Office of Religious Freedom is an expression of Canadian solidarity with the oppressed

By: Lal Khan Malik Published on Mon Mar 11 2013 in Toronto Star

The word “empathy” is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.”

Following the announcement last month of the long-awaited Office of Religious Freedom, columnists and pundits throughout the country offered an array of varying views and opinions about the new office. Some wrote in favour of its noble objectives, while many others criticized its establishment for various reasons.

But all of the analyses, whether supportive or critical, seem to be missing an important factor central to the whole subject: empathy.

I feel a dearth of empathy from the arguments of the various pundits who have criticized this initiative and feel that in order to assess this matter more appropriately, it’s important to understand and give weight to the human side of this whole affair. As Ambassador Andrew Bennett put it, “It’s a human issue”.

While it is hard to imagine what it means to be a hated and helpless minority living amid hardline persecutors, we must strive to be truly cognizant of the suffering our fellow brothers and sisters around the world endure.

It is in the void of empathy that arguments against the office bemoaning its $5-million budget as a waste of money are born. In our country of great affluence, whose federal expenditures amounted to more than $275 billion in 2012, it is nothing short of strange to denounce the new unit, whose lofty mandate is to strive to relieve the plight of those who are oppressed and persecuted for their beliefs, on the grounds that $5 million is too high a budget.

The only reason that I can think of that would lead people to hold such views is a lack of true awareness of the gravity of the suffering that these persecuted people experience.

Basking in the freedom and prosperity of arguably the world’s greatest country can have that effect, especially if you have never experienced any such repression yourself.

That’s why I consider myself fortunate to have known both sides. Living in Canada for the last 25 years, I have experienced the sweet freedom that our country offers, yet it was not always so for me. As an Ahmadi Muslim who migrated from Pakistan, I am intimately aware of the fear and apprehension that can become a part of one’s daily life in an atmosphere of cruelty.

But I experienced both freedom and repression even in Pakistan, for although I was born in Pakistan a Sunni Muslim, I decided to become an Ahmadi Muslim when I was about 20 years old, and started to truly realize way back even then just how tough it was for Ahmadis there.

I had lived my whole life in peace and security yet — overnight — I went from that state of safety to being among the hunted; from being among the strong majority to among the repressed minority.

In 1974, 12 years after I became Ahmadi, Pakistan amended the constitution to declare Ahmadis non-Muslims. From that point on, it was hard even to exist there as an Ahmadi, much less live freely. Till this day, if I were to go to Pakistan, by law, I would not be able to greet others with the traditional Islamic greeting “Assalaamo alaikum,” or call myself a Muslim, or discuss my religion with others, or call my place of worship a mosque. If I were to do so, I could be punished by imprisonment or even death. Even if I hid my faith, there is still nothing preventing a hate-filled fanatic from hopping my fence at night and stabbing me to death as was the case with a certain Ahmadi — among others — who was recently martyred in Pakistan.

With ample support for this oppression from the government and society in general, such tyranny goes unpunished and even unchecked. The police turn a blind eye, and the media must overlook it for fear of the extremist mullahs who control the masses behind all the violence. This is no exaggeration; this is reality for Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan.
Be it Coptic Christians in Egypt, Baha’is in Iran, or the monks of Tibet, this bleak, hopeless and life-threatening existence is everyday life for millions and millions of religiously persecuted people all over the world, for whom there is no way out and for whom there is no ally near or far.

The words of Jean-Jacques Rousseau ring true as ever, “Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains.”

The fact is that for the countless people who live in such tragic circumstances, countries like Canada (there aren’t many like us by the way) are the only hope they have. If we don’t move into action, then surely some blame lies on us too. As Edmund Burke so famously once said, “All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.”

Therefore we must recognize the importance of this undertaking — the unqualified need to raise our voices against tyranny and become “a voice for the voiceless.” That is what this Office of Religious Freedom is about. It’s about showing our own people and the people of the world that we are dedicated to this ideal and that we will spend our time, effort and resources on this because this matters to us.

So as Canadians, we must foster that empathy within ourselves to recognize the extent of the struggles and torment fellow members of our human family are going through.

Ultimately, it is our level of empathy that will determine whether or not we oppose this office, because we all know that the cause is worthwhile and that there are costs and considerations to be made in any endeavour, but that, regardless of everything, there are some things that we cannot sacrifice, no matter the cost.

