Mashal Khan’s Murder: An Act of Collective Cowardice

Last week a mob of students of Khan Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan performed a collective act of cowardly murder of one of their fellow students. In any other country, this news would have come across as ‘fake” or sensational but in what has now become of the so-called “Land of the Pure,” this is our living, brutal reality.

Apparently, Mashal and Abdullah were attacked by their fellow students because of the rumors that they had committed blasphemy. The university administrators, who should all be fired for their failure to protect their students, have in their sick wisdom ordered an inquiry into the conduct of victims to ascertain whether or not they had committed blasphemy. This is another act of cowardice and moral ineptitude, for the University administrators should have instead condemned the murders instantly and then declared that they will apprehend and prosecute all those responsible for this murder.

This is not the first instance where a group of so-called “Muslims” have collectively murdered defenseless and helpless victims maligned by rumor and innuendo. Blasphemy has now become the weapon through which the religious fanatics in Pakistan blackmail, intimidate, and kill all those they deem a threat to their way of thinking and imagining the world. Mashal’s murder, therefore, is yet another example of this journey into madness of a culture that has a large segment of its population convinced that murdering others in the name of God is a pious and honorable act.

Our mullahs and our religious political parties are clearly responsible for these acts: after all, all such attacks on university campuses can be traced to one politicized student organization that is funded and supported by one major political party. Their way of implementing their version of what they construe as Islamic is through brute force and intimidation. Mashal’s murder is not an abebration! It should not be read as abnormal. This, in fact, is the new norm in Pakistani Islam and if we don’t stand together and fight against it, we will regress into an intolerant society where rule of law is privatized and punishment for all alleged crimes is death at the hands of the so-called Muslims around us.

The cowardice does not end at the act of murder itself: it actually permeates our entire culture. The cowardly maulvi of the mosque, around Mashal’s home, refused to lead the Jenaza prayer for him and, it is reported, only a handful of family members showed up for his final prayers. Thus, even after his death, caused at the hands of his fellows, even if he had “technically” been punished through mob violence, the religious leaders neither had the courage nor the wisdom to perform his last rites. On the other hand, the same Maulvis competed each other to say the last prayer of a convicted cold-blooded murderer, Mumtaz Qadri, and thousands of people showed up for his Jenaza. So, it seems only the murderers get the kind of accolades that should have been deserved for those who are killed in collective acts of cowardly violence.

It took the prime minister of Pakistan TWO days to issue a statement against these murders! TWO DAYS! What was Mr. Nawaz Sharif thinking? Did he need two days to figure out that killing people in the streets for whatever reason is morally and legally wrong? And now that the government has condemned  it, what kind of justice can we expect? And will the religious leaders of Pakistan–of all parties and sects–please stand up and make their views known. Yes, all of you mullahs and so-called scholars of Islam, where is your moral outrage? Or do you, through your silence, want to declare that in an “Islamic” society, it is fine and truly Islamic to kill defenseless people simply because they have, according to some rumors, committed blasphemy?

Read your sacred texts!! There is only one sin that God will not forgive: shirk. And even that only applies to Muslims. According to Imam Abu Hanifa and other scholars of Islam, blasphemy is not punishable by death. That is a fact of Islamic jurisprudence! And even if someone does commit any such act, the door of forgiveness by the God almighty is always open. Blasphemy laws cannot even be applied to non-Muslims, for in a truly Islamic society, only the Muslims are subject to the Muslim law. Furthermore, if there are laws, then the ruling government must implement them. laws are not a tool that people in the street can use to bludgeon, literally and metaphorically, their fellow citizens.

Mashal’s murder, and other such acts, are also symptoms of our cultural malaise caused by the venomous ideologies of our religious parties, weakness of our elected governments, and general degradation of our civic society. Since the early eighties the narrative being pushed by our religious scholars is simply this: all our ills are because we have lost touch with the true teachings of our religion; so, if we all become truly Muslim all our problems will be solved. Here we are, thirty years later, and our journey into a purist view of religion instead of solving our problems has, in fact, aggravated our social divides. The question, of course, is what religion do these murderers follow?

The Qur’an openly declares unequivocally :

Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things. (Al Qur’an 2: 256).

Pretty much all major Muslim scholars agree that this verse has universal implications, which means that no one can be forcefully converted to Islam. It has been said that while the students of Mardan university were beating their fellows to death, they were asking them to recite the verses of the holy Qur’an, maybe to “convert” them or force them to accept “Islam.” I do not know their reasons, but according to the dictates of their own religion, that act, in itself, was Un-Islamic. Now, let us see if any of our “moral religious scholars” and political leaders point this out to their blind followers. Furthermore, the Almighty also declares to the Prophet (PBUH)  “We have not sent you except as a mercy to the worlds” (Al Qur’an 21:107). Note, that this mercy, according to all major scholars, of the past at least, is extended to all the worlds and everyone in it!

Now, let us look at the so-called protectors of the Prophet (PBUH) and their actions: do their actions, in any shape and form, correspond to the teachings of the Qur’an and the Prophet (PUH). In my reading, the answer is a resounding NO!

In Mashal’s murder, we have lost yet another life to those who have taken the best of Islam and turned it into a narrative of cruelty, murder and cowardice. We will keep losing more and more of our young men and women to these armies of hate. It is time we all came together, in solidarity and love, to actively fight against such hate. It is also time that our religious leaders lived up to their duty in creating a world of tolerance and love, in the true spirit of the Prophet (PBUH).

Pakistan, its people, its government, and its religious leaders need to make up their minds: Will it be a tolerant nation governed by the rule of law, or will it continue its disastrous slide into the realm of bigotry, intolerance, hate and murder?


By M R

Originally from Pakistan, Dr. Masood Ashraf Raja is an Associate Professor of Postcolonial Literature and Theory and the editor of Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies.
Raja tweets @masoodraja

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