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Islam The Islam That Hardliners Hate: Sufism under Attack in Pakistan

Discussion in 'Interfaith Dialogues' started by spnadmin, Jan 9, 2011.

  1. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    The Islam That Hard-Liners Hate
    By HUMA IMTIAZ AND CHARLOTTE BUCHEN

    KASUR, Pakistan — In Pakistan’s heartland, holy men with bells tied to their feet close their eyes and sway to the music. Nearby, rose petals are tossed on tombstones. Free food is distributed to devotees.

    This peaceful tableau is part of Sufism, Pakistan’s most popular brand of Islam, which attracts millions of worshipers at about a dozen major festivals throughout the year. Each day, thousands visit shrines dedicated to Sufi saints.

    But the rituals came under heavy attack in 2010, as minority hard-line militants took responsibility for five shrine attacks that killed 64 people — a marked increased compared with 2005 to 2009, when nine attacks killed 81 people.

    Attacks in previous years occurred in the middle of the night or when worshipers were not present, apparently in an effort to avoid casualties. But in 2010, terrorists carried out suicide bombings when thousands of worshipers were present, and in the nation’s largest cities, like Karachi and Lahore.

    The increase in attacks, and a direct effort to kill those who practice a more mystical brand of Islam, has torn the fabric of mainstream worship in Pakistan. But as worshipers continue to visit the Sufi shrines and many Sufi festivals continue in the face of threats, it also evidences the perseverance of Pakistan’s more moderate brand of Islam.

    “It’s a very disturbing picture that militants have extended their targets to shrines, which are symbols of popular Islam in Pakistan and are widely visited,” said Rasul Bakhsh Rais, a professor of political science at Lahore University of Management Sciences. “However, I don’t think the militants are succeeding – thousands of people still visit the shrines despite these attacks.”

    Although there is no official data, the number of people who informally follow Sufi traditions is believed to be in the millions. They have long been condemned as un-Islamic by fundamentalist groups because they worship saints and perform music and dance.

    The United States, meanwhile, sees Sufi Islam as a counter force to terrorism, and has helped promote it by giving more than $1.5 million since 2001 on the restoration and conservation of Sufi shrines in Pakistan.

    Amir Rana, the director of the Pak Institute for Peace Studies, a think tank that analyzes religious conflict, said there were several reasons for the recent spike in attacks on Sufi shrines.

    Groups within Al Qaeda, which have increased their strategic operations in Pakistan since 2007, have expanded their ideological war on the sectarian divide.

    Mr. Rana also said militants suddenly changed their strategy in 2009, when they started soft targets, or popular and less secure venues, such as the Meena Bazaar in Peshawar, as a way to retain their radical sympathizers.

    Other experts say that fragmented militant groups in Pakistan have fully spun out control, and the shrine attacks fit a larger pattern that finds extremist groups who in the past have focused on Kashmir and Afghanistan now turning inward to assert their power and ideology within Pakistan’s borders.

    “Militancy keeps on demanding sacrifices,” Ayesha Siddiqa, a security analyst who says she is a descendant of a Sufi saint, said. “So if it’s not targeting the enemy outside, it’s targeting the enemy within.”

    In the eyes of some extremists, Sufi loyalists can be viewed as cohorts of the Pakistani government. Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi both carry saint-like status because they are from prominent Sufi families that have been caretakers for shrines synonymous with the ruling elite. In turn, those in power often use such devoted followings as a tool for recruiting voters.

    Pir Tayyab, a hard-line Deobandi cleric who has been associated with militant organizations, including the Pakistani Taliban, said that while it was acceptable to pray for a saint’s soul at a shrine, it is forbidden to search for God’s qualities in a saint.

    “The singing and dancing that takes place at shrines is disrespectful,” he said. However, he said, bombing a shrine is also unacceptable. “It is not correct to disrespect a grave or to remove someone from his grave.”

    While provincial governments have scaled back some musical performances in response to threats, the large gatherings persist, drawing big and determined crowds at major shrines on a near weekly basis.

    The only major cancellation over security fears was made by the Sindh provincial government, which canceled musical performances that were a permanent feature of Karachi’s festivals.

    Prodded by protests that demanded more security, the government of Punjab, which oversees more than 500 shrines, is spending $400,000 on increased security at 15 of its major shrines this year, including the installation of cameras, security gates and metal detectors. At some shrines, officials said donors had paid for new security installations.

    But security is rarely a deterrent to attacks. The Pakistani Taliban remains unfazed by the government’s efforts to safeguard the shrines. The government installed two security gates in 2008 at Abdullah Shah Ghazi’s shrine, the most famous shrine in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city. But in October 2010, two suicide bombers detonated explosives there, killing 9 and injuring 75. Since the blasts, and just before an annual Sufi celebration, the government installed 18 security cameras at the shrine.

