October 6, 2022

Shia Muslims under attack

63 Shia Muslims have been killed so far in the March 4 Peshawar Mosque attack. Over 150 are still injured. Perhaps the most critical aspect of this terrorist attack was that it was a Shia Mosque, a Muslim sect which has been targeted by Islamist terror groups for decades. 

Claiming the responsibility of the attack, Islamic State (ISIS) said: “the group will continue to target Shias in Afghanistan and Pakistan.” 

This is not new. Before ISIS, there were the likes of Laskhkr-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Sipah Sahaba outfits, who killed Shias across Pakistan. 

One of the victims of this recent blast, Sher Ali, a retired army official said, “What is our sin? What have we done? Aren’t we citizens of this country?” And he said this from the hospital with red spots of blood visible on his white clothes. 

Shia clerics have condemned the attack. Allam Nasir, a leader of Majlis-e-Wahdite-Muslimeen, led a rally against the attack and urged others to protest against ‘Shia genocide’. 

Even, popular Sunni cleric, Engineer Muhammad Ali Mirza condemned the attack, saying that there is no doubt Shia Muslims have been targeted specifically by the militants. 

“It couldn’t be a coincidence that mosques of a single sect are targeted repeatedly, which shows they are done by other Muslim sects who have been brainwashed,” Mirza said. 

According to the South Asian Terrorism Portal research organization, more than 2,600 Shia Muslims have been killed from 2001 to 2021. Shias in Pakistan constitute 15 to 20 per cent of the 220million population of Pakistan. 

According to the Human Rights Commission Pakistan (HRCP) the latest attack “was clearly intended to target Shia worshippers and bears the hallmarks of sectarian outfits that have been allowed to run amok in recent years.” 

And it’s not just militant groups like ISIS that are targeting Shias. Popular ‘parties’ like Ahle-e-Sunnat Waljamat (ASWJ), which is officially banned in Pakistan, has been demonstrating against Shia Muslims openly. 

In 2020, over 30,000 people from the Sunni sect protested against Shias over a social media post, calling them “blasphemers” and “unbelievers”. Before the protest, police had arrested over 50 Shias under the blasphemy act under the same case. And this was in the country’s largest city, Karachi. 

Critics insist there is only one way to end religious hatred among the Islamic sects: revise the literature that all sects are being taught. Analysts say strict government control over the sermons given by Islamic clerics in mosques is needed. 

They insist that the change would need to start from the grassroots level. The clerics of local mosques need to condemn takfir and start telling people that belonging to a different sect is not “kufr”. 

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