A couple of days ago the #IStandWithAhmadis hashtag campaign trended in Pakistan. I tweeted it as well. A lot of my tweets were quite whimsical. I believe that sometimes the best catharsis is to confront anxiety with humour. Here though things are different. This time I say what I really feel, particularly now, in light of the protests outside Hafeez Center against the removal of anti-Ahmadi stickers outside a shop.
So in solidarity with one of our country’s most persecuted communities and indeed all those who suffer at the hands of tyranny #IStandWithAhmadis once again.
#IStandWithAhmadis because we share the same earth, breathe the same air, pump the same blood and beat with the same heart.
#IStandWithAhmadis because of the common thread of humanity.
#IStandWithAhmadis because hate, intolerance and prejudice are the worst features of our species.
#IStandWithAhmadis because I don’t understand how people can protest on the streets in support of hate.
#IStandWithAhmadis because two of my best friends are a non-observant Jew and a nominal Catholic, and I’ve never once seen them through the prism of their religion.
#IStandWithAhmadis because they, my non-Muslim friends, showered me with kindness and compassion. I remember the times when they let me crash in their dorm rooms because our university had messed up my accommodation papers, when they bought me second hand books for my one of my birthdays and the solidarity they always showed when I fasted alone during Ramazan.
#IStandWithAhmadis because I don’t care about what anyone chooses to believe.
#IStandWithAhmadis because I’ve come back to where I was born; a country built by my fathers. But things are so different now, so full of sorrow.
#IStandWithAhmadis because I stand with the land of my forefathers, because I stand with Pakistan, because I ache for its survival.
#IStandWithAhmadis because those who persecute can never be in the right and I don’t want to be in the wrong.
#IStandWithAhmadis because nothing good has come from declaring Ahmadis non-Muslim, from prohibiting their freedom and from forcing them into the shadows. It is no longer just about them. It is about all of us. We suffer together.
#IStandWithAhmadis because hate cannot be contained. It will spread and engulf us all.
#IStandWithAhmadis because those who don’t stand with them cannot stand with Shias, Christians, Hindus, Parsis or anyone else. They can’t even stand with each other. All they know and understand is discord.
#IStandWithAhmadis because I believe that everyone should have the freedom to define themselves, to choose who they are, and to be who they want to be.
#IStandWithAhmadis because no child, as young as six, should have to sit in fear during a religious studies class.
#IStandWithAhmadis because of the Ahmadi child I met who none of the other kids would play with during recess because their teacher told them he was a kaffir.
#IStandWithAhmadis because when I asked him how he would spend his break he said,
“I usually go to the corner and play on my own.”
#IStandWithAhmadis because of the tears that poured from his eyes as he said this.
#IStandWithAhmadis because of the family who built a business from nothing and ran it for 50 years, over three generations, only to see it burned down in less than three hours.
#IStandWithAhmadis because even with all the wrongs done to them the only help they seek is through God.
#IStandWithAhmadis because I have buried more of them than I can remember. Because I don’t ever want to see, or lift up on my shoulders another wooden box with another Ahmadi body. I don’t. Never again.
#IStandWithAhmadis because I live behind a wall of masks. And every time I meet another widow, an orphan, a grieving mother, every single disguise betrays me as it slips away in horror leaving me to the mercy of my raw emotions.
#IStandWithAhmadis because it’s time to permanently take off the mask.
#IStandWithAhmadis because so much about me is broken and battered. I can’t find the words to express how torn I am inside. I want the persecution to stop, so we can all heal.
#IStandWithAhmadis because I can’t sleep at night. I stay awake and recount the horrors that the Ahmadi community has endured.
#IStandWithAhmadis because I am seething with anger. It is consuming me. It has become me. My friends now find me quiet and withdrawn. They mistake my reticence for cold indifference, but it is not. There’s nothing cold about it.
#IStandWithAhmadis because I can’t give in to the rage. I must live my life as a peaceful man. For my wife, my kids, for the all the people who I love in silence. But most of all for myself. If you can’t live in peace then you’ll always live in fear. And that’s not life; that’s not living.
#IStandWithAhmadis because there is little else I can do. No matter how much my daydreams may wish it, I’m not Superman nor am I about to become him. None of us are. But that doesn’t mean that the smallest of our efforts can’t make a difference.
#IStandWithAhmadis but I am just a writer, and not even a good one to be honest. These undistinguished words are all I have. It’s not a lot but it’s something. And as long as there is something, I am going to keep on standing.