Mundane Extremism

yed Arif Shah Owaisi at Aalam Aur Aalim

After intense protests outside Lal Masjid, FIR was registered against Abdul Aziz and a non-bailable arrest warrant was issued for the religious leader after he refused to condemn the attack against APS Boys Peshawar. This was seen by many as another sign that the atrocities committed in Peshawar had finally pushed the nation past the tipping point against extremism and violence. While this was taking place, another scene was unfolding that received much less attention, but has much more serious implications for any hope that things are changing for the better.

The day after a Senior Judge issued an arrest warrant for Abdul Aziz, gunmen in Bhiri Shah Rehman village Gujranwala district shot Luqman Ahad Shehzad in the back of the head. The crime for which he was executed? Having the wrong religion.

Shehzad’s killing may not have been any accident.

On Monday, Muslim leader Syed Arif Shah Owaisi appeared on a popular morning television show hosted by Pakistani host Aamir Liaquat Hussain.

“This enemy is a common enemy and is an enemy of all of Pakistan. And this enemy is the sect of Qadiyani,” Owaisi said, using a derogatory term for Ahmadis.

“They are the ones blaspheming against the holy prophet (pbuh). All us Muslims should recognise that enemy.”

Blasphemy is punishable by death in Pakistan. Scores of people have been lynched after being accused of blasphemy.

Saturday’s killing was the second time Hussain’s show has hosted religious leaders denouncing Ahmadis. In 2008, he hosted scholars who called for the Ahmadis to be killed. Within a day, two prominent Ahmadis had been shot dead.

No protests have been organized against Syed Arif Shah Owaisi or Aamir Liaquat, and no FIR has been registered even though this appears to be a much more clear cut case than the one against Abdul Aziz (as noxious as his statements have been).

Article 20 of the Constitution guarantees every citizen the right to practice his own religion. Even if a Constitutional case is not made, though, a criminal one could certainly be made under Section 295-A of the Penal Code:

“Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of the citizens of Pakistan, by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representations insults the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, or with fine, or with both.”

295-A is typically considered as a ‘blasphemy law’, but as written, it could just as easily be applied to those who insult non-Muslims on a religious basis. Additional criminal charges could be brought under PPC Section 153-A, which addresses any communication that:

“…promotes or incites, or attempts to promote or incite, on grounds of religion, race, place of both, residence. language, caste or community or any other ground whatsoever, disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities; or commits, or incites any other person tocommit, any act which is prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities or any group of persons identifiable as such on any ground whatsoever and which disturbs or is likely to disturb public tranquillity…”

Abdul Aziz represents one of the most extreme versions of anti-Pakistan ideology. Finally he is being recognized as such. But Syed Arif Shah Owaisi and Aamir Liaquat represent the more mundane extremism, and until we are willing to recognize this, we will never rid ourselves of the terrorist menace.

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