    See video at this link:

    http://atwar.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/06/the-islam-that-hard-liners-hate/

    Related video
    YouTube - Sufis under attack in Pakistan
     
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  3. Gyani Jarnail Singh

    Gyani Jarnail Singh Malaysia
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    The Muslims that tortured and martyred Guru Arjun Ji sahib belonged to the DEOBANDI ORDER.....and Most of those Mulsims who were friendly to the Sikhs and the Sikh Gurus were SUFIS like Saiin Mian Mir - who laid the foundation stone of Darbar sahib in Amrtisar, Bhikhan Shah, Sheikh farid, Pir Budhu Shah etc etc. The emperor to be Dara Shikoh, was murdered by his brother Shah Jehan under the same deobandi conspiracy to keep power in hardliner hands even though even Jehangir the father was kept in the dark about the murder of his fav son Dara Shikoh. Dara was so hugely popular among the populace that his brother shah jehan killed him by treachery and misinformed Jehangir that Dara dies in his sleep of a heart attack !!

    2. Side twist to this history:....Shah Jehan had invited his brother Dara to his mansion and in order to "control" him, SJ and wife Mumtaaz suggested that Dara Desert/DIVORCE his present wife and REMARRY a relative of Mumtaaz. Both hubby and wife wnated to assert control over Dara via such a marriage...BUT DARA refused point blank to divorce the wife he loved. He was given an ultimatum....to LIVE..you must divorce your wife. Dara replied I am willing to DIE but not divorce my wife whom i love so much. He remained TRUE to his word.

    3. TODAY...in a twist to History ( what they say about History being written by VICTORS )..the TAAJ MAHAL stands as a"testament" to the "LOVE" of Shah Jehan to his wife Mumtaaz ( whereas Shah Jehan was a known womaniser and flirt..and the Taaj was built in fit of....LONELINESS for Mumtaaz and not real love)...WHILE HISTORY HAS FORGOTTEN... DARA SHIKOH WHO PREFERRED DEATH rather than desert his one and ONLY LOVE !!swordfight
     
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  4. spnadmin

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    They are winning. All remnants of Buddhist worship were destroyed in Afghanistan - several years before 9/11 and incursions of US troops into that area. Now they are slowly and systematically working to divest Pakistan of a religious and musical tradition that is thousands of years old, and for centuries influential on religion and music through north/central Asia. The lyrics, the instruments, the poetry, the stories of the sants, the traditions, the shrines, the ancient texts, the cultural memory - Pakistan loses and so does the entire world lose. We have already seen video after video of Taliban destroying books, tapes, cd's, and imprisoning dissenters on television in Afghanistan. Now what is next on the TV screen? Bulleh Shah, Nusrah Fateh Ali Khan, name your favorite Sufi poet or Qawali performer. Does anyone think that Rumi will be off limits? All I do is post articles about it and watch.
     
  5. Admin Singh

    Admin Singh
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    Talibanisation of Pakistan is just a formality to be acknowledged by US... soon...
     
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  6. Gyani Jarnail Singh

    Gyani Jarnail Singh Malaysia
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    In 1947 there were only 213 Madrassahs in Pakistan and all local controlled.
    Now there are more than 14000 and 95% are SAUDI FUNDED and Controlled spreading the WAHABI/DEOBANDI fanatic brand of Islam. Only 5% of these madrasshas are local controlled and teach Islam according to the Holy koran.

    The Governor Taseer killed merely becasue he promised to help the Christian lady Bibi Assiah in jail facing charges of blaspheming the Prophet ( which she claims are fake and created by her neighbours who have a grudge against her) The Gov was deemed even more ***** than the accused becasue he wanted to help her..and KILLED even before the accused can be hung !! All this Gentle man ever wanted was to assure that the Law would be amended to make it difficult to misuse it as is being done now (to settle personal scores/grab properties etc) He paid for it with his life.
     
  7. spnadmin

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    I think you are right. So where does that take us into the next chapters of the story?
     
  8. Admin Singh

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    i do not understand how US perceives Pakistan as its strategic ally! They joined hands with Pakistan to eradicate Taliban from Afghanistan and now right under their nose, Pakistan is almost under the control of Taliban...
     
  9. spnadmin

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    It may have been less a matter of friendship and more a of positioning, to have influence over the nation with nuclear arms and the world's 6th largest army, in a strategically important part of the world. US is always in competition with China and Russia for influence in Central Asia. Not that we ever trusted Pakistan as we mistrusted Russia/China more. Perhaps it has never been the desire to cultivate a one-to-one relationship so much, as to create a foreign relations context where there would be steady opportunities to tip the strategic balance in favor of the US. To add: What other reason could there be for propping up one government after another in Pakistan? Maybe that sounds very cynical of me.

    There was btw an article just this evening stating that the US sees it a foregone conclusion that the Pakistan government is only steps away from collapse. I have to find it. Naturally I did not bookmark it.
     
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