Saturday, April 17, 2004

Inspired rage

Daily Times April 17, 2004

Sir: On April 12 Daily Times carried a story on its front page,titled ‘Buddha statue dismantled at Lok Virsa’ . The culprits, according to the report, were students from a nearby madrassah (seminary).

This is not the first time madrassah students in Islamabad have damaged or destroyed public property that had significance for religions other than Islam. In a similar incident, a few years ago, the students of a seminary in Islamabad had set on fire and almost destroyed an ancient banyan tree in a protected wooded area in the foot of Margalla hills. The tree was said to have some historic and religious significance for Buddhists and attracted visitors and even tourists from Japan and South East Asia.

In a far more serious and tragic incident a few months ago ( widely reported in the press) protestors, including students from different madrassahs of the city, rampaged through Melody Market in Islamabad, setting fire to the only cinema house in the capital. They were protesting the murder of Maulana Azam Tariq that had taken place a day earlier. Since they had been taught that movies spread obscenity in society, they found the cinema house and the people associated with it a fit target for their rage. When the poor watchman of the cinema house tried to escape the burning building, the protestors, mercilessly, started throwing brickbats at him thus blocking his escape. The young man died inside the smoke-filled building.

Yet we are told, rather too frequently, that the madrassahs in Pakistan impart only religious education and do not train terrorists. Perhaps they do not specifically teach or train to kill or destroy, but clearly whatever they teach these young students creates a mindset that thinks nothing of destroying a harmless statue, burning an ancient tree or, when the circumstances are so created, even killing an innocent person. Terrorism is not necessarily directed; it is usually inspired.



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