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Daily News Analysis

Concrete steps to end sectarian strife in Pakistan

Crescent International

Most Muslims do not subscribe to the divisive ideology of hate and killings among different schools of thought in Islam. This, however, needs serious effort to bring the majority together and to isolate the hate-propagating minority. In recent weeks, some tentative steps have been taken that are likely to yield positive results. Unity and harmony in the Ummah are desperately needed to overcome the myriad problems confronting Muslims.

Islamabad, Crescent-online
December 05, 2013, 16:19 EST

The overwhelming majority of Muslims want unity between different schools of thought in Islam (sects). There is, however, a small but determined minority that disrupts harmony, often pushed by hidden forces not known to players on the ground.

A number of Muslim countries have been wracked by sectarian violence that has seen alarming rise in recent months. Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Pakistan immediately come to mind.

There have also been attempts to work towards ending such divisions. Last month, a number of ulama and activists gathered in Turkey to try and create unity and harmony in the Ummah. The result was an 11-point agenda for unity winning wide praise from different parts of the Muslim world.

Now some ulama in Pakistan have taken another positive step. Ulama from different schools of thought in Islam were brought together on one platform in Lahore by the Punjab Auqaf and Religious Affairs Minister Atta Maneka on December 2 to agree on a 15-point agenda.

The meeting lasting about five hours was attended by Mufti Intikhab Noori, Dr Abdul Ghafoor Rashid and Haider Ali Mirza representing the three sects—Barelvi, Ahl-e Hadith and Ahl-e Tashii respectively. Hafiz Tahir Mehmood Asharfi, Chairman Pakistan Council of Ulama represented the Deobandi sect.

Following the meeting at which a 9-point code of conduct was agreed, Hafiz Tahir Mehmood Asharfi told the media that he had presented a 15-point code in the Islamic Ideology Council some time ago. This he placed before the meeting in Lahore. The participants accepted nine of the 15 points, he added.

These included refraining from saying anything derogatory about the Khulfa ar-Rashidoon as well as calling on ulama of any sect to neither declare anyone kafir nor call for the killing of a member of another sect.

In a country like Pakistan, the erection of loudspeakers atop mosque minarets is a common feature. In the past these were used for the adhaan and for sermons in Arabic but unfortunately, they have been put to an altogether different and more dangerous use in recent years: denouncing adherents of other sects as kafirs and urging supporters to attack them.

The December 2 Lahore meeting agreed on imposing complete ban on the use of loudspeakers, except for calling the Adhaan and for religious sermons in Arabic language. Further, representatives of various sects agreed not to make hate speeches or utter remarks, raise slogans or publish literature that would arouse hatred against other sects.

They agreed to prohibit publication of material in the form of handbills, books, pamphlets, or press releases. An additional point was that the groups will not write slogans on walls against each other.

In addition to prohibition on negative aspects, the ulama also agreed to hold joint public gatherings to foster inter-sect harmony, cooperation, unity and love. In any discussion on contentious issues, they would refrain from emotional language and raise these issues at appropriate forums keeping in mind the sensitivities of others.

Another positive step was to prohibit the display of arms.

Protection of the rights of non-Muslim minorities and safeguarding their places of worship were also included in the code of conduct.

What is interesting is that a monitoring mechanism was also agreed upon, according to Hafiz Tahir Mehmood Asharfi. They would follow up with two other steps. First, on December 11, a national conference of ulama of all sects and leaders of religious parties would be convened in Lahore. The aim is to promote the concept of unity and harmony.

Second, they have agreed to incorporate points of the code of conduct into proper legislation passed through a bill in parliament.

Welcomed as these steps are, one must be cognizant of the fact that there will be groups that will try to disrupt any such agreement. It is, however, for sincere people from different schools of thought to not allow such disruptive elements. This can best be done if they themselves adhere to the agreement and implement it in earnest.

This would be a great service to the Ummah.


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