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In her book “Purifying the Land of the Pure: Pakistan’s Religious Minorities” (published by Harper Collins, India, 2015.), Farahnaz Ispahani writes : “At the time of Partition in 1947, almost 23 per cent of Pakistan’s population, which then included Bangladesh, comprised non-Muslim citizens. The proportion of non-Muslims has since fallen to approximately three per cent in the western wing. Furthermore, the distinctions among Muslim denominations have become far more accentuated over the years. Groups such as the Shias, who account for over 20 per cent of the population, are often targeted by violent extremists. Ahmadis, barely one per cent of the population, have been declared non-Muslims by a writ of the state. Minorities such as Christians, Hindus and Sikhs have been the victims of bomb attacks on their neighbourhoods, some of them have been converted to Islam against their will. Houses of worship have been attacked and bombed while filled with worshippers. Pakistan has descended to its current state of religious intolerance through a series of political decisions by Jinnah’s successors.”
After the Nankana Sahib vandalism in Pakistan, a wave of what could be called an Islamic clergy-led community resilience in India against the Pakistani mistreatment of religious minorities was clearly seen. Following reports of stone pelting at the revered Gurdwara Nankana Sahib in Pakistan on Friday evening, the people of India condemned the vandalism and called upon the neighbouring country to take immediate steps to ensure the safety and security of the Sikh community. But significantly, the mob attack on the Nankana Sahib Gurdwara has evoked strong reactions not only from politicians and social activists but also from the clerics of all Islamic schools of thought uniting to lodge their protest against the stone-pelting carried out at one of the holiest Sikh shrines.
Not just the All India Ulama and Mashaikh Board known for organizing the World Sufi Forum, an international Sufi conclave which condemned all the previous brutal attacks on Sufi, Shia, Christian and other non-Muslim sacred spaces in Pakistan, but even the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind termed the gruesome Nankana incident as strictly against the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The newly elected Jamaat president Sadatullah Hussaini said: “We demand Pakistan government should arrest those persons involved in this incident and safety should be provided to the pilgrims.” There is an all-round anger against Pakistan’s mistreatment of minorities which has also been shown by the ulema fraternity.
Maulana Maqbool Ahmad Salik Misbahi, founder and rector of Jamia Khwaja Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki, averred that “the attack from Pakistani jihadists is actually an onslaught on the existence of the nation itself”. He furhter said that if the government of Pakistan is sincere in its treatment with the Sikh minority, it should immediately take strict action against those who perpetrated this heinous and atrocious crime and maintain the sanctity of the Sikh gurdwara.
Syed Muhammad Ashraf Kichchhochvi, the founder and president of All India Ulama & Mashaikh Board made it patently clear: “Since Guru Nanak Devji, the first Guru of the Sikh brethren was born in the attacked shrine of Nankana, therefore, it is historically rooted and should be respected as the place of devotion”. He appealed to the people of Pakistan to follow the path of the Prophet (peace be upon him), and warned that if anyone does this vandalism again, it would be stronger violation of the Prophet’s teachings.
Maulana Zainullah Nizami, imam of Ghausia Masjid and chairman of Falah-e-Millat Foundation, said that when Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) created the state of Madinah, he first safeguarded the rights of minorities over there and ensured the protection of their places of worship as well as their lives, properties and dignities. “If Pakistan claims to follow in the footprints of the Madina state as an Islamic welfare society, it should make the protection of minority rights the top national priority, so that a good message could percolate down”, he said.
Maulana Abdus Samad Chishti said that the Nankana attack has crashed down the hopes which were held out in the wake of Pakistan’s opening of the Kartarpur Corridor and building of a magnificent Gurudwara. “The vandalism has made it clear that Pakistan starts showing its true colours after masquerading as a nation in solidarity with the religious minorities. The recent pro-minority initiatives in Pakistan are likely to be a false show and pretence, as the non-Muslims continue to face a dark future in several parts of the country”. On the same terrain of thought, Sharif Ali Pardhan and Dr Siraj Ahmad, two young social activists emphasised that every Muslim in India is in solidarity with the Sikh brethren and would not tolerate if such activities of vandalism are repeated. “Pakistan must stop its strategies for mobilising global Muslims for creating an international support base, because Islam does not give anyone a free hand to hurt non-Muslims’ religious sentiments. But Pakistan does. To stand with the oppressed is one of the major objectives of an Islamic country, they spoke in one unison.
Recent incidents are indicative of the frequent use of ‘go to Pakistan’ jibe against Indian Muslim citizens, reportedly in various communal clashes in some parts of the country. In fact, one of the oft-used phrases commonly heard to stereotype India’s Muslims is: ‘Go to Pakistan’. But this strong theologically-grounded agitation from the Indian Islamic clergy, not to speak of the common Muslims, against Pakistani establishment exposes the complete inaccuracy and fallacy of the imagination that Muslims in India would ever harbour pro-Pakistan sentiments.