Vol. 5 Num 1104 Mon. July 09, 2007  

Siege of the Red Mosque
We must resist use of religion to advance political agenda
The Red Mosque in Islamabad, Pakistan, continues to be under the control of some militant clerics and students who remain unrelenting in their demand for the introduction of Islamic sharia law in the country. For the past six days a lot of blood has been spilled on both sides when gunfight broke out intermittently between the law enforcers and the armed inmates.

The disconcerting development is, even though the firebrand leader of the fanatic group Abdul Aziz was caught by the police while escaping from the scene, it apparently failed to cause any dent in the aggressive posture of the militants. They were seen guarding strategic points of the mosque wearing gas masks and brandishing automatic weapons.

In a latest bid to end the fiasco, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has categorically told the Islamists to immediately free women and children held as human shields or face death. He made it known that his government has so far shown a lot of patience and restraint.

Seeds of religious extremism have been sprouting in Pakistan over the past decades. The attack spearheaded from the mosque in Islamabad only demonstrates how vicious the obscurantist elements have grown right in the heart of the capital. But the stern counter-offensive launched by the government spells out its no-nonsense attitude as far as giving space to such elements in Pakistan society goes.

We strongly believe that whether a country will be governed under the dictates of Islamic sharia law or not is a political issue that needs to be settled through initiating debates and discourses among the people at various tiers. It could also be discussed in a parliament. Therefore, using a sacrosanct place like a mosque to do warfare and spill blood in the name of Islam is tantamount to sacrilege, and the perpetrators ought to be punished by law.

Outrageous series of incidents seen in Pakistan once again brings forth the necessity for universal condemnation of using religion or a place of worship as a base to articulate obscurantist political ideology. Exploiting religious sentiments of the innocent people to advance political agenda has become the pastime for some misguided religious elements. Such people have to be exorcised from all Muslim societies.