Persecution on the basis of race, color, gender, religion or belief, regardless of verbal or physical, is hurtful and life changing. I have heard and read about it and even faced it myself but honestly, my family, extended family, my in-laws and most community members of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community (which I am part of), have seen and dealt with it much more closely than I have.
Until a few days ago, when the proof of existence of the "Higgs boson" particle came about, it was hard to imagine that ‘the power of persecution’ goes beyond one’s limited life time.
Among the pioneers who researched this idea during the '60s and early '70s was Dr. Abdus Salam, the first Nobel Laureate in the Muslim world and the only Nobel Laureate from Pakistan.
He was a respected mathematician, physicist and lecturer at the Imperial College (London).
Interestingly, the Higgs in "Higgs boson" comes from Peter Higgs, the British scientist who in 1964, first suggested that such a particle existed. But boson is named after Satyendra Nath Boson, an Indian statistical physicist who was a contemporary of Albert Einstein.
While the Indian media are upset that the international community is not giving due credit to Boson for his work in this historic discovery, it’s a shame to see Pakistani government and media so quiet on the contributions of one of its own because of his religious affiliation to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
When he was alive, instead of hailing him as a national hero and sharing his work and achievements in textbooks and universities, officials at Quaid-i-Azam University (Islamabad, Pakistan) had to cancel his plans to lecture about his Nobel-winning theory when Islamist student activists threatened to break the physicist's legs, said his colleague Dr. Pervaiz Hoodbhoy.
Salam resigned from his government post in protest following the 1974 constitutional amendment declaring Ahmadis non-Muslim and eventually moved to Europe to pursue his work. In Italy, he created a center for theoretical physics ICTP, to help physicists from the developing world.
He was not allowed to come back to the country for many years. And in death, he was dishonored by the word ‘Muslim’ erased from his tombstone which once read ‘The first Muslim Nobel Laureate”.
In May 2010, two major Ahmadi Mosques in Lahore, Pakistan were attacked and around 90 Ahmadi worshippers were killed. Local government has taken no action against the culprits since and only today it has been reported that minarets of an Ahmadi mosque in Kharian, Pakistan have been demolished. The persecution of Ahmadi Muslims continues along with other minorities including Christians, Hindus, Hazaras and Shia Muslims.
My heart cries to see such discrimination in a country founded to give people freedom of religion and for the persecution of a great man who was known to be a devout Muslim in the world of science where there is no lack of people without a faith or religious affiliation.
Such is a story of humanity, even in the age of technological advancement and scientific excellence; man is still struggling for acceptance, yearning for respect and facing persecution in one form or another.
It was Dr. Salam’s desire that the institute he founded in Italy would have been established in his native land so that his people could benefit from it, but religious bigotry took precedence over progress and national interest and the Pakistani govt. did not make use of his offer.
He was a knowledge seeker, looking for answers. His aspiration was to find the truth not to receive awards and recognition. Whether Pakistan accepts it or not, the world knows that he was a remarkable scientist with undeniable contribution to Particle Physics.