Someone called me, recently, insisting that now there will be action in North Waziristan against the Taliban. His point was that the killing of over 80 Christians, in Peshawar, would shake us into action. I quickly reminded him of what a rather intelligent nephew of mine told me recently about not taking such outpour of sympathy too seriously because it doesn’t eventually amount to anything. We sympathised with the Hazaras but didn’t ensure any concrete outcomes for their protection. We cry for the Baloch in conference rooms and think that the job is done. The young man mentioned above reminded me that we are the kind of people who will cry over dead Hazaras, Balochs, Christians, Ahmadis and others, not for the sake of humanity but out of fear that we might be next. Sadly, even this episode of brutality will not go beyond producing some “Coke Studio” version of Faiz or Jalib. The debate is likely to degenerate into a nonsensical debate labelled as a liberal versus conservative verbal contest.
The jihadi mafia is made up of such lucky folks because they understand that a divided population, which does not even have clarity on who to hold responsible for these attacks, will not have the will to retaliate. There are many, like Imran Khan, who think that the Taliban are not responsible for the attack in Peshawar. Indeed, the Hakimullah Mehsud group very intelligently distanced itself from the attack. So, now we will hold everyone responsible; from CIA, Raw and Mossad to Charlie’s aunt and not look inside.
Why forget that we ourselves are responsible for the attack on these poor Christians? The bias against this community is inbuilt into our psyche. There are many a people who wouldn’t share the same plate or glass with Christians. The whole drama of Aasia Bibi originates from her attempt to drink water from the same well as Muslims. The majority of Pakistan’s Christians belong to the lowest socio-economic class and they continue to remain there and treated the same way as they were before their forefathers converted to Christianity to escape maltreatment. Recently, one of Punjab chief minister’s favourite police officers taunted the Christian community and told them that the photographs of what they had done should be sent to “all their embassies”. This was after a fight between the police and some Christian boys, in which both parties had beaten each other. The police were then sent in full force to pick the culprits up at the slums and they would break open doors of their houses.
How can we forget that this is not the first attack against Christians and their churches? There were two attacks in 2001, as well — one in Bahawalpur and another in the diplomatic enclave in Islamabad. For those arguing that those attacks were in reaction to the American attack on Afghanistan after 9/11, why target the poor Christians of Pakistan who have nothing to do with the US? It was the poor Christians in the Bahawalpur Church, who could not even dream of going to the West, who were killed in an attack carried out by the Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), which is also stationed in the same city.
For those, who will argue that nothing has ever happened against Christians since 2001 until now and so this must be a provocation from the outside, how can they not see the deep ideological messaging and propaganda ridden with bias against these people? Be it the takfiris, who even advocate killing Muslims that don’t support the cause, or the others who believe in killing more strategically, they share a common ideology. Glance through the magnum opus of the JeM leader explaining jihad, Fathul Jawwad and you will see how a ‘jihadi’ or Taliban will be inspired to kill a Christian. The entire interpretation puts the Jews and Christians on the same level as the hypocrites and the non-believers. The 2000-page book carefully builds a thesis which extols the importance of jihad and martyrdom. But this is one aspect. The other is constructing a thesis against non-believers, Jews and Christians. It very carefully explains and interprets that religious reference to Jews includes Christians as well. On several occasions in the book it is also pointed out that de-populating a mosque is one of the greatest sins and that must be rewarded with death.
The book constructs a formidable thesis against the people of the other two Semitic religions who were traditionally always considered as part of the same family. Reportedly, Masood Azhar’s work reflects a similar thesis by a Salafi scholar in a Saudi university in Riyadh.
Azhar’s Fathul Jawwad is one of the fundamental readings for those being converted to the idea of jihad. There may be different Deobandi groups; even the Taliban are Deobandi, but they share the literature especially since there are more fighters but less ideologues who can create the ideology considered necessary to rally support from around them. Even if we were to imagine that the murder of over 80 innocent Christians, including women and children, may be the work of some foreign agency, how can we rule out the critical role that this kind of literature would have played in convincing the person who actually blew him/herself up? Perhaps, the killer might also have interpreted religion to say that it is fair and legal to kill women who take part in the fight including instigating against Muslim. Children are just collateral damage. Surely, the killers and many more see these women and children only from that lens. And still we call these jihadis the friendly Taliban.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 26th, 2013.