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Religious intolerance of Pakistan is a global threat
On May 28, with memories of the despicable attempt of a Pakistani-American Muslim to kill scores of New Yorkers still fresh in our minds, Pakistani Muslim terrorists brutally killed 86 innocent people while they offered Friday prayers. The twin mosque attack was in Lahore, Pakistan. The two events took place on two opposite corners of the globe but shared a striking similarity.
On May 28, with memories of the despicable attempt of a Pakistani-American Muslim to kill scores of New Yorkers still fresh in our minds, Pakistani Muslim terrorists brutally killed 86 innocent people while they offered Friday prayers. The twin mosque attack was in Lahore, Pakistan.
The two events took place on two opposite corners of the globe but shared a striking similarity. In both events, the victims were non-Muslims, according to Pakistani law, and the terrorists belonged to the same Pakistani extremist organization, the Tehrik Taliban Pakistan.
Over the past few years, it has seemed that almost every terrorist act anywhere on the globe somehow has involved Pakistan. Why? Finding a clear answer may be a complex exercise, but the unyielding and state-sanctioned religious intolerance in Pakistan is the major contributing factor for this phenomenon.
Soon after its founding, Pakistan succumbed to the demands of religious extremists who started a concerted campaign to establish a puritanical fundamentalist state. The successive governments allowed this religious bigotry to flourish and distract the people from real issues of governance. Intolerance gradually crept into the fabric of Pakistani society. In 1974, the Pakistani government committed an unprecedented act of religious intolerance when it constitutionally defined who is a Muslim. In 1984, Ordinance XX and the subsequent anti-blasphemy laws institutionalized the persecution of minorities and religious dissidents with severe punishment and even death for those non-Muslims “impersonating” Muslims.
The unfounded but patronized religious intolerance of the Pakistani government has encouraged extremist clerics to define their own obscurantist version of Islam. Their version allows no tolerance for divergent views; killing any non-Muslim or heretic is their favorite slogan. Christians, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists are their obvious targets, but any Muslims who do not see the world through their eyes are not spared. Many extremist clerics spread this philosophy of hate and intolerance through their madrassas, or religious schools, by brainwashing innocent children and frustrated youth. The graduates of these madrassas are trained to do nothing but kill all who fall outside the realm of their narrow spectrum of life.
This kind of religious intolerance is bound to outgrow the geographical boundaries of Pakistan and few such waves already have occurred with the outpour exponentially increasing. Whether it be the World Trade Center bombing in New York, the shoe bomber’s foiled attempt to blow a U.S.-bound plane, the 7/7 subway attacks in London, the massive hotel and synagogue killings in Mumbai or the recent botched Times Square bombing attempt, each incident has its roots submerged in the philosophy of hatred and the religious intolerance of Pakistan.
If not reverted, this monster can perpetrate unparalleled damage to humanity and civilized culture throughout the world.
To protect against future acts of terrorism, America and the world must act now to pressure the government of Pakistan to uproot the seed of religious intolerance by repealing the anti-blasphemy laws and the current constitutional definition of Islam. Moreover, all madrassas which impart religious intolerance and hatred must be abolished. These madrassas could be nationalized by replacing hate-oriented elements of the intolerant religious education with traditional secular curriculum. This also will help provide jobs to many unemployed, educated, Pakistani youths who otherwise become vulnerable to the ploy of extremist clerics.
The suggested approach is not easy but necessary. Today, if this or a similarly effective approach is not deployed, then tomorrow, each radical madrassa in Pakistan will emerge as a fertile recruiting place for the militant extremists and terrorists, like al-Qaeda. I hope the world and America deal with this Pakistani religious intolerance before it is too late.
Imran Hayee of Duluth is an associate professor and the director of graduate studies in the electrical and computer engineering department at the University of Minnesota Duluth. He is UMD’s only Pakistani-American Muslim faculty member. He flew to Pakistan the day of the May 28 twin mosque terrorist attacks because his brother-in-law was among the 86 victims. He wrote this for the News Tribune upon his recent return.