Senate Standing Committee on Religious Affairs has hardened punishments for eating during Ramazan, and anyone who smokes or eats openly during this holy period will face imprisonment. Many have responded to this action with the obvious questions of whether forced piety is completely missing the point of the sacrifice. However, there is another question which is much more troubling and that is whether this move by government will cause a rise in Ehtram-e-Ramazan lynch mobs.
The question is not so far fetched. Already we have seen the rise of blasphemy lynch mobs as Islamabad High Court and no less than Prime Minister himself have called it ‘unpardonable’ and whipped up religious sentiments to the boiling point. The result of this practice of inventing problems where there are none has resulted in tragic loss of life by lynch mobs including the most recent murder of student Mashal Khan.
Already we have seen the warning signs. Last year, an octogenarian was beaten black and blue for eating biryani given to him in charity. He was not the first victim of these Ramazan Vigilantes. In 2013, a video of a man in Karachi being beaten senseless for eating during Ramazan also went viral.
We should remember the commandment that ‘there is no compulsion in religion’, but also we should remember that Ramazan is a time of humility and reflection on our failings, not the failings of others. By playing with the people’s religious sentiments during this holy time, political leaders are playing a dangerous game that our society cannot afford.