09/27/2016 01:06 EDT | Updated 09/27/2016 01:07 EDT

How We Can Help End The Persecution Of Ahmadi Muslims

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Two women in head scarf

Imagine all Kashmiris were Ahmadi Muslims, would you still speak up for their rights? ~ Kashif N. Chaudhry

The persecution of Ahmadi Muslims is denied, ignored or at best condemned with the caveat "but Ahmadis are not Muslims." Their plight may go unaddressed unless Muslims in freer societies take conscious steps to reach out to them.

It is imperative for Muslims with immense privilege in the West to realize that conversation, dialogue and social connections with Ahmadi Muslims are a necessary part of confronting prejudice and discrimination against them.

Putting aside instances of mob lynching, this oppression also manifests itself in educational institutions amongst the highly educated. At the state level, a top Ahmadi economist gets sidelined or the appointment of a human rights activist to the United Nations is opposed, both for their Ahmadi beliefs.

Micro-aggression against Ahmadis persists across Muslim communities in the West. This includes opposition to Ahmadis in interfaith gatherings as Muslims, sidelining them during Islam Awareness Weeks on campuses and telling colleagues in interfaith circles that, "Ahmadis are not Muslims."

Such otherization and social ostracism in the West, where there is immense potential to build intra-faith bridges, is not helpful to end their ill treatment in Muslim countries.

However, if Islam is projected as a universal faith that affirms human rights then Muslims have the responsibility to stand by the most vulnerable amidst their communities.

But the path to including Ahmadis in Muslim spaces, getting educated about their plight, signing petitions against their oppression and expressing solidarity through rallies requires a shift in mindset. This can be achieved in the following five ways.

1) Recognizing that doctrinal differences do not trump human rights

Traditionally, Muslims are meant to have a universal outlook for they learn to imbibe wisdom from various sources whether Muslim or foreign. As such, they can learn from Rev. Tony Campolo's powerful words:

"You don't have to legitimate somebody's lifestyle inorder to love that person, to be brother or sister to that person and to stand up for that person."

This is consistent with the Islamic emphasis on justice and suggests that standing up against Ahmadi apartheid despite doctrinal differences is a Muslim duty and value.

2) Realizing that Ahmadis are loving and loyal citizens

Despite being heavily persecuted in Pakistan, Pakistani Ahmadis remain very patriotic. They do not respond to hate with more of the same but rather follow the Qur'anic dictate to repel evil with good. Unlike indoctrinated Sunni and Shia Muslims who have taken up arms in sectarian conflicts, it deserves to be appreciated that Ahmadis resort to peaceful prayer in the midst of horrific oppression.

3) Recognizing that all oppression is interconnected

Muslims in the West are rightfully concerned about rising Islamophobia. They clearly reject the notion of being singled out through the rhetoric of special ID cards, racial profiling at the airport, and being targeted solely for their faith. Ethical consistency requires that they openly protest against the constitutionally institutionalized discrimination of Ahmadis in Pakistan where they are singled out in government documentation, their faith is demeaned and where they are socially cast as pariahs.

4) Rejecting hate speech in the name of Islam

Muslims must distinguish between conservative religious practice and hateful bigotry when it comes to groups that exploit mass sentiments. This is true in the case of groups that masquerade as religious bodies and which usurp religious jargon to instigate murder. Indeed, language that projects Ahmadis as blasphemers deserving of death has no place in Islam and should be called out for what it is -- hate speech.

5) Recognizing that the umbrella of Islam is large

Adherence to Islam is dependent on the simple testimonial -- "There is no god but God and Muhammad is his Messenger" and strong caveats are placed against excommunicating those who recite it. The reason behind this simplicity is provided by the Qur'anic verse that explains diversity as part of God's plan for human beings to know one another. Muslims can realize that it is this emphasis in Islam that allows them to find reasons to include rather than exclude.

Desmond Tutu explained ubuntu through the words that, "my humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours." The same holds true for Muslims and Ahmadi Muslims.

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