It was saddening to see that 26 Shiite pilgrims were brutally killed in southwest Pakistan. In what was another in a long line of killings, the gunmen ordered pilgrims off their bus, lined them up and assassinated them. A banned radical militant Islamic organization has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Twenty-six people were shot in the blink of an eye. They were killed because they were members of a minority group in Pakistan. Tragically, this is not a new story, as minorities in Pakistan have long been the targets of violence. Not long ago, 57 people were killed at a Shiite rally and 76 people of the Ahmadi faith were killed in two mosques last year.
Pakistan is not the only Muslim country affected by this sort of violence. In some Muslim countries minorities face great difficulty.
The Hazara people, a Shiite Afghan minority, were executed in large numbers under the Taliban regime. This discrimination has led to many of them leaving their homeland, migrating to different countries. Many Hazara people have come to Canada to seek a better life.
The followers of the Baha’i faith — a monotheistic religion founded in Iran — are ironically seen as apostates of Islam in their own homeland. They have been persecuted for years. According to the Baha’i faith’s official website: “Since 1978, a total of 221 Iranian Baha’is have been executed, ‘disappeared’ or otherwise killed for their beliefs. Thousands more have been wrongfully imprisoned, fired from government posts, barred from pursuing higher education, or had their personal property confiscated or destroyed.” I have a friend in Iran who never openly admits that he is a Baha’i because he is afraid of persecution.
The Ahmadiyya community — a religious movement founded in India — have been marginalized by majority religious communities in the Muslim world. Like the Baha’is, they are considered apostates of Islam in many Muslim countries. As mentioned previously, in May 2010, 76 Ahmadis were killed in Pakistan while they were praying in two mosques. This violence and severe discrimination has led many Ahmadis to emigrate. Canada’s biggest mosque — Baitun Nur Mosque in Calgary — belongs to the Ahamadiyya community, another sign of the great tolerance of our country.
These are just a few examples out of many. While this may be a serious issue in some Muslim nations, to blame one nation or faith for religious violence would be missing the point. In my opinion, Islam, no doubt a religion of peace, has been hijacked by extremists.
I think we all have a responsibility to address this issue. Many of us fundraise to donate food and medicine to help victims of natural disasters. Now we must take action and donate our knowledge to the victims of a much larger disaster, a disaster caused by ignorance and hate.