Shehla Ahmad

The court wants every citizen of Pakistan to declare their “true faith” to the government.

The recent decision by Islamabad High Court which requires every citizen to declare their faith on oath to the government has been extremely disappointing and saddening. This verdict however is not much surprising given the continued trend of deteriorating religious tolerance in Pakistan. The judgment has been described by human rights activists as a further blow to religious freedom for minorities and in particular to Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan.

As per the details, the court wants every citizen of Pakistan to declare their “true faith” to the government. According to the decision, every citizen must declare their faith for obtaining any identity documents such as, birth certificates, ID cards, passports or to register in voters’ lists and these documents must mention religion of every person including children. If a person fails to do so, it will be taken as “betraying the State” and “exploiting the Constitution”. The order makes it mandatory for all to on oath declare their faith for joining armed forces, civil service or judicial service.

Questions arise:

  1. Is the faith between a person and God or a person and governments?
  2. Should governments be allowed to interfere in matters of faith, ethically or based on religious teaching?
  3. Whether or not all citizens have equal rights in any country?

Unfortunately, the laws in Pakistan and this decision by the court are aimed at denying rights to the minorities as equal citizens. Although this cruelty is being done in a Muslim majority country, it has nothing to do with Islam. Islam makes it categorically clear that faith of every citizen is to be their personal matter and choice. As the Qur’an clearly states that mosque and state should be kept separate, thus it rejects the notion of interference in religious matters by any government in the name of Islam.

According to the true teachings of Islam, all citizens are entitled to equal rights. There is no such concept of “minority” in Islam that should be the basis of discrimination and divisions. This is the Islam which Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) exemplified in Medina. This was also the vision of the founding father of Pakistan-Muhammad Ali Jinnah when he appointed an Ahmadi Muslim as Pakistan’s first foreign minister. Taking oath to declare one’s faith at the time of employment or requiring it on identity papers aims to discriminate against religious minorities in particular Ahmadi Muslims which is against all norms and must be condemned by all sensible citizens of Pakistan. The day when this happens is long awaited and is over due.

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