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Conservative wave in Pakistan

world Updated: Feb 13, 2010 00:51 IST
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On January 5, former headmaster, a member of the Ahmedi Muslim sect, was shot dead by two young men on motorbikes. No one has identified Mohammed Yusuf’s killers, but there is little doubt what motivated them.

“We have been here for 35 years, and things were peaceful. Then this new mullah came and started preaching against us,” said Fateh-ud-Din, 32, Yusuf’s son. “People started insulting us. The mosque put up a big sign saying we deserved to be killed. Finally, they came after our father.”

A handful of radical clerics have been whipping up hostility toward Ahmedi Muslims, who believe in a rival prophet, and other minority sects in this large provincial capital.

The campaign is but one strand of a broader and potentially more significant trend in Pakistan: the self-confident reemergence of conservative Sunni Muslim activism.

In recent weeks, even as conservative Sunnis have targeted Muslim minorities, they have also launched campaign against Western European laws and practices that they allege are anti-Muslim.

Their movement opposes recent bans on veils in Denmark, a prohibition on new minaret construction in Switzerland and the republishing of controversial cartoons mocking Islam in a Norwegian newspaper.

In some ways, the two movements seem contradictory: One shuns and persecutes a Muslim religious minority in Pakistan for believing in a rival prophet; the other decries discrimination against minority Muslim communities abroad. Yet both appeal to religious sentiment to galvanise support.

“We are against terrorism and the Taliban, and we don’t want any conflict with other religions, but the West is playing with our emotions and trying to destroy the peace. They are the real terrorists,” said Asim Makhdoom, a cleric from the Jamiat-e-Islami party.

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