A departure this week from the recent APOL book tour theme. A Person of Letters is in Pakistan on my behalf to honour the victims of extremist violence.
In Karachi in June, gunmen shot Amjad Sabri, one of the country’s most popular qawwali singers, dead in the street. He and his famous musical family are associated with the ancient Chishti Order of Sufism which emphasizes love, tolerance, and openness.
In Lahore in March, 75 people were killed and more than 300 injured in a suicide bombing at a popular park. A militant Sunni group claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was targeted at Christians celebrating Easter. The park is frequented by Lahoris of all faiths; the majority of victims were women and children. Of the dead, 61 were identified as Muslims.
Also this year, Sabeen Mahmud, human rights activist, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen on her way home from a seminar in Karachi.
There is a high cost to free expression in Pakistan. The country’s paradox is illustrated by the life and death of Salmaan Taseer. Taseer was a successful businessman and politician who in 2011 was shot 27 times by his bodyguard for his opposition to Pakistan’s blasphemy law. Certain clerics and religious scholars warned against mourning him and declared his assassin a “hero of the Muslim world.” Yet hundreds of people braved such threats to attend Taseer’s funeral the day after his murder. In the face of extremism and intimidation, tolerance, decency, and compassion survive.
What a contradiction, what hypocrisy, when violence and murder are justified in the name of religion. Let us stand with people of goodwill and against the haters, wherever they may be.
Note: A Person of Letters is my satiric novel about writing, creativity, and publishing. Follow “APOL,” the novel’s anthropomorphic incarnation, as it undertakes a quixotic world book tour without me, here and on my Facebook Author Page. For information about the book, go to Martin Scribler Media.