Photo credit: Flickr / Hamed Saber

I am an Ahmedi and this is my Pakistan, too

I belong to a community that has long been persecuted in the very land it helped found. I belong to a community that loves Pakistan against all odds, even when loving it becomes difficult.

When I started going to school, I was told not to discuss religion. I was told not to dispute anything that was said about my community, or our patriotism. Little did I understand why, I just agreed.

When I finally started secondary school, things started making sense to me. I now know why mom asked me not to discuss religion. Whereas others take pride in their identity, I now must learn to blend in, mouth shut. I don’t feel free. There’s a burden on my chest every time I’m in my Islamiat class and things are said about my community. I want to shout and tell them that that’s not how it is, but all I do is sit there and wonder when I will ever be able to breathe in the fresh air of a free country.

What if she finds out I’m an Ahmedi? Will our friendship still be the same? The little girl who was once asked not to discuss religion, or to dispute anything said about her community, now stands at a crossroads.

Should I tell her? Maybe this way I’ll have someone to share the burden with.

I’m finally in college now. The dream to breathe in the fresh air of a free country is still there, the desperation for things to change is at its peak. Today, I’m finally going to tell her. Tell her that I am an Ahmedi and no, I’m not ashamed. Tell her that I am an Ahmedi and no, we’re not traitors. Tell her I am an Ahmedi and no, I am not anti-Pakistan.

And yes, I told her. ‘Qadiani ho tum, tumhare sath khana khana haram hay’

A bond that had stretched over years broke within seconds. It broke because I am an Ahmedi.

The dream to be accepted and embraced as me is slowly fading. I am now a university student. I am part of a polarized society that has a lot that it’s divided over, and little that it converges upon. I am an Ahmedi and you’ll know how this feels when you have to think twice before trusting anyone. When you prefer a ‘hi’ instead of a ‘Salam’ so that ‘sentiments’ aren’t hurt. You’ll know how it feels when knowing your beliefs, you hear someone calling your mosque a ‘worship place’ and all you do is smile. You will know how it feels when you see wall chalking that says ‘Qadianion ka jo yaar hay, ghaddar hay ghaddar hay’.

You want to get out of your car. Wash it clean. But all you do is walk past it and smile. Smile because you are an Ahmedi.

I am an Ahmedi and every time you question my patriotism, I love my country more. I love it and I believe in it, because Jinnah blatantly refused to deny Ahmedis membership to the AIML, saying ‘Ahmedis are Muslims if they say they are Muslims and no one, not even the sovereign legislature has the right to say otherwise’.

Every time my faith is shaken these words from Jinnah revive it. I am an Ahmedi and while writing this, I thought I’d ask this publication to use a pen name instead – but no, not anymore.

I refuse to be scared anymore. I refuse to be less of me so that ‘sentiments’ aren’t hurt. I refuse to stay silent until I’m no longer silenced. And even after that, I hope this voice never dies. This is my country. Salam’s longing, Malala’s dreams, Mashal Khan’s struggle, Aasia Bibi’s hope. Taseers’ determination. I am an Ahmedi and this is my Pakistan too.