Religion and Sialkot Incidence: Is There Really a Strong Connection?

by Raza Habib Raja

Right now the  brutality shown by the mob in Sialkot has taken the country by storm. Everyone is condemning it and various commentators are busy interpreting the causes of the incidence. The causes of the incidence, as touted by the various quarters range from lack of Islam to too much Islam depending whether you are a religious conservative or a liberal.

Public lynching is a horrific incidence and if televised is bound to create  severe revulsion. However, one has to be careful while trying to interpret the reasons behind such mob behaviour. Forcefully linking it with either lack of or excess of religion may lead us to wrong conclusions and damage our credibility as well. I have come across a host of articles from both religious and liberal side who have tried to spin the incidence to fit in their general outlook of life.

According to religious conservatives, the incidence shows lack of faith and erosion of morals due to religions declining influence. Of course the familiar nonsense of “NO Muslim could have done it” is also being voiced by the conservative side.

On the other hand some of the liberal journalists are spinning  to show that mob violence in Sialkot is in some ways a manifestation of religious fervour. References to Taliban and Zia’s times are being made and utterly unconvincing linkages are being drawn. I think some of us are ready to compromise credibility in our yearning to be called a “liberal”!

Add to it that most of the media has assumed on its own that the brothers were not guilty of robbery but ended up at the receiving end due to some misfortune. Of course media can be right but at least till now, information is not complete. Mature reporting requires that conclusions should not be drawn before full facts are known.

For me the incidence while showing an ugly side of mob violence and erosion of state’s protective machinery also shows a general immaturity as well as lack of objectivity in the analysis. As a society, we are also showing signs of lack of rational and informed analysis apart from insensitivity and proneness to violence.

So is religion or its lack thereof the reason for Sialkot incidence. Even if it is involved, the linkage presented is weak and perhaps very indirect. Religion’s role in perpetuation of violence is much more marked in incidences like Gojra. In case of lynching of an individual the religion’s role was more evident in Hafiz Sajjad Tariq’s case. The incident took place in 1994 in the city of Gujranwala. According to the news, Hafiz had burnt Quran and as soon as the nearby Mullah got the whiff of it, he issued a fatwa. A mob gathered and dragged the individual out of his home and started beating him. At that point, police reached the spot and took the individual into what under normal circumstances would have been a protective custody. However, soon an even larger crowd gathered in front of the police station and started to demand that Hafiz should be handed over to them. Due to the huge size of increasingly vociferous mob, the police inspector buckled under pressure and handed over the guy. They started stoning him mercilessly and thereafter set his body on fire. If this were not enough, they tied his corpse to a powerful motor-cycle and dragged it through the streets for two hours. Later on the investigation revealed that Hafiz had accidently dropped Quran on the stove. In that incidence the religion’s role was at least clear. Though it did not force the incidence, the general reverence of religion gave the hate filled mob the “cover” to vent out their gutter instincts. In Sialkot’s case the religion is not apparently involved in the same way. If it is involved then evidence cited is not strong enough.

In discourse we have to be careful while establishing causality otherwise we end up losing our credibility. Forcefully linking variables and spinning facts weaken our persuasive power on issues where the linkage actually exists. I am a strong believer that state and religion should be separate and that reverence of religion has to reduce to have a debate on its role as well as interpretation. However at the same time trying to forcefully establish causality of religion to issues without much conviction will weaken our overall credibility and even our case against separation of religion and state.

Another thing which has strongly emerged out of the media coverage of the entire issue is that once any issue becomes sensational and a point of view established, the public does not try to show maturity of actually waiting for the full information to come out. In fact the media starts spinning the facts to make them consistent with the original and often sensational premise and public just keeps on refuting any evidence to the contrary.

18 Comments

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18 responses to “Religion and Sialkot Incidence: Is There Really a Strong Connection?

  1. We should not bring religion here in Sialkot incidence. It is a case of delayed justice and lack of people’s trust in the judicial system. People get infuriated when they find the law enforcing agencies fail to come to their rescue. And even if culprits do get caught, it takes years before a case is decided. Although I would be the last person to ratify the gory episode of lynching at Sialkot, I would go on to say that we need to find a solution to our slow paced justice – which insofar has failed to address the woes of the common people.

  2. Natasha

    Islamophobes should keep religion aside condemning this barbarism. It had nothing to do with people’s religious beliefs.

    One of the main accused by the way is a man called Ali Peter.

  3. Hameed

    Actually Natahsa these two terrorist jamaati brothers were apparently robbers and killed people and Ali “Peter” only acted in reaction like the rest of them non-Peters (Muslims) in the group. Your jumping to conclusion almost sounds bigoted.

    Hanged boys had killed and robbed the same day
    Saturday, August 28, 2010
    By Ansar Abbasi

    ISLAMABAD: A leading civilian intelligence agency of the country has concluded that the two Sialkot brothers, brutally killed by the mob recently, were allegedly road robbers, who killed a 22-year old young man and injured a few others on the fateful day that led to their killing by the infuriated locals after the brothers were caught red-handed.

    Link: thenews.com.pk/28-08-2010/National/1738.htm

  4. Raza Raja

    Ladies and Gentleman the main thrust of the article is to stress caution while passing judgements.

    I think, there is a tendency to bring in religion unnecessarily in some issues.

