Shia-Sunni reconciliation – The Express Tribune
Muharram is a time for reflection on many accounts. It is the start of the Islamic new year and also a time of remembrance and renewal. Unlike most other faith traditions, the start of the new year for Muslims is sombre and even melancholic in tone. The martyrdom of Imam Husain was a tragedy by any standard but let us also reflect on how this historic event has been distorted at the behest of culture to take on new heights of absurdity and masochism. It is high time Shia scholars address the malaise that has struck Muharram processions and the educated elite should not remain silent just because Shias have sadly been a persecuted minority in Pakistan.
Drunken horses being paraded through streets, with mobs of men, high on testosterone (and God knows what else), bleeding themselves to unconsciousness, is an utterly embarrassing spectacle. I dare say the Holy Prophet (pbuh) would not have wanted his sacrifice to be remembered with such utter lunacy. The same expression of sorrow can be shown in more civilised terms through prayer and reflection. Even if there is to be a procession, it can be undertaken with a certain degree of composure and respect for the spirit of the occasion. Indeed, in Iran, the headquarters of Shia tradition, using knives or chains (tatbir or qama zani) for maatam is strictly regulated. The origins of this practice in its current form can be traced to the Safavid period in the 16th century and is thus a relatively recent cultural corrosion.
Of particular note was the ritualistic invective (tabarra) that evolved during this period, which was hurled on those companions of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) who Shias consider to be ‘enemies’ of inherited succession, such as Hazrat Umar (RA) and Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA). Much of the sectarian violence between Shias and Sunnis in Pakistan can be traced back to the issue of whether or not these companions are to be respected or abused. It is high time that both Shias and Sunnis agree on mutual respect. Even if there is disagreement over history, we can move beyond such provocative displays of disfavour for each other.
Thankfully, there have been some mainstream ulema who have tried to build bridges between Shias and Sunnis within a theological and historical context. For example, Maulana Ishaq’s sermons on Shia-Sunni unity (given in Urdu), which have hundreds of thousands of hits on YouTube, are heartening. They discourage Shias from hurling abuse but also admonish Sunnis from being emotional about respect and adoration for the sahaba, which translates into the kind of madness we saw exhibited in the Kabul suicide blasts this past week. At the same time, such unity should not come at the cost of framing the issue in terms of an adversarial relationship with non-Muslims (which is what has also happened in some of the recent displays of ostensible amity among the various madrassa ulema).
At the end of the day, what we need is a major pan-Islamic reconciliation process between sects, particularly Shias and Sunnis. Hate speech laws must also be clearly enforced to prevent incendiary information from spreading. Whether it is the acerbic strife between the Hazara and the Pakhtuns or the insanity of Shia-Sunni violence in Iraq, there needs to be a pact for peace from the grass roots. Peace education is also desperately needed in Islamic schools — clear lessons on how to deal with dissent without getting violent. The work of Palestinian scholar Dr Mohammed Abu Nimr, on non-violent approaches to dissent within Islamic societies, may also be particularly helpful in improving ways in which Muslims improve their relations with those of other faiths.
Let us hope that the tragic events in Kabul this past week will galvanise Pakistanis to work just as hard in resolving Shia-Sunni differences, rather than being complacent about a ‘peaceful’ Muharram on this side of the border.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 9th, 2011.
Translation of Saleem Ali’s article (in Roman Urdu) – by Marya Mushtaq
Muharram ka maheena kaye jihaat se tafakur aur nazar-e-saani ka waqt hai. Yeh na sirf nayey islami saal ka aaghaz, balkay yaad aur tajdeed ka bhi waqt hai. Deegar mazahib ke bar-aks, Musalmanon ke liye un ke naye saal ka aaghaz intehai maghmoom balkay malekholiayi andaaz mein hota hai. Imam Hussain ki shahadat kisi bhi meezaan par tola jaye tau aik alamiya rahayga, magar humein chahye ke ghor karain ke kaisay is tareekhi waqaiye ko tehzeeb/culture ke naam par maskh kar ke beyhoodgi aur takleef se lazzat hasil karnay ki mairaaj par pohonch diya gaya hai. Waqt aan pohoncha hai ke Shia Ulema is maraz ka sad-e-baab karain ke jis ne Muharram ke jalooson ko jakar rakha hai, aur taleem yafta tabqaat faqat is liye khamosh na rahain kyun ke Shia Pakistan mein badqismati se aik sitam-raseeda aqliat ke toar rahay hain.
