It Is Time That We the People of Pakistan Take a Strong Stance Against the Taliban

It has been one year to the tragedy that occurred in Peshawar, Pakistan, on December 16, 2014 that claimed the lives of 132 schoolchildren and left many other students injured and traumatized. The whole nation was in great pain and grief.

On January 20, 2016, unidentified gunmen entered Bacha Khan University in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Charsadda town and opened fire on students and faculty members as they gathered at the school for a poetry recital to commemorate the death anniversary of the activist and leader whom the school is named after (Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan). According to the officials, 21 people have died in this tragic event.

This attack, which was similar to the one that took place in Peshawar, left the whole nation anguished once more. In the wake of this tragedy, I believe it is time we Pakistanis take a stance as a nation when it comes to Islamic extremism.

We have been living in denial about Islamic extremism and most of us blame India and other countries for almost every tragic event. We should wake up from our deep slumber and realize that Islamization has caused a great deal of damage to our country.

Pakistanis should understand that Taliban are not just Muslims but they are even more pious and god-fearing than most of us. We need to analyze the ideology which the Taliban and other Jihadi outfits follow.

There is an urgent need for a line to be drawn between moderate Muslims and the Jihadists/Islamists. For this we must understand that Islamism is the ideology that promotes the idea of imposing a particular interpretation of Islam over a community. A Muslim is someone who believes in Islam and the main principles of Islam. So does an Islamist, but he also believes that the religion of Islam must be implemented all over the world, and that it is his responsibility to bring this about. Unlike normal Muslims, an Islamist believes he has political and social responsibilities assigned to him by Islam.

Not all Muslims are Islamists but every Islamist believes in Islam (and hence is a Muslim). We should realize that extremists' interpretation has solid grounds as well, and they justify their acts from the Quran. Hence we need to present a counter narrative against the jihadist mindset.

There is no doubt that our seminaries are the breeding grounds of these terrorists and in order to control and defeat radicalism we first have to monitor our seminaries. The religious education in Pakistan is also a matter of serious concern as it is based on the very teachings that take an extreme view and shape a Jihadi mindset. In almost every seminary, the students are generally taught that:

1. Anywhere in the world, if someone commits idolatry (polytheism) or apostasy, it is punishable by death and it is our prime responsibility to implement this punishment.

2. In this world, the non-Muslims cannot live freely and must be oppressed. No one except the Muslims has the right to live with complete sovereignty. No one else can govern a state.

3. All non-Muslims states are illicit and it is our responsibility to eliminate them whenever we have the power to do so.

4. The concept of modern state formation is totally against the teachings of Islam. All Muslims are like a single nation and they must have one single state and government (caliphate).

These teachings and the political interpretation of Islam are the main reason for the existence of groups like the Taliban. This mindset is not only present in our seminaries but also in our elite institutes. For example, Saad Aziz who murdered Sabeen Mehmud (a prominent Pakistani human rights activist and founder and director of the Karachi-based cafe The Second Floor) and who was also involved in the Safoora carnage, studied at the most reputable Business Institute of Pakistan, IBA.

There is something terribly wrong in our understanding of Islam and hence there is an acute need to rectify it. Can we blame India and other foreign countries for these acts under such circumstances? Aren't we missing something? Rather than making such lame accusations I believe it is time for us to understand that the problem lies within us and in our interpretation of Islam. We must realize this fact before it is too late.