Pakistan on Easter Sunday was horrific. The fact terrorists targeted a minority group is bad enough. But it’s sickening to fathom the fact that it occurred at a children’s park, martyring dozens of children and their families. Pakistan’s pervasive history of minority persecution has been eroding the country for years. This is not the first time a minority has been targeted. Many churches have been bombed. This violence not only occurs between Muslims and non-Muslims, but occurs within Muslims as well. Different sects are attacking minority sects. Shias and Ahmadis have been attacked numerous times. However, the government has not learned from its mistakes and from these horrific attacks.
The Islamic Republic of Pakistan seemingly hides behind religion as a method to implement its politics. For instance, Ordinance XX bars the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community from practicing or even calling themselves Muslims. Blasphemy laws incite extremists to take horrific actions by justifying their deeds within the bounds of the law. Such laws make the environment of Pakistan toxic for minorities. Pakistan was founded on freedom of religion yet has a constitution that strips that freedom from its citizens. Nawaz Sharif, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, in response to these attacks, stated that Pakistan will not sit quietly and will do everything to stop such terrorists. Yet with laws that promote such acts of violence, the government is in itself supporting terrorism.
The government officials are scared to take actions against extremists groups who use the Qur’an and Hadith wrongly to justify their acts. So-called clerics ignite people to become terrorists by construing Islamic teachings all for personal gain. The job of clerics is not to ignite people but rather to spread peace and love between all religions and creeds. Government officials are afraid to take actions against them because they need support and votes from such clerics and their followers.
The corruption is so deeply rooted that even if a brave government official stands up against wrong, his or her well-being is very much in danger. This happened some years back when Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab, spoke up against the blasphemy laws in Asia Bibi’s case. He was martyred by his own bodyguard. Instead of shunning and stating that the bodyguard was wrong, the lawyers of Pakistan supported a cold-blooded murderer and fought his case for free. Such is the situation of Pakistan. The people who are to know the law and vindicate the rights of the innocent are the one supporting murderers.
The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) forgave his worst enemies; then who are we to use violence in his name? If Pakistan wants to be called the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, then it needs to take actions against such groups that incite the people and government in making such un-Islamic laws which affect the justice system of Pakistan on the whole. True Islam teaches Muslims to forgive and look the other way and let everyone live in peace. True Islam teaches that religion and state are two separate entities. The Holy Qur’an declares, “And if Allah had enforced His will, they would not have set up gods with Him. And We have not made [Muhammad] a keeper over them nor art thou over them a guardian” (6:108). The verse demonstrates that no person has any right to compel others in matters of faith. Pakistan’s horrific Easter was a culmination of years of injustice and intolerance. If Pakistan doesn’t follow the principles of absolute justice as outlined in the Qur’an, then we will keep hearing such horrific incidents.
Ramlah Malhi-Saifi is an associate team member of the True Islam and the Extremists campaign and can be followed @RamlahMalhi.