New Age Islam
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Islam and Sectarianism ( 20 Nov 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Rawalpindi Clashes: Is History Repeating Itself?



By Syed Muhammad Ayub Bukhari

November 20, 2013

I, vividly, recall the caption of an article contributed by Professor Arnold Toynbee in early 1950’s and reproduced by the daily Pakistan Times, which was a very popular daily of the progressive group.

The caption read,

“The force that made Pakistan shall unmake it – Religion.”

This was most probably in context of the anti-Ahmadi movement riots in Punjab, aggravated to the extent that the ever first martial law was imposed to cover Lahore on March 6, 1953.

Prior to that, a riotous mob ignited by Maulvi Abdus Sattar Niazi, had killed a Deputy Superintendent of the police, Syed Firdous Shah, who was a first cousin of mine. An inquiry commission to probe into causes and effects of these riots was constituted under the Justice Munir Commission. It took him a long time to conclude a report which was made public in 1954.

The conclusion of the commission was,

“It shows that our Ulema are not even able to agree on a definition of who a Muslim is. Justice Munir had called heads of all Islamic schools of thought and asked them the definition of a Muslim. No two Ulema agreed. It also exposes the pusillanimity of our so-called scholars of Islam and their near-total disregard of the beauty and generosity of Islam.”

This report was never challenged by any sect denomination of Muslims, either in Pakistan or elsewhere in the world.

It is an irrefutable historic fact that the disintegration of Pakistan resulting in the establishment of Bangladesh was facilitated by as-Shams and al Badr (the armed group of Jammat-e-Islami), who were fighting against the Awami League’s separation movement led by Sheikh Mujeeb ur Rehman.

Recently, the leaders of Jammat-e-Islami, who had sponsored the above mentioned group in East Pakistan, have been convicted for war crimes by Bangladeshi courts and awarded sentences from death to long-term imprisonment.

The present day sectarian riots in Pakistan erupt from the same controversy pointed out by Justice Munir, as to what is the definition of a Muslim. This time the major sects in Islam, be it Shias, Sunnis, Wahabis or Kharjites, are all present in Pakistan – and each sect does not recognise the other as Muslim. Some of these sects, like the Kharjites, openly declare the other sects (Shias and Sunnis) to be infidels and culpable of a punishment meant for renegades.

It is for these reasons that on the Muharram processions this year, there have been murders, arsons and plunders in quite a few cities of Pakistan. There is no religious leader in Pakistan, whose opinion or concern may be accepted as sensu stricto Islamic, by all the Muslims.

To add to this, there is no political leader in the country who may have the status of a national leader. Political leadership lacks rationality. By imposing Ziaul Haq on Pakistan, the present aggravated sectarian situation has been nurtured by both America and Saudi Arabia in Pakistan.

Amidst lack of political wisdom, the want of sincerity of our so-called religious leadership, the greed of both religious and political leaders to rob and plunder the country, whether in the name of faith or change in system, we find our country seized in an incurable, cancerous disease.

The Rawalpindi clashes on the10th of Muharram and the subsequent riots in various parts of the country are definitely doings of clerics, whether from one sect or the other. And what’s worse is that the same clerics are being treated as the healers of the disease, who caused it in the first place.

It is also intriguing that on both the critical dates, that is November 15 and 16, 2013, the prime minister was, coincidentally or conveniently, absent from the country.

Unfortunately, Professor Toynbee may not have been wrong in saying what he did, because, it seems when the ship is engulfed in a storm, its captain is elsewhere in a lifeboat.