Pak Nobel laureate’s Ahmedi status hurdle for documentary

I was quoted in this story – a slight spin but an important point nevertheless..

Two young Pakistanis are battling all odds to make the first-ever documentary on the country’s only Nobel laureate Abdus Salam though the going has not been easy so far because he was an Ahmedi.

Ahmedis, who are in minority in Pakistan, are not considered to be Muslims.

Omar Vandal and Zakir Thaver chose to document Salam’s life because “he overcame humble beginnings, a modest formative education and religious intolerance to become one of the leading physicists of the 20th century”.
Thaver, who was working for a production company in New York, came up with the idea three years ago but producers were not interested in making a film on a dead scientist from Pakistan at that time.
Later, he set up Kailoola Productions with his colleague Vandal in New York to bring science to the developing world and bridge the knowledge divide via TV.
Vandal and Thaver did not contact any government institutions for the project because Salam was an Ahmedi and they did not think the authorities would have supported them.
“The word Muslim has been whitened out from Salam’s epitaph, so why would the government bother funding our project? For officialdom, Salam is too much of a political risk to celebrate,” Thaver said in an interview posted on the duo’s website.
Muslim countries contacted by the duo for funds too have remained silent because of the Ahmedi issue.
Incidentally, the Ahmedi Jamaat – an influential organisation of the sect – was concerned about the film being misconstrued as Ahmedi propaganda so it too backed off the project.
“But lately there’s been a resurgence of interest from some well-to-do individual Ahmadis as they realise that it’s not propaganda ? our script is quite clear that it’s a film on an eminent scientist of Pakistan,” Thaver said.
Vandal and Thaver, who started filming early this year, are still short of USD 500,000.
Raza Rumi, editor of a well-known e-zine, has endorsed the project.
Rumi put an end to arguments by saying that “physics has nothing to do with sectarian warfare”.
However, some Pakistanis could not put Salam’s Ahmadi status out of the way.
“Ahmadi lobby is very rich…They can easily arrange it for their religious fellows. Don’t worry,” wrote called Kashifiat, a blogger.
An amendment to the Pakistani constitution adopted in September 1974, during the rule of late President Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, judged all Ahmadis as “not Muslims for the purposes of constitution and law”.
Salam received his Nobel Prize at 53 for unifying two of the four fundamental forces of nature, a groundbreaking achievement that fulfilled Einstein’s dream of unity.
Born in rural Pakistan, Salam is ranked as one of the most influential physicists of the 20th century.

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