to share with me their stories to talk about some issues they may have faced. The following are 8 different experiences from 8 people who grew up Ahmadi.

. . .

“In my maternal home, which is a village in Indian Kashmir, people have stopped talking to us. They won’t sell things to us and would often spit in our direction every time we pass by. There are a few exceptions, of course, but this is the general scenario of that place. Coming to my own personal experience, I’ve on several occasions in my schooling days been given low marks and even been failed in one subject once. Then there was this one teacher who kept taunting my brother and constantly failing him in his subject. The worst of all this actually happened to my mother when she was a kid. It was the time of Ziaul Haque’s regime when villagers gathered and burnt down my mother’s ancestral house. Thankfully they escaped unhurt.” -Ahmad Anas (@AhmadAnas419)

 

“August 17th, 1988 was the day when General Zia-ul-Haque, the dictator who ruled Pakistan for almost a decade, died in a plane crash near the river Sutluj after taking off in his presidential aircraft from Bahawalpur airbase. I remember our neighbour Salim, who was a non-Ahmadi running back home and shouting in the streets ‘Zia mar geya, Zia mar geya’ (Zia has died!) Me and my one year younger brother rushed home. Everybody was in front of the TV and I vividly remember the famous announcement of Ghulam Ishaq Khan stating that Zia had died in a plane crash. Why was this so important, I learned later on. My father, my uncle and their maternal uncle were all three in the central jail of Bahawalpur. They were kept there because a case was lodged against them for distributing flyers with the ‘Mubahla Challenge’ given out by the then supreme Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad. Mubahla is a prayer duel according to the Islamic tradition in which two parties call God as their witness and ask God to show a sign against the other and in favour of them, in order to find the truth. They were kept there for over 3 months and as I learned, later on, they were told prior to the visit of General Zia-ul-Haque, that their cases will be presented to the General upon his visit. Their plan was to give them the death penalty like in the famous case of Sahiwal. But as Allah states in the Holy Quran (3:55), ‘And they planned, and Allah also planned, and Allah is the Best of planners’ — Allah had other plans, and their plans vanished. Ultimately following the death of General Zia, the climate changed to be better and the 3 were released on bail and could leave the country to escape the persecution. My father left his wife, two sons (ages 6 and 5) and a daughter of the age of 2 behind. After a long 6 years, his asylum was accepted in Switzerland and we could reunite! Thinking about the reunion I often think that if there is a place considered as heaven on earth, then it is Switzerland. And if there is a country getting more and more considered as hell on earth, than it’s Pakistan. And it is only a blessing of Allah that He has chosen just a few to get out of this hell-like place on earth and to live in this heavenly place.” -Zahid Butt (@Zalsbu)

 

“Someone from my high-school MSA club posted a recitation of Surah Fatiha on our MSA Facebook page and it was from MTAs channel. But it was literally just the recitation of Surah Fatiha, nothing else — and the MSA SPONSOR teacher made the student delete the post and made a whole post about how Ahmadis are kafir and not to look at their content. And so that’s why I never went to MSA again.” -Mahnoor (@noorsheikh__)

 

“My first cousins (two sisters) were married off to two Ahmadi brothers in Pakistan. My brother-in-law (Asif Masood) owned a family boutique and clothing business in Faisalabad. It would run pretty well and they were making good money, so I guess people started to hear about them, but of course being Ahmadi, they would be discriminated in the city. They started receiving death threats but didn’t take them seriously. My cousin was back home in Austria with her one-year-old daughter visiting her parents when this took place, by the way. One day on their way home from work, Asif, his dad and his uncle (who all owned the business together) locked up their boutique and were headed home. Asif was on the phone with my cousin and told her he’ll call her back in a few minutes but he never got to talk to her again. As they were leaving, gunmen arrived and started shooting all of them, to the point where all three of them began standing in front of each other to serve as human shields. They were each reported to have 30+ bullets inside of them. My cousin had a one-year-old daughter who lost her dad that day, and the family lost three family members at once.” -Alina (@alinaaxxo)

 

“Well, I was in grade 7, and during one of my Arabic classes, when my teacher explained that Jesus (AS) is up there alive, I tried to prove to him that he is dead and not like what you believe. There was a huge discussion, and other teachers got involved as well. There was no end to this discussion as I was just a 13 year old. After a while, those teachers started treating me differently just because of the fact that I am Ahmadi. They wouldn’t grade my tests or exams. Even if they did, it would be with an F grade, whether I have written anything or not. I told my parents, but doing anything was useless. Anyways, grade 10, or as we call it ‘Matric’ out here in Pakistan, happened. Final papers are examined by some random teacher, which made me score so well that all those bright students who were promised to perform well, they all were beneath me. It was a reply from God to those who thought they can do anything.” -Murtza Fraz (@murtzafraz)

