Let me start this post with a candid, personal introduction. I am a Sunni Salafi (Wahhabi) Muslim, born and raised in Pakistan, until a few years ago when I had to leave for overseas for higher studies.
One of the fondest memories from my childhood is my ever craving for Shezan mango juice; bottled juices, later tetrapaks, were abundantly bought by my father and consumed by all family members on a regular basis.
When I was in grade 9, one day a class mate told me that Shezan was a Qadiani company (i.e., a company owned by Ahmadi Muslims, considered infidel or non-Muslims by some extremely sectarian sections of Pakistani society), therefore, we must not buy Shezan food products. When I informed my father about this “news”, he laughed and said that we could disagree with Ahmadis’ sect but we had no right to treat them as less Muslim or less Pakistani. He taught me that it was a part of Islamic religion to treat people of all faiths and sects with equality and respect and that it was our duty as a Pakistani to treat all Pakistani citizens as if they were our brothers and sisters. My father not only kept buying Shezan juices but he also started buying other Shezan products (pickles, squashes, jams, chutneys etc) to express his support for a Pakistani company producing finest quality products.
My father’s non-sectarian, pro-humanity teachings remain an eternal part of my approach to religion and citizenship.
Therefore, I felt very much upset when I learnt that on 10 February 2012, a lawyers association in Lahore, influenced by pro-Jamaat-e-Islami, PML-N and other sectarian lawyers, has decided to boycott Shezan food products, including Shezan juices, in the court premises.
Here is the news item:
The Lahore Bar Association (LBA) has banned Shezan drinks from subordinate court complexes and vowed tough action against those found buying or selling Qadiani-owned products on court premises. The decision was reached on Thursday at the LBA’s bar room in the LDA plaza following a motion by Advocate Ghulam Mustafa Chaudhry, president of Khatme Nabuwat Lawyers Forum (KNLF). LBA president Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali told The Express Tribune said that more than 100 lawyers unanimously voted for the ban on Shezan drinks for being the product of Ahmadis. The house also vowed to ban other products at a later stage. Zulfiqar said that the association had launched a campaign to ensure a complete ban on Shezan drinks in subordinate court canteens etc. He said that he had constituted a team to enforce this decision. He added that strict action would be taken against canteen owners found selling Shezan drinks in subordinate courts. KNLF President Advocate Choudhary said the LBA president had directed LBA Vice President Rana Javed Bashir Khan to coordinate enforcement of the ban in sessions courts, district courts, banking court, special court, Aiwan-i-Adl, in Model Town and Cantonment courts.(Source)
On behalf of all pro-human rights, pro-equality Pakistani citizens, I condemn this discriminatory and illegal decision by the Lahore Bar Association. I will not be surprised if I came to know that many of those lawyers who took this criminal decision against Shezan were also a part of the crowd showering rose-petals at Mumtaz Qadri, the unashamed killer of Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer.
The LBA’s illegal decision would not only hurt a law abiding, Pakistani food company which makes quality food products at affordable prices but will also hurt Ahmadi lawyers and other Ahmadis in general who may feel further ostracized and othered in an extremely intolerant society.
Clearly, the LBA resolution is not only condemnable but also against the law. If some lawyers did not like the product they could stop using it but not enforce bans based on religious hatred and discrimination.
This action takes discrimination against the Ahmadi community to new heights. We can only wonder if the instigators of this plot imagine that sipping the ‘offensive’ drink will in some way contaminate their minds, or alter beliefs. Everyone, after all, has the right to follow the religious philosophy they adhere to — and no drink can alter this. The real aim, of course, is to attempt to hurt the economic interests of the Ahmadis — who have through the decades been subjected to violence in all kinds of different forums, whether it is through physical acts such as murder or other means intended to prevent them from occupying a place as equal citizens in society. The Shezan Company has also been targeted before, during mob violence and through other such means.
The LBA president has said that around 100 lawyers voted in favour of the decision. It is frightening that a so-called ‘educated community’ of professionals could take a decision such as this. The evil of ignorance has obviously sunk deep within our society, leaving scars everywhere. The knives which inflict these wounds are carried by groups dedicated to spreading intolerance and campaigning against the minorities. The Ahmadis, of course, draw the special wrath of the forces committed to acting against them. When professionals such as lawyers, who should know more about justice than most, join hands with them, we can only wonder about the future of our country and ask what grim abyss we are headed for. The direction we have set out in does not augur well for the coming years — with this move also certain to hurt Ahmadi lawyers who practice at lower courts. (Express Tribune)
It is my appeal to Pakistanis of all faiths, ethnicities and sects to condemn LBA’s illegal boycott of Shezan, and start supporting Shezan by buying and consuming Shezan products on a regular basis, not as a favour to Shezan or Ahmadis, but as a favour to Pakistan, Islam and humanity.