Recently I read two articles on the systematic murder of Shia Muslims in Pakistan, by Marvi Sirmed (in Daily Times, 5 March 2012) and Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy (in Express Tribune, 4 March 2012).
While I laud the highlighting of Shia genocide (and persecution of other oppressed groups) in Pakistan by the two authors, one common element in the two articles which drew my attention in particular is their stance on the questionable role played by Pakistani Shias against Ahmadiyya Muslims.
Let me provide the exact excerpts:
In fact, both the communities were together against the Ahmedis in the 1950s, and then in the early 1990s. (Marvi Sirmed)
Until recently, Pakistan’s Shias did not have the self-image of a religious minority. They had joined Sunnis in supporting Mr Bhutto’s 1974 decision to declare Ahmadis as non-Muslim. But now they are worried. (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
I consider this generalizing account of “the Shia community” joining Sunnis in anti-Ahmadiyya campaign as problematic. Recently, I saw a Shia friend asking the same question: “You know the dirty role the Shias played in the apostatizing of the Ahmadis. The Shia leadership of the 1970s was extremely stupid and evil.”
This then brings me to the million dollar question of what role exactly did Pakistan’s Shia Muslims play against Ahmadiyya Muslims? Should we uncritically accept and circulate the current discourse on Shias’ complicity along with Sunni extremists of Jamaat-e-Islami, Tahaffuz-e-Khatm-e-Nabuwat, other Sunni religious (Barelvi, Deobandi and Ahl-e-Hadith) organizations in causing physical and legal violence against Ahmadis?
At the same time, I am least interested in a revisionist view of history. If any one or more Shia leaders and scholars are found to be involved in hate campaigns against Ahmadiyya Muslms, they must be specifically mentioned and condemned with empirical evidence. Yet, pointing the finger of blame towards entire Shia community may not be factually accurate.
Based on what I have read and seen, the role Shias played against Ahmadi Muslims appears to be overstated and exaggerated. Token participation and appropriation of Shias can also be found in General Zia’s Shura and federal cabinet. Does that mean Shias as a community also played a dirty role in the creation of Sipah-e-Sahaba and anti-Shia Jihadist regime?
So far, I have not come across a fatwa by any authentic Shia scholar (Mujtahid or Ayatollah) declaring Ahmadis as non-Muslims. Similarly, there is no evidence of Shia group or mobs attacking Ahmadis or demonstrating against them (barring one or two token Shias attending the JI or Khatam-e-Nabuwat rallies). This is contrary to the organized and consistent violence by Sunni religious parties (JI, JUI, JUP, now JuD, SSP-ASWJ etc) against Ahmadiyya Muslims since 1950s.
By that account, the Difa-e-Pakistan Council too claims it represents Pakistani Hindus, Christians and other minorities, JI too routinely celebrates Christmas with Pakistani Christians etc. Thus, support by one or two token Shias to anti-Ahmadiyya Sunni groups may not be attributed to Shia Muslims in general. Perhaps we may refer to Shias’ general apathy towards Ahmadis but such apathy is reciprocal and is also found in all communities and groups on numerous issues (e.g., on Baloch and Pasthun genocide etc).
Perhaps it might be useful to exactly specify who amongst Shias and how many Shias were active against Ahmadis, and how and in what capacity etc.
Yes, a few Shia scholars were invited to Pakistan’s National Assembly in 1974 including Shia scholar Maulana Muhammad Ismail Deobandi. A few Shia scholars were also a part of Sunni-led anti-Ahmadiyya movement during 1950s. However, action of one or two individuals cannot and must not be attributed to an entire community. We also need to understand the pressure tactics on minority groups and their token appropriation in the mainstream agendas. This must not be forgotten that Maulana Ismail Deobandi himself used to be a Sunni Deobandi scholar and had converted to Shia Islam after a comparative study of faiths and sects. Indeed, part of his hatred against Ahmadiyya Muslims may also be traced to his education and social conditioning in Sunni Deobandi madrassas.
