An American doctor volunteering in Pakistan has been murdered by Islamists because of his Ahmadiyya faith.
Mehdi Ali Qamar was in Pakistan volunteering at the Tahir Heart Institute, hospital built and funded by the Ahmadiyya communiy in the town of Rabwah, in the Punjab region. He had gone to a graveyard to pay his respects with his wife, young son and his cousin, when he was gunned down by two people on a motorbike. He was shot 11 times.
Dr. Qamar was an assistant professor of cardiology at Ohio University. He is survived by his wife and three sons.
Salemuddin, a spokesman for the Ahmaddiya community in Pakistan told reporters: “It is a major crime against humanity that a doctor who came a few days back to serve his country has been killed.” The Tahir Heart Institute, where Dr. Qamar had been volunteering is open to people of all faiths, and specializes in cardiac treatment. This was the second year running that Dr. Qamar had volunteered there. However, the hospital has been the target of a propaganda campaign against it by Islamic extremists for several months. They have been distributing pamphlets warning Muslims not to use the hospital. One read “Visiting a doctor or receiving treatment in that hospital is forbidden in Islam and an unforgivable sin”
The Ahmadiyya community has long been regarded as heretical by mainstream Islamic scholars. It is an offshoot of Sunni Islam founded in 1889. They believe that their founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad is the messiah. There are around 10 million Ahmaddiya Muslims worldwide, of which an estimated 4-5 million live in Pakistan. Because of strict blasphemy laws, they are forbidden from describing themselves as Muslims. In last year’s election parties actively resisted courting Pakistan’s Ahmadiyya community. None of the political parties campaigned in Rabwah, where the majority of the 60,000 inhabitants are Ahmadi.
Civil rights activists and community member have been sharing their grief and outrage on social media, using the #DrMehdiAli. Zainab Khan, one of the women of Honor Diaries tweeted:
Qasim Rashid, the U.S. National spokesman for the Ahmaddiya community tweeted his impatience at Imams and human rights organizations who have failed to condemn the murder.
The Asian Human Rights Commission has launched a letter writing appeal campaign urging its supporters to call on the Pakistani government to provide proper security to the Ahmadiyya community. Two weeks ago an Ahmaddiya man was shot and killed while in police custody on charges of blasphemy. A 16 year old smuggled a pistol into the police station in his lunch box and killed the 65 year old Khalil Ahmad. He had been arrested on allegations of tearing an Islamic calendar. The teenager was allowed into the cell by the police and it is believed that he went to the prison with the explicit intention to kill Mr. Ahmad. Later investigations found that the teenager was a member of a madrassa that belonged to a banned extremist sect.
Blasphemy laws have created a ripe climate for the endemic persecution of Pakistani religious minorities. Author Raza Rumi said “Pakistan has turned into a society where even an allegation of blasphemy is enough to sentence and burn people.” He made the comments in an op-ed for Al Jazeera entitled Pakistan: At the Edge of The Abyss.