Battling sectarianism: Time to look beyond mum religious leaders

Published September 21, 2014
Educated and illiterate, impoverished and elite, young and old; all have been targeted alike, connected only by a singular thread – their faith. — White Star file photo
Educated and illiterate, impoverished and elite, young and old; all have been targeted alike, connected only by a singular thread – their faith. — White Star file photo

As the month of August came to an end, more than 200,000 had been killed at the hands of ISIS in the four years long, and running insurgency.

The deaths were indiscriminate, as are in all warfare, and so children and women were equally victimised. The murders were gruesome, so much so that many a head were detached from their bodies and pushed onto metal rods to be displayed as trophies. The tactics employed ranged from the conventional (targeted shootings) as much as from the modern (IEDs).

At another place, another time, this news, together with the news of exodus of more than two and a half million people to Lebanese, Turkish or Jordanian camps, would have made for a hot topic.

The pious people of the 'Islamic Jamhooriyat of Pakistan' and its media, however, have other issues clogging their minds right now.

Take a look: More sectarian targets

Whether we do it unconsciously or wilfully may be debatable, but what's not debatable is how conveniently we do it – neglecting that the victims belong to the Shia sect of Islam, and the fact that the death toll is almost a 100 times the claimed deaths in Palestine, we continue to rile about the Zionist barbarism.

It is obviously in vogue to talk about Palestine affair. Given the state sponsored rhetoric, the demonisation of Israel, the attackers being from another religion and the victims being from the dominant sect of the country, we have to carp about the matter on a daily basis till the breath runs out.

And then a little more...

Not to undermine how despicable Israel's actions are, or how urgent the need to condemn them; but there are a thousand and one more immediate concerns that ought to have stirred us up before that.

And if there ever was a need to take out rallies, it could be driven by motives less frivolous than to denounce dancing in Islamabad protests; motives a tad closer to home than the Gaza killings, which in all probability went unheard in Israel.

For instance, sectarian mindsets pervading the majority of the nation. Is that not disturbing enough? Putting one’s own house in order first...anyone?

Explore: Ahmadis on the run: Fearing death in People's Colony

If you want an indication of how trivial the reasons required to persecute Shias within Pakistan can be, know that one of the first concerted attacks against them was made because they had disagreed with the way the moon was to be sighted. Tens were killed in the attacks that followed on that fateful day of late 80s – making Eid sanguine, literally.

If you want to assess the savagery of the attacks, and the mindset of people behind the same, know that there have been reports of an entire family being bounded by ropes and then individually shot in the head with the remaining ones looking on. In another instance, a father and son were stabbed so many times one would have needed more than ten fingers to count.

And if you want an idea of the type of people targeted, know that from an additional session judge, to an eminent professor – Attaur Rehman – and under-training police cadets in Quetta, all have been at the receiving end of the barrel.

Educated and illiterate, impoverished and elite, young and old; all have been targeted alike, connected only by a singular thread – their faith.

Read on: KU dean Shakeel Auj shot dead

Yet, burying our heads in the sand like an ostrich even while it burns our skin; we play oblivious to the issues slowly undoing us as a nation and putting a huge question mark on the ideology of the country; and continue to point fingers elsewhere.

Nothing lays bare our paranoia more vividly than initiating a discussion on this very topic.

Try and see the conspiracy theories flow in. We would blame the neighbours, the West, the Martians, the exotic creatures within the sea, and the supernatural...everyone but ourselves. Self-assessment? What's that?

Naturally, as soon as the sectarian question is raised, critics turn on religious clergy – and not without reason. The very people who in normal state of affairs should have been the guiding torches on the matter have assumed a deafening silence.

Also see: Son of Shia scholar Abbas Kumaili gunned down in Karachi

The evil continues to become grander with every passing second, attaining proportions that seem to have become unassailable.

If ever there was a need to fight 'evil', it is here, it is now, it is against sectarian bloodshed in the very place we live in.

Why, for God's sake, leave such an important matter at the disposal of the religious leaders, who could then potentially manoeuvre it for self-serving goals?

We need to initiate a collective movement, which extends to and incorporates all socio-political branches of the state, and has the backing of the men of eminence.

When the country gets behind the notion of saying no to sectarianism, and an assiduous effort is undertaken to expound matters that unite us instead of the ones that divide us; the incidence of sectarian attacks is bound to take a hit.

Remember, no pigeon was ever spared because it chose to shut its eyes at the sight of the cat. If anything, the cat must have chuckled between the bites.



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