ISLAMABAD: The standoff between civil society and Lal Masjid cleric Abdul Aziz has taken another alarming turn. Following threats from militant groups, organisers of the protests are now being targeted by a social media campaign that could endanger their lives.
Mohammad Jibran Nasir, the Karachi-based lawyer and rights activist who has been at the forefront of the movement that aims to ‘reclaim Lal Masjid’, is being called a non-Muslim and an Ahmadi. Posts on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook featuring photos of Jibran participating in Holi celebrations are being used as ‘proof’ of his anti-Muslim allegiances.
Also read: Jibran Nasir — the alpha activist?
However, the defiant Mr Nasir stands firm. In a message sent from his Twitter account, he responded to the allegations, saying, “I own my allegiance to human rights. Sunni, Shia, Ahmadi, [Christian], Hindu, Parsi… whoever, I will continue to advocate human rights for all. (sic)”
Organisers of protests against Lal Masjid, who are expected to meet a member of the federal cabinet on Monday to press for their demands, are considering holding a press conference to respond to these allegations.
Civil society concerned for activist’s well-being
There is fear among certain circles that accusations against Mr Nasir could be life-threatening, as saying that someone is an Ahmadi in Pakistan is tantamount to inciting violence against that person. The recent killing of Luqman Ahmad Shehzad, an Ahmadi man who was shot in the head near the Bhiri Shah Rehman village in Gujranwala, has also heightened concerns for Mr Nasir’s safety.
This concern is evident from another tweet from Mr Nasir’s account, which says “The whole Lal Masjid & Jamia Hafsa is directing their resources towards a social media campaign against us. Can all of u ppl help us respond? (sic)”
Following the attack in Peshawar on December 16 in which 142 students and teachers were killed, the head of Lal Masjid Maulana Abdul Aziz gave a controversial statement in refusing to condemn the killing of innocent children and said that he does not consider them martyrs. Angered by the Maulana’s statement, members of civil society began protesting in front of Lal Masjid.
After two consecutive days of protests, Abdul Aziz threatened the protesters leading them to file a First Information Report (FIR) against him.
On Friday (December 26) the district court issued a non-bailable arrest warrant for Abdul Aziz.
Members of civil society approached various political personalities requesting them to ensure the arrest of Maulana Aziz. On Friday, civil society activists met with senators from four different parties and had plans to meet a federal minister on Monday.
Civil society activist Shan Taseer while talking to Dawn said that for the last two days, some people had been campaigning on social media against Jibran Nasir and claiming that Mr Nasir is Ahmadi.
“We are considering holding a press conference to clarify that he is not Ahmadi because in the prevailing situation calling someone Ahmadi can instigate murder,” he said.
“We want to clarify that Jibran is not an Ahmadi. Moreover, he is not the only person who started the campaign. In fact there are number of people who see Abdul Aziz’s statements and actions as being derogatory and unlawful,” he said.
Shan Taseer said no one has the right to decide whether another person is a Muslim or not.
“A so-called religious scholar is promoting hatred against Ahmadis on electronic media which can be a part of the conspiracy,” he said.
He added that some elements initially threatened Jibran Nasir and are now hiding behind religion to attack him. “We planned to meet politicians and will continue to do so,” he said.
Senator Syed Tahir Hussain Mashhadi from Mutahidda Qaumi Movement said the campaign against Jibran Nasir is deplorable.
“Maulana Abdul Aziz is using sectarianism. First he accused Shias of conspiring against him and later said Ahmadis were conspiring against him,” he said.
Senator Mashhadi said Jamia Hafsa, the women’s seminary at Lal Masjid, has openly expressed support for the leader of Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) Sheikh Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi but the government is silent about it.
“If the government cannot take action against one person, how can we expect it to eradicate terrorism from an entire country,” he said.
Published in Dawn, December 29th, 2014