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Khairpur attack

Updated February 10, 2019

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SINDH has always prided itself on maintaining interfaith harmony. But a number of incidents in recent years have challenged that perception, the latest being an arson attack on a temple in the town of Kumb in Khairpur district.

Last week, miscreants entered the Sham Sundar Shewa Mandli temple and set alight religious sculptures and holy books, including the Bhagavad Gita and Guru Granth Sahib. Prime Minister Imran Khan took notice of the incident and requested the Sindh government to find and prosecute the perpetrators.

Meanwhile, Sindh Governor Imran Ismail issued a statement calling the attack a “conspiracy to sabotage the interfaith harmony and religious concord in the province”.

While Sindh may indeed have less open bigotry than other parts of Pakistan, in recent years, the land of Sufi saints has had to grapple with the same rising extremism and religiosity that has gripped the rest of the nation.

Nearly the entire Hindu population of Pakistan lives in Sindh. One of the biggest laments remains the forced conversion of Hindu girls and women by Muslim men of influence — a practice that has been reported at length on these pages and that is perpetuated by certain seminaries.

Read more: The truth about forced conversions in Thar

Many Hindus in rural Sindh are also poor and disenfranchised, with limited access to social mobility. There is the added discrimination towards those belonging to the scheduled castes, from both Muslims and upper caste Hindus.

Anti-Hindu language is present in textbooks and popular culture across the country. It is sad to note that blasphemy cases disproportionately target those belonging to minority religions.

Minorities have every right to feel secure in their religious identity and within their places of worship as those belonging to the majority religion.

If respect is demanded for the majority faith, this courtesy must extend to the minority religions as well. That is basic human decency.

Anything less is hypocrisy at best, and discrimination at worst. Sindh must reclaim its reputation by disempowering all those that threaten its centuries-old peace.

Published in Dawn, February 10th, 2019