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Islam and Sectarianism

“I relayed the news on to colleagues and students at the cafeteria table. Some looked glumly at their plates but, a minute or two later, normal cheerful chatter resumed.” So wrote friend Pervez Hoodbhoy in this newspaper on March 5, in an op-ed titled “Run for your life”. What was the news? That those men, of the terrorist outfit Jundullah, had on February 28 executed 18 men in Kohistan after being singled out because of their sect. …

An opinion piece in The Express Tribune “Run for your life” by Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy on March 5, 2012 read: This essay deliberately excludes Hindus, Christians, and Parsis. The reason: these communities were never enthused about India’s partition (even though some individual members pretended to be)… he conveniently made some very disturbing assumptions on behalf of people, that to date, are fighting for their right of “Pakistaniyat” just as Shias or Ahmadis…

Sindh and Balochistan: Self-inflicted Wounds
Shahzad Raza is TFT special correspondent based in Islamabad
Sindh and Balochistan: Self-inflicted Wounds
Shahzad Raza

Because of blood that was spilled 1400 years ago, the history of Islam is marred with the killing of thousands of Muslims over sectarian differences. Sectarianism in Pakistan is a dynamic phenomenon, and it always finds new battlegrounds, new recruits and new targets. The spectre now haunts urban Sindh and Balochistan. …

 
Ahmadis and Shias-  Run for Your Life
Pervez Hoodbhoy teaches physics and political science at LUMS
Ahmadis and Shias- Run for Your Life
Pervez Hoodbhoy

In Pakistan one’s religious faith, or lack of one, has become sufficient to warrant execution and murder. The killers do their job fearlessly and frequently. The 17th century philosopher and mathematician, Blaise Pascal, once observed that “men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it for religious conviction”. …

Gilgit-Baltistan: Murder most Foul
Ambreen Agha is a Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management
Gilgit-Baltistan: Murder most Foul
Ambreen Agha

Gilgit-Baltistan has historically remained a peaceful region, with occasional cycles of orchestrated tension and violence. Shias were a majority in the region until the Government of Pakistan breached the State Subject Rules (SSR) promulgated in 1927 by the last Dogra Maharaja Hari Singh, in a massive effort at demographic re-engineering. …

The Rise of Violent Sectarianism
Raza Rumi is an author and journalist
The Rise of Violent Sectarianism
Raza Rumi

Denominational differences are not new to Islam, just as they are not to other religions. However, the history of sectarian violence in Pakistan is a phenomenon that, while drawing on old differences of faith, has unfolded in a modern context. The recent rise in sectarian killings, for instance, is a continuation of the trends already gathering pace in Pakistani society from the 1980s. …

Even though the Pakistan Army was able to crush tribal rebellions espousing Baluch nationalism, new generations of urban educated Baloch were drawn to their cause. “The Pakistani generals “keep making peace deals with jihadists who have killed thousands of their own people. We are not religious fanatic terrorists — so it won''t talk to us.”…

 

There’s a serious split in Hamas reflecting the growing civil war among Islamists along Sunni-Shia lines. What lies behind this split is the broader conflict between the Sunni and Shia Islamist camps. Palestinian politics are a mess. Nobody can deliver peace; no one will struggle to achieve a compromise peace agreement with Israel. ...

Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? ...

Thus, in a country where on the eve of Independence, Jinnah had proclaimed “You are free to go to your temples … mosques … or any other places of worship”, Ahmadis were barred from calling their places of worship mosques; the Kalima of Islam was removed from such buildings’ façade; holding prayers and congregations similar to those held by Muslims inside a building that resembled a mosque and keeping copies of the Quran in such places, were proscribed. -- Murtaza Razvi  

When I was studying at university, during a discussion over an economic issue, my professor (a PhD) uttered these words: “Alhamdulillah, I am a Sunni, I am a Muslim.” These words took me and many other students by surprise. The bizarre logic of uttering those unnecessary words in the midst of a discussion, especially when the class comprised of students from diverse religious backgrounds, was unfathomable. -- Sana Iqbal

