Reflection of a Dangerous Trend & Islamophobia of Muslims

Daily Times, August 25, 2006
Attempted murder of Ghamidi’s magazine editor: Cops say street crime, others disagree
By Shahnawaz Khan

LAHORE: Police officials investigating the attempted murder of Ishraq Editor Manzoorul Hassan have been trying to establish that the incident was a routine street crime, but sources have told Daily Times that this might have been part of a larger ploy to bring down proponents of moderate Islam like Hassan and Al-Mawrid Institute President Javed Ahmad Ghamidi.

Two unidentified individuals shot Hassan outside the Al-Mawrid building in Model Town, Lahore on Thursday, and Hassan is reported to be in critical condition. Ghamidi’s family and others close to Hassan have refused to divulge any details about his condition or disclose the name of the hospital he is being treated at.

However, police officers investigating Hassan’s attempted murder were still trying to establish whether this was an attempted assassination or a bungled robbery, sources told Daily Times on Thursday.

Talking to Daily Times, Ghamidi said that learned people should not be treated like this, whatever grievances others may have against them.

Aamir Zulfiqar Khan, Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Operations, who reached the crime scene immediately after the incident happened, told Daily Times that it was too soon to speculate on the motive behind the attack.

However, sources in departments concerned specifically with sectarian crimes said that Ghamidi had been receiving threats from various quarters for the past 12 months, adding that although he had never officially accepted the fact that he was being threatened, he had confided in close friends and family about the threats. Clerics from different sects have voiced vehement opposition to Ghamidi’s opinions, which are liberal.

Excerpts from Daily Times Editorial:
EDITORIAL Islamophobia of Muslims

Mr Ghamidi, whose institute was attacked, is an enlightened Islamic scholar of repute. In the past six months his defence of moderate Islam has been aimed at changing the extremist trend in the country. In particular, his mastery of the sources of Islamic law has swung the extreme posture adopted by most Pakistanis regarding Hudood laws to a more temperate view. One can say that without him the debate on changing the Hudood could not have been won despite the efforts of the mainstream political party, the PPP, in parliament. So thin is the genuine grasp of Islam among politicians that they don’t even dare initiate a campaign to repeal clerically recommended laws that are repugnant to human dignity. It is to Mr Ghamidi that the government owes the general acceptance of its legislation amending the unjust Hudood laws.

An attack on Mr Ghamidi’s institution arouses fears that it may be a warning delivered to him to desist from expressing his moderate views. Such fears are not ill founded. In the past years Mr Ghamidi’s persistent refusal to accept a privatised form of jihad has been castigated by the hardline ulema. Articles have been written against him in the Urdu press and clerics appearing with him on TV have condemned him for deviating from the “consensus of the ulema” in general. But the gentleman has rested his case on solid scholarship that appears in his publications and is difficult to defeat in a public debate. His view actually deviates partially or completely from the dominant extremist clergy on almost all issues.

The incident will have the effect of scaring off most people emboldened by Ghamidi’s outspokenness. It was a shot across the bow that we know will succeed because it has been the modus operandi of the Islamists all over the world. They accuse the West of suffering from Islamophobia, from a bias against Muslims that is based on irrational fear. Indeed, the term has rightly been accepted by liberals in the West who warn their societies against acting out of hatred for a community that is not composed of just terrorists. But the reality of fear among Muslim societies cannot be denied too. Moderates and courageous intellectual nay-sayers are not tolerated. They are often attacked and subjected to physical injury. Western institutions are full of such people simply because they could not live in their own societies and survive.

Nowhere is the fear of extremist “Islamism” more palpable than in Pakistan’s Tribal Areas where the common folk have to suffer physical punishment and pay fines for not saying their prayers in the mosque. Mangal Afridi in the Khyber Agency lashes people who speak against his version of Islam because he has a lashkar with which to enforce his scary version of Islam. Thus what has happened in Lahore may be an aspect of what the people of the Muslim world are going through these days: fear of holding moderate views and speaking the truth. If the moderate and enlightened government of President Pervez Musharraf is sincere, it should take a closer look at what it is neglecting to do.


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