How would you react if someone sent you a letter demanding you "recant your faith," warning you it's your "last chance," and threatening you that you and your family are on their "hit list?"
Go to the police? Hold that thought.
In a February, 1948 radio broadcast to America, Pakistan's Founder -- Muhammad Ali Jinnah -- declared, "In any case Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic State to be ruled by priests with a divine mission." Replace 'Pakistan' with 'America,' and few would contest it's not a Thomas Jefferson quote.
Yet, Jinnah's dream died shortly thereafter in 1973, when clerics with a divine mission forcibly passed Pakistan's Second Amendment -- a draconian law that defines who is -- and is not -- a Muslim. This divine mission birthed a new Pakistan, one in which self-appointed clerics, not democratically elected civil servants, ruled as judge, jury and executioner.
Overly dramatic? If only.
Fast-forward to 2011. Below are excerpts from a letter The World Assembly of the Protection of the Finality of Prophethood recently sent to Ahmadi Muslims in Faisalabad, Pakistan. The letter was sent solely because Ahmadi Muslims are Muslims who believe in the Messiah, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian.
"Repent from preaching Ahmadiyyat and from other infidel behaviors, and enter Islam...If you let go of this final and precious opportunity [to recant] then you will have the same end as [other murdered Ahmadis]...We invite the elders of your community...who are deserving only of the punishment of death...to Islam as well. Know for sure that your house and your children are on our hit list...We have shared all your important information with the Taliban and [numerous other [banned terrorist] organizations]."
Now consider the following.
Ahmadi Muslims champion a complete separation of mosque and state, categorically condemn religious violence and compulsion, promote universal human rights, and practice universal social justice -- regardless of race, religion, or gender. What government wouldn't want such citizens? That notwithstanding, Pakistan refuses Ahmadi Muslims the right to vote, hold office, or even worship privately without the consequence of fine, imprisonment, or death.
Meanwhile, both President Bush and President Obama have called Pakistan an important ally in combating extremism. Pakistan's minorities wonder what nation our Presidents are referencing. On May 28, 2010, the Taliban killed 86 Ahmadi Muslims in broad daylight while Lahore police casually observed the tragedy. Police inaction was no accident. Zaeem Qadri, advisor to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif stated, "the provincial Government failed to remove threatening banners from the city's thoroughfares in order to prevent 'adverse reaction against the government' by the groups responsible." These "threatening banners" promised heaven for anyone who killed a Qadiani (a derogatory term for Ahmadi Muslims).
The World Assembly of the Protection of the Finality of Prophethood is just that -- a worldwide organization with worldwide influence. Founded before Pakistan's independence, they are well-established in Europe and the United Kingdom and their literature is well-distributed in the United States. Their Facebook page quotes the President of the Organization, Syed Ataullah Shah Bukhari, "O Muslims! Either the tongue of [the] blasphemer be cut off or we should not have ears to listen [to] them" and "The protection of Finality Of Prophethood is a part of my faith, whoever will dare to cast an evil eye, I will destroy him." Threats of severed tongues and destroyed individuals notwithstanding, these are fulfilled promises Pakistan's government inexorably continues to ignore.
While this letter specifically targets Ahmadi Muslims, lest we forget, Christians, Hindus, Jews, and even Atheists in Pakistan suffer similar systemic persecution.
So let's modify the initial question. How do you react when you receive such a bold death threat, the police refuse to help, the Government ignores the violence, and instead passes laws legitimizing the persecution?
There's no easy answer.
But perhaps it is unfair to ask how you would react to such a scenario as few, if any, raised in our nation have ever experienced such violent bigotry. Here's a different, simpler question:
Now that you are aware of your fellow man's suffrage -- how will you react?