Books and Documents

Islam and Sectarianism

Iran’s inner opposition is always troubled with its own specific problems, and they don’t care about the problems of Sunnis. Any interest in the problems of Sunnis is deemed as animosity against the revolution and as separatism. So no one dares do this. Since the Islamic revolution of 1979, Sunnis have been perceived as a national threat and, therefore, their activities have been continually monitored, and they have been classified as non-Islamic, uncultured and uncivilized, and this is how they are portrayed for Shiite Iranians….


The activists, on the other hand, remain weak, under threat and consumed by semantics to highlight, forcefully and meaningfully, the systematic extermination of the Shia. The ordinary Pakistani’s apathy is reminiscent of the second part of Glover’s quote: “The world would be a terrible place if the whole truth about this aspect of us was what Norman Geras had called ‘the contract of mutual indifference’: we leave other people in peril un-rescued and believe that others will do the same to us.”….


The Shias of Pakistan, along with scores of other vulnerable groups, have been under an unrelenting systematic assault since the height of the Pak-Saudi-US jihad against the erstwhile Soviet Union. But over the last several years the methodical, merciless butchery has reached a point that is gruesome even by Pakistani standards of viciousness and yet the slaughter of the Shias in Quetta, Kurram, Gilgit-Baltistan,


It was only after the killing of people like Malik Mannan, and several attacks on the army and the FC in late 2006 and early 2007 that the locals realized Al Qaeda and Taliban had taken over and were trying to turn their lives around. While the linkages between the army and certain militant groups are a historical reality, to claim that all militants remain proxies of the army is unfair. ….

Pakistan Imploding Under Sectarian Violence
Murtaza Haider is a professor in the Ted Rogers School
Pakistan Imploding Under Sectarian Violence
Murtaza Haider

As of late, the followers of majority Sunni sects, such as Bareli’s, have increasingly become targets of militants who are followers of radicalised Sunni sects. The attack on Data Darbar, the mausoleum of Lahore’s patron saint, in July 2010 left almost 50 moderate Sunni Muslims dead. In an earlier post, I reported police statistics which showed that almost 90 per cent of arrested terrorists in Pakistan were followers of the Disband sect…

For the Taliban, We are all wajib-ul-qatal
Irfan Husain is an author
For the Taliban, We are all wajib-ul-qatal
Irfan Husain

When the Taliban was reminded that the founder of Pakistan was a peaceful, tolerant man, he replied that Jinnah had ‘Ali’ in his name, and so must be a Shia. “We do not accept the Shia as Muslims,” he insisted. From considering the Shia to be non-Muslims, it seems there is only a short step to declaring them wajib-ul-qatal, or deserving of death, preferably by violent means….

“A couple of days ago, during a laboratory session, some students disrupted the lecture and started preaching how Ahmedis are non-Muslims and are wajib-ul-qatal. Brochures and booklets, entailing details of how Ahmedis should be prosecuted, are also being circulated amongst the students. So far, Ahmadi students have not been threatened, however, students report that they are constantly being followed and other students have boycotted them completely. …

Time to Establish the Abdus Salam Chair at LUMS
Dr Salam won the Nobel Prize in Physics 1979
Time to Establish the Abdus Salam Chair at LUMS
Aisha Fayyazi Sarwari

Dr. Abdus Salam, one of the greatest scientists produced by the Islamic world and having received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1979, deserves such an honour by LUMS, Pakistan’s number one ranked institute by the Higher Education Commission. But what makes this gesture significant is that it is courageous, even though the intent of LUMS is only to honour the intellectual contribution of Dr. Salam. …

“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

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