To the Editor:
The American public is still reeling from the aftershocks of the shooting in Garland, Texas last week. The occurrence took place during the event: "Draw the Prophet," orchestrated by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), an organization that has been classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. AFDI's president Pamela Geller accused Muslim leaders of not defending the First Amendment's freedom of speech, and blamed Islamic theology for the terrorist attacks on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris earlier this year. While many Americans across the country have expressed both their disapproval of Geller's anti-Islamic rhetoric and criticized "Draw the Prophet" as tasteless and hateful, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has remained a firm advocate of free speech. Immediately following the news of the shooting, Harris Zafar, a spokesman of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, explained: “We believe that everyone has a right to speak their words, and our faith actually backs that up — it champions free speech.”
Ahmadi Muslims choose to defend such attacks on their beliefs through dialogue and communication. Ironically, while the community is a firm defender of the First Amendment rights, its members are unable to practice those freedoms in Pakistan, the country with the largest Ahmadi Muslim population in the world. Heavy persecution has been following the community since the government declared its members non-Muslims in 1984. May 2015 marks the fifth year anniversary of the 2010 Lahore, Pakistan massacre in which 86 Ahmadi Muslims were killed by terrorists as they were observing Prayer in their mosques. Despite the persecution, bigotry, and hatred they have faced, Ahmadi Muslims continue to defend the freedoms of the First Amendment.