My hypothesis is that the division of the Punjabi nation in 1947 produced a Pakistani Punjab that was heavily weighted in favour of the martial castes. The trading castes, which tend to be more pragmatic and balance society’s extremism mostly left to come to India. This has produced the imbalance which explains Pakistan’s fondness for a state dominated by soldiers. Gen Pervez Kayani runs the state’s foreign policy, security policy and most of its economic policy because the majority of Punjabis are comfortable with the idea of a warrior being in charge. India is ruled by a Punjabi from the Khatri trading caste, Manmohan Singh of Chakwal. The question is: Can caste be a predictor for such things? Yes it is. I did two studies that demonstrated it to me. -- Aakar Patel

Balochistan has for long earned notoriety as the land of extra judicial killings, disappearances, SF high handedness, and repression, as well as a playground for terrorists operating beyond the frontiers of the Country. The situation is particularly grave for non-Muslims and minority Muslim sects. As many as 80 members of the Shia community have been killed in the Province this year [2011] alone, for no reason other than their religious belief. HRCP also has serious concern at targeted killing of teachers, intellectuals and non-Baloch ‘settlers’ in Balochistan. -- Tushar Ranjan Mohanty

 

Syria is ruled by a Shia minority only because the French colonial army recruited its local troops from the Alawites, precisely because they were a poor and despised minority. That way, the French reckoned, they would be loyal to France, not to Syria. But domination of the military ultimately let Alawites seize political control in independent Syria. There is no Shia plot against the Sunni Arab world, just old history that won't go away. The danger is that Arab rulers start thinking that citizens cannot be loyal to the state unless they have exactly the same religious beliefs as their rulers. The European wars of religion - a century of slaughter - were not really about doctrinal quarrels. They happened mainly because rulers became convinced that they could not be safe if some of their citizens belonged to a different sect. Most countries in the world today are living proof that that is nonsense, but Arab rulers, both Sunni and Shia, are fast falling into the delusion that it is true. That would be a disaster.-- Gwynne Dyer

Quite tellingly, the ruling party, seven opposition parties and a network of 127 NGOs are all planning to protest on December 23 in order to renew their vows against allowing ‘other religions’ in the Maldives. It seems a rather redundant cause, considering the 2008 Maldivian constitution already forbids non-Muslims from becoming citizens, and mandates that the nation remain 100% Sunni Muslim. This status quo, however, was recently challenged by a group of Maldivians who gathered in Male’ on December 10, on the occasion of the International Human Rights Day, in silent protest against the lack of religious freedom in the Maldives. -- Yameen Rasheed

 

The decision was based on a controversial op-ed written by him in the newspaper Daily News and Analysis (DNA) on July 16 in response to terrorist attacks in Mumbai. In the op-ed, he had offered strongly worded ideas on how to “negate the political goals of Islamic terrorism in India.” Among his ideas were that India should “enact a national law prohibiting conversion from Hinduism to any other religion,” “remove the Masjid in Kashi Vishwanath temple and the 300 Masjid at other temple sites,” and “declare India a Hindu Rashtra in which non-Hindus can vote only if they proudly acknowledge that their ancestors were Hindus.” Harvard Yard is a calm and vibrant community space where students, tourists, and community members sit and stroll. Many buildings, including dormitories, libraries, a church and lecture halls, surround it. In the month of November, tents had sprouted on Harvard Yard in solidarity with the Occupy movement. The Occupy movement at Harvard was made up of Harvard students, staff and faculty, and posed no threat to the security of Harvard affiliates. -- Karan Singh Tyagi (Photo: A November 2011 picture of protesters making their way to the grounds of Harvard Law School

I was tempted to write this article when I read another one on The Express Tribune titled ‘Muharram is your holiday, not mine’. In this blog, the writer complains about how she feels discriminated against and threatened by the Sunni sect, especially during Muharram and the day of Ashura.For me, following the Quran and Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) Sunnah is enough. I will do what my beloved prophet instructed us Muslims to do. As far as the day of Ashura goes, popular Hadiths have quoted that this day was significant in history primarily for being the day when the Prophet Moses  and his companions were forever rid of the Pharaoh’s vice, when he was drowned in the waters of Red Sea. The Jews always fasted on this day, but our beloved prophet instructed Muslims to observe a two-day fast to include either the day before or the day after Ashura in order to mark our difference with the Jews. Later in history, a second event marked this day’s importance because our beloved prophet’s grandson, Husain was martyred in Karbala. Our prophet told us to fast and pray during Muharram; that’s reason enough for me. However, since it is not obligatory, if I don’t, it does not make me a lesser Muslim than anyone else.  Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) forbade me to mourn a death for more than three days, but he didn’t stop me from remembering and praying for someone I love. -- Mahjabeen Khan

