By Dr Taimur Rahman
January 27, 2014
Some friends ask us why it is important for you to emphasise the religious community of the minority communities that are attacked by terrorists. For instance, why do you write 10 Shias were killed, 12 Christians were murdered, 15 Ahmedis died and so on? However, on other occasions, you write 20 Pakistanis were killed. It is a good question and deserves a logical answer.
It is a fact that people are being killed all over Pakistan. Some are being killed in low-level conflicts between political parties (Karachi). Others are being killed because of indiscriminate bomb blasts (blasts in market places) but some are being targeted for their religious beliefs (Ahmedis, Shias, Christians, etc). This occurs clearly when churches, Imambargahs and other worship places are attacked. Moreover, the perpetrators of the crime often take responsibility for the attack and make their motives very public, i.e. that they consider these minorities to be Kafirs (infidels) and worthy of being killed.
In the latter case, those victims are attacked not because of their political affiliation to any party or ideology. They are not victims because they just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time (in a market where a bomb exploded). They are not even targeted because they made any statement or undertook any political action. They were targeted because of their religious beliefs alone.
In such an instance, it is important for us to acknowledge the nature of the crime committed. It is important for us to acknowledge who the crime was committed against — people of a certain faith because of their faith.
If a bus falls down a ravine killing 10 Sunnis, five Shias and three Christians, we would never mention their religious affiliation. We would also not write six PPP supporters, nine PML-N supporters and three PTI supporters were victims of a bus falling down a ravine. This is because their political affiliation is irrelevant to the incident. However, if someone is killed for their political and religious views, ethnic affiliation, colour of their skin, gender, sexual orientation or such similar characteristic, identifying those characteristics helps us correctly represent the nature and motives of the crime.
For instance, if MQM workers are killed by ANP workers, or vice versa, it is only fair that we mention their political affiliation to correctly represent the nature of the incident. When the Taliban target ANP meetings, it is only fair to say 15 ANP workers were killed by the Taliban. Hence, when Sunnis are killed because of their religious views it is just as important to mention that 10 Sunnis were killed in order to correctly represent the nature of the crime. The fact is that this is rare in Pakistan because Sunnis are the vast majority of the country and are rarely attacked on account of their religious views. It would do well to note that revenge strikes by Shia militias against Sipah-e-Sahaba type organisations have not been attacks against Sunnis as a whole but only against SSP members. And, yes, in that case, it is just as important to mention that x number of SSP members were killed.
The argument that is often presented against this correct representation of facts is that such representation will only increase the differences between people. It will lead to more Shia-Sunni fighting. In reality, the opposite is the case. It actually decreases differences because it reassures the attacked community that those making the statement understand the nature of the crime. Imagine if you are attacked in the US for being a Pakistani. Some racist comes up to you and says, “You Paki” and beats you up just because you are Pakistani. And, if the press reports, “A human being was attacked today in the US”, would you not be angry and ask why it was not made clear that you were attacked for your nationality? Why was the racist nature of the crime hushed up? Similarly, if a black person is attacked by the Klu Klux Klan (KKK) and the press reports, “A US citizen was attacked today”, that would be biased reporting because it would misrepresent the nature of the crime.
In fact, if the media or the people themselves fail to report such a hate crime as a hate crime, then it reinforces the view within the attacked community that there is a deep-seated bias and hatred for that community, which prevents others from acknowledging the racist, classist, sexist, or religiously bigoted nature of that crime.
However, if the nature of the crime is correctly reported, the attacked community feels confidence in the media. They are relieved that the media understands the nature of the crime. Just this small gesture of understanding brings the attacked community infinitely closer to the majority. It cements the human bonds that bind people in the common cause against the extremists. That is what we need right now; we need the unity of all people, majority and minority, men and women, of languages, ethnicities, religious and broad democratic political affiliations, to unite against the fascist threat of extremism in Pakistan.
I leave you with the sobering thought that we cannot even dream of a future for Pakistan if the Taliban gain the upper hand in this conflict. Our victory over them has become a prerequisite for us now, to reach all our other goals.