The dastardly suicide bomb-attack on the All Saints Church in Peshawar some weeks back in Pakistan was shocking, of course, but not entirely surprising. For some time now there has been a continuous series of attacks, which have become almost a routine tradition, on religious places across Pakistan, causing the deaths of literally thousands of worshippers. Most of these religious places have been mosques. This time, however, it was a church.
Pakistani Christians are a small and vulnerable minority. They keep a very low profile and abstain completely from agitation and confrontational politics, despite the painful discrimination they are subjected to. And so, exactly what â€˜revengeâ€™ was being meted out to these hapless people on that tragic day when bombers struck the church, killing dozens of worshippers?
Some elements sought to justify the blast as a revenge for American drone attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan – there couldnâ€™t be a more terrible example of intellectual poverty, moral bankruptcy and religious sadism than this specious argument. If this logic were to be true, then no community anywhere in the world would ever feel safe. This twisted logic is also completely anti-Quranic. The Quran tells Muslims not to attack religious beliefs, or deities that other people worship. Because then, as a reaction, those groups or communities will start abusing God. The Quran (6:108) explains:
“Abuse not those to whom they pray, apart from God, or they will abuse God in revenge without knowledge.”Â
If you consider the Peshawar church blast in the light of this Quranic verse, it is evident that this heinous crime was a complete violation of Godâ€™s commandments. Such ruthless action may invite similar counter-reactions against mosques in Christian-majority countries at the hands of people ill-disposed towards Islam.
Those who have even a little knowledge of Islam are well aware that according to Islam, no one can bear the responsibility for someone elseâ€™s sins. And so, if the government of a certain country oppresses a people, revenge cannot be taken against innocent citizens of that country. Likewise, if a country whose majority claims to follow a particular religion attacks and oppresses Muslims, the latter do not have the right to take revenge by attacking and oppressing as a reflex action. So the fact that American drone attacks have killed many people in Pakistan does not in any way justify the attacking and killing of innocent Pakistani Christians and blasting their churches. This reasoning has no Islamic sanction at all.
In the last few years, the alarming phenomenon of violence and extremism in Pakistan has gravely damaged the image of Islam at the global level. A special characteristic of Pakistan is that it is one of the few ideological states to have come into being in the name of Islam in the modern period. And so, irrespective of who was involved, it will not at all be surprising if non-Muslims, in particular, view this horrid deed in the context of Islam. This, despite the fact that such actions have no justification whatsoever according to authentic Islamic teachings.
The fact of the matter is that despite Pakistan having been in existence for over half a century, that countryâ€™s link with Islam is simply a matter of tradition, something that is just boasted about rhetorically, for the most part. Islam is, by and large, merely an aspect of the emotional make-up of the majority of Pakistanis, rather than the very basis of their mentality and spirit. In large measure, this is because the very foundation of Pakistan is based on a spurious understanding of Islam and the so-called â€˜Two Nation theoryâ€™. Both these lines of thought have woefully and completely failed. Their utter failure was testified to by the whole world when Bangladesh won freedom from Pakistan. The Pakistani leaders, both religious and others, did not however learn any lessons from that momentous event. They paid little attention to the reform and character-building of individuals, remaining heavily obsessed with politics and the capturing of state power. Religious movements in Pakistan assumed the form of political movements, and, in this way, they fell prey to all the many defects that typically characterize political movements.
It is absolutely bizarre how, many of those who ardently desire to see Pakistan as an â€˜Islamic stateâ€™ remain blind to the basic fact that one of the components defining an Islamic state – indeed one of its basic principles – is the safety and security of its non-Muslim citizens. There are three foundational principles that, if absent, cause a territory to cease being considered, in the language of the traditional ulema, a dar ul-islam or â€˜abode of Islamâ€™. One of these principles is that its non-Muslim citizens no longer enjoy the same peace and security that they earlier did from a Muslim state. The greatest indication of the success of the political system of any country â€” be it India or Pakistan or any other â€” is the security and protection of the rights of its minorities.
Given the fact that ensuring safety and security of non-Muslim citizens is the basic duty of an Islamic state, it is incomprehensible why extremist groups in Pakistan who desire to â€˜Islamizeâ€™ the â€˜secularâ€™ Pakistani state, do not understand that their heinous crimes are tantamount to destroying the very roots of Islamic political ideology. And with crimes such as the Peshawar blasts being committed in the name of Islam, how on earth can we face others and convince them that Islam is a religion of tolerance and large-heartedness, that it does not favour coercion and oppression, that the Quran respects the religious rights of people of other faiths?
“O you who believe! Stand out firmly for God and be just witnesses and let not the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice. Be just: that is nearer to piety, and fear God.”