Rabia Saleem, a female student of the Ahmadi religious sect in the final year of studies at the COMSATS Institute of Information Technology in Lahore, Pakistan, has been expelled on allegations of blasphemy. Saleem was accused of blasphemy by the student wing of the banned Islamist organization known as Tahaffuz-e-Khatam-e-Nabuwwat (TKN).
Saleem lived at a student hostel in Lahore, and allegedly removed a banner displayed by TKN condemning the Ahmadi community. A guard observed her removing the poster. He then accused her of committing blasphemy by dishonoring the verses of the Koran. Ahmadis are considered by many Muslims to be heretics and are treated to the same persecution as are Christians and Hindus in Pakistan. The controversy has been extensively covered by the Pakistani media.
According to a fellow CIIT student, Nasreem Ghulam, the banner displayed at the hostel door condemned Ahmadis but did not include Koranic verses. Ahmadis have concluced that she has been falsely accused because of her faith. Rasheed Ahmed Khan, the CIIT Registrar, denied any connection between the removal of the offending banner with the student’s faith. According to the Al-Ufaq website, “Rabia Saleem has been expelled for violating the discipline of the Institution and not complying with the rules and regulation.” He refused to provide a copy of the notice that was served to the student.
A faculty member on the condition of anonymity said,”It was a petty matter that could have been resolved by the warden and the administration, but the warden along with the security guard and CIIT administration exploited the situation against the Ahmadi student, the administration has a very discriminating attitude towards the religious minorities and never leaves a chance to take action against them. In the past several similar incidents took place, but the administration allowed the Tahaffuz-e-Khatam-e-Nabuwwat to continue their propaganda against the Ahmadis, the administration allows the TKN to act, because of the support from the administration they have become strong. The religious organizations should be barred from all the educational institutes, they are harboring terrorists by allowing such organizations to act freely and do whatever they like.”
The TKN has been displaying banners denouncing Ahmadis, while the CIIT administration has expelled the student with TKN`s support and allowed them to display banners inciting hatred against the religious minorities and protest against the Ahmadis. They announced that they will not allow any Ahmadi student to live on the campus and will even kill if any of them resists. TKN has also started campaigns against the Ahmadis on various social networks as well.
The CIIT administration has been accused of allowing such extremist activities to continue on campus, while authorities and the ministry of education silently observe the situation allowing the propaganda against the Ahmadi students.
The Ahmadis have been living in continuous fear, earlier this year an Ahmadi religious institute was attacked in Lahore, and hundreds of innocent people were killed. In past several years the persecution against the Ahmadis has been on the rise.
In September, an 8th grader was expelled for a spelling mistake in the Urdu exam in Abbotabad. Her mother was also transferred from Abbotabad.
The Masihi Foundation and Life for All Pakistan, which campaign for human rights, have also condemned the incident and issued a joint statement,” We strongly condemn the incident, the administration of the institution must be condemned for supporting a religious organization and allowing them to act against the code of conduct. The Institution`s spokesperson said that the Ahmadi student was expelled for violating discipline, displaying banners against the religious minorities is not a violation of the discipline?”
Furthermore, read the statement “ Openly announcing a religious minority liable to be killed is allowed in an educational institution, is this not violation of the regulations and humanity? Where are we headed? Why was a banner against a religious minority allowed to be displayed at the hostel door? Many students suffer discrimination in the educational institutions, but no one addresses the matter. I fail to understand the role of the education Ministry, if they dont do anything for the education, then what is the need of having such an department, it is merely a burden on the nation, simply abolish such ministries which are not performing their designated duties. The state is allowing the religious hatred to grow and is not taking notice of the growing persecution.”
“The extremist mind set is growing and taking over, if this continues Pakistan will lose all the sane people alive. Ensuring the safety of the minorities is the state`s responsibility, Quaid-e-Azam the founder of Pakistan said every citizen has the right to practice his / her religion freely, anyone`s religion is their personal mater and not the matter of the state. Is today`s Pakistan Quaid-e-Azam`s Pakistan? The Director COMSATS must have immediately resigned on such a shameful incident.” The statement continued, “This is the reason religious and state affairs should be kept separate.”
“The concerned authorities must intervene and take the necessary action. The growing extremism in the educational institutions must be checked, no one should be allowed to speak or do anything against any religion. Tolerance and Harmony must be promoted, the religious leaders must play a positive role and condemn such incidents, so that in future students like Rabia Saleem don’t suffer. The only Pakistani who won the Nobel peace prize – Abdul Salam – was never given the place he deserved only because he was an Ahamdi. It is about time the government takes steps to end the religious extremism before it consumes the nation like a plague.”
Rodrick Samson is a correspondent in Pakistan for Speroforum.com