 

If you want to have a party in Muharram, that’s fine by me; just don't get all emotional if I don't attend. I am a Shia Muslim living in a country that offers me no security. While I agree that no one in Pakistan is really safe from the constant terror attacks, the recent acts of sectarian violence with absolutely no accountability paints a very bleak picture for me.  People, in general, tend to target people who are a little different from them, and this is the sad reality of life. In Pakistan, Shias are no exception. Aside from the obvious threat to their security, there are other things that worry us Shias, and make us contemplate about how open-minded our society really is. Here is my list of things that make my blood boil. Another thing that really bothers me is how people label the 9th and 10th Muharram as ‘holidays’. Stop calling them holidays! Seriously, it offends me significantly. It might be a holiday for you and everyone else, but it is not for me. For me, this day means everything. You might think it’s a great idea to have a major exam immediately the day after Ashura, because for you, the 9th and 10th of Muharram are two days of absolute nothingness, during which you can easily plan study-dates.  The same doesn’t apply to me. I am not using my beliefs as an excuse to shun my responsibilities, but please, can you be more considerate? -- Sidra Rizvi

We all know that when the Hindu right comes to town - declaring that this or that text should not be taught in the university, or this or that painting should not be seen, or this or that film should not be shown – the secular left-liberal intelligentsia in India automatically gets outraged, signs petitions, holds press conferences and generally vents it righteous anger. I know this because I do all these things, along with all my friends. I sign the online petitions, attend the demonstrations, express my anger and do some (or all) of that which needs to be done, that should be done. We should never give an inch to the hoodlums of Hindutva. The Indian left-liberal’s critique of Hindutva amounts to an engagement with the presence of a Hindu way of life. It is in the end affirmative of something in Hindu life-worlds that is beyond Hindutva. Correspondingly, The Indian left-liberal’s refusal to develop a robust, concrete critique of Muslim fundamentalism (and its consequent denuding of the Islamicate cultural space) is symptomatic of a profound apathy regarding Islam and what happens to Muslim people. Which is why some liberal commentators have even found it possible to say that whatever is wrong with Hindutva is because of its ‘semitization’ – betraying thereby their profound prejudices against the ‘Semitic’ (Judeo-Arabic) peoples and their cultures and beliefs. -- Shuddhabrata Sengupta

I walked past the gate, and saw a sign announcing an exhibition of the Quran, being organised by the Ahmediyya community (Qadianis are also known as Ahmediyyas; it is a sect of Muslims which is declared “non-Muslim” in Pakistan and is allegedly persecuted in Islamic countries such as Iran for their “blasphemous” interpretation of the Quran; in secular India, they freely practice their faith). There are just about 2.5 lakh Qadianis in India and I had never met anyone of the community till I walked into the exhibition hosted by them. The entrance to the hall, where the exhibition took place, had large posters that said the Quran and Islam, denounce terrorism, and advocate peace, unity and humankind. Inside, there were 53 copies of the Quran — all in different languages, from Spanish and Deutsch to Malayalam and Gujarati — displayed neatly. Inside the hall, too, there were posters that talked again of peace, humanity and women's rights, as preached by the Quran. Exactly what I wanted to see. Forget blasphemous, there was nothing even remotely offensive about the exhibition. “These people think we are not real Muslims because of a few differences in our interpretation,” is all that Aziz Ahmed, an Ahmediyas representative, said. -- Irena Akbar

India’s Muslims are the country’s largest minority. Depending on your source, their numbers range between 160-200 million. However, the community has been subject to injustices of the state and society. Communal riots, encounter killings, poisonous Hindu right propaganda that tries to portray them as outsiders and cultural pollutants; they have seen it all. And if all this weren’t enough, they have to face an even bigger detriment to their progress; their self-appointed leaders. These include et al., mullahs, politicians, and the Urdu press that claims to be their spokesperson. The article, titled “Qadianon ki ‘Qurani taleemat numaish’ ke khilaf ihtejaaj”. The story described how Muslim organizations protested outside an exhibition organized by the Ahmadi community (described using the pejorative term ‘Qadiani’) because they claimed that Ahmadis were attempting to mislead the public by posing as Muslims (Surprise, Surprise!). The opening sentence said it all: “Leading Muslim personalities in Delhi held a peaceful protest against an exhibition ‘Teachings of Holy Quran’, arranged by the Ahmadiya Jamaat India, an organization belonging to the Ahmadi sect, which have been declared as non Muslims everywhere in the world…” -- Amit Julka

