How often is it that after a terrorist attack in Pakistan, you hear the following statement on TV or from people around you? Aik Musalman Musalman ko nahi maar sakta (A Muslim won’t kill another Muslim). Every time I hear this statement or a similar one, I want to bang my head against a wall. While having a conversation with my driver, regarding the Eid bombings of a Shia mosque in Quetta he said, “The Taliban couldn’t be responsible for the attack, since a Muslim would never attack people in a mosque.” Even after thousands of people have been killed in suicide bombings by religious extremists, a large number of Pakistanis still have misplaced sympathies for extremists or fail to hold them accountable. This mindset needs to be challenged and the myth that “Muslims don’t kill other Muslims” needs to be debunked once and for all. Otherwise, if this attitude of denying the problem and deflecting the blame on RAW, CIA, BLA, Mossad, etc continues, there is no plausible way that an effective counter extremist movement can be conceived in Pakistan.
It is a sad fact, but Muslims have been killing Muslims from the early days of Islam. Out of the first four caliphs, three had Muslims involved in their murder, two of them were killed in a mosque and one was murdered while offering his prayers. The first Islamic Civil War, also called the first Fitna, started in 656, just 14 years after the Prophet Mohammad’s (pbuh) death and lasted for 5 years. A number of battles were fought during this period, in which scores of Muslims were killed by other Muslims. Unfortunately, there is precedent for Muslims killing Muslim in Islamic history.
If one wants to ignore history and just look at the present, there are still numerous examples of Muslims killing other Muslims in Pakistan. Recently, the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for an attack in Quetta that killed at least 26 people and injured over 60 in two suicide attacks, targeting the residence of the deputy chief of the paramilitary force. If one goes a little further in the past (like a month), the TTP claimed responsibility for a devastating suicide attack on a mosque in Khyber Agency that killed over 50 people. Most recently, the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has reached a new low by attacking a school bus, which killed four children. This attack was considered to be revenge against the residents of Kala Khel for forming a lashkar against the TTP. The large number of occurrences of such events makes it difficult to deny that ‘Muslims’ are carrying them out.
A recent report in the Christian Science Monitor highlighted how the sacrifice of 3,000 plus security personnel killed in operations against al Qaeda and Taliban militants since 9/11 went unrecognised because of fear of antagonising the religious right by the army. The people who they fear antagonising are likely the same people who defend and sympathise with the extremists. The fact that the army does not highlight its sacrifices against the extremists must not only be demoralising for the troops, but showcases how Pakistan has ceded the public space to extremists. Politicians, generals, philanthropists, businessmen, every Pakistani needs to unite and raise his/her voice against extremists and their heinous actions. There should be no room to sympathise or empathise with groups who have no regard for innocent life.
After this article, I am sure people will call me naive for believing the media and falling victim to the various spy agency’s trap, but it is time to call a spade a spade. It cannot be denied that Muslims are killing innocent civilians in the name of Islam and maligning the religion. Pakistanis must unabashedly and equivocally condemn the killing of innocents by anyone, particularly those brazenly claiming responsibility for it. No longer can Pakistan afford to have a deflecting attitude with respect to militancy and a unified voice must be raised against it. No longer should the Kalma be used as proof of innocence.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 20th, 2011.