From targeting Mosques to attacking Imam Bargahs, the hostile powers have spared no moment of sowing the seed of interfaith disharmony and sectarian violence among different sects of Muslims. The fire of sectarianism has been ignited by the militant factions who couldn’t grab the actual and basic meaning of Islam. Islam teaches peaceful coexistence, unity, equality and brotherhood. These are the basic virtues of Islam. However, the contemporary predicament of Muslim world tells a totally different story. Owing to the international and regional conspiracies the spade of sectarian violence has gruesomely wounded the Muslim world. The power game between the two major Islamic countries has further divided the Muslim Ummah. This division has brought havoc to the Ummah for it created a sectarian fault line that has been exploited by the adversaries for their geo-political and geo-strategic gains. They perceive united Ummah as a threat so they have successfully divided Muslims in a bipolar Muslim world -one pole following Sunni ideology and the other one following the Shia ideology.
The month of Muharram is a holy month and the first month of Islamic calendar. It is equally important to all and sundry in the Islamic world. All the Muslims across the globe equally feel the pain and grieve together in this month. Youm-e-Ashur holds same importance for all the Muslim sects. There isn’t a single eye that remains dry during Muharram. Amid all these similarities and shared sentiments, the seeds of sectarianism have been sowed quite shrewdly by the hostile powers. Factually, after Iran Pakistan has the biggest number of Shia community. In past -owing to the porous border and infiltration of terrorists from the western side- the incidents of sectarian violence and militancy were high in number which critically affected the social fabric and ideological pillars of Pakistan, but over the period of time, along with the efforts of government the foreign enemies have failed to pitch Sunni and Shia against each other. As this holy month of Muharram has begun, the terrorists and the militants will try harder -like always- to fuel the sectarian fire by attacking Muharram congregations, majalis and Imam Bargahs. They’ll try to avail this very opportunity to increase and deepen the Sunni-Shia rift, to destabilize Muslim Ummah and to divide Pakistan ideologically.
The state has been struggling to lower and decelerate the interfaith disharmony and sectarian animosity. The positive trend of current social and religious indicators also testifies the efforts of state to welcome peaceful coexistence. During Muharram, state ensures full security and safety of the congregations and Imam Bargahs. Extra police is deployed everywhere. The rate of incidents involving sectarian violence has appeared to have decreased. According to a report by Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies (PIPS) on improving sectarian harmony, “Sectarian violence has been on decline in Pakistan. In 2018, only 12 incidents of sectarian violence were reported from across the country, most of which were of minor nature. This was in contrast with 2013, when 220 such incidences were reported and have been plummeting since then.”
From banning hate speeches to regulating media, State has been striving hard to put an end to religious conflicts. However, government alone can’t rectify everything, therefore, it’s time for civil society in general and religious scholars in specific to come forward and take a positive part in paving a path towards sectarian harmony. As ulemas have already shunned sectarian violence in Paigham-e-Pakistan Fatwa, and have given their joint verdict against militancy and extremism. Therefore, there are no loopholes for the transgressors. All the religious scholars shall nurture tolerance, unity and brotherhood in the society. Being the master at religious affairs, ulemas have the great responsibility of spreading the actual message of Islam. It’s their utmost responsibility to respect the differences among the different sects and educate people about the significance of unity and inter-sect harmony. These religious scholars must warn Muslims about the spillover effects of disharmony and sectarianism.
Moreover, media must also work in a responsible way to ensure a peaceful society free from any sectarian bias, but Pakistani media shows a sheer pessimistic view of Shia-Sunni conflict. Instead of watering the fire, the irresponsible media of Pakistan rather fuels it. Undoubtedly, there are some issues between these two sects but with a neutral and a rational approach these issues can be easily solved. We all-the Muslims whether Sunni or Shi’a, Wahabi or Barelvi- celebrate eid together, grieve in Muharram together, fast in Ramadan together and eat together. So, we are all the same, sharing the same base, though there is a bit difference in our ideology or the way of doing things but these differences shall be respected and cherished. Hence, to avoid further sectarian division media shall fulfill its duty with utmost responsibility. On the same hand, regulatory authorities of media must check the working of media and all the media outlets must be held accountable for their irresponsible and persuasive behavior which incites sectarianism
Not only is this, but change at the basic level is the need of hour. From schools to religious seminaries, all the educational institutions must be guided to foster interfaith harmony. The institutions sowing sectarianism and teaching the lessons of militancy and extremism must be held accountable. In addition to this, civil society must also help government and ulemas to eradicate this evil of sectarianism. The society must accept the fact that our true enemies are TTP, Al-Qaeda, ISIS and all the other factions which are trying to manipulate Muslims and to weaken them by deepening the sectarian divide. All the Muslims must realize that it is only unity which can strengthen them as an Ummah otherwise they’d remain divided. It’s high time to grieve Karbala together or else everyday would bring us a new Karbala.