Nashay mein dhuth ghoron ka galion mein parade karwana, aur apnay mardana faotay (testosterone) aur na janay kin kin cheezon ke nashay mein makhmoor mardon ka apna khoon baha kar beyhosh ho jana intehai sharamnaak manazir hain. Mein yaqeen se keh sakta hoon ke Rasool-e-Akram (saw) ne kabhi na chaha hoga ke unki qurbani ko is darja pagalpan se yaad kiya jaye. Gham ke izhaar ke liye ibadat aur taffakur jesay mohazzab zaraye bhi istemal kiye ja saktay hain. Agar jaloos ki zaroorat ko tasleem bhi kar liya jaye, tau us mein ehteraam aur hosh ke pehluon, aur moqay ki munasibat aur us k nafs ko mad-e-nazar rakhna chahye, jesa k Shion ke headquarter Iran mein zanjeer-zani aur qama-zani ke mamlay mein sakhti barti hai. Is rasm ki maujooda shakal ki jarrein Solhween (16th) Saddi k Safavi doar mein milti hain jis se sabit hota hai key yeh aik nisbatan jaded tehzeebi kharabi hai.
Isi doar ki sab se ehem aur talib-e-tawajjo pesh-raft tabbarra (rasman sab-o-shittam) ki thi jis mein Rasool-e-Akram (saw) ke un As-haab, jesay ke Hazrat Abu Bakar aur Hazrat Umar, ko nishana banaya jata tha jinko shia ‘khandani hakoomat’ ke dushman samajhtay hain. Shia aur Sunnion ke mabayn baishtar firqawarana pur tashaddud waqiyaat ki wajah yahi rahi hai ke aya yeh as-haab qabil e izzat hain ya laiq-e-sab-o-shitam. Waqt aan pohoncha hai ke Shia aur Sunni donon bahami ehteraam par raazi ho jayein. Agar tareekh par razamandi mumkin nahi bhi hai, tau kam az kam aisi ishte’aal angaizi se tau aagay barha ja sakta hai.
Shukar hai ke kuch aisay naamwar ulema maujood hain jinhon ne Shia aur Sunni ke beech ki nafraton ko mazhabi aur tareekhi pas manzir mein dekhtay huey kam karny ki koshish ki hai. Misaal ke toar par, Maulana Ishaaq ke Shia-Sunni Ittehad par urdu mein khutbaab jin ko YouTube par laakhon baar suna ja chukka hai, dil-khush-kun hain. Woh na sirf Shion ko Sahaba par sab-o-shitam karnay se mana’ kartay hain balkay Sunnion par bhi Sahaba ke baray mein jazbaati aur had se zyada lagao par tanqeed kartay hain jo us pagalpan ke had tak bhi pohonch saktay hain jesa ke hum ne haal he mein Kabul mein dhamakay ki soorat mein dekha. Is ke saath saath, is ittehaad ki bunyaad ghair-muslimon se dushmani ko nahi banana chahye jesa ke haal he mein hum ne mukhtalif madraris ke ulema ko dikhaway ki dosti ka izhar kartay huey dekha.
Akhir mein yeh kehna chahoonga ke humein aik bayn-ul-mazahibi Islami mafahmati amal ki zaroorat hai, jis mein ke tamam firqay, bil-khasoos Shia aur Sunni shamil hon. Aisay qawaneen ko bhi wazeh toar par nafiz kiya jana chahye jis se nafrat phailanay walay mawaad ko roka ja sakay. Chahay yeh Hazara aur Pakhtun ke beech ki talkhi ho, ya Iraq mein Shia aur Sunni ke beech pur-tashadud pagalpan, humein aman ke liye bunyaadi satah ke aik mu’ahiday ki zaroorat hai. Islami schoolon mein aman ki taleem ki bhi shaded zaroorat hai ta ke bachon ko wazeh tor par sikhaya ja sakay ke tashaddud ki taraf ruju kiye baghair ikhtilaaf se kaisay nimta ja sakta hai. Doosray mazahib ke afraad ke saath Musalmanon ke ta’luqat behtar banana ke liye Falastini aalim Dr. Muhammad Abu Nimr kay kaam se bhi istefada kiya ja sakta hai jo unhon ne isi mozoo par kiya hai ke Islami mu’ashiron mein adam-tashaddud ikhtiyar kartay huey ikhtilaf ka izhar kaisay kiya ja sakta hai.
