Trump and minorities of Pakistan
On 9 November 2016, Donald Trump was elected as the President of the United States. This sparked widespread concern across the globe, especially among the international Muslim community. Trump has, during his presidential campaign, made several remarks which indicate that the Muslim minority in the United States are likely to be subject to discrimination once Trump assumes office in 2017. On 20 November 2015, The New York Times reported that Trump had insisted upon Muslims being required to register in a national database. Of further concern was his call for a temporary ban on Muslim immigration into the United States.
Since then, Pakistani Muslims have expressed outrage and concern over his election. The United States is no longer safe for Muslims, it has been said. Trump is no better than Adolf Hitler, it has been argued. America has become too Islamophobic, what about the protection of religious and racial minorities, however will the Muslim minority survive the new era which has dawned upon the United States? Yes, these are all pertinent questions.
However, ironically enough for our outraged Pakistanis, the Minorities Rights Group International (MRG) in 2014 ranked Pakistan as one of the most dangerous countries for minorities. In doing so, the MRG referred to official figures available to them and noted that, while minority persecution has been on the rise internationally since the 1980s, Pakistan had reached ‘disturbing levels’, with 700 Shiites being killed in 2013 and inadequate measures being carried out by the Pakistani Government to counter this rise in persecution.
The Express Tribune, on 28 March 2016, published a timeline of major attacks on minorities in Pakistan. In 2013, a mob smashed statues, looted artifacts and set several Hindu temples ablaze in Larkana. September 22, 2013 saw one of the deadliest attacks on Christian Pakistanis, with 83 killed in a twin suicide bombing. In the same year, more than 200 houses belonging to Christians in Joseph Colony were set ablaze, with three churches being burnt in the same locality. In 2014, a mob beat a Christian couple to death, claiming that they had desecrated the Quran. On March 27 2016, 72 people were killed and more than 300 injured when a suicide bomb detonated in a park full of Christians celebrating Easter Sunday.
According to the recent figures found on the Pakistan Bureau of Statistic’s website, there are 96.28% of the Pakistani population is Muslim, 1.59% are Christians, 1.60% are Hindus, 0.22% are Qadianis (Ahmedis), 0.25% are Scheduled Castes and 0.07% are others. The exact percentage of Sikhs, Parsis and other religious minorities are not mentioned.
The rights of these minorities is enshrined within the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan 1973. Of note are Article 20, Article 22, Article 27 and Article 36.
Every citizen under Article 20 has the freedom to profess religious and to manage religious institutions. In Justice Muhammad Munir’s (the former Chief Justice of Pakistan) commentary on the Constitution, he refers to the Indian case of Commissioner, HRE v Lakshmindra AIR (1954), where it was held that ‘religion’ includes not just a theistic religion but also encompasses those religions which are not centered on a belief in one God, e.g., Jainism and Buddhism.
Article 22 states that no person who attends any educational institution is obligated to either receive religious instruction or to take part in any religious ceremony or even to attend religious worship is this relates to any religion other than their own.
Article 27 states that no citizen can be discriminated against in the appointment for a service within Pakistan with respect to their race, sex, place of birth, religion or caste. Article 36 imposes an obligation on the State to safeguard the rights of minorities.
In theory, religious minorities certainly do have rights but what use is a right which is never enforced?
In his Presidential Address to the First Constituent Assembly, on 11 August 1947, Quaid-e-Azam stated, ’You are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed. That has nothing to do with the business of the State.’ Pakistan in 2016 does not coincide with Quaid-e-Azam’s vision of a peaceful country which lives in harmony with religious minorities—which is ironic, considering the fact that Pakistan was created because of religious persecution faced by Muslims in Hindu-dominated India. You would think we would be sympathetic towards the precarious position that any religious minority finds itself in when outnumbered. Let us not forget Jogendranath Mandal, who was central to the ideology of Pakistan prior to Partition and, after the creation of Pakistan, he became the first Minister of Law and Labor. On 11th August 1947, when Jinnah was to be sworn in as the first Governor-General of Pakistan, he wanted Mandal to preside over the session of the Constituent Assembly, as pointed out by Akhtar Balouch in Dawn Newspaper, 4 November 2015.
And how did Pakistan later treat Mandal, whose continued presence could have helped many religious minorities to rise to higher government ranks and which could have aided in bringing minorities onto an equal footing with the Sunni Muslim majority? A few years after birth of Pakistan, he submitted his resignation to Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, citing anti-Hindu bias within the Pakistani administration as the reason for his resignation.
Perhaps if Jinnah’s example as a tolerant, all-religious-minorities-embracing leader is unconvincing, it might be better to refer to Islamic teachings on the treatment of non-Muslims and religious minorities.
The Messenger of Allah said “Beware! Whoever is cruel and hard on a non-Muslim minority, curtails their rights, burdens them with more than they can bear, or takes anything from them against their free will; I (Prophet Muhammad) will complain against the person on the Day of Judgment.” (Abu Dawud).
Upon migration from Mecca to Medina, one of the very first matters which the Prophet (S.A.W) turned his attention to was the relations between Muslims and the non-Muslims within Medina, the Jewish tribes. In the historic Charter of Medina, the Prophet (S.A.W) abolished religious and social inequality, putting the Jewish tribes and Muslims on an equal footing. In the sixth year of Hijrah, these rights were also granted to the Fathers of the Monastery of St. Catherine, thus safeguarding the rights of Christians in a Muslim-dominated community.
There is, after all, ‘no compulsion in religion’, Quran 2:256.
Therefore, it is our duty, not just as citizens of Pakistan but also as Muslims, to treat the religious minorities who are part of our community with equality, tolerance and compassion. There are many among us who do not go out and physically persecute minorities but whose discriminatory and prejudicial attitudes found in simple drawing room conversations set a particular tone of hostility which have severe consequences for those who are at the receiving end of this hostility. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr, said; ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.’
*NOTE: Research credit to Sherbano Tajammal, Law student*