Immediately after the news of the suicide attack on Masjid-e-Nabwi was released on various TV channels, a local imam of the masjid next to my house thronged to the mike and made a thorny speech against Iran and Shias around the world.
The infamous Jamia Masjid Abu Bakar Siddique also has several posters of banned outfits such as Jamaatul Dawa pasted outside its walls. The speech was full of controversies, conspiracies and hatred – and called to capsize the entire population of a minority Muslim sect in Pakistan.
His open call for the Shia genocide was based on his logic that the suicide bomber in Madina was an Iranian sponsored Shia militant. He said that the Shia community has been trying to take over KSA for decades but have failed to do so. However, it turned out later that the suicide bomber in Jeddah hailed from India and his name was Fayyaz Kaghazi.
But the Imam of the masjid never took back his statement, and did exactly the opposite of what the Holy Quran says about spreading misinformation.
What is most dangerous in this situation is that no one from the audience or the community stood up against him or questioned the reliability of the information conveyed by this so called imam of the masjid. This continual and perpetual cycle of hate speech leads to systematic marginalisation and ghettoization of the Shia population in Pakistan. This leads to the Shia community living in segregated localities and neighbourhoods, only making them more vulnerable to attacks.
He basically scapegoated the entire Shia population and labelled them as Zandiq (a person who believes in and/or calls to ideas and beliefs that are contrary to Islamic teachings). He then proposed to wipe out the entire Shia population in order to rid the Islamic world of the conspiracies Iran has prepared to take over KSA.
He asked the worshippers and the locals to donate their funds to Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) and Sipah-e-Sahaba (SSP) in order to expedite ‘jihad’ against the minority sect.
His open call for hatred against Shia Muslims and Iran was one of the many ways Saudi Arabia has always tried to curb Iran’s regional influence in the ‘Shiite Crescent’ and in countries with large Shia populations such as Pakistan. Iran and Saudi Arabia are locked in an increasingly tense competition for regional influence, and back opposing sides in regional conflicts, including in Syria and Yemen.
Like Tel Aviv, Riyadh is worried Tehran will eventually possess nuclear weapons and claim hegemony of power in the Middle East. In Pakistan, KSA backs organisations which promote anti-Shia Islamic elements so that the Shiite Iranian version of Islam is pushed to the wall. While the two major Muslim nations of the Middle East remain at a standstill in their diametrically opposed foreign and security policies, Shia minorities living in countries such as Iraq, India and Pakistan face persecution and abuse at the hands of extremist Sunnis who blame the sect for the tensions in the Muslim world.
This was not the first incident of hate speech witnessed at this mosque. The Imam called for Shia mass murder on September 25, 2015 as well during a Friday sermon following the 2015 Mina stampede, which according to him was planned and executed by Iran. He said the miscreants in the Islamic world hail from a single sect because of its inherent ‘heretic’ tendencies.
In order to cut the snake’s head, Shias must either be killed or made to leave the country,” he said.
On June 27, 2016, when Youm-e-Ali was observed across the city to mark the martyrdom of Hazrat Ali (AS), the same imam took to the mike and said the Shias have taken over the whole country and must be wiped out as soon as possible.
The WestPoint study shows that the hate speech against the Shia community contributes towards recruitment of 12 % of the populace.
“The vast majority of LeT’s fighters are recruited from Pakistan’s Punjab province.[…]Since 2000 there has been a strong upward trend in recruitment via family members and by 2004, this channel contributed to over 40% of LeT recruitment”.
This is, by all means, not the only incident of hate speech in mosques. In fact, the state and civil society has almost acquiesced such violence. This is the reason why ASWJ and SSP are openly collecting funds for “jihad” outside the mosques and seminaries on Fridays.
On June 17, 2016 the imam of the Jamia masjid Abu Bakar Siddique at Qayyumabad asked the worshippers to donate their funds and charity to the members of ASWJ outside the mosque who were ‘fighting for the honour of the Prophet (PBUH)’s companions and excavating those who disrespect them.”
On July 6, 2016, after the Eid namaz (prayer) ended at China Ground Kashmir Road, members of banned ASWJ/SSP were openly collecting fitra, zakat and sadqat right at the exit of the mosque. This was reported by Muhammad Jibran Nasir on his official Facebook Page. He also (claimed to have) reported the incident to the police and rangers but no official was available at the site.
Members of ASWJ openly collecting funds for Jihad outside China Ground, Kashmir Road Karachi.
Photo: Mohammad Jibran Nasir official Facebook page
ASWJ, at number 32, is one of the banned outfits in Pakistan
Photo: Mohammad Jibran Nasir official Facebook page
Mainstreaming hatred through indoctrination
The root cause of hate speech comes from various sources, mainly from madrassas. The sad fact is that 50% of Sunnis in Pakistan don’t even consider Shias to be Muslim. This is a rather unprecedented development of religion in our society which is marked by the unchecked growth of puritanism and Wahhabisim in our large scale seminaries and mosques. A large part of violence against Shias is also indoctrinated at seminaries of the banned outfits such as Tahreek-e-Taliban (TTP), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ), Jundullah, Jaish-e-Islam, SSP and ASWJ, and other extremist splinter groups. This patronage and social acceptance of hate speech leads to little or no resistance against such militant organisations from the local communities.
In the past, at least 1,957 Shias were brutally killed and another 2,516 were injured in 872 separate acts of violence from January 2012 to December 2015 in Sindh alone, whereas Karachi remained the most hit area.
I do not know whether the term genocide can be used to describe Shia killings that have been happening in Pakistan, but I do know that what ASWJ and SP are calling for is a clear act of genocide.
Iran attacked a Shia mosque in KSA?
It might be obvious to not blame Iran for the blasts in KSA since one of the targets was the Kingdom’s persecuted Shia population in the eastern province of Qatif.
The suicide attack on Masjid-e-Nabavi was the third in a series of suicide attacks in Saudi Arabia on Monday, while earlier in the same day, in Qatif, an eastern city which is home to thousands of Shia Muslims, two explosions took place near a Shia mosque.
The militant group, Daesh, had previously claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at a Shia mosque in Kuwait on 26 June, 2015.
In this situation, it is crucial for all citizens of Pakistan to question such hate mongers and take responsibility for the safety of their friends, family and fellow citizens. Silence is also an action, an act of approval! We need to speak up if we want to turn the tides against the ‘everyday’ terrorists in our country.