  5. Pakinditani

    @Raza

    The religious right will leave no stone unturned to pulicise the incident as a clearcut case of lack of religion. Becasue ‘NO MUSLIM CAN DO THIS’. And to stop such incidents, people need to become truer muslims.

    On the other hand, pseudoliberals will explain it as the excess of religion. And to stop such incidents people need to keep the Mosque separate from the State.

    I feel neither of the arguments hold good. To me its just ‘MASS IGNORANCE’ (which includes both hardliners, pseudoliberals and general public).

    The use of terms ‘Excess of Religion’ or ‘Lack of Religion’ amount to IGNORANCE.

    ITS THE IGNORANCE ABOUT THE RELIGION, SCIENCE, HISTORY, CULTURE, NATION, STATE, DEMOCRATCI VALUES, THE RULE OF LAW ETC.

    Because, had that not been the case, the civil society would have reacted differently. Such incidents happen elsewhere too. But civil society stands up and work as a future deterrent.

    Its this weired sort of reaction from civil society in Pakistan that is cause of worry. and it can only be ascribed to IGNORACE.

    PS-Peuudoliberal are those who do not understand what is written in bold letters.

  6. Natasha

    Hameed,

    //Actually Natahsa these two terrorist jamaati brothers were apparently robbers and killed people and Ali “Peter” only acted in reaction like the rest of them non-Peters (Muslims) in the group. Your jumping to conclusion almost sounds bigoted.//

    Jamati? LOL. Speaks volumes about YOUR bigoted mind.

    The author has talked of religious connections to what the MOB did. I just told him not to associate religion with the issue because a ‘Peter’ has been accused as well. It’s a societal issue. Not a religious one.

    If you say Peter and other pious non-peters was justified in lynching the boys (even if they were robbers) , well ! what can I say?!

  7. AZW

    Lynch mob styled instant “justice” has happened in every region of the world. It is simplistic to attribute it to just one factor only, whether it is religiosity of a community, or anything else. The society has a violent streak, and the inability of the state to strengthen the rule of law institutions will result in these mob justice episodes once in a while.

    What however should be of no doubt is that alleged robbers or not, those two brothers were summarily killed without having any chance to defend themselves in front of an impartial judge. That in itself was a grave injustice committed in this tragedy.

  8. Raza Raja

    @ Natasha

    Kindly read the article. I am not linking religion with that incidence. i am actaully criticizing those who are doing it. I think you have not read the article but tried to assume on your own after merely reading the title.

    @ AZW

    I fully agree and this is what I amtrying to suggest also. Media coverage is over sensationalizing

  9. DN

    Linking this incidence with Talibanization is akin to linking all other incidences with the conspiracy theory. The role of media has emerged as that of a sensationalist pre-empting the ‘innocence’ of the accused and investigating the matter on-screen while the matter was in court.

  10. Raza Raja

    @ DN

    Agreed 100%

  11. Natasha

    Raza,

    That’s what I meant. That you are discussing religion and the incident. Apologies for not stating it properly.

  12. K-

    Nice piece – No need to go extra mile to link it somehow with religion.

    I believe besides police, society and the individuals standing there, Supreme Court is equally responsible for this act.

    Had they taken action against those dacoits killed by mob in Karachi (& other parts), this might not have taken place.

    I wish SC refrains from taking popular but constitutional actions.

  13. sarwat

    These brothers were not wanted in any charge of terrorism or theft, not a single complaint or FIR against them in any police station. No criminal record. And this village Butter who boasts of frequent dacoities did not have a single complaint registered in any police station. All liers. Now to get rid of this horrific and inhuman murder charge they neeed some scapegoat some justification which they find by declaring these two innocent souls as dacoits. Safe escape.
    Mr. Hameed, how do you feel if this lynching happens to your near and dear ones.

  14. nazir allahwalla

    this incident is not new or strange this has happened before and still happens in different parts of the world including somalia iraq yemen pakistan congo kenya ruanda palistine(they lynched a jewish soldier a few years back). public lynching is not a new thing.
    I do not think Islam has anything to do with it it is more of a tribal knee jerk response to whatever the triggering factor or factors may be.
    The worse thing is that the police stood there and watched and even participated in the criminal acts.
    This clearly showed me how much protection we have agains such crimes. When the police itslef takes upon it to publicly lynce a suspect.
    I feel ashamed to call myslef a pakistani. SHAME ON OUR NATION

  15. iqbal akhund

    Quite right, religion had nothing to do with the incident. The really frightening thing is that the boys were done to death while policemen stood by.

  16. Kee Janain mein kaun

    Vilification is the tool of choice relied upon by the arrogant morally superior people. They sell their souls to the devil to achieve worldly gains.

    What can’t be won based on reason and rationality is plundered through the vilification followed by pouncing for the jugular. The lessons preached and practiced by the mullah and sanctioned by the state, the judiciary, and the citizens are bearing fruit!

    Evil begets evil!

  17. sarwat

    Islam does not allow hurting the sentiments of another human being let alone the killing. Killing of a human being is equivalent to killing the whole humanity. Even torturing the animals, leaving an animal to die or suffer itself or even to cut another breathing creature i.e. plants is totally forbidden in Islam. Even posing a threatening posture to a fellow has been despised.
    But we do not act upon Islam and try to do everything bad to our fellow beings. Then start blaming mullahs for all our blunders. It is not mullah alone, responsibility of every Muslim to learn and practice teachings of Islam.