Aayein umeed karain ke pichlay hafta Kabul mein honay walay jesay pur-alam waqiyaat Pakistanion ko ehsaas dilaye gi ke woh bajaye sarhad ke is taraf pur-aman Muharram par khush honay ke bajaye Shia-Sunni ikhtilaafat ko khatam karain.
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) Chief Malik Ishaq uses Saleem Ali’s arguments to incite hatred against Shia Muslims
Blood of Shia Muslims flows freely in Pakistan
By Amir Mir (Asia Times)
ISLAMABAD – The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ – Army of Jhangvi), a Pakistan-based, al-Qaeda-linked, anti-United States, Sunni Deobandi sectarian-turned-jihadi group, has let loose a reign of terror against the Shi’ite minority.
In its latest attack, the LeJ on Tuesday killed 13 Shi’ites traveling on a bus to work in Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan province. The attackers forced the Shi’ites off the bus, made them stand in a line and then opened fire.
This followed the July 14 release of Malik Mohammad Ishaq, one of the founding members of the LeJ, which has already claimed responsibility for the September 20 cold-blooded execution-style killing of 29 Shi’ite pilgrims of the Hazara community in the Mastung area of Balochistan. All those killed were on their way to Iran from Quetta. Armed with Kalashnikovs and rocket launchers, the attackers stopped the bus and forced the pilgrims to get off. While women and children were spared, they were made to witness the execution of their dear ones who were lined up and sprayed with bullets.
It was the deadliest attack on the Shi’ite community in Pakistan since September 4, 2010, when a suicide bomber killed 57 people at a procession in Quetta. The Mastung attack is not an isolated incident, but part of a systematic campaign of violence directed towards the Shi’ite community. Over 400 Shi’ite Hazaras have been killed in Balochistan by the LeJ since 1999.
The Hazaras are Persian-speakers who mainly live in central Afghanistan. They are overwhelmingly Shi’ites and comprise the third-largest ethnic group of Afghanistan. Over half a million Hazaras live in Pakistan, especially in the Quetta district.
They are the frequent target of attacks in Afghanistan as well as in Pakistan by anti-Shi’ite Sunni Deobandi sectarian-cum-militant groups like the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (Pakistan Taliban – TTP) and the LeJ, which suspect them of assisting and aiding US intelligence agencies in their hunt for the fugitive leaders of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, believed to be hiding in Pakistan.
One would recall the massacre of the Hazaras in Afghanistan after the Afghan Taliban led by Mullah Omar took power in Kabul in September 1996 and allowed the LeJ to operate in Pakistan from sanctuaries in Afghan territory.
While claiming responsibility for killing the 29 pilgrims in Mastung, a spokesman of the LeJ, said: “Our activists will continue to target the Shi’ite community.” The massacre was carried out amid the usual hate speech and wall-chalking, branding Shi’ites as apostate and worthy to be killed.
All Shi’ites are worthy of killing. We will rid Pakistan of unclean people. Pakistan means land of the pure and the Shi’ites have no right to live in this country. We have the edict and signatures of revered scholars, declaring Shi’ites infidels. Just as our fighters have waged a successful jihad against the Shi’ite Hazaras in Afghanistan, our mission in Pakistan is the abolition of this impure sect and its followers from every city, every village and every nook and corner of Pakistan.
Like in the past, our successful jihad against the Hazaras in Pakistan and, in particular, in Quetta, is ongoing and will continue in the future. We will make Pakistan the graveyard of the Shi’ite Hazaras and their houses will be destroyed by bombs and suicide bombers. We will only rest when we will be able to fly the flag of true Islam on this land of the pure. Jihad against the Shi’ite Hazaras has now become our duty.
Two exclusive videos of Shia massacre which were blacked out by Pakistani media
Video 1: Mastung Massacre
The first video of the Mastung massacre (September 2011) has been released by the SSP-LeJ media cell in which ISI-SSP produced Jihadi songs have been used as a background music to the execution-style murder of 27 Shia Hazaras in Mastung, Balochistan.
