Atif Mian, the Pakistan-born professor at Princeton University, at the t the Annual Meeting 2015 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, January 22, 2015. (Photo:Photo Jolanda Flubacher/ www.flickr.com)
A leading Pakistani university is facing criticism after it canceled a webinar featuring an Ahmadi economist, allegedly after religious extremists threatened it over the professor's faith.
Atif Mian, a renowned Pakistan-born professor at Princeton University in the US, was scheduled to address students of the Karachi-based Institute of Business Administration (IBA) on Nov. 5. But the university announced on Oct. 22 that it had cancelled the webinar.Mian’s lecture on “Why has economic growth fallen behind in Pakistan? has been cancelled. Inconvenience is highly regretted,” the varsity announced on Twitter, without explaining further.
A few hours later, Mian himself said in the micro-blogging website his lecture has been “cancelled due to threats that the university administration was facing from extremists”The 45-year-old professor follows the Ahmadi sect of Islam, a minority religious group that complains to religious persecution and discrimination in Pakistan, where the majority follows Sunni Islam.
This was not the first time Mian faced opposition from hardliner Sunni groups.
In 2018, the government was forced to exclude Mian from a newly formed economic advisory council following threats and nation-wide protests organized by Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan and other extremist groups.
Rights groups were quick to denounce the fast-growing intolerance against Ahmadi Muslims.
Kashif N Chaudhy, a human rights activist, said Pakistani physicist Abdus Salam, an Ahmadi, who shared the 1979 Nobel prize also faced such threats and discrimination.
Salam “was told his legs would be broken” if entered a Pakistani university. Five decades later, extremists threaten Mian...nothing has changed,” Chaudhy said.
“When a country is pressurized by a handful of religious extremists to disown a brilliant economic mind... the development will always be far from achievement. Sorry, Atif Mian,” tweeted Gharidah Farooqui, a television anchor.“Pakistan didn't deserve Dr. Abdus Salam, and it doesn't deserve Dr. Atif Mian,” Nida Kirmani, an educationist, wrote.Ammar Rashid, president of the left-wing Awami Workers Party (AWP) Punjab chapter, said “an incredibly dangerous pattern is being established in Pakistan whereby a person's religion or sect is now determining whether s/he is allowed to even speak on any secular topic.”“Capitulations like these will further embolden religious fascists. We must stand up to them,” Rashid added.Founded in 1889, Ahmadis are regarded as heretical for not believing Mohammed as the final prophet, contrary to orthodox Muslims. The community leaders say their people face structural discrimination, violence, and alienation in Pakistan.