'Earthquake was Allah's wrath for Kalash community's immoral ways'

By AFP
Published: November 10, 2015
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In this photograph taken on October 30, 2015, Kalash girl Shira Bibi, 20, looks on during an interview with AFP at her house in the Brun village in Bumburate valley. PHOTO: AFP

In this photograph taken on October 30, 2015, Kalash girl Shira Bibi, 20, looks on during an interview with AFP at her house in the Brun village in Bumburate valley. PHOTO: AFP

BUMBURATE: Conservative Muslims are blaming the animist Kalash for a powerful earthquake that flattened entire villages in October, claiming their immoral ways provoked Allah’s wrath, in the latest attack on a diminishing tribe fighting to keep its identity alive.

Residents of Chitral district are still reeling from the 7.5 magnitude quake, which ripped through Afghanistan and Pakistan killing more than 390 people and levelling thousands of homes.

Earthquake a ‘warning from Allah’: seminaries body

It came just three months after floods also devastated Chitral, leaving thousands of families camping in the open as winter approaches.

Chitral’s verdant, plunging valleys have long attracted tourists for their natural beauty and their brush with legend as the home of the ancient, polytheistic Kalash, many of whom are fair with light-coloured eyes.

Pakistan’s smallest religious minority, they speak their own language and celebrate through music, dance and alcohol, which they brew themselves for rituals and consumption, but many Muslims in the region feel Allah, angered by such un-Islamic practises, has smited the region with natural disasters.

“People are saying that the earthquake came because of the Kalash,” says student Shira Bibi, who spoke to AFP in the village of Brun, nestled in the Bumburate area of the valleys.

Shira’s direct gaze and confident, melodic way of speaking are typical of Kalash women but distinctive in conservative, patriarchal Pakistan.

Her face is uncovered and her clothing, a deep black, is intricately embroidered across the shoulders, as is the wide belt slung across her waist. Her long, dark hair is braided beneath a beaded headpiece — in the traditional Kalash style.

Shira, who studies at a college in Chitral town some 100 kilometres (60 miles) away, came back to Brun after the quake.

“An old man in Chitral town said ‘Look, daughter, don’t walk around like that, don’t you see earthquakes are striking, floods are coming, because of you?'” Shira said.

“I was wearing Kalash dress when he said this. People keep saying things like that.”

Academics have speculated the Kalash might be descended from the ancient Middle East or even from soldiers of Alexander the Great’s army, which conquered the area in the fourth century BC.

As floods hit, Kalasha people fear for their way of life

Centuries ago they ruled Chitral but now they are a minority in the valleys, with their population reduced to just a third of the 12,000 residents, according to the Kalash Peoples Development Network (KPDN), a local organisation.

KPDN chair Luke Rehmat said the Kalash are being subjected to “institutional conversion”.

“The Kalash people are being discouraged in society and told to get rid of their religion in a systematic way,” he said.

Until this year, Kalash was not recognised as a religion under the National Database and Registration Authority, and Rehmat says that in schools Kalash are given no alternative to Islamic studies.

“In other parts of Pakistan non-Muslims have ethics as a subject in lieu of Islamic studies, but here the students have no choice.”

Teachers in Kalash tell the students that Islam is a “superior religion”, he said, branding it “brainwashing”.

“Ultimately when they grow up, they don’t have knowledge of their own Kalash culture and traditions, religions. And they are turning to other sides.”

Up to 100 Kalash have converted to Islam in the past few years, according to Rehmat, sometimes causing a strange family dynamic.

Diana Bibi, who lives in Brun, has an elder sister who converted to Islam and married in Peshawar. Now her sibling wears a niqab even when visiting her parents in Kalash, and refuses to attend the family’s religious ceremonies.

In this photograph taken on October 31, 2015, Kalash girl Diana poses for a photograph at her house in the Brun village in Bumburate valley. PHOTO: AFP

Broken houses, not broken dreams

“It’s a big problem.” Diana said.

Asked if she might also convert, Diana giggles: “Yes! I will go to heaven and have 70 virgins.”

Osama Ahmad Warraich, Chitral deputy commissioner, denies any Kalash are being forced to become Muslim.

“They are basically poor people belonging to a low income group and people from other parts of the country give them money to convert,” he tells AFP — in particular, “rich Muslims who want to marry Kalash girls”.

He also says the government is carrying out a number of local projects to help preserve Kalash culture, including donating land for a graveyard and recognising their economic potential.