 

“We were living peacefully in Karachi, we didn’t have any issues with anyone and no one had issues with us, all of our neighbours knew about us being Ahmadi and they never made an issue about it. Until December 2008 — my father used to work in a leasing company, and he was a recovery officer like a dozen others in his branch. Everything was going well, he was appreciated by everyone in his office without any exception, because of him not having any bad habits. Most of them used to smoke or were foul-mouthed, and he didn’t have any of those habits and they used to say: ‘There’s something different and better about you, we can’t tell exactly what but you’re not like everyone else.’ No one knew about him being Ahmadi. One day after jummah prayer, 2 of his colleagues saw him coming out of one of our mosques. They didn’t say anything on the spot, the weekend went by and on Monday, after his arrival, he was summoned by his boss, who told him that 10 of his colleagues have refused to work and want to resign if he stays there. The boss said that he doesn’t have any issue with his religion and he’s very happy with his work, but it’s easier for him to replace one person than replacing 10, and then my father was told to resign because he didn’t want to fire him. I still remember my father coming back home to this day in tears. After that, he tried to find other jobs, but whenever they called his old job to find out why he resigned, they told them about him being Ahmadi and everyone refused to hire him, then he decided to migrate and finally in 2010 we came here to France.” -Anonymous 

 

“I was 17 when I graduated high-school (grade 10) from Nusrat Jehan in Rabwah. My dad was well settled in Sargodha so I planned to enroll at the University of Sargodha. He was very well known around the city so it didn’t take long until the students and the professors found out I was an Ahmadi Muslim. My Islamic Studies teacher would spread out lies about our beliefs and would call the Promised Messiah AS ‘A Heretic’ and ‘False Prophet’ nauzubillah. This went on for at least 3-4 months every single day. The students would leave hateful messages on my desk and text me disturbing pictures of our Khalifas. I was only 17 so I couldn’t really speak up to all that was going on. So at the end of the semester (April 2012), I got into an argument during a soccer game which escalated pretty quickly and a crowd of at least 15-20 students started shoving me against the goal post. They stripped off my clothes layer by layer until one of the students saw my undershirt which had ‘Majlis Khuddamul Ahmadiyya Nasirabad’ (my local jamat) written on it. They burned down my shirt and threw it at me. I got severe burns on my right shoulder. And this wasn’t it. Once they were done with my shirt, I was dragged across the field outside the university property. They tied my hands above my head and as far as I remember there were at least 3 guys that started beating me up with a whip. This was all happening during the university hours and no one dared to stop them. I don’t remember much of what happened after. I woke up at my dad’s hospital after hours. No arrests were made. They told the authorities that they had found me wearing a blasphemous t-shirt against the Holy Prophet PBUH. It’s been 8 years since the incident and I still have whip marks on my back. I still get flashes where I see a mob running towards me to take my life only because I decided to be on the right side of Islam. My friends and family have asked me if I was ever scared during the incident but to be honest, I feared no one. I was ready to give my life for my beliefs and since then I had no doubts in our jamaat, alhamdulillah. Still proud to be an Ahmadi Muslim.” -Talha (@tjoyia04)

 

“My mother was a convert and despite her not being born Ahmadi, she’s the reason that I wanted to practice Ahmadiyyat to its truest extent. She made me fall in love with the beauty of the hijab, she taught me sunnahs and hadiths that I repeat multiple times throughout my day, and she made me passionate about Islam. Unfortunately she passed away in 2013, but I can optimistically say that her passing was a divine sign from Allah. Without that experience in my life, I wouldn’t have fallen in love with the religion the way I have today.” -Alia (@ahlieuhh)

. . .

Many of these stories had left me in tears — to hear these coming from many people around my age who had to experience such horrible conditions. Many Ahmadis share common stories of being harassed at their jobs, schools, or even on the streets. The police do not do much to pay attention to these crimes. When an Ahmadi is shot down in cold blood, the country turns a blind eye to what is happening to those around them. Ahmadis in a country like Pakistan are treated as disposable people, who they can get rid of any time. The numbers of those martyred continue to increase; not only that, but our graveyards are destroyed. The dead are not even left to rest in peace, yet the situation remains the same.

Our community continues to suffer even after escaping such circumstances; many have experienced such horrible situations and do not speak about it due to the trauma it has left them with. There are many cases of persecution of Ahmadis that take place that are not reported. Our community can only heal once the persecution against Ahmadis comes to an end. This seems to be something that will not happen in current times. It is important to acknowledge, that even if the youth did not grow up in such countries, intergenerational trauma is very valid. Yet, it failed to be taught by many institutions.

The purpose of this article is to share the stories and experiences several people have faced and continue to go through. It is so that we never stop talking about the injustices that continue to happen against our community and the violation of human rights.