When you’re as desperate to showcase Islamic “moderates” and “reformers” as the mainstream media is, you’ll take what you can get. “Innovative Pakistani Mosque Takes on Sectarianism,” by Sebastian Abbot and Zarar Khan for the Associated Press, July 19 (thanks to shyOdha):
In a country where sectarian violence is spiking, Zahid Iqbal is playing an innovative role in trying to bring peace to Pakistan’s competing Islamic sects by simply not taking sides.
His mosque in the capital Islamabad markets itself as “sect free” and is open to everyone. Despite pressure, Iqbal has refused to follow convention and define the mosque as Sunni, Shiite or any of the other subgroups that divide Islam, sometimes violently.
“We don’t belong with any sect of Islam,” said Iqbal, a real estate businessman in his 30s who also serves as the mosque’s president. “We only belong to Islam.”
Pakistan Unsectarian Mosque.JPEG
Much of the sectarian violence that Pakistan has experienced in recent years has been attacks by radical Sunni militants on minority Shiites they consider heretics. There were 77 such attacks between January 2012 and June 2013 that killed 635 Shiites and wounded 834 others, according to a recent report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
The schism between the Sunni and Shiite Muslims traces back to the early days of Islam and arguments over successors to Prophet Muhammad. But over time, the divide between the Sunni, which represent about 85 percent of the world’s Muslims, and Shiite has taken an increasingly bloody turn across Pakistan and the greater Middle East.
There has also been occasional conflict between different strains of Sunni Islam in Pakistan, such as Wahabbi, Barelvi and Deobandi.
Iqbal said he thought the conflict between Islamic sects was based on ignorance and invited everyone to come to his mosque, including Christians and Jews, to learn “the reality of Islam.” A large sign on the side of his mosque says it is “open to all Muslims irrespective of their sect.”…
The imam, Mohammed Yasin Rashid, delivered his weekly sermon over a microphone headset that looked like something a call center employee would use. Rashid spoke of the importance of religious harmony.
“The best people are those who promote harmony and treat people well despite their affiliation,” Rashid said.
But he did take a dig at Christians and Jews, saying they became cursed when they started worshipping prophets instead of a single God….