“We are trying to revive tourism in the region by preserving the Kalash culture as it’s the best tourist attraction in the country,” he says.

Zafar, a Kalash who goes by only one name, said not all Muslims in the valleys blame his tribe for the disasters.

“The trend of discouraging Kalash people from practising their faith is very old and I would not blame all Muslims for it, neither do all the Muslims here see the Kalash as being behind all the doom and destruction,” he said.

Chitral battered but not beaten by earthquake

However villager Nazai Gai said locals will not stop blaming his fellow Kalash for the disasters.

“Three months back Allah saw the Kalash practising their faith and there was a flood, then he saw them again and there was an earthquake. In a month he will see them again and there will be a blizzard in the valley,” he said with a sardonic grin.

Later adding quizzically: “Why would Allah make Muslims suffer for the sins of the Kalash?”

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Reader Comments (42)

  • ajeet
    Nov 10, 2015 - 1:17PM

    But Muslims will praise canada and India for defeating the right wing.Recommend

  • Nov 10, 2015 - 1:40PM

    How come there are no earthquakes in Israel? That means they are good people and following the right path, right? Pathetic logic.Recommend

  • Uzair
    Nov 10, 2015 - 2:06PM

    The wages of ignorance, when even educated people follow charlatans like Junaid Jamshed and instead of understanding the science of earthquakes so we can withstand them better, keep blaming innocents like the Kalash people.

    Pathetic!Recommend

  • Waseem Sarwar
    Nov 10, 2015 - 4:30PM

    This is typical Pakistani religious mindset. How about helping those poor people in such sad times instead of spending whole effort on trying to prove them immoral and cause of such calamities. I am sure there are other areas in world including Muslim ones, where they have more “moral and religious” issues but they aren’t on areas with fault plates hence they aren’t hit by such frequent EQs. Recommend

  • Karachiite
    Nov 10, 2015 - 4:59PM

    how shameful, our people will believe anything fed to them by mullahs…..
    only way to get rid of this paranoia is through enlightenment via education…. Recommend

  • ABC
    Nov 10, 2015 - 5:09PM

    @ajeet

    As usual your comment doesnt make any sense, try to understand the news. Read, read, read again and one day you will succeed Recommend

  • Nov 10, 2015 - 5:12PM

    @Nadeem:
    Though i have nothing to say about the topic…The israelites are cursed in their own scripture because of their own idiotic behaviour – its in their own scripture.
    The deaf dumb blind don’t see it. Neither did their forefathers.
    That also, is in their own scripture (Tanakh).

    Educate yourself rather than waste time commenting.Recommend

  • Faroq Faizi
    Nov 10, 2015 - 5:24PM

    This is highly offensive article published in Newsweek too. Chitral is the most peaceful district in Chitral and a true example of co-existence and inter faith harmony. No one in Chitral beleives so and this is the first time I have heard such a silly thing. During Floods and now the earthquake the whole chitral community including Muslims and Kalash have joined hands and worked together in all areas. No one blames any community. Yeah, some mullahs blame our Sins for that but that is not against any community. This seems to be an agenda driven piece to damage the reputation of the cultured and educated people of Chitral.Recommend

  • Fawad
    Nov 10, 2015 - 5:46PM

    If one believes that life is given by God, everything happens by God’s will, nothing can happen without his approval……. Then why just earthquake. I also believe earthquake is natural phenomena, but people who believe will believe.Recommend

  • Acorn Guts
    Nov 10, 2015 - 5:50PM

    On a serious note, religious intolerance is a serious issue in Pakistan, I’m myself a victim of hate crime because of my faith and because my Islamic beliefs don’t bode well with mainstream orthodox superstitions which are commonly sold under the garb of ‘Islam’ thanks to Zia.

    It’s a terrible shame because Kalash culture is truly a gem to appreciate!Recommend

  • Amir
    Nov 10, 2015 - 6:55PM

    Another example of our collective stupidity !! Where is our government ? Busy playing dirty politics and looting the country !!Recommend

  • Acorn Guts
    Nov 10, 2015 - 7:12PM

    @ajeet:
    Worse if they don’t right? So what’s your complaint?Recommend

  • Talha
    Nov 10, 2015 - 7:20PM

    How about the wrath of Allah (SWT) on those people who are disguised as Muslims but are the most hypocritical people in the world. Before blaming any religion or its people we Muslims must learn to look inside ourselves and when that happens with sincerity, believe me there will be no time to blame anyone else except ourselves. Sad state of affairs. Recommend

