It is very distressing to learn about DIRECT accounts of casteism widely practiced in Pakistan. Upon reading the excerpts from an article (which recently appeared in Firstpost) below, you’ll realize how discrimination based on beliefs and religion is so widespread in Pakistan that it has been given a place in the country’s constitution itself — through an amendment made in 1974, which says that Ahmadis are not Muslims. They cannot preach, practice or call themselves Muslims in Pakistan. If they do, they will be arrested and may even be given a death sentence. This is about as outrageous as it can get!
To realize how casteism has caused harm to Pakistan’s intellectual development, one only needs to study the case of Abdus Salam, Pakistan’s sole Nobel Laureate who won the prize for his contribution to the Standard Model of physics (and the discovery of Higgs Boson).
He belonged to the Ahmadi sect of Muslims. He was well-respected in Pakistan before 1974. But as soon as the constitution was amended to discriminate against Ahmadis, he was persecuted and forced to leave the country. Now, there’s little (if any) mention of him in Pakistan’s textbooks. His talents and contribution to science are totally ignored, thanks to the Islamic nation’s Islamic fundamentalists!
Below, I reproduce a few excerpts from the article (emphasis mine):
Praise within Pakistan for Salam, who also guided the early stages of the country’s nuclear program, faded decades ago as Muslim fundamentalists gained power. He belonged to the Ahmadi sect, which has been persecuted by the government and targeted by Taliban militants who view its members as heretics.
Amendment to Pakistan’s constitution to enforce casteism against the Ahmadis:
Salam’s life, along with the fate of the 3 million other Ahmadis in Pakistan, drastically changed in 1974 when parliament amended the constitution to declare that members of the sect were not considered Muslims under Pakistani law.
All Pakistani passport applicants must sign a section saying the Ahmadi faith’s founder was an “impostor” and his followers are “non-Muslims.” Ahmadis are prevented by law in Pakistan from “posing as Muslims,” declaring their faith publicly, calling their places of worship mosques or performing the Muslim call to prayer. They can be punished with prison and even death.
Note how, upon persecution, Salam moved to Europe and contributed his talent and perseverance to Italy’s scientific progress! Pakistan lost one of the few opportunities it had for intellectual development, thanks to discrimination practiced by the dominant Sunnis, for according to them Salam has no place in Allah’s kingdom:
Salam resigned from his government post in protest following the 1974 constitutional amendment and eventually moved to Europe to pursue his work. In Italy, he created a center for theoretical physics to help physicists from the developing world.
Although Pakistan’s then-president, General Zia ul-Haq, presented Salam with Pakistan’s highest civilian honor after he won the Nobel Prize, the general response in the country was muted. The physicist was celebrated more enthusiastically by other nations, including Pakistan’s archenemy, India.
Discrimination continues till today:
“Many Ahmadis have received letters from fundamentalists since the 2010 attacks threatening to target them again, and the government isn’t doing anything,” said Qamar Suleiman, a spokesman for the Ahmadi community.