Tragic Bombing in Pakistan, Islam, and Examining U.S. Drone Policy
“I know in my heart that man is good. That what is right will always eventually triumph. And there’s purpose and worth to each and every life.”
Pakistan’s central government has taken control of the province of Baluchistan after the deadly bombings in Quetta last Thursday that killed 92 people and injured 120 at a crowded pool hall. The Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani, rather than responding to the outcry from shocked protesters, failed to cut short his private trip to Dubai, which outraged the mourning community.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Raja Pervez Ashraf, flew to Quetta on Sunday, after thousands began to protest, some blocking the roads with coffins from the dead that the local government didn’t want to acknowledge. The Shi’ites refused to bury their dead without promise of security in the region. (This is an extreme form of protest in Islam)
Today, President Asif Ali Zardari approved stripping Raisani’s coalition of all government powers and handing them over to the provincial governor and the army. The governor has the ability to step in and take control for a period of six months. The order issued by Zardari will last for two months. Here is a copy of the notification from the President:
The Prime Minister also announced on national television that he was willing to give in to the Shi’ites demands.
“We have decided to impose governor’s rule in Balochistan for two months, the provincial government will be sacked,” said Ashraf, after offering his condolences to grieved families. “It is a national tragedy and the entire nation is saddened over it.”
Strife in Baluchistan is, unfortunately, nothing new. However, the media largely ignores the fact that there are specific targets in these attacks: the Shia. Pakistan’s government remains strangely silent while thousands of Shia are massacred within their borders. The Taliban and Al Qaeda, trained and funded by the United States during the Cold War, support the Salafists who have committed genocide throughout the Middle East in their attempts to pit Sunni against Shia and to systematically wipe out the peace loving Muslim minority.
As Americans, our only vision of Islam has been of the Salafi/Wahhabi interpretation (jihadist). These beliefs are not the majority in the world of Islam, but they are certainly the ones that end up on television. The Salafi Jihadists are the extremists, the people behind the scenes in Al Qaeda that want to change the world through violence, whereas there are others who practice da’wa (evangelizing). Both come from a movement that originally began in Egypt and filtered into Saudi Arabia. Wahhabism, in contrast, or more commonly called Muwahideen (monotheist) came about in the 18th century when Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab began preaching a revivalist form of Islam that called for purging polytheism from the faith. The two groups merged with elements taken from each, and in the 1970s, the Saudi government began to separate themselves from these extreme views, calling Al Qaeda a “deviant sect of Islam.”
You can read more information on the origins of Salafism/Wahhabism here.
The Sunni are Salafi, which are those that focus on the literal meaning of the teachings of the Qu’ran, without room for debate or discussion.The Salafi emphasize the teachings of their ancestors as a model of Islam (traditionalist). The Salafi are the “puritans” of Islam. You could call them the Catholics of Islam, wheras the Shiites would be more like the Protestants. The Sunni make up at least 75% of the world’s Muslim population.
The Shia, or Shi’ite, are those who believe that only God has the right to appoint a successor or a prophet. The word Shia means “the followers of Ali”, whom Mohammed chose to be his successor as the first caliph. It has been estimated that 20% of the world’s Muslims are Shi’ite, and the Shia make up 10-20% of Pakistan’s population. That may be a modest interpretation, though, because most demographic information lists all Muslims as Sunni. It’s possible that 57 million people in Pakistan are Shi’ite rather than Sunni. Pakistan is believed to have the second largest Shia population in the world.
It’s difficult to explain the intricacies of Islam when one is not Muslim. However, after many years of study, I have figured out a few things:
1. Salafi Jihadists, who are the radical Muslims that Americans see on TV, make up less than one percent of the world’s Muslim population.
