U.S. citizen slain over his religion in his native Pakistan
By David O'Reilly
Inquirer Staff Writer
When Habib Peer closed his Germantown newsstand last year and moved back to Pakistan, his passport made no note of his religion.
Since 1990 he had been a resident and citizen of the United States, where being an Ahmadiyya Muslim is no offense. But in his homeland, Peer's faith made him a target, his family said.
On Thursday, as he drove with a young nephew through the southern city of Sanghar, two motorbikes approached his car. One of the masked drivers fired a handgun twice through the open window, instantly killing the 60-year-old Peer.
His nephew, 13, survived to describe the assassination. "That's just how [the boy's] father died," recalled Mujeeb Chaudhary, Peer's brother-in-law and a Philadelphia pharmacist.
"It was a targeted killing, only because of his religion."
Four years earlier, Peer's brother, Pasha, a physician who cared for the poor of Sanghar, was shot twice in the head as he left his clinic one evening. His killer ran off and was never found.
Widowed the year his brother died, Peer had moved back to Pakistan to care for Pasha's widow, whom he married, and to help raise his brother's children.
Ahmadis follow the Indian mystic Mirza Gulam Ahmad, who in 1887 announced that he was the messiah, or Mahdi, predicted in early Islamic writings as one who would purify Islam near the end of time.
Nearly all Muslims view Ahmad as a heretic, and his followers as inauthentic Muslims. Although tolerated in some Muslim nations, they are especially disdained in Pakistan, whose constitution and passports identify Ahmadis as non-Muslim.
That nation's four million Ahmadis are forbidden by law to publicly practice their religion, and they can be jailed for blasphemy if they greet Sunni or Shiite Muslims with the traditional "salaam alaykum" or wear Muslim garb.
Mainstream mullahs and imams denounce Ahmadis, with some blaming their presence for the floods ravaging Pakistan. "Some [leaders] even tell their people it is their duty to kill us," said Chaudhary, who came to the United States in 1972 and is president of the 450-member Philadelphia-area Ahmadiyya community.
The failure of the Pakistani government to suppress such virulent talk, he said, is tantamount to "state-sponsored terrorism."
Chaudhary added, "The authorities made very little effort for Pasha, and they will do the same for Habib."