The majority of nuclear-armed Pakistan’s citizenry are Sufi Muslims, an ascetic, mystical sect not given to the wilder excesses of their Deobandi brethren who give religious legitimacy to Taliban-style tactics.
But they’re not exactly the Lutheran Ladies League, either:
Following the assassination of a liberal politician who criticized federal blasphemy laws, loud support for the confessed killer is coming from an unlikely quarter: a violence-eschewing, anti-Taliban school of Islam steeped in Sufism.
While many factions have lauded the slaying, the peace-promoting Barelvi sect has spearheaded mass rallies to demand the release of the assassin, a policeman. Because most Pakistanis are Barelvis, their stance is challenging the belief long held among liberals here – and hoped for by nervous U.S. officials – that the Muslim majority in this nuclear-armed nation is more moderate than militant.
The notion of a moderate but silent Pakistani majority has also been undermined by the stance taken by the nation’s young black-suited lawyers, who three years ago led massive pro-democracy strikes but this month showered rose petals on Mumtaz Qadri, the killer of Punjab governor Salman Taseer. Civilian and military officials have responded with little more than tepid disapproval to the killing…
“This is a very basic concept. If you kill an innocent person, it means you are killing all humanity,” said Mohammed Ziaul Haq, a council spokesman and author whose new book is titled “WikiLeaks: America’s Horrendous Face.” “Islam is a religion of peace and love, and it asks its followers to restrain themselves.”
But killing in response to blasphemy is another matter, he said, making it “totally different from terrorism.” The government had done nothing to silence Taseer’s criticism of the blasphemy ban, he said, or his support for a Christian woman sentenced to death for the law, which he said had made Taseer an “indirect” blasphemer himself. “Ninety percent of people in Pakistan think Mumtaz Qadri is a hero,” Ziaul Haq said. “If it’s a democracy, the government should think about that.”
As should we all.