Therefore my fellow Canadians, rest assured that our government made the right choice in taking this stand, because, in the words of Prime Minister Stephen Harper:

“The cause is just.”
“The need is urgent.”
“And our responsibility is clear.”

Lal Khan Malik is national president of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama`at Canada.

Shafia Murder Trial and Justice Served – No Honour Killing in Islam

Thank God I live in Canada where justice was served today for cold-blooded shameless murders of four women i.e. Shafia trial. Long story short, this was one of those “honour killings” which are a result of ignorance & remnants of patriarchal cultures. Once the verdict was given I tuned the hashtag #shafia on twitter to see the reaction of the public. Of course everyone was happy but there was ignorant souls among them including hate mongers who were spreading hate about Islam that this is an Islamic teaching blah blah.

Those who have followed the Shafia trial know well that this is not the case and there is no such teaching in Islam. Muhammad Shafia tried to “justify” it by saying “nothing is more dear to me than my honour”. No matter how hard he tried to justify it, there is absolutely no justification in the beautiful religion of Islam.

As an Ahmadi Muslim who believes in the Messiah, Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, I condemn any and all honour killings. There is absolutely no justification for such acts of violence. In fact Holy Quran clearly says that anyone who killed an innocent it is like killing the whole humanity.

Long Live Humanity! Long Live Canada!

Qur’an full of love for humanity

In response to allegations on Islam, my following letter was published on 21st December 2011 in The Barrie Examiner under the title of “Qur’an full of love for humanity“:

(Re: ‘Not everyone is looking for peace’ in the Dec. 16 edition of the Examiner)

In her letter, Monti Hannona again cites second-hand sources to make her points about Muslims and Qu’ran. That was the whole point of my argument, which she clearly ignored.

If Muslims are acting against their own teachings then it is not the fault of Qur’an. Do all Christians follow the teachings of the New Testament and turn the other cheek?

How hypocritical to say that those who criticize the Bible or Christians for their atrocities are atheists or pro-Muslims, and those who criticize Qur’an are Muslim scientists?

How she negates her own argument within the same letter can only be termed as delusional.

Ms. Hannona says the teaching of turning your other cheek does not work in all situations. But this is not how Jesus applied it.

Is she creating a new religion?

Islam did not spread with the sword. Swords can win territories, but not hearts.

Which sword brought millions of Chinese and Indonesians into Islam?

It is the beautiful teaching of love and peace that wins hearts. Which sword is converting people to Islam today?

Qur’an’s teaching is full of love for humanity.

It teaches how to establish social, economic and political peace in our lives. I would encourage you to use the primary source of Islam to shun the extremists instead of promoting their corruption.

Peace to all.

Response to The Calgary Herald – “Yes, Islam condones wife beatings” by Mahfooz Kanwar of Mount Royal University

This article, rather than contributing to any form of scholarly debate, merely highlights the same age old criticisms and attacks of the Orientalists. Judging the entire religion of Islam through the lens of Western perfection will no doubt cause it to appear defunct. Similarly, judging any other religion or culture through the same lens will produce the same results. Has the writer not read the Bible or the Bhagavad Gita? The reality is that nowhere do we find gender equality. However, Islam is the only religion, that having recognized the differences between males and females, protects each within their own unique spheres of life which they have been created for.

Although, every flippant statement of Kanwar’s can be counter argued, I will just take one point. Mahfooz Kanwar claims that “At birth, all infants are equal, but Islam makes then unequal”. This statement would be true if Kanwar was living in some form of Utopia, but if he is living on Planet Earth, then he would be shocked to learn that it is far from the truth. Women are still today fighting for basic rights in the most developed countries. Has Kanwar not heard of the Global Gender Gap Report published by the World Economic Forum? Women in the most developed nations are still fighting for equal pay, equal access to jobs and political representation.

The truth of the matter is human civilization and history is full of examples where one group; by virtue of them being physically, mentally, intellectually or financially stronger, perceives themselves to have the right to subjugate the other. Rather than argue back and forth over the meanings behind Arabic verses from the Holy Quran, I challenge Kanwar to show one example where the Founder of Islam, the Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon Him, used force against any one of his wives. In the words of the Prophet himself, “the best among you is he who is best in his treatment of his wife” (Abu Dawud).

Press Release : Humanity First Responds to Natural Disasters

In the last few days, a number of natural disasters have struck around the world.

In Philippines, there has been tropical storm and flooding,   Indonesia was hit with earthquakes and Samoa is recovering after earthquakes and Tsunami. Thousands have died in these disasters and hundreds of thousands are still displaced.

