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Senior religious leader condemns violence against civilians in Pakistan

Last week AOAV met with Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Ashrafi, the Chairman of the Pakistan Ulema Council, in Lahore.

The Pakistan Ulema Council, which consists of thousands of Pakistani scholars, clerics, intellectuals and academics, works to eliminate inter-faith and sectarian tensions.

Ashrafi spoke to AOAV about his opposition to suicide bombings and IED attacks in Pakistan.

In a previous interview with a Pakistan national television channel on this subject, reproduced in the publication ‘We are United Under this Flag,’ Ashrafi said:

“Today there is a common belief in our country and throughout the world that Muslims are extremists and unwilling to tolerate anyone else; they are always ready to kill or get killed as per the teachings of their religion.

However, this is indeed not true. Islam is a religion that means peace. It starts with ‘Assalam-o-Aleikum’ i.e. peace be upon you, and ends with ‘Wa Aleikum Salam’ i.e. peace be upon you too […] How can the followers of such a religion even imagine killing an innocent person?

Islam even forbids killing of innocent people in the battlefield. The instructions and directives related to Jihad given by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), his companions and the four noble caliphs, clearly indicate that you cannot kill those who are unarmed even when you are in the battlefield.

It is not only humans but Islam also forbids killing of animals (except those that are slaughtered for food). How can a religion that forbids cutting of trees allow cutting of people’s throats?

Unfortunately for us, we hold extreme attitudes and emotions. In order to prove ourselves right and others wrong, we are willing to go to any extreme. We reach a point of no return and there is no way back form there even if we want to return.

How is it possible for a religion that forbids cutting of trees to order killing of innocent people in streets and towns? The viewpoint and ideology of mercilessly killing humans and shedding their blood is without doubt against Islam.

As far as killing of innocent people and suicide attacks on properties are concerned, the Holy Quran has clearly said that whoever takes his own life or the life of an innocent person is the murderer of the entire humanity. If someone takes his life by strapping a bomb to his body and kills hundreds of innocent people through this act, then he will be held accountable on the Day of Judgment. You cannot kill innocent people and say that you are performing a noble deed. You cannot snatch the right to live from someone you do not agree with.

[….] I believe there that it is unfair to kill any innocent person, whether a child, woman or elderly, in the name of religion. Whether it is in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Africa or the United States, killing of innocent people cannot be linked to Islam.

Being the chairman of the Paksitan Ulema Council, I want to say that in my opinion it is illegal to carry out suicide attacks or other types of attacks on innocent people, destroy their properties or inflict any other form of devastation. Whenever innocent people are killed—be it in from strikes, suicide attacks or bomb blasts- this should be called terrorism. I do not care if some people do not agree with my viewpoint, but my religion does not allow killing of any innocent person.”

AOAV’s new report, Anatomy of a Suicide Bombing, uncovers the far-reaching and long-lasting devastation caused by a double suicide bombing attack on the Moon Market in Lahore in December 2009.