This is an incredibly horrifying video of LeJ-SSP terrorists (extremist Deobandis brainwashed by Saudi-ISI Jihad Enterprise) murdering Shia travellers, which would leave your heart in pain. Discretion is advised.
Update: Only yesterday, 1 December 2011, yet another Shia (a Kurd Baloch) namely Gohar Aziz Kurd S/o Mukhtiar Aziz, aged 20 year was killed in the Mastung market by ISI-backed LeJ-SSP terrorists. This news too was blacked out by ISI-influenced Pakistani media.
Video 2: Karachi Scouts Massacre
The second video of three Shia scouts’ massacre in Karachi is based on a CCTV footage released by Huriyat News. In this video, the connivance of Pakistan’s security forces (army rangers) with SSP-LeJ terrorists can be clearly seen. This video too was completely blacked out by both right wing and urban fake liberal affiliates of Pakistani establishment.
Exclusive CCTV Footage of Numaish Incident Karachi
Suggested response: Email (Update: No further emails are required.)
Dear all, Protest against Saleem Ali’s hate speech through email to his University, Express Tribune, Government of Pakistan and human rights organizations: (Update: No further emails are required.)
Dear Sir or Madam,
We would like to bring to your attention that a highly inflammatory, hate inciting article titled “Shia-Sunni reconciliation” has been published by Pakistan’s daily newspaper Express Tribune. The article has been published in Express Tribune’s Print and Online additions.
The article has been written by Saleem Ali. We wish to highlight that what Saleem Ali has written in his highly provocative article is blatant hate speech against Pakistan’s Shia Muslims. Professor Ali has insulted Shia Islam’s religious rituals, describing them as deviant from pure, true Islam. He has presented and used exactly the same stereotypical and hate based arguments against Shia Muslims which are currently used by Saudi-inspired Wahhabi-Salafi-Deobandi extremists affiliated with terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda, Taliban and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) / Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) in their routine massacres of Shia Muslims in Pakistan.
According to an estimate, more than 1000 Shia Muslims have been target killed in Pakistan in the last three years by puritanical religious fanatics who consider Shia Muslims’ Muharram / Ashura rituals as un-Islamic and treat Shia Muslims as heretic, polytheists and agents of Jews. Only three days ago, LeJ terrorists based in Pakistan killed 60 Shia Muslim in Afghanistan (Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif) by attacking Shia Muslims’ Muharram/Ashura rituals.
By writing a hate article against an already persecuted and target killed community, Professor Ali has reinforced and enabled further stereotyping, persecution and massacres of Shia Muslims in Pakistan and Afghanistan. He has also provided further ideological and hate based ammunition to LeJ-Taliban terrorists who are currently attacking Afghan, US and NATO security forces in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
In case of any further Shia killings, the blood of the innocent people will be on Porfessor Ali’s hands too. The ethical responsibility of Professor Ali’s parent institution (University of Vermont) and the Express Tribune’s editors too is in question.
We hope that you will investigate the matter thoroughly and urgently, and take appropriate action as per ethical conduct of your respective institution.
A concerned citizen and a proponent of human rights.
Shia killings in Pakistan: An incurable disease? – by Murtaza Haider
Blood of Shia Muslims flows freely in Pakistan – by Amir Mir
HRW urges Pakistan to protect Shia Muslims
Muharram, a holiday? Living as a Shia in today’s Pakistan
Shia genocide in Pakistan
Update: Express Tribune has now retracted the hate article and published an apology. However, the article cannot be retracted from the print edition. Furthermore, Professor Saleem Ali remains adamant at his principled stance on his right to write and spread hate speech in his selective take on cultural rituals and in his Salafi Jihadi zeal to separate the pure religion of Islam from the impure cultural rituals. Therefore, it is still important to send emails to his university and human rights groups.
Update 2: There is a renewed context to suggest that Saleem Ali has learnt from this episode and that he is also sympathetic to Shia genocide at the hands of the ASWJ-Taliban militants (which we insist is State-sponsored, not a Sunni-Shia sectarian or Hazara specific ethnic issue.) We request our readers to stop sending any emails to Saleem Ali or his university.
We are keeping this page as historical narrative but don’t want Saleem Ali to get nasty emails because of this web page.