By Uzair Ahmed, Czech Republic
Today, some Atheists worldwide are marking #AtheistDay – a day geared toward discussing the fundamental human right to conscience and expression about their identity without fear of persecution, hate, and in some places of the world, much worse. The desire to live one’s life authentically is so universal that for many, it’s difficult to imagine how someone could be without it in the 21st Century.
Yet, a brief glance at the state of freedom of conscience in many parts of the world reveals why many atheists feel the need to publicly and emphatically speak against the oppression of conscience. And as an Ahmadi Muslim, even if I may not see eye-to-eye with atheists on God, I stand with them on this firmly and proudly.
One crucial point highlighted by atheists today (which pains me a great deal as a Muslim) is the deplorable condition of basic human rights in some Muslim-majority states of the world today who have enacted laws that heavily limit and persecute the expression of atheism.
As I scrolled through my Twitter feed today, I noticed that a disconcerting (but not at all surprising) number of tweets expressing the importance of this day came from Pakistan. A lot of these accounts were hidden behind the guise of pseudonyms, another revelatory light about the fear-mongering that Pakistan so masterfully commands over the beliefs of its citizens.
I know this because I was born there. I can verify first hand that those atheists who feel stifled and silenced in Pakistan are not only right about the air of impending persecution, but live their lives in very real fear of damage to life and property. Perhaps the most baffling comment I’ve heard repeatedly by some of the more bigoted sections of Pakistani society is that “atheism doesn’t even exist in Pakistan”. Others will tell you that though they’re not naive enough to say this, atheists should just quietly live their lives without expressing their beliefs.
The tragic irony at the root of this ideology is a deep insecurity with one’s own faith. Those among the faithful who persecute people of other viewpoints for their beliefs may claim that they subscribe to an All-Powerful God, yet what they demonstrate by silencing and persecuting the voice of their fellow humans is actually that their god is so weak, he has no means at all by which to establish his existence other than by forcing people to be quiet about their genuine concerns about religion.
As an Ahmadi Muslim, I completely reject all notions of intellectual oppression of conscience. I believe in a God that values the thoughts and feelings of all humans as deeply sacred and inviolable, whether they believe in Him or not. I strive to uphold Islam’s defining principle that “there is no compulsion in religion,” and I stand with my atheist brothers and sisters in humanity who have been subjected to oppression in any form for their beliefs.
Coincidentally, the 23rd of March also marks the day of the founding of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, which seeks to emphatically promote open dialogue and freedom of conscience for people of all and no faith. Over 100 years ago, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian (as) who claimed to be the Messiah promised for the latter days by all major religions, emphatically denounced all religious forms of extremism and championed open and peaceful dialogue. We’ve been fighting this battle for peace using the power of the pen ever since.
The fact is that our Atheist friends around the world are human beings first and atheists second. We will always love them on the grounds of humanity and as God’s creation. We will always dialogue respectfully with those who want to discuss disagreements with respect. Our God and our religion teaches us that loving humankind and loving God are two branches of the same tree, so whether we agree with them about God or not, we’re all Human at the end of the day.
About the Author: Uzair Ahmed is a medical student in the Czech Republic, where he also serves as the National Secretary of Outreach for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community as well as National President of the Youth branch. He is an official member of ‘The Existence Project’ team.