Inequity and injustice within a society is concealed and submerged within an all-encompassing narrative — usually evoking race, religion, nation or ethnicity. Submerged within an all-encompassing narrative — usually evoking race, religion, nation or ethnicity But this pseudo-Islamic narrative proved insufficient to satisfy the inchoate yearnings of minority ethnicities like the Baloch, Pakhtuns, Sindhis or Muhajirs. Worse, it failed to unite the geographically divided country. Amid massive upheavals, disorder and bloodshed, the state of Pakistan fell apart in 1971. Following the populist-socialist Bhutto hiatus, the usurper Zia regime restored a version of the pseudo-Islamic ideological narrative, intensified and distorted to malignant proportions. The institutions he promoted and the retrograde educational systems he erected polluted the intellectual atmosphere of the land and gave birth to today’s bigoted, obscurantist political culture and its poisonous fallouts of violent insurgency, terrorism and cold-blooded mass murder. This most retrograde of dictators ruled virtually unshaken for over 11 years, challenged only by the repeatedly martyred Bhutto family and the women of this country. -- Salman Tarik Kureshi

Bemoaning the fact that a small group of Muslims had given a bad name to their great religion, he added: “The time has come for us to come out and claim our rights. Let us take a pledge that we will never support Wahhabi extremism -- not today, not tomorrow”. As is often the case, the larger majority of Muslims the world over are law-abiding citizens who do not support the malignancy of Islamic extremism -- but have either been silent or invisible. Thus, the unambiguous stand taken by the AIUMB which represents almost 80 percent of India’s Sunni Muslims -- who in turn are the majority faction of Indian Muslims (the Shia, Ismaili and Ahmadiyya amongst others are estimated to be less than 30 million in all) -- is a very significant development in the ongoing contestation about the interpretation and practice of Islam. The stand taken by AIUMB President Hazrat Syed Muhammad Ashraf Ashrafi and his colleagues was long overdue, for many Indian Muslims had warned of the dangers being posed by the spread of virulent Wahhabi ideology in Indian madrasas, which received generous funding from Saudi sources. The control of madrasas and what they teach and propagate to impressionable minds has been a contentious issue in India for decades. -- C. Uday Bhaskar

  

Indian Muslims Oppose Wahhabi Extremism: A NewAgeIslam TV Report-8

From: NewAgeIslamTV  | Oct 21, 2011  

For the first time in India a Muslim Mahapanchayat passed a resolution condemning growing Wahhabi extremism. 
We have never accepted Wahhabi fatwas, and will never accept them in future too: Maulana Ashraf Kachochhvi

When Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti was martyred, Lahore remained unmoved. In the case of the Hazaras, I doubt that a few outside the circle of the educated intellectuals (both real and pseudo) have any meaningful realisation of the extent of the barbarism being perpetrated upon the Hazaras. Even within those who at least acknowledge the existence of the violence, there is ambivalence in unequivocally condemning the violence. The principal debate it seems is on semantics and nomenclature, e.g. if the killing spree should be termed as ‘sectarian conflict’, ‘ethnic strife’ or the more graphic ‘genocide’, as if language and not murder is the primary issue here. Speaking for the Hazaras is not the cause currently deemed fashionable enough. The primary reason for that seems to be that they are too far away to make us really agitated as opposed to load shedding, which is here and now. -- Saroop Ijaz

 

My people want to live peacefully with their neighbours. My people are poor, their wishes and desires too little and they want to live as free men, not soldiers. We can live together but I have serious doubts. I smell secessionist feelings. But I call this country my home. I want to stay here, I want to grow old and see my children grow up in this country. Can I live here as I am? Can my individuality be respected? Can my culture, my language and traditions be regarded and my love for this country not be suspected? Why do you push me to be what I am not; what I do not want to be?  You would be baptised and integrated only when you call your people backward and ill-mannered and disassociate from them. Do you not think it is too much on me? I read in books that the people in Bengal were pushed too much. A foreign language was imposed on them in the name of national unity. -- Kahar Zalmay

 
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