Defenders of the faith

October 22, 1993

Secretary of State Warren Christopher could use a good chuckle these days. He will have cause for one in the unlikely event his staff shows him the ludicrous resolution sent to him Monday by the Baltimore City Council.

We would wager that not a single council member, including President Mary Pat Clarke, who sponsored this irrelevant resolution, knows the first thing about the Ahmadiyya sect of Muslims except that a few of them live and vote here. Yet the council didn't hesitate to adopt a resolution condemning Pakistan for "systematic repression" of the Ahmadis.

How silly can they get?

It is beside the point that Ahmadis are in fact persecuted in Pakistan for their religious beliefs. They are a small sect founded in the old British India a century ago as an attempt to strengthen Islam against Western and Hindu inroads. Some Ahmadiyya beliefs are offensive to orthodox Muslims. Because the Ahmadis proselytize actively, some orthodox Muslims have attacked them both physically and politically. The Pakistani government has been hostile to Ahmadis since the country's independence and virtually outlawed members of this group by constitutional fiat in 1974.

It is not a pleasant story. But it is none of the Baltimore City Council's business, either. The last time we checked, the U.S. Constitution still had not been amended to give Baltimore's City Council a foreign policy role.

The resolution is just the latest example of the council's fondness for pompous, ineffectual proclamations on world issues about which the members know nothing at all. Other than that a constituent got a member's ear and persuaded the legislator to drop a resolution into the hopper.

In all likelihood, the members did not even know what they were voting on, let alone understand the religious and geopolitical issues involved if they did.

It's all reminiscent of the mischievous resolution introduced some years ago by former council president Wally Orlinsky to rename the plaza outside City Hall for Hitler's master builder, Albert Speer. As Mr. Orlinsky knew they would, the council members unanimously adopted the resolution without reading it.

Mr. Orlinsky was having a little fun by embarrassing his colleagues. Unfortunately, this time Ms. Clarke was serious.

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