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All Hail My Sectarian God By Kiran Nazish 08 June, 2012 In Pakistan a mosque is not the house of God, but

the house of a sectarian God. Although Muslim sects across the world have their own separate mosques for the r easons of Imamat, procedure and methodology of prayers, no one is ever stopped f rom entering a place of worship or called a Kafir inside one just because they d o not come from the same sect. Recently, I was told by a non-Sunni friend how he was tormented by fellow worshi pers at a Sunni mosque during Friday prayers. He was on the road and getting lat e for Jamaat (congregation), so he went for the nearest mosque he could find - o nly to discover later that he was a Kafir for doing so. He was identified as a S hia when he did not raise his forefinger for Shahadat during the prayers. We are led to believe that Pakistan is divided by its provincial politics, and o ur biggest insecurities come from India and the US, but some of the worst and th e most real and physical crimes that people commit against each other in this co untry are based on religion. It is our pride in sectarian exclusivity that has v aliantly strengthened our dissections. We sideline our minorities as people, bec ause we fear them and they fear us. The only one being we trust and fight for is our exclusive sectarian God. Sectarianism divides our politics, our military, our media and even our militant groups. Eventually our people divide themselves. We have sectarian terrorist groups that are out to kill Shias and Ahmadis, so as to ensure their specific God's name is saved from the "evil of these sects". Th e most recent example of this phenomenon is the killing of over 200 people in se ctarian violence in Gilgit-Baltistan on 28th February and 3rd April - including the selective slaughtering of more than a 100 Shias in one go. Looking for political mileage, Imran Khan blamed the PPP government for the viol ence in a statement on April 7. If at any point in this country's history, any p olitician had been genuinely concerned about sectarianism, we would not have bee n in the state we are in. In Gilgit-Baltistan, where Shias and the Sunnis once had intermarriages, communi ty gatherings, and common hospitals and schools, they have separated their areas with precise boundaries. They cannot even use the same roads, markets and stree ts, let alone mosques. The entire politics of the region are sectarian based. Before partition, sectarianism was almost unidentifiable. Much of this could be because of the influence of Sufis and Pirs, but people were generally peaceful. In the contemporary Pakistan, things started changing and the sectarian divide i ncreased between the 1950s and 1970s. It all started with the identifying of Ahm adis as non-Muslims, on which both Sunnis and Shias strictly agreed. Then a few Shia-Sunni clashes took place, but they seemed more politically driven and peopl e remained genuinely peaceful amongst themselves. It was in January 2005 when Agha Zia-ud-din Rizvi, the popular and respected Shi a cleric got killed that people were outraged and a real animosity was seen amon gst them. Grave fear ran through the entire region. Sunni mosques were attacked, and there was an outburst of gunfire in different areas. Gilgit's polo ground w as so volatile that army and paramilitary troops were called to cordon the area off and search for weapons. About 35 arrests were made, before Section 144 was i

mposed. But the arrested suspects were later allowed to go. And that is where th e problem lies. Every time any arrests are made in G-B, the culprits are either facilitated in the escape, or are officially released. Both Sunni and Shia commu nities suffer because justice is not served. The second major issue is with the discourse. Every time there is violence and b loodshed, our intellectuals indulge in rants, discussions, op-eds and research p apers on sectarian violence. There has been no study on what actually compels pe ople from the same country and the same religion to kill each other. Since the media are not very efficient in the region and editors are based in bi gger cities, there is a disconnect between the news desk and the on-ground situa tion. That allows for biased reporting, or in many cases, misreporting. When I compare the statistic of killings since the 1980s, I find a very close li nk between retaliatory Sunni killings in small tribal areas and Shia killings in major cities. In the case of Gilgit-Baltistan, Hangu and Parachinar - where Sun nis are in minority - Sunni killings are never recorded or reported, which makes it a challenge for anyone like me to even cite them. Shia killing are on a much greater scale and frequency but to understand what re ally exaggerates sectarianism in any place, is it not important to take into acc ount both sides of the story? I have spoken to dozens of Shias, Sunnis and Ismai lis from these areas, and they all have one thing in common - the fear of the ot her. Many families in G-B who have had Shia-Sunni intermarriages before the conf lict worsened in the 1980s, have sent their children out to other parts of the c ountry or abroad, because they feel threatened from both sides. Political negligence, lawlessness, military regimes, and terrorist attacks have caused sectarian hatred among the people, and we have started to worship our own sectarian Gods rather than one God. Yes, we wept with our Ahmadi brothers in the 2010 carnage, but we are still out to get them in schools, colleges and workplaces. We do cry over Shia killings in tribal areas, but still have no space for them in our mosques. I would end with an excerpt from a poem called Psalm by Iranian-born German poet SAID. Lord stay by me even if I nourish myself from ashes and salt be still and listen to that name which I lend to you because I want to distinguish you from the idols grant me patience to endure those who are vain with their empty words and the converts who are zealous to confirm their opposite and grant

that my waiting be full of revolt

Kiran Nazish is a journalist and activist. She is currently researching on diffi cult issues and areas of Pakistan. Source: URL: arian-god/d/7647