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Islam and Sectarianism ( 23 Nov 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Schism Widening Between Shia and Sunni Muslims



Tie Your Camel

By Nighat Kamal Aziz

November 24, 2012

We see the schism widening between Shia and Sunni Muslims and yet no concrete steps are being taken by either side to remedy this tragedy.

The saying, “have faith in God but don’t forget to tie your camel” is a particularly appropriate message for us. We always expect divine intervention for solving our problems, or else, we simply succumb to whatever happens, accepting it as fait accompli.

As a Sunni, I have been brought up seeing my grandmother providing sabeels of sherbet for the Muharram processions; my mother telling us not to wear new clothes or hold parties during the days of mourning as a mark of respect. I am not alone in this matter. There are millions like me who see the senseless attacks on Shias and feel helpless and grieved at this barbarism and at the loss of lives. There are millions who wonder how and when this divide became so deep.

Shias and Sunnis coexist in peace and harmony. So who are these messengers of death who target defenceless Shias?

One feels a sense of outrage at how the Sunni Muslims do not speak up enough against this deplorable situation and, also, how the Shias continue to expose themselves and those deployed on the Herculean and impossible task of protecting them, to this imminent danger.

Year after year, precious lives of not only Shias but of brave policemen, Rangers and army personnel are needlessly lost because processions are taken out all over the country, knowing fully well that they are walking targets for the terrorists. Aware of the fact that it is impossible for the security personnel to provide foolproof security, as well as that there is no way of preventing anyone from targeting them, or blowing themselves and others up in their senseless hatred against an ideology.

If we cannot stop this barbarism despite ‘high alerts’ and ‘tightening of security’, we need to change tactics. We have to look inside society and see what can be done to curb the loss of life and provide security across the board.

 Perhaps it is time for the Shia ulema to think of a way to restrict and reduce the exposure of Shias in such a way that so that providing them with protection becomes a more manageable task. In this way, there will be less chance of security personnel getting killed or maimed while trying to safeguard Shia processions.

Diehard Shias refuse to forgo their right to publically mourn the tragedy of Karbala. The obvious exposure to danger acts like a catalyst to their faith. It makes them feel an affinity towards the martyrs of Karbala who defied Yazid and his merciless forces. They do not hesitate in exposing their men, women and children to danger.

In fact, it strengthens their faith and resolve to offer themselves as bait to their cruel opponents. Be it so, however, the bereaved families are left to suffer the loss of loved ones.

Mourning the martyrs of Karbala, the near and dear ones of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) who laid down their lives protecting Islam achieving an exemplary death, is the right of all Muslims. Shias cannot be denied their right to do so in whatever way they think befitting.

However, they can carry out their message equally effectively by adopting safer ways of doing it. They can beat their opponents, not by dying an unnecessary death, but by adopting different ways of commemorating Karbala.

Wars are not won by standing bare-chested and unarmed in front of the enemy. When required, new tactics are used, new methods adopted.

The point to note is that the majority of Sunni Muslims are not against the Shia community. They have coexisted in peace for centuries. Their differences never went beyond verbal arguments. Their divide was never so pronounced or so unrealistic to lead to massacres. This phenomenon of senseless hatred is something new and alien. It is fuelled and executed by unnatural forces of extremism blown out of proportion.

It is unreasonable to expect a beleaguered government, already embroiled in numerous problems, to deal effectively with this matter. Neither should we expect divine intervention here. Sitting idly and expecting miracles to solve our problems is living in a fool’s paradise.

It is in the interest of Sunnis to stand up for the right to life of Shias and distance themselves from extremists or unknown forces who carry out physical attacks against innocent people.

At the same time, it is time the Shias contained their mourning to enclosed places in order to protect the lives and properties of millions who suffer every year due to avoidable exposure to grave danger.

Thus fate might smile upon us if it sees our camel tethered.

Nighat Kamal Aziz is the project coordinator for a Pak-German welfare organisation.