THE funeral of Canadian-American cardiologist Dr. Mehdi Ali Qamar drew an unprecedented crowd of thousands at the Ahmadiyya Muslim Mosque in Vaughan, Ontario.
Draped in the Canadian and the US flags, Dr. Qamar’s coffin arrived in Toronto on Tuesday night where thousands gathered for the viewing and to pay their last respects. Dr. Qamar was laid to rest on Wednesday at the Maple Cemetery in Vaughan.
Over the past two days, government officials in attendance have included Co-Chair of Parliamentary Friends of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at MP Judy Sgro, Ambassador of the Office of Religious Freedom, Dr. Andrew Bennett, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, Vaughan Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua, MP and Parliamentary Secretary Chungsen Leung and the Vice Council General of the United States.
On the morning of May 26, militant extremists gunned down Dr. Qamar in front of his wife and two-year-old son. Dr. Qamar, a gifted award-winning cardiologist, was on Day 2 of a three-week volunteer humanitarian medical mission to Tahir Heart Institute in Rabwah, Pakistan. The Tahir Heart Institute is a top heart institute in Pakistan where patients travel to from remote rural areas unable to afford medical care elsewhere.
Survived by his wife and three sons, Dr. Qamar belonged to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at. The attack on him was part of an orchestrated hate campaign against Ahmadi Muslims and the Heart Institute, which had been in progress without any action from authorities. For months, leaflets appeared declaring treatment at the Tahir Heart Institute was forbidden by Islamic law. In 1974, Pakistan passed a constitutional amendment declaring Ahmadi Muslims to be “non-Muslim.” In 1984, Pakistan passed anti-blasphemy and anti-Ahmadi laws criminalizing religious practices of Ahmadi Muslims, which are punishable by fine, imprisonment or capital punishment. To date, militant extremists have murdered hundreds of Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan with impunity.
As a result, the government of Pakistan has not acknowledged the incident, nor expressed its basic sympathy over the murder of Dr. Qamar, sent condolences to the family or vowed to track down the killers.
Addressing a gathering on June 3, the National President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada, Lal Khan Malik, said: “It was February 19, 2013, when, in this very hall, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the establishment of the Office of Religious Freedom dedicated to the promotion of freedom of religion or belief around the world. I did not think I would be standing here a year later burying one of my community members to demonstrate the critical need and work of that office.”
He added: “As loyal citizens of Canada, we ask the government of Canada to urge the Pakistani leadership to stand up to extremists and to promote freedom of religion, to promote equality for all its citizens and to promote laws that allow full voting rights to all its citizens.”