In the Houston Chronicle I read a story of the publisher of the Pakistan Times, a free Urdu weekly in the Houston area with a distribution of 15,000. Sheikh Najam Ali now receives anonymous death threats, advertising cancellations and removal of the paper at distribution sites.
The offensive act committed by Ali? He ran an ad that local Muslims say is an insult from a sect wishing to advertise their celebration. The local Muslim community says the Ahmadiyya sect is not Muslim because the followers don't recognize Muhammad as the final prophet. They believe that in the 19th century Mirza Ghulam Ahmad came "in the spirit of Christ to revive the religion of Islam", according to a local imam.
Ahmadiyya was established in 1889 in Punjab, India. The constitution of Pakistan declares it non-Muslim. Some Muslims consider it heretical.
For Ali, the decision was a business decision. He ran the ad twice and then covered the event for the newspaper. "I don't care how many advertisers I lose. I'm taking a stand on this one. I have rights." Ali is Shia. "It was just an advertisement. It has nothing to do with my beliefs."
His job is to run ads and he doesn't feel discrimination should play into that. He includes the entire Urdu-speaking population in Houston.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, this sort of incident happened in New York City to the publisher and editor of the Urdu Times and to the editor in chief of the Pakistan Post. They received threats in response to the coverage of alleged criminal activities by Pakistani-Americans in New York City and for printing opinion pieces by Jewish authors.
An interesting note is that a similar ad published, in English, in a South Asian local weekly, Voice of Asia, has received no reaction.
A local Muslim radio show co-host encouraged listeners to cancel advertising commitments if offense was taken. The local president of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston said the newspaper had the legal right to run the ad and news story. "In America, everybody has a right to exist and worship. What difference does it make if the Ahmadiyya group came and claimed whatever they claimed and asked to be part of the mainstream? What if this was a Jewish group or a Buddhist group?"
This should serve as a bit of a wake up call to those still doubting the existence of those unwilling to assimilate in communities across America. The hatreds of the old country, of old religious prejudices are not part of the American dream. In days past, people of different faiths and ethnic backgrounds learned to come together in a community and show some tolerance. For those who are using the ridiculous assertion that radical Muslims are no more of a threat than evangelical Christians, I would say that Christians in this country don't lodge death threats or carry them out in the streets of a city. Even the few bombings of abortion clinics, a horrific act to show judgement of a personal moral issue, were infrequent and no longer exist.
Is this a 'change' Americans are willing to accept?