I clearly remember how in the aftermath of the 7/7 bombings in London by Islamofascists (brainwashed by an extremist Deobandi/Wahhabi version of Islam), Londoners refused to give up their lifestyle, the majority of London schools remained open, public services remained available and the message from most London boroughs was business as usual.
One may differ with the then Prime Minister Tony Blair on many accounts but I have high appreciation for his clearly articulated message to the people of Britain on 7/7:
First, he did not generalize the attackers:
“We know that these people act in the name of Islam but we also know that the vast and overwhelming majority of Muslims here and abroad are decent and law-abiding people who abhor those who do this every bit as much as we do.”
Second, he urged Londoners to carry on with their everyday life:
“…I think we all know what they are trying to do. They are trying to use the slaughter of innocent people to cow us, to frighten us out of doing the things that we want to do, trying to stop us from going about our business as normal, as we are entitled to do and they should not and they must not succeed. When they try to intimidate us, we will not be intimidated. When they seek to change our country or our way of life by these methods, we will not be changed.”
This brings me to the core point of this post.
For the last thirty years, since the inauspicious days of military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq who sowed the seeds of religious sectarianism in Pakistan by patronizing a narrow Wahhabi-Deobandi version of Islam while persecuting the minority sects, Pakistani Shias have remained subject to continuous persecution, harassment, hate speech and violence by various jihadi and sectarian proxies of the State, i.e., the Sipah-e-Sahaba, Taliban, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Hizbullah, Lashkar-e-Taiba etc.
Thousands of Shias have been killed in the last thirty years in all parts of Pakistan most notably in Parachinar, Quetta, Jhang, Dera Ismail Khan, Multan, Karachi, Lahore, Kohat, Hangu, Gilgit-Baltistan etc.
Their only crime? They practice a faith (belief in Imams instead of Caliphs) which is different from the majority Sunni belief.
Yet, while the majority of moderate Sunnis and Shias are tolerant of each other’s ideological differences, the extremist Deobandi and Wahhabi mercenaries of the GHQ consider it their strategic as well as ideological duty to harass, attack and kill Shia Muslims. They consider Shias as heretics, infidel (kafir) and Jewish agents (Sabaai).
Over the last many decades, Shia Muslims in Pakistan have been massacred in their mosques, imambarghas, funerals, marriages, political meetings and jirgahs. They have not been spared in their offices, schools and colleges, transports, not even inside their houses.
Yet, one must salute Pakistani Shias for their resolve, their firm commitment to their lifestyle and traditions, their refusal to give in to all forms of violence and harassment by the extremist Deobandis and Wahhabis who are in turn mentored, supported and protected by a ruthless State.
In Muharram each year, every Shia knows that the majlis they are going to attend, or the juloos they are participating on Ashura, may be subject to a violent attack by a suicide bomber.
Every year, extremist Deobandi and Wahhabi mullahs issue fatwas (religious decrees) against the Shia rituals of Ashura.
Every year, terrorists of the Taliban and Sipah-e-Sahaba issue ultimatum that Shia gatherings during Ashura will be attacked.
Yet the Shias of Pakistan have consistently refused to give in. They have refused to cave in to the demands and tactics of extremist Deobandis and Wahhabis.
This point was neatly highlighted by Batool Zehra:
…no one is really in doubt about how vulnerable the Ashura procession is this year. In their majalis, Shia clerics have been philosophic about the possibility of suicide bombing, acknowledging that while safeguards have been taken, the threat by its very nature cannot be eliminated by better security.
Come Ashura and each mourner or ‘azadar’ on the long stretch of M A Jinnah Road (in Karachi) is more than a mourner — he is a protester and also a fighter. When the azadar walk out of their homes and join the procession, it is with the understanding that, had they been present at the battle of Karbala, they would have formed part of Imam Hussain’s (RA) army. To a follower, there are no anachronisms.
The Ashura procession is a concrete recreation to the idea that evil, even if it were to hide behind piety, behind religious facades, must be identified and exposed. And if the procession today is Imam Hussain’s (RA) lashkar, then in many ways, the Taliban today in their excesses, rigidity and barbaric cruelty still broadly embody the characteristics — intolerance, cruelty and a penchant for barbarism — of the Imam’s enemies.
Those who suggest that the processions should not take place, are missing the essential point. The Taliban attack not just lives, but a way of life, and it is the latter which must be protected, and which needs to survive. As hundreds of empty schools in Fata and Balochistan testify, it is all too easy to relinquish a way of life in an ultimately empty bid to protect lives. While the fear of bombing is palpable, there aren’t many today who are debating whether or not to go to the procession this year.
Let me once again recall Blair’s words to highlight what Pakistani Shias have been experiencing and courageously demonstrating in the last many years:
“I think we all know what they are trying to do. They are trying to use the slaughter of innocent people to cow us, to frighten us out of doing the things that we want to do, trying to stop us from going about our business as normal, as we are entitled to do and they should not and they must not succeed. When they try to intimidate us, we will not be intimidated. When they seek to change our country or our way of life by these methods, we will not be changed.”
Through this post on the eve of Ahsura 1432 AH, I wish to pay my tribute to Pakistani Shias, those who sacrificed their lives in the Pakistani nation’s war against extremist Deobandi / Wahhabi ideology and those who still continue to challenge Yazid and its progeny in Pakistan.
Shia mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, all of them know they or their dear and near ones might be killed by extremist Deobandis, yet they have demonstrated to the Pakistani nation and the entire world the true way to deal with terrorism, i.e., through perseverance, sacrifice and a firm resolve to carry on with the business as usual.
My salute to Pakistani Shias. My salute to all those individuals, groups and communities in Pakistan including Sunnis and Shias, Christians and Ahmadis, Hindus and Sikhs, who are facing the brunt of extremist Deobandi (and to a lesser extent Wahhabi) violence but they have refused to surrender to the terrorists’ aims and demands.
To Pakistani Shias and all those who stand by individuals’ and communities’ right to practice a faith of their own choice, let me dedicate the following Noha by legendary Sachay Bhai of Karachi:
Ooncha rahay apna alam…