For some Americans heading to the polls is an annual ritual for others a new experience. Hundreds of newly naturalized Americans who have sought refuge in the U.S voted for the first time on Tuesday.
Followers of the Ahmadiyya sect of Islam have been unable to participate in the electoral process of Pakistan for over three decades. The intensely persecuted community has been declared “non-Muslim” by the Pakistani constitution, Millions of Ahmadis have been unable to register as Muslim voters, and hence have been unable to avail their right to vote.
“Imagine if the Mormon or Catholic communities were forced to declare that they were “non-Christian” in order to cast a ballot” said Amjad Mahmood Khan, Spokesperson for the U.S. Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA.
Ayesha Noor, a first time voter who moved to America in 2008 wrote a moving letter to Hillary Clinton expressing her joy on getting a chance to vote for the first time.
In a Facebook post, Noor shared the letter she wrote to U.S.Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton:
Dear Hillary Clinton,
Today, on my birthday, I voted for the first time in my life. And I couldn’t be happier.
It wasn’t my laziness that stopped me from voting all these years. It wasn’t because I’m a woman either. I couldn’t yet vote ……. because I am an Ahmadi Muslim, and Pakistan refuses to give me the right to a free election due to my faith.
To cast my vote in Pakistan, I have to in writing either renounce my faith, or renounce the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. For 40 years Ahmadi Muslims have been denied this basic right to vote. Our Pakistani citizenship, 100% literacy rate of our community, our community services and our services in the Armed forces, nothing matters. Millions of Ahmadi Muslims, including my own family in Pakistan, suffer this cruel injustice every year.
This morning on my birthday my husband and I went to cast our votes. I couldn’t stop smiling as it was my perfect birthday gift, one I have been longing to get for ages. I am a woman, an American, a Muslim, and I just voted for a woman for President. I hope as President you will continue to lead America down a path of pluralism, peace, and progress.
Noor’s husband, author Qasim Rashid also shared his appreciation for the right of vote America has given to his wife.
— Qasim Rashid, Esq. (@MuslimIQ) November 8, 2016