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Attack on Qalandar Shrine: Muslims Themselves are the Problem

By Arshad Alam, New Age Islam

18 February 2017

The suicide attack at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan, Pakistan should not come as a surprise at all. Indeed, Sufi shrines have been fair game for Salafi terrorists who consider visiting those shrines as anti-Islamic. By extension, killing those who attend these shrines is just a logical conclusion of decades of hate mongering at fellow Muslims who have a different understanding of Islam. Similar attacks took place on the Shah Noorani shrine in Balochistan and Data Ganj Baksh near Lahore. Common to all these attacks was the simple explanation that Muslims who attended and prayed at these shrines were doing shirk and were therefore liable to be killed. What was also common to all these bombings were the wanton killing of women and children but then in the war of making Islam pure, these are perhaps to be understood as collateral damage. After all, if such terrorists can murder and justify killing of school children by quoting from Hadith, then, one can only say that there is something deeply problematic which has happened to Islam itself.

Commentators on Pakistan television and elsewhere have been quick to put the blame on terrorists in Afghanistan and some have lamented the fact that Muslims have become misguided. There has hardly been an analysis which tells us to look inside and deeply introspect as to what has gone wrong with our religion Granted that Afghanistan gives refuge to terrorists, but then what about the home grown terrorists in Pakistan itself. It is an established fact that Pakistan itself gives refuge to terrorist and only sees the problem through the myopic lens of security. There are no good terrorists and bad terrorists. Harbouring terrorists for strategic interests will ultimately harm Pakistan itself, as recent events have shown. The problem is deeper. And it has to do with the very conception and practice of Islam itself.

When there is a shrine to the killer of Salman Taseer and thousands flock to this ‘martyr’ everyday, then there is something very rotten in the Muslim society today. What makes matters worse is that there is hardly any talk about the necessity of such a shrine. There is a near consensus within the Pakistan society that the killer of Salman Taseer was a great lover of the Prophet and that therefore his memory should be revered. This goes to the heart of the problem. How does a killer become a celebrated person in Islam? And how is it that Pakistan is going to condemn the terrorists who killed Muslims in Sehwan but remain silent on the killer of another fellow Muslim, Salman Taseer? This certainly is not just the problem of the state, but it is a societal problem and Muslims as a whole need to reflect on this.

The problem is that there is fair amount of intolerance and hatred within Muslims societies. There is rivalry between Shia and Sunni and even within the Sunnis, Muslims do not well speak well of other interpretations of Islam. Thus the Salafis have huge problems with Barelvis which is only reciprocated in equal measure. Isn’t it true that through thousands of Deobandi madrasas, young minds are taught that Barelvis are the enemies of Islam and isn’t it also true that within the Barelvi madrasas, they are taught to hate the Deobandis.

 Isn’t it known for a fact that Salafi madrasas equate visitations to shrines as grave worship and therefore consider majority of South Asian Muslims as potential idolaters? The same hate is being peddled in the name of Islamic literature through cheap publications and sermons on televisions. Acts like bombing shrines are a direct result of what is going on in our homes, our schools and in our neighbourhood. There cannot be any dispassionate discussion on the causes of such brutality without asking tough questions about ourselves as to how our own hate mongering about different maslaks (sects) have acquired a new normality within our everyday discourses.

The fight against hate and intolerance was always ideological and remains so in the present. There is no need to celebrate the fact that Pakistan government killed nearly hundred ‘terrorists’ as a reprisal in the wake of the Sehwan blasts. Questions need to be asked from this so called ‘tough state’ as to what method it adopted in identifying these terrorists and whether it was another round of wanton killing to appease some masters. The state cannot become a murderous thug and any ‘justice’ should not be done without due process. Pakistan will do well to call the enemy by its name, publically state that something has gone wrong with the teachings of Islam and that there is an urgent need to rethink and introspect what they have been dong in the name of Islam. Only then perhaps we will begin to have a genuine understanding of the deadly mutation which has happened at the very core of Islam.


Arshad Alam is a columnist with


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