  • SHAH
    Nov 10, 2015 - 8:28PM

    @Nadeem:
    This is the illiterate muslims of Pakistan who listen in mosques and react, rather than read, analyse and learn; Recommend

  • Nov 10, 2015 - 8:29PM

    What about earthquakes in Pakistan and Afghanistan? And the floods every year in Pakistan?Recommend

  • ziyad
    Nov 10, 2015 - 9:08PM

    I don’t think, it happened somehow, if someone is blaming their tradition for disaster, they may have the idea of what is happening in the entire country. Chitralis are the most peacefull peoples in Pakistan. They believe in co-existance and it their beauty. Forced change of religion is forbiden in Islam too. It not about culture, it about their freedom of letting them live in their own way. Recommend

  • Nov 10, 2015 - 9:18PM

    Stop disrespecting people’s beliefs! Their religious perspective is a matter between them and God!! And come up with more intellectual topics rather than such discriminating ones!! may bi i am worngRecommend

  • Nov 10, 2015 - 9:18PM

    Stop disrespecting people’s beliefs! Their religious perspective is a matter between them and God!! And come up with more intellectual topics rather than such discriminating ones!!may bi a am wrong..Recommend

  • Romm
    Nov 10, 2015 - 9:46PM

    @ajeet:
    “””””But Muslims will praise canada and India for defeating the right wing”””
    We Pakistanis feel ashamed and feel agitated when there is any incident of Victimising Minorities specially Kalash community who are loving, Innocent and docile and above all represent our cultural diveristy.
    However Indians including their Intelligencia are full of venom against Muslims due to thousands of years old animosities.
    Indian must be knowing that worst massacre in the history of sub continent was done by Hindus under the leadership of Pushyamitra Shunga against Buddhists who converted to Buddhism when Ashoka converted to Buddhism.
    Buddhists were given three options… convert back to Hinduism and live like Maleechs… or get ready to be roasted in hot oil. Buddhists despite being in Majority did not retaliate due to Buddha’s teachings and most of them were roasted in Hot containers full of boiling oil and those who could not stand that…. fled To south… that’s why many south Indian states and Srilanka have large number of Buddhists living there.
    However when comes Islamic history, Indian scholars instead of discussing it academically start oozing venom against Muslims which is unfortunate. Result is, in Today’s India, poor Muslims are being lynched over the suspicion of consumimg beef. Recommend

  • kaalu
    Nov 10, 2015 - 9:50PM

    Immoral ways of these innocent Kalash people?LoL. Go see whats happening on KPK streets. None of the little boys are safe playing outside. Recommend

  • Xik
    Nov 10, 2015 - 9:55PM

    Illogical to say that Kalash is behind such disasters. There is a need of an intellectual view to this region, they have a history, a culture, with no resemblance elsewhere. Sad to say that instead of studying such thing of our country we are criticizing it. And to change the perception of people around, it is necessary to make them respect and accept each other. Hope this country will rise to humanity.Recommend

  • Skywalker
    Nov 10, 2015 - 10:32PM

    @Acorn Guts:
    So after partition, we left one mess and created another.Recommend

  • Newcomer
    Nov 10, 2015 - 10:54PM

    So is it possible that God is upset because the supposed “Conservative” muslims are targeting the Kalash? This must be why God is upset, because the Kalash have been around for a very long time – why has God suddenly decided to punish everyone for it. The fundamentalist view seems to coincide much more with the serious earthquakes – so by my logic God, Allah, is upset with the people who are picking on the KalashRecommend

  • Skywalker
    Nov 10, 2015 - 11:02PM

    @Talha:
    There is no fault with Islam. It is perfect, the world is imperfect, since it does not understand the real Islam and Muslims.Recommend

  • Muslim First
    Nov 10, 2015 - 11:22PM

    Kalash has any issue they can always move to India otherwise they should convert.Recommend

  • Mahesh
    Nov 10, 2015 - 11:49PM

    More Fatal Earthquakes to Come, Geologists Warn

    [start quote]
    series of life-threatening “extreme geological events” – earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis – is predicted by a group of eminent geologists and geophysicists including University College London’s Bill McGuire, professor emeritus of Geophysical and Climate Hazards.
    [end quote]

    Recommend

  • Ptolemy
    Nov 11, 2015 - 1:32AM

    @ajeet:
    how about defeat of right wing Hindu party in Bihar?Recommend

  • Muslim Last
    Nov 11, 2015 - 4:36AM

    @Muslim First:

    By that logic, Muslims should move out of Palestine, Kashmir etc or convert to Hinduism or Judaism.Recommend

  • Asok
    Nov 11, 2015 - 5:59AM

    Can’t any minority be left alone?Recommend

  • Afsar
    Nov 11, 2015 - 7:04AM

    How come there are no earthquakes in Israel? That means they are good people and following the right path, right? Pathetic logic.

