Religious Minorities in Pakistan (RELS 348)

The article by the Times of Pakistan from March 17, 2015 alludes to some of the religious tensions which exist in South Asia. In the article it is stated that opposition parties and religious minority groups feel that radical Islam is threatening religious freedom and security in Pakistan. Opposition parties such as the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl are accusing the government of timidly enforcing law and order onto areas which have been encroached on by Islamic extremism. Terrorism is an increasing concern in Pakistan as both radicalized Islamists and desperate minorities have recently resorted to violence such as suicide bombing and attacks on places of worship. The author includes interviews with opposition an opposition party spokesperson who criticizes the current government for failing to protect its minority populations by not cracking down hard enough on radical Islamists. Later in the article, the author includes a response by a government spokesperson who criticized minority groups for turning to violence rather than trusting the government’s institutions to combat religious violence. In his conclusion the author includes a point by the leader of another opposition party, the Pashtoonkwha Milli Awami Party calling for a bilateral approach with Afghanistan to blunt religious radicalization efforts by encouraging religious education which emphasizes the peaceful aspects of Islamic doctrine.

During his analysis of the life of M.N. Roy, Kris Manjapra mentioned the high religious tensions between Muslims and Hindus in India. Like India, Pakistan has experienced significant issues with religious tensions since independence. By mentioning the bilateral approach with Afghanistan and its religious education strategy at the end of his article and in great detail, the author seems to support this approach more than the other presented options. The government’s dismissal of the dangers facing religious minorities from Islamic extremists is only briefly mentioned by the author, despite the fact that it represents the view of the ruling party which indicates that the author is likely critical of this approach or perhaps the government itself. British imperial rule in South Asia was fairly indirect, and little was done to exasperate the already volatile religious divisions on the Indian sub-continent. However British rulers also did little to actively improve Hindu-Muslim relations which resulted in the partitioning of India into Hindu dominated India, and Muslim dominated Pakistan and Bangladesh. Pakistan has a very complicated position in the Muslim diaspora, as it is a major centre for jihadist recruitment, but is itself an important ally of the United States against Al-Qaeda. Tim Craig of the Washington Post notes that sectarian violence in Pakistan is largely due to unease and suspicion between the Sunni majority and the Shiite and non-Islamic minorities. Personally I believe that the tense relationship between the Sunni majority and minorities in Pakistan may be worsened by the legacy of imperialism, but non-imperialized countries are certainly not immune to tensions between majorities and minorities. Anti-Islam and anti-immigration movements are becoming more prominent in the West, particularly in Europe where groups such as the German based PEGIDA are becoming increasingly popular. As religious and ethnic tensions rise between majorities and minorities around the world, it is essential that people remember the atrocious legacies of religious persecution and social Darwinism in the 20th Century, or else risk majority-minority tensions boiling over in countries around the world.

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