June 5, 2014 | National Post

The Murder Of Dr. Mehdi Ali Qamar Symbolizes Pakistan’s Descent Into Self-Annihilation

Tomorrow, Dr. Mehdi Ali Qamar — the Canadian/American doctor who was assassinated last month in front of his wife and child, while he was performing a humanitarian mission in Pakistan — will be buried at Maple Cemetary in Vaughan, Ont. His funeral has become a major rallying point for members of the Ahmadi Muslim community — which flourishes here in tolerant Canada, but which is murderously persecuted in Pakistan (that supposed national refuge for South Asian Muslims).

In fact, the tragedy of Mehdi Ali Qamar’s murder serves as a sort of microcosm for the agony of Pakistan’s self-destruction as a functioning national entity, and its transformation into a base for the most violent and bigoted elements within Islam.

The Ahmadiyya movement originates with the 19th-century prophet Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, whose teachings challenge the mainline Islamic taboo against prophecies that purport to supplement or modify the teachings of Muhammad. Much as Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses are rejected by doctrinaire Christians for their analogous belief in 19th-century prophet figures, Ahmadis are viewed by Muslim fundamentalists as outright “heretics.”

Yet that word does not properly convey the obsessive nature of the hatred against Ahmadis in Pakistan — where the Constitution actually was amended to ban Ahmadis from calling themselves Muslims. They cannot refer to their prayer halls as “mosques,” vote in elections alongside their Sunni neighbours, or even use common Muslim greetings such as “peace be upon you.” In neighbourhood feuds, non-Ahmadis can get their Ahmadi adversaries thrown into jail (or worse) merely by alleging that they recited a Koranic phrase. In some cases, this pathological hatred of Ahmadis is expressed in scenes of mass murder: In May 2010, Sunni terrorists massacred almost 100 Ahmadis in Lahore during their Friday prayers.

And yet, many Ahmadis who fled Pakistani persecution — and who now live safe, prosperous lives here in the West — still return to Pakistan to see their families and perform humanitarian work. Mehdi Ali Qamar, a cardiologist who’d travelled to Pakistan to provide instruction to local doctors at a heart clinic, was one of them.

Rabwah, the Punjab town where Mr. Qamar was killed, has a special significance to Ahmadis. During the birth of India and Pakistan in the late 1940s, amid the great tides of refugees that went in all directions, the Ahmadi spiritual leadership established Rabwah as a safe haven for co-religionists. Even following the flight of the movement’s spiritual leader to London in the 1980s, Rabwah has remained the center of Ahmadi civic and religious life in Pakistan.

Family photoDr. Ali Qamar, a Cardiologist and member of the Ahmadi sect, who practiced medicine in Columbus, Ohio, was in Pakistan as a volunteer at a local heart clinic when he was murdered.

Many of the wealthiest and best-educated Ahmadis fled Pakistan in the second half of the 20th century. But since then, this disapora has fed money and humanitarian volunteers (Dr. Qamar was a perfect example) back into Rabwah. Despite the fact that the town sits in the middle of an impoverished rural area, Rabwah’s Ahmadi-run health clinics serve everyone. The Tahir heart institute (named after a former Ahmadi spiritual leader), where Dr. Qamar was helping train doctors, is renowned in the country.

Indeed, in purely humanitarian terms, the choice of Dr. Qamar as a target by Jihadi murderers was horrifically perverse: They killed a man who had come to Pakistan to help save the lives of not just Ahmadis, but all local Punjab residents. His killing will discourage other doctors from making the same trip, and thereby make life in this impoverished corner of Pakistan even shorter and harsher.

Some Pakistani politicians and diplomats have expressed regret and condolence for Dr. Qamar’s killing. But in the ways that matter, they do not really control their country. The Mullahs do — and many of them are more than happy to tell their congregants and Youtube viewers that killing an Ahmadi will get you into heaven. Even when the murderers are caught, they often are treated like kings in Pakistani prison, and get off with slaps on the wrist. In this way, the slaughter of Ahmadis in Pakistan is a species of “honour killing” — a symptom of a cruel, narrow-minded and spiritually addled society.

What’s worse, many Muslim leaders in the West have become creatures of this Pakistani-fueled intolerance. In a recently published essay entitled Will The Real Moderate Imams Please Stand Up? U.S. Ahmadi spokesman Qasim Rashid notes that in April, “the Luton, England chapter of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community published a two-page advertisement in the Luton on Sunday newspaper to mark our worldwide community’s 125th anniversary. In response, the imams of 22 British mosques, representing some 40,000 British Muslims in Luton, protested. They were offended that these ‘Qadianis’ (a derogatory term for Ahmadi Muslims) dared to publicly call themselves Muslim. Luton on Sunday subsequently published an editorial ‘completely disassociating’ themselves from ‘the Ahmadiyyas’ and telling ‘real’ Muslims that they did not mean to hurt their feelings.”

It is not just Ahmadis who are at risk in Pakistan, of course. Daniel Pearl was abducted and killed in Karachi after being made to read out a statement that declared “I am an American Jew.” Earlier this year, a Christian man was sentenced to death for allegedly insulting Muhammad. Shiite Muslim mosques are bombed during prayer services. Even ordinary, secular Pakistanis are at risk from Taliban killers who want to take the country back to the 7th century.

The country’s problems are so enormous, its brutality so mindless and nihilistic, that it is difficult to comprehend — except microcosmically, in the faces and names of victims such as Mehdi Ali Qamar, a humanitarian hero gunned down in a country he was trying to help save.

Jonathan Kay is Managing Editor for Comment at the National Post, and a Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, D.C.