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Shia Muslims take to Twitter to share how they faced harassment and hatred in Sunni-majority Pakistan

Though both Shia and Sunni Muslims had supported the partition of India to create a Muslim country for themselves known as Pakistan, there has been a lot of enmity between these two sects of Islam, not just in Pakistan, but in many Islamic countries.

The persecution of Shia Muslims in Sunni-majority Pakistan is not a new phenomenon. Shias who constitute 20% of the Muslims in Pakistan and are often 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.

Though both Shia and Sunni Muslims had supported the partition of India to create a Muslim country for themselves known as Pakistan, there has been a lot of enmity between these two sects of Islam, not just in Pakistan, but in many Islamic countries.

Recently, a Shia shopkeeper was murdered in Pakistan’s Karachi, allegedly by Deobandi radical elements.

In light of recent anti-Shia demonstrations in the Islamic republic, the Shia Muslims took to Twitter to narrate their harrowing experiences.

A Twitter user (@Zahara Kazmi) recounted, “I was 6 years old, and this happened at school right after the anti-shia riots that ended in burning my house and the houses of a dozen other shias in KPK, they wrote the same thing “shia kafir” on the burnt and demolished walls of my beloved home.”

In another tweet, a Pakistani national wrote that she was just 8 when her classmates informed her that killing a Shia would guarantee a house in ‘paradise.’ She stated that according to Sunni beliefs, the number of such houses equal to the number of Shias being killed by Sunni Muslims.

Another user, Saim Rizvi, experienced the sectarianism when he lived in Germany with his Pakistani friends. He wrote, “I never had experienced this until I moved in a student hostel in Germany, where a bunch of Pakistani students mutually decided to avoid eating with me. Avoid praying together, avoid the food I cooked and they ask others to do so. Later I was alone and they preserve their Islam.”

Journalist Sarah B Haider reminiscenced how she was labelled as a Kafir (derogatory term for non-Muslims) and ‘gande log‘ (dirty people) by fellow Sunni Muslims. “I was 12 when a bunch of girls in our class started calling me and another Shia classmate “kafir,” “ganday log,” and other things. I never mentioned anything about my faith, my name said it all. Told our teacher, she said: “You all should treat ‘non-Muslims’ kindly,” she tweeted.

Another Pakistani user stated that he was in 6th grade when he learnt about the anti-Shia sentiment in Pakistan. He therefore chose to hid his identity as Shias were ‘often humiliated’. He further added, “I had to sit quietly and watch my fellows get the same treatment. A never ending cycle of pain.”

Recounting the public humiliation, one Wajahat Zaidi wrote, “Class 6. Can’t remember the age. Whole class(excluding girls) loudly chanted Shia Kafir while pointing towards me.”

Anti-Shia protests in Pakistan

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 rally took place near the Jinnah Mausoleum, also known as Mazar-e-Quaid. The Sunni extremists were affiliated with anti-Shia groups such as Sipah-e-Sahaba and Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan.

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. 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.

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