    @Nadeem:
    Why would earthquake hit Israel? How do you define a good people and who knows what’s the right path? Even Pathetic!Recommend

  • Musty
    Nov 11, 2015 - 7:08AM

    @Muslim First
    The real wrath of Allah upon us is not the earthquake but people having similar mindset as yours.Recommend

  • Aftab
    Nov 11, 2015 - 7:18AM

    @Nadeem:
    I love the way you interpret. Kudos.Recommend

  • brar
    Nov 11, 2015 - 7:26AM

    The teacher says Islam is the superior religion, I can not expect such statement from any teacher in India but in Pakistan Islam is state religion so it is right. In our text books we teach all religion but never say that such and such religion is superior and the present day situation of Pakistan is due to this thinking that Islam is the superior religion and Muslims are superior than other races. Recommend

  • Nimrah
    Nov 11, 2015 - 8:51AM

    @muslim first. Why should they go to India? They’re pakistani. They don’t need to convert either because non Muslims are allowed to practice their religion as far as they don’t prove to be a hindrance for Muslims to follow theirs. They should only convert if they believe in Islam and are impressed by the Muslims’ behavior. Clearly, with our intolerance, we are falling to do that.Recommend

  • Despicable
    Nov 11, 2015 - 8:56AM

    Tribune is the only paper that gives this “news”. This newspaper originates from the occupied land of Americans by white trash. They killed more native Americans than did Hitler in world war two. They are still doing it. They should actually wait for His wrath. This is a concocted news with malicious intentions.Recommend

  • Nov 11, 2015 - 6:25PM

    Dear Express Tribune
    I read your article; ‘Earthquake was Allah’s wrath for Kalash community’s immoral ways’, in utter disgust.

    While I can follow your wish to inform the readers about certain peoples misinformation and misconception against Kalash people and their life style, it is extremely irresponsible of you to label it as the views of many Muslims. Such reporting would only serve to make the issue even bigger and give religious bigots an opportunity to destabilize the delicate situation in the region.

    Earthquakes have nothing to do with religion, life style or culture. If it was due to Kalash peoples “immoral” life style, what was the reason of 2005 devastation in Kashmir or other earth quacks all over the world.

    Recommend

  • prabhjyot singh madan
    Nov 11, 2015 - 8:03PM

    Shame on all of you blaming a minority. Shame on you for humiliating them. You got Pakistan for being a minority and you are killing them chitralis. So brutal. Rab rakhaRecommend

  • Lohana
    Nov 11, 2015 - 10:54PM

    And then Pak media lectures India & Modi govt about intolerance. After wiping out Hindu & SIkh culture/legacy from Indus valley region, you have the audacity to lecture us.Recommend

  • Saad
    Nov 12, 2015 - 9:10AM

    She must be pretty strong to shake up the ground under Pakistan. Don’t know when we will emerge from the dark ages.Recommend

  • Ahmad
    Nov 12, 2015 - 4:15PM

    @Amir:
    Collective Stupidity is when you did not read the Whole Blog Carefully. It Says where th GOvt is you worthless reprobateRecommend

  • ajeet
    Nov 13, 2015 - 3:48AM

    @Ptolemy:
    What about Modi winning the federal election in the same Bihar? I know democracy is difficult for Zia’s Pakistan to understand.Recommend

  • NativeOfChitral
    Feb 3, 2016 - 12:32AM

    This is ridiculous, who wrote this ? No one is blaming Kalasch. Don’t count one or two foolish people. Kalasch people are our brethern. And you mention alchohol ? Do you know, according to the world statistics about alcohol consumption, Pakistan is rated as one of the top alcohol consuming nations ! If you are mixing Kalash with Pakistan’s KPK, probably in your dreams, but that statistics is only of Pakistan not of CGB ! Your leaders are consuming more Alchohols than any foreign bars ! Please don’t write such non sense blogs or articles ! Recommend

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