The right to choose your own religion
By N. Mahmood Ahmad
Recently Israel, the only liberal-democratic state in the Middle East, attempted to adopt legislation granting a minority of ultra-Orthodox rabbis the legal right to define who is Jewish. Alarmed at this sweeping move within Israel, many Jews who are not Orthodox - a category that includes most American Jews - were able to prevent immediate passage of the bill. In doing so, they won a temporary victory for millions of Conservative and Reformed Jews who would otherwise effectively be designated as non-Jewish by the Israeli state.
Governments have sought to impose such restrictions on individual religious identity throughout history. In 360 C.E., the Roman Empire issued the Edict of Thessalonica, making Nicene Christianity the only official religion. All other forms of Christianity were declared heresies, and anyone caught professing them would be punished by death. Since then, state control over religion has been the impetus for the wars of religion in Europe, the Inquisition in Spain, and closer to home, the burning of witches in Salem, Massachusetts.
About sixty years ago, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, seeking to turn over a new leaf by guaranteeing that "everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion." Nevertheless, world governments still trample upon the right to declare oneself a member of a particular faith.
In the Muslim world in particular, the right to choose one's own religion is already being denied to millions. Even in purportedly democratic countries such as Malaysia and Pakistan, a minority of religious extremists are able to dictate matters of conscience. In 2007, the Malaysian Federal Court ruled that a woman who had converted from Islam to Christianity could not legally do so because as a member of the traditionally Muslim Malay ethnic group, she was constitutionally required to be a Muslim. Similarly, Article 260 of Pakistan's Constitution defines who is a "Muslim" and a "non-Muslim". In 1974, the Parliament approved a constitutional amendment specifically designating members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, as non-Muslims. The Pakistani Government has, in fact, mandated that anyone applying for a passport who declares himself a Muslim must swear that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, is an impostor and that his followers are non-Muslim. Constitutions are intended to limit the power of the state and guarantee basic freedoms - for example, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees free exercise and prohibits establishment. By contrast, the Malaysian and Pakistani Constitutions do precisely the opposite - they force a state-imposed faith upon their citizens, while also limiting free exercise of their own chosen creed.
Such legislation creates a culture of hatred, emboldening religious extremists to commit atrocities with impunity. In May, Pakistani Taliban slaughtered 86 Ahmadi Muslims in a coordinated attack on two of the Community's mosques in Lahore, Pakistan. Meanwhile, Article 260 and other laws remain, including Pakistan's notorious anti-blasphemy laws. Indeed, the trend in other countries, including Malaysia, and most recently Israel, is toward increased state control over individual religious identity. Israeli Jews are fortunate to have influential compatriots living in the United States, a country founded on the principles of religious freedom and remains the freest place in the world today. By contrast, the Muslim community in the United States has remained conspicuously silent on this issue. Notably, even in the wake of the attacks on Ahmadi Muslims, no Muslim organization spoke out against Pakistan's archaic laws.
It is high time that governments around the world live up to their obligations under the United Nations human rights charter, and get out of the business of dictating who may or may not call herself a Jew, Christian, or Muslim.
N. Mahmood Ahmad is a member of the Executive Board of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Lawyers Association USA. He is a lawyer based in Washington, D.C. and served on the Virginia Law Review editorial board.
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Had you googled, you probably would not have made that blanket statement that No Muslim organization spoke out against the Hudood laws.
Plug in Ahmadiyya when you open this link, you will find seven articles defending the rights of Ahmadiyya to be Muslims - http://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2008/05/all-articles-list.html
There is an article pending with post about Politics of Ramadan, where in I wrote, "The conflict is the same every where on the earth. Each group subscribes to one of the four systems mentioned above. America is no different; you will find celebrations on one or three different days in any given city, the Sunnis, being the largest group has the greater division within, while the Shias, Ismailis, WD Mohammad, Bohra and Ahmadiyya follow the pre-determined dates. The consensus may be attributable to having central spiritual leadership in all groups except the Sunni. However like the American Public wishes to see the Republicans and Democrats drop the party lines and focus on what is good for America, the Muslims also wish they could celebrate the Eid on one single day. It ain’t going to happen, it is human to differ."
In the email@example.com , check it out, as always a few right wingers create issues, but there are more Muslims out there to tell them that they are wrong.
There are many Muslims out there who do not like the judgments right wingers pass... I have always included Ahmadiyya Muslims as Muslims in every program I do in Dallas, and that is a lot of programs, they are always a part of it.
There were imams visiting from Middle East, I invited the Ahmadiyya rep to be a part of it, the Ahmadiyya man did not want to pray behind the other Imam, I was taken back.
It your intention that counts not others. Both sides need to open and I have offered the venues, and at times literally beg them to be a part of it. There was a celebration of an Imam in Dallas, I got a table to put Muslims of all denomination on it. The Ahmadiyya man did not show up.
I understand the oppression they are weathering in Pakistan and else where, but thank God in America, we are free, free to be ourselves and the Ahmadiyya community need to step up.
SUCCESSFUL NAATIA MUSHAERA ON 2.21.14
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August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas
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Mirza A Beg
PLANNED MUSLIMS RESPONSE TO QUR'AN BURNING BY PASTOR JONES ON 9/11/13 IN MULBERRY, FLORIDA
We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.
Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”
God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.
We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration (www.UnitydayUSA.com) held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.
Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.
As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.
We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.
We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.
We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.
Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.
Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.
We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.
The people in Dallas are making an effort to understand and clean their own hearts first, when we are free from bias, it would be easy to share that with others. Islam teaches us in so many ways to "respect the otherness of others" and it is time we find simple practical ways of doing it.