Shiraz Ahmed was tending his music store in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, when a group of 15 bearded young men walked in bearing bamboo poles and a chilling message.
Politely but firmly, they instructed him to take down the colourful array of Bollywood and bhangra dance tunes on display and to restrict his business to Islamic music.
“They told me I had to change my business,” said Mr Ahmed, 25, whose family has run the store for 15 years. “I am so confused. I don’t know what to do.”
Until last week he might not have worried about these men from Islamabad’s Lal Masjid (Red Mosque). After all, his shop is legal and within walking distance of Pervez Musharraf’s presidential palace.
But this was just one of several signs in the past ten days that a creeping campaign to “Talebanise” Pakistan has spread from tribal areas on the Afghan border right to the heart of the capital. And to judge from the Government’s response, even here it is
reluctant to confront the radical clerics who openly preach jihad (holy war) and defy the writ of the state.
Pakistani police have promised to arrest Abdul Rashid Ghazi, the seminary”s vice-principal, and to prevent more vigilante raids. Maulana Abdul Aziz, the seminary”s principal, has refused to give up Mr Ghazi, who is his brother, and has vowed to cleanse
Islamabad of brothels, liquor stores and other “unIslamic” activity.
He also gave the Government until [April 6] to introduce Sharia (Islamic law) across Pakistan. Otherwise, he said, his students would do it themselves, starting with the surrounding G-6 neighbourhood in central Islamabad.
“It’s like if you have garbage outside your house and the city authorities fail to clear it “” you have to do it yourself,” he said. “We”re urging the whole country to rise up and make the country clean and pure.”
They have also been seen at traffic lights around the capital telling women to stop driving cars and asking people playing “unIslamic” music to turn it off.