NO INTER-FAITH HARMONY, UPSURGE IN RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM

PAKISTAN RACING TO BECOME A THEOCRATIC STATE?

The emergence of religious extremism is neither new nor alien to Pakistan which has resulted in a  volatile extremist campaign in the country. There is no denying that the upsurge of religious extremism is the direct consequence of past policies of Islamisation and marginalization of a democratic political process and has become the worst challenge to governance, national unity, and democracy in Pakistan. Religious extremism in Pakistan is thriving in an atmosphere of intolerance and uncertainty for which policies and preferences of the military and civil regimes are largely to blame.

The co-option and patronage of religious activism by the military as well as governments have brought Pakistan to a point where the menace of religious extremism threatens to erode the foundations of the state and society. It is pertinent to point out that administrative and legal actions against militant outfits have failed to dismantle a well-entrenched and widely spread terror infrastructure, even in a civil democratic regime.

Religious, social and political extremism in Pakistan affecting the social system

Religious discrimination and persecution have grown to become serious problems in Pakistan. Christians, Hindus and Ahmadi Muslims are routinely discriminated against.  The religious, social and political extremism in Pakistan is not only posing a serious threat to Pakistans internal security and stability but also affecting the social system. In Pakistan, extremism is defined in a number of ways as the extremist groups have their own identities, values, perceptions.

 
A mob enraged over alleged blasphemy set 125 houses on fire belonging to Christians in Badami Bagh

Killing of thousands of Hazara’s in Baluchistanattack on the inhabitants of a Christian colony in the Badami Bagh area of Lahore, All Saints Church incident targeting 600 Christian worshippersAsia Bibi case etc. are all tragic events in the history of Pakistan.

  

Religious vigilantism spikes, minorities suffering at the hands of religious fanatics

Pakistan’s Christians and other religious minorities complain of legal and social discrimination in their country. Incidents of religious vigilantism have spiked with fanatic mobs trying to enforce their own version of Shariah. The latest controversial blasphemy-related arrests and vigilante killings have further increased the sense of insecurity among the minority community.

A number of people have been lynched on unproven accusations of blasphemy. Islamic extremists, and in some cases common Muslims, have set Christians’ houses on fire or lynched alleged blasphemers even before the intervention of authorities. Observers say the existence of various Islamic laws has emboldened radicals to take matters into their own hands and dole out “justice” to what they deem un-Islamic. Unfortunately, the worshiping places of Pakistani minorities are also being increasingly targeted – not only by Islamic extremists but also by common Pakistanis.

Tragedy strikes routinely in Pakistan

Pakistan’s liberal activists blame state as well as the judiciary for emboldening religious fanatics. Religious clerics are fanning hatred. Government critics and secular writers in Pakistan fear religious extremists and the government alike when it comes to blasphemy allegations, which are enough to put them in prison or get vigilante mobs to lynch them.

One of Pakistan’s most high profile blasphemy cases is that of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman convicted of blasphemy, who has been languishing in prison for more than five years. The 49-year-old mother of five was arrested in June 2009 after her neighbors complained that she had made derogatory remarks about Islam’s prophet, Muhammad. A year later, Bibi was sentenced to death under the Islamic Republic’s controversial blasphemy law despite strong opposition from the national and international human rights groups.

A few months after Bibi’s conviction, former governor of the Punjab province, Salman Taseer, was murdered by his bodyguard, Mumtaz Qadri. Qadri said he killed Taseer for speaking out against the blasphemy laws and in support of Bibi. In March 2011, Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s former minister for minority affairs, was assassinated by a religious fanatic for the same reason.

 
 Young girl suffering from down syndrome was also not spared by religious fanatics
 
 
 
Sunil accompanied by religious clerics during Ramazan show. — YouTube video grab

In 2012,  a young girl named Rimsha Masih with Down syndrome was taken into police custody with unproven charges of burning pages upon which verses of the Koran were inscribed. The case caused an uproar and sparked riots and violence against Christians in the region. In 2013, she and her family had to relocate to Canada fearing death.

Similarly, in 2014, a Christian couple was beaten to death for allegedly desecrating a copy of the Koran. Their bodies were subsequently burned in a brick kiln.

Recently, Nadeem James, a 35-year-old Christian, a tailor by profession, was accused by a friend of sharing “blasphemous messages” on WhatsApp’s text messaging service and murdered.

 

In another incident, a 20-year-old Hindu boy, named Sunil, was recently shown being officially converted to Islam on a live TV show aired by the ARY Digital, a private TV channel.

Such incidents highlight the plight and vulnerability of Pakistani Christians and minority groups in Pakistan at the hands of religious extremists.

State responsible for political extremism which emboldens religious fanatics

The present law in Pakistan is an open invitation to religious zealots or simply opportunists to use Islam to attack anyone for the most primitive of reasons. Not surprisingly, most of the cases are politically motivated or based on revenge, hatred or abuse.  It comes as no surprise to learn that most of the accused are the weakest members of society members of religious minorities like Hazaras, Ahmadiyya-Muslims,Christians or Hindus.

Trust deficit between people and state leading to radical behavior

Political extremism leads people of Pakistan towards controversial ways to adopt because there is a trust deficit between the people and the politicians. Pakistani public lack trust in politicians because governments have failed to address even the basic issues of common citizens and all these factors are encouraging people to adopt a radical behavior.

Another inherent flaw, driving young Pakistanis to embrace religious extremism is biased education which poisons minds. The madrassas, curriculum, textbooks, teachers and exams all act to create extremist mentality. So a mindset is created wherein young people imagine that they, and their religion, are beset by enemies. The West is excoriated and referred to as Satan. There’s no introspection, no explanation on whats going wrong. Ask a student why East Pakistan broke off to become Bangladesh and you’ll get the pat answer: it was a Hindu conspiracy. They won’t know of the genocide West Pakistan carried out there in 1971.

There is a pressing need of empowering the liberal, democratic voices and civil society organizations in Pakistan before Pakistan turns into a theocratic state with no point of return.

 

22 May 18/Tuesday.                                                                                                               Written by afsana159630@gmail.com