Islam Denounces Religious Intolerance
Although sectarian violence in Pakistan has gradually increased which took the lives of several persons, yet it has become fiercer. The religious minority sects and communities remain under constant threat of bloody attacks from the misguided Sunni extremists and the banned outfits.
Besides a perennial wave of sectarian attacks, on March 3, this year, the deadly twin blasts killed more than 50 people in the Shia-dominatedAbbasTown of Karachi. On February 17, more than 100 Hazara Shias were killed on the Kirani Road in Quetta.
After the previous incident in Gojra, religious intolerance in the country took a dangerous turn when on March 9, in retaliation to blasphemy by a Christian, a frenzied mob torched over 100 houses and shops in Joseph Colony at Badami Bagh area of Lahore.
President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif including almost all the Sunni political and religious parties strongly condemned the assaults on Christian property. Shahbaz Sharif who ordered an immediate inquiry, declared the Badami Bagh incident as “the worst example of barbarism.” In this regard, police arrested more than 100 miscreants from different parts of the city. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has also taken suo motu notice of the Joseph Colony tragedy.
The Joint Action Committee (JAC) for Peoples Rights along with other civil society organisations held joint demonstrations, while the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan condemned the attack as another shameful act against Christians. On March 16, ‘Yume-e-Rawadari’ (Day of Forbearance) was observed to show solidarity with the Christians in relation to the Joseph Colony tragedy, while on the instructions of the Punjab government the construction and repair work of burnt houses and Churches of the colony is continuing expeditiously.
Islamic scholars (Ulemas) of all schools of thought expressed deep sense of sorrow over the Badami Bagh incident. In a meeting, they unanimously remarked that this unholy act was an open challenge of anti-Islamic forces to two billion Muslims living in the world. While viewing the sad event as a sign of religious extremism, they vigorously denounced anti-Islamic and anti-Pakistan elements. The meeting recalled that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in his sermon at Hajjatul Wida issued directions for protection of life, property and dignity of the whole mankind, and declared that the killing of any non-Muslim citizen living in an Islamic state is haraam (Forbidden).
However, all the measures and condemnation of the Badami Bagh episode clearly show that majority of Pakistanis are against assaults on Christian community. There are minority of religious fanatics who are instigating other people for such sorts of event. At this juncture, while some foreign powers have already launched propaganda against Islam and Pakistan in connection with religious intolerance, the burning of the houses of innocent Christians by the fundamentalist elements has further damaged the image of Pakistan abroad. In the recent past, Pakistan’s civil and military leadership including other parties had strongly condemned Taliban for the failed assault on Malala Yousufzai. But US-led some western countries, especially India manipulated the incident in relation to the Talibanisation of Pakistan to distort the country’s image.
In the past few years, terror attacks on the worship-places of Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Shias and Ahmadis including their peoples’ sporadic killing clearly signals foreign hands behind these incidents because they seek to show Pakistan as a Sunni conservative state.
The appropriate way is that if any individual commits blasphemy against the Holy Prophet (PBUH), strict punishment under the law should be ensured to that person, but whole the Christian community should not be targeted.
It is notable that unlike a theocratic state, in an Islamic country, rights, life, property and beliefs of all the religious communities and sects are fully protected by the government. In this context, while addressing the Constituent Assembly on August, 11 1947, Quaid-i-Azam said that he did not want Pakistan to be a theocratic state. He wanted Pakistan to be a liberal, secular and progressive state where the followers of every religion, faith, and sect were treated as citizens of equal status and they enjoyed equal rights. He explained, “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State.”
In fact, there is no place for religious intolerance in Islam, but unfortunately it has pervaded the Pakistani society to such an extent that bigoted pseudo-religious leaders have tarnished the tenets of Islam, and are preaching violence against perceived offenders of Islam. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) was described as being a mercy due to the message he brought for humanity: “We sent thee not, but as a mercy for all creatures,” (Quàân 21:107). The tolerant spirit of Islam towards non-Muslims, whether they are those residing in their own countries or within the Muslim states, can be clearly seen through history. Before the coming of Islam, tolerance had never been preached as an essential part of religion.
Religious bigotry is found in every religion and fundamentalists avail every opportunity to persecute the people of other community. Modern era presents a number of such examples. In this regard, various forms of state terrorism have continued by the Israeli armed forces on the Palestinians. While with the backing of Burmese military regime and the covert assistance of Hindus, recent bloodshed of the minority Rohingya Muslim community at the hands of the Rakhine extremist Buddhists in Burma (present Myanmar) presents another such example. Similarly, during the Bosnian War (1992–1995), Serb forces slaughtered more than 10,000 Muslims in Bosnia and Herzegovina and buried them in the unamed mass graves. The ethnic leansing campaign of the state terrorists continued by the Serb Army. That genocide was repeated in Kosovo where several Muslim men and women were murdered.
While tarnishing Pakistan’s image, US-led some western countries and their media have totally ignored Hindu terrorism which emanates from the ideology of Hindutva (Hindu nationalism). Hindu politics and culture, dominated by the fundamentalists parties such as BJP, RSS, VHP, Shiv Sena and other similar groups have been propagating Hindutva which is also being encouraged by the government officials. This Hindu ideology which resulted in sporadic attacks on the other ethnic and religious communities, especially Muslims and Christians has reflected the intentions of the BJB and the subsequent Congress rulers. While Indian constitution declares the country to be a secular state, but in practice ideology of Hindu nationalism has been implemented. In this context, destruction of Babri mosque in 1992, genocide of Muslims in Gujrat in 2002, discovery of more than 3000 unmarked graves who were killed by the Indian security forces in the fake encounters in the occupied Kashmir etc. might be cited as some instances.
Recently, Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and Home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde confessed the nexus between BJP and the RSS, disclosing that organised training camps run by these fundamentalist parties were promoting Hindu Terrorism. They also revealed that these parties were behind the Samjhauta Express, Meccca Masjid and Malegaon blasts including Gujarat and Babri masjid incidents.
Nevertheless, these Pakistani Taliban and their external-backed affiliated extremist groups are defaming Islam which is a religion of universal application, as it emphasises peace, democracy, moderation and human rights. Islam strongly denounces intolerance of other religious communities and sects. It is due to this fact that now, people from all segment of life and majority of politicians including general masses want that a handful of terrorist elements including religious fundamentalists must not be allowed to dictate their agenda and to impose their self-created ideology in Pakistan.
The right hour has come that Pakistan’s media, politicians and leaders of religious parties must show practical unity against zealots who seek to create chaotic disorder in the country to accomplish their self-motivated designs. And the real spirit of Islam needs to be understood clearly. For the purpose, particularly, Ulemas must continuously preach that Islam considers killing the innocent persons of other religious communities and sects equal to murdering the entire humanity, telling the people that the state and religion exist side by side without interfering in each other’s domain.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Affairs