Looking back at the history of most countries, the Church and the Mosque have occasionally been used as a place for taking sanctuary from an oppressor or from the brutality of the governing authorities. Popular support for this tradition has given the Mosque a safe haven identity, for which its boundaries should be respected. During this decade, however, such a tradition has been ignored and disrespected by both ruling regimes and the radical Islamic forces. The Mosque and the religious Shrine have become instruments for flaring up the feelings of the masses, for stirring up a certain layer of the society, and for exploiting outrage, to arrive at some hidden objectives. The Islamic Republic of Iran’s agents exploded bombs in Imam Reza’s Shrine in the city of Mashad; the Israelis ignored the Palestinians’ taking refuge in the holy church of Bethlehem; most of Iraq’s holy shrines and mosques are either bombed by the multi-national forces, or destroyed by terrorists; and more recently we have had the Red Mosque incidents, in which the protection seekers themselves had little respect for the holy Shrine and the Mosque.
Let us be realistic; a mosque is a place for prayers and religious practice. In the ‘Islamic’ countries, this definition is considered simplistic and reactionary. Most Islamists have a more radical approach towards mosques. For them a mosque is a place to preach and mobilise prayers against the satanic rulers. I have no problem with this. In view of the dictatorial nature of most regimes in these countries, and in accordance with freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom to practise one’s own religion, perhaps the traditional definition should be reformulated. What I have issues with is when the radical Islamists misuse mosques as a place to train and arm terrorists. Such a misuse gives a green light to the authorities not only for further suppression of every day prayers, but also for using this as an excuse to extend oppression throughout society, which in turn breeds more radicalism.
Today Rashid Ghazi saved President Mosharaf’s political skin. General Mosharaf, by raiding the Red Mosque, once again confirmed that he belongs to the Western allies’ camp, while sending a strong signal to the Pakistanis that he would not recognise any boundaries, holy or otherwise, when it comes to his political existence.
The followers of Rashid Ghazi are also content. Their martyred leader is now sitting next to the prophet Mohammed. Can one hope for a better end, ask the radical Islamists, of the vulnerable street boy.
10 July 2007