2. The Sunni are considered Salafists. Salafism and Salifi Jihadism are NOT the same thing.
3. Suicide bombing is haram, or forbidden, among the Salafist/Sunni. In fact, those who advocate violent jihad are considered Anti-Islam. Allah forbids Muslims to attack anyone or to start war in the Qu’ran, and only authorizes retaliation in self defense:
“And fight in the cause of God those who are fighting you, and do not transgress the limits. Truly, God loves not the transgressors: [2: 190] “whoever transgresses against you, you transgress likewise against him”.[2:194]“
In fact, according to Ahmed Mansour, in his article,“Salafi Wahabism is anti Islam”, the Qu’ran says that Muslims cannot kill anyone unless that person has committed murder or is attacking them:
“In Islam, the Quran is the only resource of Islamic jurisprudence which is so simple and flexible that it could be applied any time. In this holy Jurisprudence, it is forbidden to accuse any peaceful man to be infidel or idol worshipper, and the only reason to kill a human being is when he kills some one, or when he is a soldier among army attacking your peaceful country. It is also prohibited to commit suicide through aggression and injustice.[4: 29-30]”
4. Through speaking with friends and through my own extensive study, I have come to interpret the idea of “jihad” in the same way that 99% of Muslims interpret it: a struggle between the self and God. According to the Qu’ran, the term Muslim refers to ANYONE who is peaceful, regardless of faith. The term “jihad” is not a violent one; it is defined as the “spiritual struggle with oneself against sin”. You can read more about the true meaning of jihad and the misinterpretation here.
The founder of Pakistan, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, intended for the nation to be a progressive democracy that embraced all people of all faiths. Three days before the official creation of Pakistan in 1947, Jinnah gave a speech before the first Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, in which he stated:
” You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the state …… We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and citizens of one state……. in the course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state.”
Again in 1948, Jinnah reaffirmed his vision for Pakistan:
“In any case Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic state to be ruled by priests with a divine mission. We have many non-Muslims-Hindus, Christians and Parsis — but they are all Pakistanis. They will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizens and will play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan.”
The Hazara, which are the Shi’ites of Quetta in Balochistan, are believed to have been specifically targeted by the Taliban in last week’s suicide bombing, followed by a car bomb. Alamdar Road, where the bombings happened, is a Shia name.
The Sunni and the Shia may be split on ideology, but in Pakistan, both sects united together against the bombings in Quetta and held a sit in on Sunday, which prompted officials to take measures to secure the region. This unity gave rise to the removal of the lax Raisani.
All over the world, people have turned out to protest the killing of the Shia in Pakistan. YouTube is filled with dozens of videos, including some from Dallas and Houston, as people express their horror at the genocide of the peaceful Muslim sect.
This comment was seen on Facebook earlier today:
“thanks to All Sunni Muslim brothers who stood with us in our protest against the brutal regime of Pakistan
What others are saying:
“You’ve made us proud, Quetta! Never before did we see such resilience, serenity and unity in protests. Braving the cold, fighting their tears, sitting side by side with bodies of loved ones for 68 hours out in the open. You shook the entire nation. Shia, sunni, hindu, christian, regardless of believes we stood together across the country. You overthrew a provincial government, you besieged the President at Bilawal house, all without breaking a single piece of glass. You give us hope. All is not lost, it’s still not too late. Pakistan Zindabad ♥”
We also thank all our Sunni brothers and sisters, Christian and Hindu fellows and everyone else who extended their support physically or online.” (anonymous)
Amidst this tragedy, the U.S. has begun to accelerate drone strikes. So far in 2013, our drones have killed 35 people. Drone strikes have taken out 22 of 30 Al Qaeda leaders, and last week killed a top Taliban official. However, the victories come at a price. It’s estimated that since 2004, U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan have killed 700 people; 200 of those have been children.
When do the ends justify the means? As a Republican, I am personally against the current drone policy for fiscal reasons, as well as humanitarian ones. As a mother and a decent human being, my heart is breaking for the people of Pakistan.
Rachel Maddow of MSNBC summed up the attitude toward our drone policy among the Liberty community fairly well when she discussed the current administration’s refusal to speak on drone policy:
“The most amazing thing about this as a matter of policy is that it isn’t a matter of policy,” said Maddow, troubled by what she believes to be “secrecy” surrounding our drone policy. “…The fact that we know that these things are happening and that our government considers these things deniable is frankly one of the more Orwellian things about being an American in the 21st century.”
“We may or may not like what our military does in wartime, but the expectation … [is that] we get to know what they’re doing,” she continued. “Our political leaders can be voted out of office if we do not like what they have the military do. We do not have that luxury, that accountability, when our government does not admit to what we do.”
It’s time that we look at this is context, and ask ourselves why we continue to bomb Pakistan with drones that are killing innocents as well as the intended targets. While most Americans are focused on 2nd Amendment issues, we are distracted from the fact that it is imperative that our drone policy be examined. There has to be a better way.
I would like to extend my condolences to all who lost family and friends in the bombings in Quetta.
“It is the job of thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners.”