Humanity First has responded to these disasters by starting the assessment and relief work in the devastated areas.

In Samoa, the Humanity First team has started the relief work through volunteers from New Zealand.

In Indonesia, the relief work has already started by our local teams in Indonesia who were well trained from previous Tsunami relief work. Soup kitchens have been established and volunteers are providing blankets, medicines and other relief items to the victims.

In Philippines, volunteers from Canada are coordinating the relief work through local Humanity First volunteers and by providing funds for the relief goods. Initial assessment has been completed and relief work has already started. Grocery items including bread, bottled water, canned goods, candles, medicines and other emergency supplies are distributed in the flooded area of the capital city of Philippines that still has no electricity or gas. Water supply still has to be disinfected and cleaned.

Humanity First is appealing for support to help the disaster relief effort. Donations may be made online at, or by mailing a check to Humanity First.

A fund raising and awareness event will also be held on November 5, 2009. Please visit our website at for further updates and to make a donation.

Please join us at the fund raising event and support the humanitarian projects of Humanity First. To register for dinner and to donate, please visit:

For further information please visit our website

Largest mosque of Canada opens its doors for spreading love and peace in the West

CALGARY, July 6 /CNW/ – The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, along with other distinguished guests, attended the banquet hosted by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Canada to celebrate yesterday’s inauguration of the Baitun Nur Mosque. The mosque, one of the largest in North America, is a spectacular 48,000 square foot complex.

Calgary Mosque

The mosque inauguration was particularly significant as it occurred during the centenary celebratory year of the establishment of the institution of Khilafat (Succession) in the Worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, as well as its re-establishment in the Islamic world-at-large. Both the inauguration and the banquet were graced by the presence of the current Khalifa of the Community, His Holiness Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih V (may Allah strengthen his hands).

During his banquet address, His Holiness emphasized that the Baitun Nur Mosque will convey messages of peace, love and harmony. He encouraged the political, community and faith leaders in attendance to join with his Community in conveying these messages.

His Holiness explained that, according to the teachings of Islam, Muslims must defend the sanctity of all places of worship, which includes churches, synagogues and temples, as well as mosques. Causing harm to and forcing religious beliefs upon others are against the commandments of God and the true
concept of Islam.

His Holiness warned that the world’s arsenal of nuclear armaments and weapons of mass destruction have brought humanity to the precipice of destruction, and future generations will not forgive any failure to contain this arsenal. Humanity needs to turn towards a true concept of religion and
strive towards loving God. To love God is to selflessly love and serve humanity in order to seek God’s pleasure. The Baitun Nur Mosque will be a center for such love and service.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper praised the Community by stating, “Ahmadis are renowned for their devotion to peace, universal brotherhood and submission to the will of God, the core principles of true Islam. They are also renowned for working together to serve the greater good through social, health and education initiatives, wherever they live in the world, Ahmadis are renowned for participating in the larger community and peacefully co-existing with people of all faiths, languages and cultures.”

Prime Minister Harper also paid tribute to His Holiness by referring to him as a champion of peace and religious freedom. The Prime Minister stated, “We especially applaud the Khalifa for denouncing those who pervert faith by claiming it as a justification for violence. Calgarians, Albertans and Canadians will see the moderate, benevolent face of Islam in this mosque and the people who worship here. They will see your love for Canada and your patriotism, and they will see that just as Ahmadis have embraced Canada, Canada has embraced you.”

Also sitting at the banquet head table were the Right Honourable Stephane Dion (Leader of the Opposition), Honourable Deepak Obrai, Honourable Lorne Calvert (former Premier of Saskatchewan), Honourable Ron Stevens (Deputy Premier of Alberta), Don Morgan (Saskatchewan Minister of Justice), Honourable Greg Sorbara (former Ontario Minister of Finance), Dave Hayer (BC MPP), Mohammed Amiri (Alberta MPP), His Worship Dave Bronconnier (Mayor of Calgary), Her Worship Susan Fennell (Mayor of Brampton), His Worship Don Atchison (Mayor of Saskatoon) and Bishop Fred Henry. Total attendance consisted of 6 Members of Federal and Provincial Parliament, 20 MLA’s, 9 mayors, 20 councilors and
aldermen, along with community, faith and leaders and members of academia and the media.

The banquet was televised live around the world via the Community’s 24-hour satellite television service, Muslim Television Ahmadiyya (MTA).

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