By Kunwar Khuldune Shahid
May 14, 2015
At the time of writing 45 Ismailis have been killed and 24 injured after a bus was attacked in Karachi’s Safora Chowrangi area. Ismailis (the Seveners) like the Imamiyyah (the Twelvers) are Shia, and hence deemed to be ‘wajib-ul-qatl’ (worthy of being murdered). A Shia loses his/her right to life by following a different order for respecting the companions of the Prophet. The Shia are excommunicated for having a different take on Islamic history and theology, despite believing in the same god and the same prophet as their killers.
Even so, the Shia are targeted more frequency and more ferociously than the Ahmadis in Pakistan, who, even more ‘audaciously’, have a different take on the closing of divine revelation. The reason being that the Ahmadis have ‘officially’ been excommunicated as per the Second Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan signed in 1974.
A similar amendment could be signed to apostatise the Shia community. Maybe an Ordinance XX-esque article debarring them from posing as Muslims, reading the Islamic scriptures, or calling their ‘place of worship’ a mosque, can be incorporated into the Pakistan Penal Code. This would ensure that Shia ‘places of worship’ won’t be targeted like they have been in Shikarpur, Rawalpindi and Peshawar this year. Just like the Ahmadis are derogatorily referred to as ‘Qadiyanis’, maybe we could come up with a pejorative term for the Shia that has its origins in Karbala.
If the state ‘officially’ recognises the ‘infidel’ status of the community, less Shia blood will be shed. The Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) would be more than willing to put pen to a barter agreement. The ASWJ’s traditional bond with the current ruling party will iron out any creases in the negotiations. The judiciary will also be relieved after not having to convict a mass murderer like Malik Ishaq.
Considering that a 2012 PEW survey claims that only 50% Pakistanis believe that the Shia are Muslims, the latest Constitutional amendment should be a popular act of legislation. Maybe, a couple of hundred people might light candles and hold banners with clichéd hashtags outside press clubs, but there should be mass acquiescence at worst.
Conversely, the government would have had to outlaw violent and bigoted concepts like jihad and takfir, which would save the lives of the Shia and of those deemed to be blasphemers by the radicals. The state would have had to take up a no-nonsense approach to those glorifying, and extolling, the murder of ‘infidels’. This would have had meant the government having had to outlaw school curricula, TV channels, parliamentarians, mosques, madrassas, religious scriptures and the constitution of the country. At the very least, the government would have had to incorporate secular ideals into the jurisprudence, for which it would have had to go through the hassle of clarifying misconceptions with regards to secularism being an anti-religion or anti-theist cult.
The official excommunication of the Shia will further curb other forms of violence and terrorism. The Shia and Ahmadis are dubbed heretics for differing from the Deobandi, Wahabbi or Salafi interpretation of Islamic theology and history. Narrowing down said interpretation would not only ensure that the likes of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have no reason to kill us, it would ascertain the unity of Muslims, by apostatising plurality of interpretations.
Incorporating secularism and pluralism would have meant the state having to go through the trouble of fighting the war against the Taliban, and the more daunting prospect of taking on ISIS that has penetrated the Af-Pak region. With TTP-affiliated militants in Bajaur, Khyber and Khurram agencies already on board, the government can pledge allegiance to ISIS by excommunicating the Shia, considering that violence against the Shia is high on ISIS’s priority list. Maulana Abdul Aziz, sitting a few kilometres from the Parliament and GHQ, can lead those negotiations on behalf of either of the two concerned parties.
By discriminating between citizens on the basis of religious beliefs, incorporating takfir in the jurisprudence, giving sovereignty to Allah and establishing Islam as the official state religion, Pakistani state is already a quasi-Islamic state. It is an excommunication, and a pledge, away from establishing the Islamic caliphate from Levant to the Indostanic Peninsula.
The significance of declaring an individual, or a community, kafir or wajib-ul-qatl can be comprehended by the ease and frequency of the declarations and their ensuing reverberations in Pakistan. Primetime TV slots, mosques, and even inside the Parliament, allegations of blasphemy and kufr are slung pretty frequently. What the government needs to ensure is purification of state institutions, starting with its own transformation from democracy to theocracy. This in turn would ensure that the caliphate would take responsibility of declarations of kufr. Something Pakistan is already familiar with.
A democratic state would have to put human life above the impalpable sanctity of religion. It would have to clamp down on the misuse of ‘respect’ for religious figures as excuse to give verdicts on others’ religious identity or right to life. It would even have to incorporate the lack of faith in heretofore fundamental beliefs of Islam, from Muslims and non-Muslims alike, as a basic human right. Pakistan, thankfully, isn’t willing to commit blatant state-level blasphemy.
Kunwar Khuldune Shahid is a member of staff. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter