Remarks by Robert P. George at the
Annual Ahmadiyya Muslim Convention
Friday, August 15, 2014
It is a pleasure to join you at this Jalsa Salana (annual convention). Thank you for inviting me to share some reflections, and for the high honor of receiving the Ahmadiyya Muslim community’s 2014 Humanitarian Award. I’d like to frame my remarks by noting two dates, one from just weeks ago, the other of which we will mark just weeks from today.
On July 27 of this year, in Pakistan’s Punjab province, an Ahmadi woman and her two granddaughters, including a seven-year-old and her baby sister, were burned alive in a mob attack which left nine other Ahmadis badly burned. And on September 7 we will mark the 40th anniversary of the passage of an amendment to Pakistan’s Constitution which declared that Ahmadis are non-Muslims in that country. Taken together, these injustices underscore the plight of the Ahmadiyya today, especially in Pakistan, where the forces of intolerance and hatred continue their assault on your community and religious freedom.
This assault takes place in a world in which 75 percent of people, including millions of Ahmadiyya Muslims, live in countries which grossly violate this precious right. Simply stated, the war against the Ahmadiyya is part of a global war on freedom and dignity. So what is behind this global war?
More than any other factor, it is the continued operation of a truly unique and monstrous idea—first introduced in the last century—that some have called totalitarianism. It’s an idea that says that we can perfect the world if we grant fanatical leaders and political movements unlimited power and authority to remake humanity as they see fit—elevating these leaders and movements to godlike status, above every law and custom, every belief and institution, and every moral norm and precept in history.
In the 1930s and 1940s, this evil idea threatened the world through Nazism and other forms of fascism, which hijacked loyalty to nation as the vehicle for its unlimited aims. After World War II, with Nazism defeated, its greatest threat was from Communism, which hijacked economic class for the same purpose. By the close of the 20th century, these two movements had committed every crime imaginable, from assaults on conscience to the perpetration of genocide. When the dust had settled, nearly 150 million human beings had perished.
Today, while we still see that threat coming through Communism, particularly in China, which remains a world-class human rights and religious freedom violator, we see something else as well: We see how the same extremist, totalitarian impulse which drove Nazism and Communism has now hijacked religion as its latest vehicle, resulting in the same horrifying outcomes for humanity.
From ISIL and al Qaeda to the Taliban and the Iranian leadership, these new totalitarians have unleashed terror and tyranny on a global scale. Across the world, they have launched terror attacks on civilians, obliterating all traditional distinctions between combatants and non-combatants—exactly as the Nazis and Communists did.
In Iraq, they brutalize men, women, and children and threaten the lives and liberties of religious minorities and most of the Muslim majority. From Afghanistan, they launched the 9/11 attacks and seek again to destroy every human right, from religious freedom to the rights of women. In Pakistan, they have assassinated leaders and target both Muslims and religious minorities who dare to dissent from their beliefs. In Iran, they control the government and regularly execute religious dissenters while supporting terrorist groups around the world. And let me add that wherever the Ahmadiyya are violently persecuted, it is these extremist, totalitarian forces that are leading the charge.
Now let’s be clear: These forces cannot possibly represent authentic Islam or any other religion. No religion on the face of the earth, including Islam, ever stood, as these forces do, and as their Nazi and Communist cousins did, for the idea that leaders and their followers may break any law, commit any crime, perpetrate any atrocity, without being accountable to anyone or anything.
And that leads us to a question: These extremist forces call themselves Islamic, but how can they be when they view hundreds of millions of Muslims, as well as non-Muslims, as legitimate targets for abuse and death? Make no mistake. This is not a struggle of religion against humanity. Rather it is a struggle of tyranny against freedom—the same struggle that Nazism and Communism waged against the world in their day.
Violent Islamist extremists who murder, rape, and pillage, violating every norm of morality, dishonor God by their crimes and doubly dishonor him by claiming to commit them in His name. They say that you are not true Muslims; I say that they are not true Muslims.
You, the Ahmadiyya, find yourselves in the midst of the struggle. Let me highlight for the record what you know so well. In Pakistan, under pressure by totalitarian extremists and their supporters, its government and constitution still label Ahmadis as “non- Muslims.” Pakistani law bars Ahmadis from calling their worship centers “mosques,” from publicly uttering the traditional Islamic greeting or quoting from the Qur’an, and from displaying the basic affirmation of Islam.
It prohibits the Ahmadiyya from sharing or publishing their beliefs, restricts them from building houses of worship and holding public meetings, and prevents them from voting unless they register as non-Muslims. Worst of all, the same extremist forces which cheer on the government when it deprives Ahmadis of their religious freedom also unleash horrific violence and death, as we saw in the July 27 attack and countless other atrocities. For these and other reasons, our commission continues to call for the United States to designate Pakistan a country of particular concern, marking it as among the worst religious freedom violators in the world.
Unfortunately, these anti-Ahmadiyya forces are not limited to Pakistan. In Indonesia, violent extremist forces since 2008 have vandalized at least 50 Ahmadiyya mosques, and continue to pressure officials to close places of worship or ban Ahmadiyya activity altogether. In Saudi Arabia, Ahmadiyya members have been deported for their beliefs. In Egypt, they have been charged under its blasphemy laws. In 2010, USCIRF’s intervention helped a number of members leave Egypt for safety abroad. From these examples, one thing is clear. Those behind the persecution of the Ahmadiyya Muslims are some of the worst enemies of human freedom and dignity.
But what a refreshing difference there is between you and your persecutors. Unlike them, you believe that people have inherent dignity, worth, and God-given rights which no movement or government can ever take away. You believe that human beings were created for fellowship and peace. You believe in the right of every member of the human family to worship freely according to conscience.
And after 9/11, it was you, the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, who put your beliefs into action. You literally gave your blood to our nation, donating more than 25,000 bags of blood in memory of those who perished that day. Unlike your persecutors’ message of tyranny and hate, yours is a voice for reason and freedom. You advocate not only for yourselves but for the rights and dignity of others.
At stake is nothing less than the future of humanity. At stake is what kind of world we will one day hand over to our children and to our children’s children. Will it be a world of light, love, and liberty, or will it be a world of darkness, despair, and despotism? Will it be a world where dignity shines, or where dehumanization dominates?
And so my Ahmadi friends, my brothers and sisters, let us continue to stand together, to work together, to persevere together. Let us offer ourselves as God’s servants for freedom and dignity, life and liberty, humanity and decency.
Thank you, my dear friends. God bless you.