Eid Sermons, Religious Narratives and Terrorism

Aimal Khattak 

As a Pakistani tradition this year too, the religious scholars in their Eid Sermons prayed for the rise of religion and victory of Islam over other religions. They in details discussed the conspiracies hatched by the Christen and Jewish lobbies against Islam. As usual they pleaded to God to eliminate and destroy anti-Islamic Christians and Jewish lobbies. They also did not forget to pray for the victory for militants in Kashmir and Afghanistan.   While avoiding to name those terrorists who are involved in terrorism in Pakistan and abroad, they denounced the terrorism. They claimed that the terrorist activities are committed by anti-Islamic forces. As far as recent attacks are concerned, they gave more time to recent terrorist acts in Saudi Arabia while briefly touched upon attacks inside Pakistan. As always, they emphasized the point that a Muslim can never commit an act of terrorism, its always the other religions which are violent!

 

Most of the clergy in Pakistan is state-patronized but even then they avoid to name the “Bad Taliban” and also hesitated to publicly denounce them. The militant outfits themselves accept responsibility for the terrorist attacks but our clergy deliberately ignore to name them. It is important to note that the clergy must play their due role. The complete rooting out of religious terrorism is impossible until and unless the clergy start denouncing those who commit acts of terrorism in the name of religion.   The terrorists use religion to justify their cause and militancy and for this purpose they obtain Fatwas (religious decrees) from prominent religious scholars. They exploit religious feelings of youth and lure them to join their ranks for carrying out terrorist activities.

 

Recently, we observed some new trends when some clergy members, having sectarian and ideological differences with militants, started denouncing it but the mainstream Deobandi clergy is still maintaining criminal silence. There are many reasons behind their silence. May be some of them are subscribing to militants ideology and may be some of them are afraid of militants and are trying to avoid inviting their wrath.

 

After listening to Eid as well as Friday Sermons, one gets a strange feeling. Our clergy did not touch upon the real issues faced by the masses. Every Sermon, without exception, contains certain generic religious narratives. One narrative is about “religion in danger”. According to this narrative sometimes the religion is in danger, sometimes the mosque and sometime the clergy themselves are in danger and they need to be “saved” from some unknown forces of nature. It is based on a perception of perpetual danger our clergy is faced with.

 

Secondly, the Anti-Islamic lobbies have nothing except to hatch conspiracies against Islam for maligning it. This narrative claims that Anti-Islam lobbies spend all their energies to divide the Muslims and miss no opportunity to malign them.

 

After hearing these narratives, one gets a feeling that the world is full of enemies of Islam and their only aim is defaming Muslims. The disorder in Muslim world is due to the Christian and Jewish lobbies’ conspiracies. The Muslim themselves are so weak and helpless and they can be easily used and exploited by the enemies. Muslims are themselves innocent and they do nothing, the external actors are responsible for everything. Following this logic, the external actors give us financial support, arms and military training. All militant bases are functional at enemy country’s soil and even the external actors are committing acts of terrorism.

 

The other important narrative which one frequently hears after every terrorist attack is that no Muslim can commit such heinous acts. But after every attack we witness that many Muslims or Pakistani national got arrested in suspicion of having some kind of role in such attacks. Some of the accused were awarded sentence too.

 

If our clergy spare some time for exposing the ideological base of terrorists and denounce it rather condemning the anti-Islamic lobbies and cursing them so it can save life of many youths.

 

They enemy will certainly want and try to hurt and destroy us, that’s just human nature, but whether we have ever done our self-analysis what we are doing with ourselves? Did we ever try to look at ourselves and asses our weaknesses and faults? Did we ever realize that how much we ourselves are responsible for the mess we are faced with? No one can deny the role of external actors but they can only harm us when some of us join them and start dancing on their tunes. Holding the enemy responsible for all our misdoings is nothing more than self-deception. Avoiding labor of adopting corrective measures and putting one’s house in order and absolving oneself from responsibilities and holding others is easiest job.

 

If the Eid and Friday prayers are properly monitored, most of the clergy will be behinds bars for inciting violence and violating the laws of the country. There is growing public demand for controlling the sermons. The government in consultation with clergy should develop a code of conduct and guidelines for the sermons. Some religious groups and NGOs have already done some spadework in this regard and it can be utilized aa well. The government should provide model sermons to the prayer leaders and closely monitor its compliance.

 

 

Aimal Khattak

The author is a political commentator mainly covering socio-political and peace issues. He frequently comments on regional issues, especially Afghanistan. Aimal Khattak can be contacted at: aimalk@yahoo.com

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