The ghastly act of suicide bombing that left more than eighty people dead in a church of Peshawar yesterday (September 22, 2013) is condemnable on several counts:
While a crime of taking one life is as condemnable in the eyes of God as killing the entire humanity, taking as many lives as were lost yesterday is an evil of unimaginable proportions. The fact that the time chosen for committing this crime was when people were involved in their Sunday worship is even more condemnable. God has mentioned in the Qur'an that the purpose of Jihad is to protect the places of worship (22:40); what these criminals have done is the very opposite of what God has desired. The prophet of God stated that if someone violates the rights of a citizen belonging to minorities in an Islamic state where the law protects their rights, he himself would plead for the case of such individuals on the judgment day against those who violated their rights. And when we add the fact that those who are involved in doing such acts are claiming to be doing it for the glory of Islam, the evilness of it goes beyond all limits of imagination. What makes yesterday's incident even more tragic is the fact that the entire Pakistani nation had come to agree that terrorism shall be eliminated through getting involved in negotiations with those who are responsible for it. Yesterday's incident seems to be a clear indication that despite the noble intentions, the nation was moving in the wrong direction.
While we protest against what happened in Peshawar, we must also look for ways to overcome the curse of terrorism. It seems that the way out of the situation is to confront these enemies of humanity with force and not through negotiations. Their malicious claim that what they are doing is Islamic jihad should be exposed through effective religious arguments. In particular the context of those verses and ahadith should be explained that are often quoted to motivate Muslims to fight against non-Muslims. There should be a complete ban imposed on hate speech and hate literature. All religious groups who speak negatively against others by belittling them should be declared unacceptable in the eyes of law. Disagreeing with other points of view through arguments is one thing and ridiculing and cursing other groups is quite another. Last but not the least, all books of syllabus should be carefully reviewed to see if they contain any material that promotes hatred against other religious groups. A serious review of what is being taught in religious seminaries should be an important part of the reform effort. It is only when people learn to respect each other that the root cause of religious terrorism would be eliminated.
(Khalid Zaheer is a leading Pakistani Islamic scholar. He was, till recently, Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences of the University of Central Punjab (Pakistan)