At the same time, one may not ignore the aspect of token invitation to Shia scholars to the National Assembly before the State formally declared its own citizens (Ahmadis) as non-Muslims. Was any Shia scholar invited to present Pakistan flag to Pakistan’s first legislative assembly? No, it was a Sunni Deobandi scholar Shabbir Ahmed Usmani who was chosen for that celebrated task. Also, can we ignore the fact that though founder of Pakistan Muhammad Ali Jinnah himself was a Shia Muslim, his funeral prayers were led by a Sunni Deobandi scholar? Thus, the aspect of token invitation to hand-picked Shia scholars before the apostatizing of Ahmadi Muslims may not be ignored.
However, what can be and should be condemned is the general apathy of Shia Muslims along with other members of Pakistani society (Sunnis, Christians, Balochs, Pashtuns, Sindhis, Punjabis etc) towards the apostatizing of Ahmadi Muslims in violation of their fundamental human rights.
Isamel Deobandi and Muzaffar Shamsi were two of thousands of Shia mullahs. I remember one Ain Ghain Kararwi who used to support the JI and IJI during late 1980s and early 1990s. I am not sure the whole Shia community can be blamed for the action of one or two Shia mullahs who sold their souls to the Jihado-fascist establishment. I will be happy to revise my opinion if someone could provide a counter-narrative with empirical evidence.
Another issue we may wish to consider is that some elements in Pakistani media and establishment are currently circulating and exaggerating this narrative (Shias too were against Ahmadis) to obfuscate and justify the systematic genocide of Shias which is taking place since 1963 (Thehri, Sindh, 118 killed) etc and also to create divisions within the oppressed groups (e.g., between Shias, Ahmadis etc).
Does Shia massacre in 1963 also have something to do with Maulana Ismail Deobandi’s anti-Ahmadi speech in Pakistan’s National Assembly in 1974? Also, how can we explain the increasing number of attacks on other communities in Pakistan, e.g, Christians, Hindus, Siksh? Did they too participate in the apostatizing of Ahmadis? This tendency of presenting a pretext to the ongoing genocide of Shia Muslims (Pakistan’s most target killed faith group since 1947) is neither honest nor constructive. Indeed, this may be seen as yet another blaming the victim narrative and tactic of Pakistani media and urban elites who, instead of sympathizing with and supporting a systematically a target killed community (Shia Muslims), appear to be interested in rationalizing, justifying or misrepresenting the genocide through false neutral and acontextual analyses. In other words, urban elites in Pakistani media are blaming one oppressed community (Shias) for the miseries of another oppressed community (Ahmadis) while elites themselves remain silent or misrepresent the sufferings of both communities. For example, refer to the most recent issue of The Friday Times which not only misrepresented Shias but also Ahmadis.
Perhaps the othering of not only Shias but also Ahmadis and other communities may be routed back to the Objectives Resolution in 1949 which was a betrayal of the Pakistani social contract presented by Jinnah on 11 August 1947.
What one can learn from the 1974 anti-Ahmadi legislation is that no political, ethnic or faith group in Pakistan has a sense of history. Even Bhutto acted in a politically expedient yet foolish manner, the so-called man with a sense of history. The one or two token Shia scholars who spoke against Ahmadis should have realized that their own community would be the next on the menu. They, however, were probably interested in certain immediate benefits (free Hajj, Umrah, membership in Shura etc). Of course, we cannot blame the entire Shia community for the action of a few sold out souls.
In hindsight, Shias, Ahmadis, others should not have been a part of the Pakistan Movement which was itself based on communal hatred and divisions. In Ghalib’s words: meri tameer mein muzmir he ik soorat kharabi ki (there is an element of self-destruction in the way I have been constructed).
Related posts: Debate on Shia role in Ahmadi persecution – by Ali Abbas Taj
Polemics of apostatizing in Pakistan
Some of the most vehement anti-Ahmadiyya politicians of Pakistan