Stop the ‘weaponization’ of religion in Pakistani politics

By Johnnie Moore & Gayle Manchin | Religion News Service

(RNS) — This week, as hundreds of religious leaders, nonprofit heads and government officials gather in Washington for the State Department’s first-ever ministerial on religious freedom, an election about to take place in Pakistan shows why the cause of religious freedom is as important as it has ever been in modern history.

For Pakistan’s Christians and minority Ahmadi Muslims, the run-up to Wednesday’s (July 25) vote has been terrifying. New hard-line Islamist political parties, such as the Allah-o-Akbar Tehreek and the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, have risen, focusing on denigrating the Ahmadis.

Last November, the TLP organized a violent protest that called for Ahmadi Muslims to be removed from high positions in Pakistani society, and demanded that a list be created of all Ahmadi Muslims working in the government. Ahmadis have long been subject to targeted killings, bomb attacks and vigilante violence, and the prospect of being publicly identified cast an even darker shadow over the community’s future.