Can’t Shias and Sunnis co-exist?
By Narjis Fatema
November 24, 2012
An eerie feeling of terror began to linger as we observed the changes all around. Containers placed as road blocks, more black and brown uniforms visible and sudden emergence of hatred filled graffiti by banned militant outfits. All of this heralded that the month of Muharram was here.
The moon was sighted, and the congregations began. Check-posts, metal detectors and guns filled the city. An explosion occurred in one of the congregations, and things became even darker. There is fear and anxiety; someone is out there to get us, someone from the ‘others’.
The news coverage talks about more ammunition and suicide attackers being caught everyday and extra security measures being taken. Everything around looks dismal and we all ask ourselves,
Why are ‘they’ after our blood? Are we really that different?
A post on Facebook comes as an answer. It was report of a local broadcast channel, in which an entire family from the Ahle Sunnat sect shared how they commemorate the first ten days of Muharram in almost the same way as their Shia brothers. The soft voice, gentle demeanour and the pure spirit came across as a message of acceptance.
This one ray of light then started pushing away the dark clouds and helped me notice messages of unity being sent out by people in my own life.
A couple of days before Muharram, I had received a text message from a Sunni friend inviting me to a get together at her place on the coming Sunday. I had no balance and no SMS package, so, I could not reply. I am glad I didn’t. Within an hour I received another text from the same girl that said,
“Will you be able to come after Ashura?”
The plan was postponed to the weekend after Ashura and I have to mention here that I am the only Shia in this group. I was so deeply humbled that my Sunni friends changed the entire plan to accommodate just me. It truly proves that there are people out there who do believe that we can co-exist.
Reverting back to social media, with the arrival of Muharram we see a trend of Shias changing their profile pictures to a pitch black frame to signify mourning. This time, however, I saw even my Sunni friends changing their profile pictures to pitch black. One of my Sunni friends put up a cover photo that says “Shia Sunni Bhai Bhai” and another one placed an image in black-and-white with the famous Persian couplet “Shah ast Hussain, Badshah ast Hussain”.
Coincidently, my own cover photo and profile picture for Muharram have been copied from profiles of Sunni friends!
I know that trivial acts of changing a cover photo or even putting up a status update is far from the spirit of Muharram, but the point I want to make here is that more and more people are coming together and performing acts that unify us. This is a very pleasant change from the hatred, division and negativity that usually surrounds out media space. I am so very grateful and pleased by measures taken by our youth to prove that we are all the same.
The reason I decided to write this blog is because I believe, we, the common people, still have the power to unite. The gestures I mentioned above may be small, but are certainly not insignificant.
Let ‘others’ be different; ‘we’ will always stand together.