Gojra, the capital of Gojra Tehsil, is a city of Toba Tek Singh District in the Punjab province of Pakistan. Last Saturday riots broke out in the town over alleged desecration of the Holy Quran. Following the riots more than 50 houses, belonging to the Christian community, were set on fire leaving seven people burnt to death and eighteen others severely injured. According to sources, most of the houses were burnt by a group of youths who had their faces covered with veils. They threw petrol bombs and fired indiscriminately. The widespread communal violence has been condemned severely by the Pakistani blogosphere and the media.
Zaheer Kidvai at Windmills of my mind condemns these killings in a post titled “What the hell is wrong with our people?”:
The Gojra killings, in which the Christian minority has been targeted, are not an isolated incident. The fascistic attitude of several religious groups has become a scar on the face of Pakistan and, if not checked, will disfigure it beyond recognition.The Taliban may have suffered defeats at the hands of the Army in the recent skirmishes and battles, but the obnoxious ideas that have been planted in a large number of minds by a range of religious fanatics (and it's rare to see the face on TV of a Mulla who isn't) have to be actively countered.
Samson Simon Sharaf at Pak Tea House calls them the “victims of half law” and states:
The entire trail from Jhang to Gojra, Mian Channu and Shantinagar is littered with similar incidents of religiously fanned hatred spearheaded by banned militant outfits. Time and again such incidents take place with impunity and remarkable alacrity. It is to question why the local administration is caught sleeping and why no preventive measures manifest themselves in pre emptive actions.
He then talks about the failure of the authorities in tackling the crisis:
Reportedly, around 18th of July, intelligence agencies had issued a warning to the Government of Punjab of likely incidents of terrorism in which some enclaves of minority Pakistanis could be targeted. Rather than taking this information seriously, the provincial government deemed it fit to act as it did, allowing free access to militant outfits for arson and murder.
Although sources state that over 200 people were arrested after the incident, the majority are still not satisfied. The condemnation continues and the authorities are repeatedly being accused of their negligence.
Kalsoom Lakhani at CHUP! -Changing up Pakistan suggests that a lot more needs to be done:
It is not enough to bring these perpetrators to justice. The government must also understand and begin to address the root and underlying causes behind such incidents. Violence against Pakistan’s minorities [According to the CIA Factbook, only 3% of Pakistanis are minorities – mainly Hindus and Christians] is not uncommon; in fact, Minority Rights Group International found that Pakistan had the world’s highest increase of threats against minorities last year and was ranked the seventh most dangerous country for minorities overall.
The communal violence has been fiercely condemned in the mainstream media as well. Naveen Naqvi at dawn questions the incident as “Negligence or complicity?”, she goes on to share details about her ‘Question and Answer session’ with religious scholar Khalid Zaheer.
We are talking about an increase in Islamic extremism to which any dissent is not tolerated. Blogger Sana Saleem requested me on Twitter to ask my guest on Breakfast at Dawn, Khalid Zaheer, if he and other liberal Islamic scholars would come together to condemn Gojra as they did against Taliban atrocities. His answer was disappointing but understandable. He said, ‘No. This is the sad part of the story.’ Men of religion who have protested this extreme interpretation of Islam that is consuming Pakistan have been repeatedly targeted. Initially, they contended with threats and later, were killed for their views. The Taliban killed Maulana Hassan Jan, a religious scholar from Peshawar, who issued a fatwa against suicide attacks, calling them ‘un-Islamic.
Moin Ansari at Rupee News talks about the Gojra riots with reference to Quran and the teachings of Jinnah:
We ask the larger society in Pakistan to get seriously involved in a meaningful and focused dialogue to look at how various laws are being abused in stripping the minorities in Pakistan of their rights. We need to enlighten ourselves and the world on how these crimes are against the principles and spirit of the creation of Pakistan and the core essence and teachings of the Quran.
The Authorities have repeatedly stated that actions will be taken. However it seems that the incident is not isolated and measures need to be taken to prevent future incidents. In my own blog, in a post titled “Gojra: Flames of Zia's theocracy” I have discussed the ways in which the Blasphemy law is being abused to justify widespread communal violence.
Its been 31 years, since the law was introduced, yet the nation shows no scruples in abiding by the most futile system. A system sought to instill beguiler views and flourishing a conservative society. This involves the suspension of the sensibility of love and reason underlying the religious tradition signified in our culture.
Whether we allow the flames of Gojra to burn down the fanatic ideologies remains a pending decision. So let the victims of Gojra open our eyes to the flaws blatantly engraved in our minds and steer us to a much needed change.