Separating our gods

How do the Taliban validate the massacre of children? Kunwar Khuldune Shahid answers

Separating our gods
The Taliban militants chanted ‘Allaho Akbar’ when they launched indiscriminate fire at the school kids of Army Public School, Peshawar on Tuesday. One of the students who survived the attacks started off with ‘Allaho Akbar’ when he was narrating the events.

The militant that set the principal of the school Tahira Kazi on fire recited bismillah before igniting the spark. Almost everyone who has been affected at any scale by Tuesday’s calamity must have recited the invocation multiple times since then.

The militants that butchered the children praised the greatness of the same Allah, on whose greatness we’re relying on collectively as a nation. We are praying to the same Allah that the Islamist terrorists prayed to before unleashing the massacre. Those who manifested unimaginable bravado and those that sunk to the nadir of cowardice, took refuge in the same Allah. And peace in this country is not possible till there’s clear distinction between the two.

Even the harshest, the most barbaric interpretation of Islam does not justify what the TTP orchestrated in Peshawar. And yet a few hours after the attack, the TTP spokesman Muhammad Umar Khorasani released a statement defending the attack through a hadith.

Students in Karachi read the Holy Quran and pray for the victims
Students in Karachi read the Holy Quran and pray for the victims

The TTP’s stance is simple. Since they have excommunicated the Pakistan Army for launching the operation against the Taliban, the Army officers’ children automatically are declared to be among the murtadeen, just like their fathers. This is why the militants categorically asked who the children of Army officers were, lest they indulge in the ‘haram’ act of killing a Muslim, before heinously exploiting the innocence of raised hands.

But then again how do the Taliban validate the massacre of children, when there are clear instructions throughout the Islamic scriptures to not kill women and children? Through the belief that anyone who has reached the age of puberty – or to quote Khorasani ‘old enough to have pubic hair’ – is no longer a child as stated in Islamic scriptures.

And that’s how you justify bludgeoning bullets in the chest of a 14-year-old kid. By first apostatising them and then declaring them adults worthy of waging war against. This is precisely how the attack on Malala Yousafzai was justified in 2012 through the seven-page letter released by the then TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan, where he used the Islamic scripture to defend their violence.

Promote jihad and hatred for non-believers long enough and one day the mujahid sees a little murtid in a 14-year-old school kid. That’s how Malala was targeted. That’s why we mourn the massacre of 132 schoolchildren.

While there are a multitude of pertinent steps that need to be taken by the military, the federal and provincial governments and the law enforcing authorities to counter the immediate Taliban threat, the long-term revamp would need some ideological soul-searching.

Do we really need to look into commandments, scriptures or any holy text to decide whether indiscriminately killing human beings – let alone schoolchildren – is wrong? Do we really need the approval of religion to give verdicts on morality when decapitated heads, burned faces, flogged backs and stoned corpses should suffice? Do we really need to delve into antediluvian books to discern barbarity?

As long as we seek religion’s approval on matters that lie outside the realm of individuality, religion would continue to be used to validate bestiality. It’s time to draw a line which religion, regardless of its esteem or the plurality of interpretations, should not be allowed to cross. It’s time to distinguish right and wrong without seeking the sanction of religion.

Why is it mandatory for many of us to first declare Taliban as non-Muslims – the militants’ takfiri act that we ironically reciprocate – before condemning their action? Why do the echoing chants of ‘Allaho Akbar’ or the titles for their organisation – Taliban-e-Islam, Islamic State, et al – not suffice in sanctioning their religious identity?

As long as we continue to deny that these Islamist militants are Muslims or that they cite Islamic scriptures to rationalise their terrorism, the jihadist ideology that is eroding our societal and national roots will continue to exist. As long as jihad, hatred for nonbelievers, and Muslim supremacy in any form whatsoever is promulgated, supremacists will hijack Islam, promoting its most violent form through sheer clout. Any society that will differentiate between Muslims and non-Muslims will inevitably breed Islamists.

When political leaders like Munawar Hasan endorse ‘qital fi sabilillah’; a Shia genocide proponent like Ahmad Ludhianvi gets to sit in the Parliament; and the chief of a terrorist organisation Hafiz Saeed is seen giving verdicts on terrorism on live television operation Zarb-e-Azb’s limitations are criminally exposed and the need for its ideological counterpart critically highlighted.

Pakistan needs to cleanse itself from these jihad-mongers that are collectively responsible for the suffocation of non-Muslims, the sectarian turmoil and for the country’s regional volatility. And equally, Pakistan needs to purge itself of budding jihadists by strictly moderating mosques and madrassas, which spew hatred on a daily basis for anyone deemed to be a nonbeliever.

When all hopes rest on Allah for crimes committed in his name, there’s a clear ideological paradox that needs to be overcome. We need to separate our Allah from that of the Taliban. Our Allah needs to be more inclusive, more pluralistic, more tolerant and most importantly, more popular than the Taliban’s.

And that is impossible without accepting the Taliban as Muslims and the Islamist ideology as a version of Islam that is no longer workable in the 21st century.