Monday 11 May 2009

Pakistani Clerics speak out against Taliban and in favour of Army action

Finally, showing courage and defiance against the Taliban hegemony a group of leading Pakistani clerics belonging to an association of Sunni Madrassahs [religious schools] have spoken out in favour of the ongoing army campaign against the Taliban in Swat valley. They have declared the army action against Taliban a "Jihad" [holy war].

The news has not been given the due importance by mainstream media that it deserves. Speaking out against Taliban is becoming a risky, often life threatening, business in Pakistan. Unnoticed by the world at large a number of religious leaders have given their lives for the crime of standing up against the Taliban - only until the recent military action in Swat there was no support for those who wanted to stand up to Taliban. Pir Samiullah of Swat was killed by Taliban last December and his body hung in the town square to scare off any further dissent, he is not the only one who paid the price of resistance by his life - rather than help those who opposed Taliban government decided to sign a peace accord with them.

Majority of Pakistani population has sat on the fence when it came to forming an opinion on Taliban enforced Sharia law. Though a majority of the predominantly Muslim society has a deep rooted belief that Sharia should form the basis for the country's legal and justice system - but an even bigger majority doesn't want to go anywhere near the Taliban's version of Sharia. But saying so openly is generally considered to be inappropriate and risky - it has always been so easy to be branded an infidel, with the arrival of Taliban it has become a fatal undertaking.

Ulema (religious clerics) in Pakistan have always decided to stay quiet even when they believed that the Taliban views were wrong. Even religious political parties who believe in and are a part and parcel of the current democratic system have chosen to stay quiet. But recent actions of Taliban movement in Swat have brought the effects of this menace closer to home.

I hope that the group of forty odd Sunni Clerics who have decided to put their lives at risk and have spoken out will be the first among a large number of others who will join. Unless leading Islamic clerics openly, unequivocally and consistently begin to denounce the Taliban and Al-Qaeda's way of imposing Islam and Jihad the war against extremism will be a very long one.

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