Killing for Peace

The violent fanaticism on display in Pakistan is too close for comfort

Javed Anand

There’s nothing a practising Muslim ever does without the invocation: “Bismillah ar-rahman ar-rahim (In the name of Allah, the most compassionate, the most merciful)”. About Prophet Muhammad he will tell you that Allah sent him to earth as “rahmat al il alamin (mercy unto mankind)”. The very word Islam means peace, you will be told. Allah, Prophet Muhammad, Islam, is all about peace, compassion, mercy. Get it?

No doubt Mumtaz Qadri, the assassin of Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, believes himself to be a pious Muslim. No doubt bismillah ar-rahman ar-rahim preceded the bullets he pumped into a person he was trained, paid and sworn to protect, risking his life if need be. No doubt he committed cold-blooded murder in the name of “Allah, the most compassionate, the most merciful” in defence of a religion that means peace and in honour of the prophet (hurmat-e-rasool) who is meant to be mercy unto all mankind. Killing for peace? I just don’t get it.

Killing for peace? I just don’t get it.

Could it be that despite his self-perception, Qadri was actually under Satan’s evil influence? Banish the thought. For the “respected ulema” of Pakistan the man is a ghazi (holy warrior) now. (In Islam, a ghazi enjoys as high a status as a shaheed, or martyr.) If we happen to think otherwise, we too are blasphemers, kafirs, ‘wajib-ul-qatl (fit to be killed)’.

Killing may not be your or my idea of promoting peace but according to the “respected ulema” of Pakistan, you better believe it, that’s Islam. Read the joint statement issued by 500 “maulanas” from the Jamaat-e-Ahl-e-Sunnat Pakistan (JASP) which also issued a death threat to anyone who dared lead or even participate in the namaaz-e-janaza (funeral prayer) for Taseer: “The punishment for blasphemy against the prophet is only death as per the holy book [Koran], Sunnah [sayings and deeds of Prophet Muhammad], consensus of Muslim opinion and explanations by the ulema… this brave person [Qadri] has maintained the 1,400 years of Muslim tradition and has held the heads of 1.5 billion Muslims of the world high with pride.” No, you messiahs of murder, count me out.

Ironically, this very Barelvi sect from among the subcontinent’s Muslims had thus far been seen as Pakistan’s great big hope for peace, a counterforce waiting to be deployed against the Deobandis, the Jamaat-e-Islami and the Ahl-e-Hadith, all of whom are guilty of injecting intolerance, extremism and terrorism into Islam. But a single murderous deed done by a “ghazi” has brought together Pakistan’s mutually warring “ulema” on a common platform. Whatever their other disagreements, they stand together in their worship of violence and contempt of the dissenting voice.

The credit for this unprecedented unholy alliance goes to the Jamaat-ud Dawah (JuD), another name for the terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) which among numerous other heinous acts is responsible for the 26/11 terror attack on Mumbai and India. As evident from its very well attended rally in Lahore (on January 16 and 17) under the banner of the Tehreek-e-Hurmat-e-Rasool (Movement for the Honour of the Prophet), the JuD, the Deobandis and the Barelvis jointly pronounced a death sentence on anyone calling for change in Pakistan’s infamous blasphemy laws.

Such madness in our immediate neighbourhood is in itself sufficient cause for concern. More worrisome is the fact that the roots and trunks of Pakistan’s major religious outfits lie in India. Deobandis and Barelvis owe their name to Deoband and Bareilly, both of which are towns in Uttar Pradesh. The Ahl-e-Hadith was birthed on Indian soil; so did Maududi found his Jamaat-e-Islami in undivided India. And each one of them today has far greater reach within the country than they had at the time of partition.

Why is it that since the unpardonable murder of Taseer, not one Indian leader of consequence from any of these outfits has spoken a word against the outrage? My Urdu-speaking Muslim friends from Mumbai tell me this is equally true of Urdu newspapers with the honourable exception of The Sahafat Daily. This conspiracy of silence, though shocking, is not surprising. Each one of them preaches that the punishment for blasphemy, apostasy, heresy, is death in an Islamic state and complete social ostracism from the entire community where Islam is not wedded to power.

Fed such poisonous brew, the ummah may be forgiven for missing out on finer details. In secular India some years ago, the Raza Academy (a supposedly more tolerant Barelvi group) threatened to burn Taslima Nasreen alive if she dared come to Mumbai. In 2008 the Urdu press in Hyderabad poured scorn on the leaders and activists of the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) for their failure to kill her when they had the chance to do so.

“Educated Muslims have no choice but to get out of the clutches of the ulema,” opined a Muslim woman on a Google group last week. “If this is Islam, count me out,” wrote a Muslim male.

How do Muslims respond to the growing Islamophobia across the globe when the entire galaxy of “ulema” proclaims murder from the housetops? “Educated Muslims have no choice but to get out of the clutches of the ulema,” opined a Muslim woman on a Google group last week. “If this is Islam, count me out,” wrote a Muslim male.

So here’s the choice before educated Muslims. Opting out of Islam altogether or discovering that an Islam other than that of the “ulema” is possible. But to discover this other Islam, you need the sensibilities of a Farid Esack, a South African Islamic theologian whose moral and ethical integrity is evident from his statement: “If a choice has to be made between violence towards the text [holy scripture] and textual legitimisation of violence against real people then I would be comfortable to plead guilty to charges of violence against the text… Isn’t theology essentially about god? Yes, it is about god but my theology is about a god that is essentially just and compassionate.”

The time has come for a fatwa against the fanatics.

Here is the Link to the original sabrang website where the story can also be read



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