On Friday, thousands of Sunni extremists hit the streets of Karachi to lead anti-Shia protests, thereby escalating tensions between the two Islamic sects and sparking fears of a series of violent events. The demonstrations took place in the backdrop of blasphemy allegations against Shiite Pakistani leaders for allegedly making objectionable comments about historic Islamic personalities during the live broadcast of Muharram procession on TV.
The rally took place near the Jinnah Mausoleum, also known as Mazar-e-Quaid. The Sunni extremists, affiliated with anti-Shia groups such as Sipah-e-Sahaba and Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan, referred to Shias as ‘infidels’ (Kafirs). Reportedly, Sipah-e-Sahaba has been responsible for killing hundreds of Shia Muslims in Pakistan in the past.
Sunni Muslims refer Shias as ‘Kaffirs’
Several videos of the said protests have come to light. In one such video, Sunni extremists atop buses can be seen waving flags and shouting Anti-Shia slogans. “Kafir, Kafir Shia Kafir (Infidels, infidels, Shia infidels)”, the demonstrators were heard as saying.
Twitter user Syed Hussain Mujtaba Rizvi wrote, “So this all has started. Sipah Sahaba & Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan chanting Kafir Kafir Shia Kafir in Karachi. Imam Bargah Imamia at Lines Area under attack by the same goons, some pelting on Bargah reported.”
So this all has started.— Syed Hussain Mujtaba Rizvi (@110HussainRizvi) September 11, 2020
Sipah Sahaba & Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan chanting Kafir Kafir Shia Kafir in #Karachi
Imam Bargah Imamia at Lines Area under attack by the same goons, some pelting on Bargah reported.#ShiaGenocide pic.twitter.com/HD5rUfrBJo
Stone pelting at Imambargah by Sunni extremists
In another video, Sunni extremists associated with Sipah Sahaba can be seen pelting stones at an Imambargah (congregation halls for Shia Muslims during ceremonies) during their demonstrations in Karachi.
Sipah Sahaba activists attacking and throwing stones inside an Imambargah on their way to the convention held in Karachi today.— Asad Gokal (@asadgokal) September 11, 2020
Its getting more and more dangerous for Shias of Pakistan as the state seems to have abandoned them completely..#ShiaGenocide pic.twitter.com/AnvHS5oqlB
During a recent speech, a politician from the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam political party, Qari Usman, said, “We will not tolerate any more defamation.” Shias, who constitute 20% of the Muslims in Pakistan, have been targeted during Muharram processions. While there has been a general decline in violence against Shiites since 2013, sectarian attacks continue unabated in several pockets of the country.
Blasphemy in Pakistan
Blasphemy in Pakistan is an offence, punishable by death. The archaic law is often misused to target religious and ethnic minorities to settle personal scores. Even if charges of blasphemy are not proved, the accused may be lynched to death by Islamist mobs.
The blasphemy law states, ”Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.”
Pakistani Sunni Muslims refer to Coronavirus as ‘Shia virus’
Earlier, several Pakistanis took to social media to blame the Shias who returned from pilgrimage from Iran for spreading coronavirus. Some even said that more than China, the country where the deadly virus originated, Shias are responsible and the Chinese virus should actually be called ‘Shia Virus’. Some also accused the Shia Muslims of ‘intentionally’ bringing the virus to Pakistan. Some even accused Shias of being enemies of Islam.