By Raza Habib Raja
Legend says that Karachi is protected by the holy shrine of Hazrat Abdullah Shah Ghazi. It is said that storms and natural calamities have largely spared Karachi due to the protection offered by the soul of the great sufi saint. But perhaps even more than that perceived status of the protector of the great coastal city, is the importance of the shrine as a symbol of tolerant, spiritual and mystic version of Islam. This symbolic embodiment was perhaps its misfortune on the fateful day of 7th October.
The tragedy is similar to what happened at Data Darbar Lahore. The terrorists have clearly made their intentions clear that tolerant Islam won’t be tolerated. To them the only “acceptable” version is the Wahabi brand of Islam and the rest is “biddat”.
However, despite clear and selective targeting of the shrines, a substantial chunk of the media simply spins the facts and link these incidences to some grand conspiracy of the foreign powers to destabilize Pakistan with the ultimate aim of purging that cursed nuclear arsenal. Media in its intellectually bankrupt obsession with so called “national sovereignty” and its rabid anti Americanism fails to direct discourse at the real issue: the intolerance of the Wahabi hardliners towards other less literal as well as scripture inspired variations of Islam.
When incidence at Data Darbar took place, while the media influenced segment of the populace was again pointing fingers at US, the representatives of custodians of shrines openly blamed hardliners. They were of the opinion that responsibility of the blasts rested on those elements who construe practices at shrines as some kind of “Shirk” (means to consider anyone god other than the God).
The Sufism in its very nature is to some extent an anti thesis to the formalistic and scripture based version of religion. There is relative lack of reliance on scripture and formalistic rituals coupled with the emphasis on mysticism and subjectivity. By its very orientation Sufi tradition promotes mysticism and subjective alignment of an individual with God. Due to relatively less emphasis on scripture and literal interpretation, Sufism challenges the traditional power base of the orthodox clergy and also weakens the argument of fusing religion with politics. If nearness to Allah can be attained subjectively then formalistic following of the scripture based rules wont be that essential and it is this philosophy which makes it at loggerheads with the traditional literal Sunni version of Islam. Sufism and its various schools of thoughts emphasize allegorical interpretation of scripture and thus are looked upon by suspicion by orthodox clergy.
Even within orthodox Sunni various school of thoughts exist and Taliban represent a fringe position. This fringe hates mystic and other variations and also thwarts any effort of the reinterpretation of the holy scripture. While most of the orthodox Sunnis are contend on condemning various variations, the Taliban are ready to wage a “jihad” against those who in their opinion are adulterating the purity of Islam. This mindset will automatically see enemies in Shiites, Ahmedis, Visitors of Sufi shrines and even the Sunni scholars who are trying to call for reformation of religion.
Thus it is small wonder that Shiite processions are targeted, suicide bombings are conducted at Sufi Shrines, Ahmedi mosques are attacked , reformers like Dr. Muhammad khan are killed and scholars Javed Ahmed Ghamidi are forced to relocate to other countries. Violence and suicide attacks are basically embodiment of intolerance and not some grand conspiracy of the foreign powers.
These intolerant monsters won’t even hesitate to attack Sunni population and have attacked but generally the motive for that is to create hatred against the state policy of targeting militants. When they select minority sects and reformers, their intention is to punish the parties “guilty” of adulterating the “purity” of Islam. It’s a war waged against Muslims. It’s a war within Islam.
And yet no matter how strong the evidence is, our urban middleclass ends up either disbelieving it or starts formulating apologetic defense. Our refusal to feel much needed revulsion is contributing to strengthening these nihilistic forces. It is this soft yet critical support which is thwarting cultivation of tolerance and also rectification of the core issue. Unless and until we identify the real enemy rather than looking at the wrong direction, we will never come out of this mess. The enemy is amongst us but we are still in denial.