Religious fundamentalism main root of violence in Pakistan
In a little more than a month there have been two major terrorist attacks perpetrated by Muslims against other Muslims at mosques in Lahore, Pakistan.
This past Thursday, two suicide bombers blew themselves up killing at least 42 people and injuring a minimum of 180 people at the Data Darbar shrine, where a famous Sufisaint is buried.
On May 28, fundamentalist Muslims massacred more than 90 Ahmadiyya Muslims at their two mosques in Lahore and injured hundreds more.
When these events occur – and their have been many more in this Punjab region of Pakistan – the world wonders: why do Muslims kill other Muslims?
Not only did some Muslim fundamentalists armed with suicide vests, guns and grenades kill and injure dozens of worshippers, but they also took a large number of Ahmadis hostage.
This appalling, murderous act is not unusual in the history of Pakistan. In 1953, Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan, a fundamentalist religious and political party in Pakistan, created a murderous upheaval against Ahmadis in the same city of Lahore. Jamaat’s hooligans killed approximately 2,000 innocent Ahmadis. Now, the Taliban and al-Qaeda are suspected in this sectarian violence.
During my schooling, I minored in Islamic studies, and have published a book on Sociology of Islam. I have studied Islam further and have published my research in two other of my books as well as columns in newspapers and I have discussed those results in three of my 21 documentaries over the years.
Many Muslim fundamentalists are semi-literate, and some of them totally illiterate mullahs. The Holy Book of Qur’an makes it very clear that those Muslims who kill or commit suicide will be condemned to hell. Yet, some of these ill-informed Muslim extremists, such as suicide bombers, commit both murder and suicide. And they believe they are acclaimed to go to heaven in their life here after.
Pakistani Islamists always have had issues with the Muslim sect of Ahmadis. Along with the Islamic fundamentalists, some prominent secular politicians have also played the card of religion in Pakistan. The former prime minister of Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, declared Ahmadis as non-Muslims in the early 1970s.
Bhutto’s government introduced a column for religion on the national identity cards as well as passports in singling out the Muslim sect of Ahmadis along with the rest of non-Muslims in Pakistan. This was designed basically to create a system of religious apartheid in Pakistan. That act smacked the basic Islamic principle of tolerance.
In Pakistan, Ahmadis are often barred from praying in their mosques. To preach their faith is considered to be a crime under Article 295 of the Penal Code of Pakistan. The federal sharia Court of Pakistan has ruled that preventing Ahmadis from preaching their faith is no violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution of Pakistan. This is akin to the system of apartheid which was once practised in South Africa.
Although Bhutto was overwhelmingly supported politically by more than two million Ahmadis in Pakistan, he declared Ahmadis as non-Muslims. Bhutto, a secular political leader, betrayed Ahmadis big time. However, the vile fundamentalist and ruthless military dictator Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq expanded the system of apartheid for Ahmadis in Pakistan.
What makes Bhutto, Zia and many mullahs qualified to decide who are or aren’t Muslims? It is supposed to be God’s business to judge His creatures.
In my research for my forthcoming book, Addiction to Religion, I note, among other things, that Islam means peace and Muslims are supposed to adhere to peace, but that does not seem to be the case for decades now.
Islam is a religion but Islamism is an addiction to religion that leads to terrorism. Fundamentalism is a gateway to addiction to religion which blinds people to become suicide bombers who commit two sins in Islam that will take them to hell.
Unfortunately, Pakistan is ruled by five pillars of corrupt establishment. They are: unpatriotic feudal landlords turned politicians (they, along with the Jamaat-e-Islami, were opposed to the creation of Pakistan), cruel military dictators (who have ruled Pakistan ruthlessly for more than half of it’s history), corrupt politicians, depraved bureaucrats, and fundamentalist mullahs.
This last pillar is perhaps the most key. Until the idea of freedom of religion becomes accepted in Pakistan, Muslims will keep on killing each other. That’s because they believe that there is only one way to practice Islam – their way. They are taught no tolerance to other faiths or even to those who share their faith but practise it differently. That’s why Shiites kill Sunnis, Sunnis kill Shiites, both kill Ahmadis and these groups – with the backing of the government and Pakistani law – all persecute and attack Christians and Hindus.
Until and unless something revolutionary happens, Pakistan will continue facing drastic, murderous problems.
Mahfooz Kanwar is Professor Emeritus at Mount Royal University