The Faisal Shahzad case brings to light the fact that recruitment for terrorist organisations still takes place, often openly, in mosques all over Pakistan.
Shahzad, for instance, seems to have been recruited out of a mosque in a middle-class neighbourhood of North Nazimabad in Karachi. Details that have emerged about that mosque should disturb most Pakistanis. It appears that the mosque has an open affiliation with the banned militant group Jaish-i-Muhammad. How and why the city government allows such an organisation to operate in a mosque is beyond comprehension.
We believe in freedom of speech and freedom of religion and support both as constitutionally-guaranteed rights. Yet there are limitations to that right especially when they involve incitement to violence or the dissemination of hate speech and literature. One is constrained to make this point because the unfortunate reality is that many of the sermons that are delivered in mosques across the country exhort the faithful not to follow the true spirit of Islam but to consider themselves superior to other faiths and to be intolerant of those of other beliefs.
Often, the prayer leaders incite those who come to listen to them to commit acts of violence — all in the name of religion. Despite repeated intentions to regulate the content of sermons, successive governments have tended to treat this issue with kid-gloves, fearing being seen as somehow anti-Islam. Yet if Pakistan is to become a functioning republic, the government has to enforce the law equally and this means clamping down on purveyors of hate and hate literature. Legitimate advocacy of a different interpretation of one’s set of beliefs is one thing and inciting the faithful towards acts of wanton violence targeting innocent people of other faiths is quite another — and must not be tolerated by either the state or society.