Who can forget the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) assault in Islamabad in 2007 that cost hundreds of lives of Pakistani soldiers and young men and women who studied in the mosque. The aftermath was a scene of utter carnage and devastation and the mosque has repeatedly been linked to the promotion of extreme rhetoric and to extremism and it’s initial founder, Maulana Abdullah was it has been reported, close to General Zia Ul-Haq in the 1980’s. Many Pakistanis associate the Lal Masjid with the promotion of extremism linked to the Pakistani Taleban and akin to rhetoric that is found within Al Qaeda circles.
Maulana Abdullah was assassinated in the late 1990’s, leading to his two sons Maulana Abdul Aziz and Abdul Rashid Ghazi taking over the running and the educational seminary classes in the mosque. Abdul Rashid Ghazi was then killed in a shoot-out with Pakistani commandos in July 2007 with Maulana Abdul Aziz taking over the reigns.
After the recent abhorrent killings of over 140 children in Pakistan, a group of young Pakistani activists bravely took to demonstrating outside of the Lal Masjid and calling for the arrest of the Maulana Abdul Aziz. They have blamed the Lal Masjid for providing an environment in which extremism has thrived and the result of their demonstrations, according to them, was a threat made against the demonstrators by the cleric himself. The threat led to the deposition of a First Information Report (FIR) against the Lal Masjid’s chief cleric, Maulana Abdul Aziz. The lodging of a FIR means the start of a criminal investigation and renders the cleric liable to arrest. This coming on the back of his refusal to condemn the massacre of students and teachers in the terrorist attack that killed over 140 young children in Peshawar.
Latest reports from Pakistani media sources also claim that the Karachi based lawyer and human rights activist, Mohammad Jibran Nasir, who has been instrumental in co-ordinating peaceful demonstrations outside the Lal mosque, has come under an on-line social media smear campaign. His ‘Reclaim the Lal Masjid‘ campaign has inspired others to speak out against extremism though social media postings in Pakistan have started to label Nasir as a non-Muslim and an Ahmadi. In Pakistan, such slurs place a serious risk to the life of the individual in question and many members of the Ahmaddiya community in Pakistan have been killed or physically attacked in the country. They also suffer high levels of discrimination in employment and services. Further postings on social media have also shown pictures of Nasir celebrating the Indian Hindu festival of Holi and are used as ‘proof’ that he is promoting an anti-Muslim agenda.
Nasir’s latest comments from his Twitter account stated:
“I own (sic) my allegiance to human rights. Sunni, Shia, Ahmadi, [Christian], Hindu, Parsi… whoever, I will continue to advocate human rights for all.”
He also went onto blame the Lal Masjid in a further tweet saying:
“The whole Lal Masjid is directing their resources towards a social media campaign against us.”
Pakistani human rights activists that the Religious Reader has spoken to fear for the life of campaigners against Maulana Abdul Aziz. Some fear that he still has friends and influence in the country, whilst others fear that they will be targeted on-line or through street based campaigns. Yet this has not stopped Nasir who has stated that he will be holding a press conference soon to tackle the smears against him.