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EDITORIAL: No one in this country is safe from extremists using religion to commit murder. Last week in D I Khan, three young seminary students, two of them sisters, killed their 21-year-old teacher by first striking her with a stick and then stabbing her in the neck.

The trio, aged between 17 and 24 years had committed the gruesome act because, they said to the police, a religious personality had appeared in the dream of one of their relatives, a 13-year-old girl, and told her that their teacher, Safoora Bibi, had committed blasphemy.

It is hard to believe anyone could take a life merely on the basis of a dream. There may be some other motive behind the cold-blooded murder. As per initial investigations, however, the accused had developed differences with the deceased over some religious issues, which means the reason was not very different from the one stated before the police. It is yet another horrific example of how intolerant this society has become of the ‘other’ opinion.

Things have come to such a sorry pass because state and non-state actors freely employ religion for the furtherance of their political or personal objectives. Blasphemy allegations are frequently employed to perpetuate violence for which there are no consequences, encouraging more and more individual or groups to take the law into their own hands. Several people have been lynched on mere pointing of the finger, like a Mardan university student Mashal Khan, Sri Lankan manager of a Sialkot factory, and a mentally disturbed man in Vehari.

Those who defend the accused can do so at the risk of their own lives. Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer was assassinated by his own guard for seeking justice for a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, falsely accused of blasphemy, and advocate Rasheed Rehman, for pleading the case of a blasphemy accused. Countless others languish in jails with little hope of getting justice. And no less disturbing was the reaction of a certain section of society when Asia Bibi was finally exonerated by a Supreme Court bench. A religious group, TLP, staged countrywide violent agitation against the verdict.

JUI-F leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman also demanded death for the woman on the basis of an allegation, regardless of the court finding that she was falsely implicated in the case. The TLP went as far as to call for the assassination of the three honourable judges of the apex court for letting her walk free — though unable to live normal life she had to find refuge abroad — as well as the Prime Minister for accepting their decision. Yet the TLP has been allowed to function as ‘normal’ religio-political party.

That amounts to legitimatizing acts of violent extremism perpetrated by individuals/groups, motivating others, like the three girls in D I Khan, to misuse teachings of Islam, a religion of peace that lays so much emphasis on compassion and benevolence towards all, to commit horrendous brutality against fellow human beings. This will not stop unless the state stops turning a blind eye to violent extremism.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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