In the past few years too many Pakistanis, no matter what their faith and sect, have died because someone killed them in the name of religion. We need to introspect why we tolerate violence and condone it when it is perpetuated in the name of religion.
We bemoan the horrific crimes against Muslims in Iraq and those under Israeli and US occupation in Palestine and try to justify violence in our society because of those crimes. But we also condoned such violence in the name of religion even before the invasion of Iraq. Our blasphemy laws and the gender-biased Hudood Ordinance use religion to maintain the status quo in which a powerful Muslim male is the sole source of authority and there is no room for personal liberty and individual thought. These laws make it very easy for anyone to score against non-Muslims and women.
We glorify such as Ahmad Shah Abdali, Nadir Shah and Mehmood Ghaznavi in our text books and popular media. We deify them and their acts of barbarism because they were Muslims and those they killed were not. None of them fought in the name of Islam as we are led to believe. They wanted to expand their kingdoms and annex the fertile heartland of river Indus, Ganga and Jamuna. Attaching any exalted and noble intentions to the expansion of their kingdom is factually and historically incorrect.
Shah Waliullah, who is venerated by most South Asian religious scholars, wrote a letter to Ahmad Shah Abdali to invite him to attack the Marathas. Waliullah instigated this violent attack, which killed thousands of soldiers on both sides, because he did not like the declining clout of Muslims, scholars in the court and hoped that the war would restore the ulemas’ power and influence. How can a society that lionises people like him ever hope to achieve peace?
Tackling individual incidents of terrorism can never bring the desired result, the philosophy and ideology behind violence prompted in name of religion needs to be challenged. The Jamia Hafsa fiasco is a case in point.
Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa violated many laws and started a war against the state which is considered treason by the constitution but most Pakistanis, including politicians and those in the judiciary, voiced their opinion against the government operation because it was against a group of people who were using religion to support their violent stance.
When religion becomes a source of income and a point of politics, people will use it to further their interests and foster violence in the name of religion. Unless we decide to look inward and deal with such demons, peace will remain elusive.
Published in the Express Tribune, June, 1st, 2010.