Group seeks crackdown against Pakistan temple opponents

A prominent group promoting interfaith harmony in Pakistan has urged Prime Minister Imran Khan to crack down on hate speech and provocative statements targeting the country’s Hindu and other non-Muslim communities. The call comes amid fierce Muslim opposition to the building of what would be the first-ever Hindu temple in Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital. “On behalf of my fellow Pakistanis who believe in respecting religious diversity and pluralism and all those who believe in the vision of Pakistan’s founder Quaid e Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, I would like to draw your attention towards a series of incidents and trends of hate speech, instigation and provocation against Hindus and other religious minorities in connection with the construction of a Hindu temple in Islamabad,” wrote Samson Salamat, chairman of the inter-religious tolerance movement Rawadari Tehreek in an open letter to Khan. The letter came amid stiff opposition being faced by Hindu parliamentarians wanting to construct Islamabad’s first-ever Hindu temple. The government, which initially approved a financial grant for the temple, later withdrew it following a backlash from Muslim hardliners and opposition parties. The Religious Affairs Ministry has now referred the matter to an official body of Islamic clerics to give its opinion.

“Social media is full of hate speech and abusive language against our Hindu brothers and sisters who are citizens of Pakistan. Hindus and other citizens belonging to religious minorities are sons and daughters of the soil and haven’t migrated to Pakistan from another country. The initiative of Pakistani Hindus is wrongly being linked to India,” the letter said.   “Sadly, some Madrassas and renowned political figures have also issued fatwas and provocative statements against building the temple which is a right of the Hindu minority guaranteed in the Constitutions of Pakistan,” Samson said in the letter. “Extremists have visited the temple site and made hateful and provocative videos, statements and have destroyed the foundations which were laid few weeks ago. Samson wanted the government “immediately act against hateful material and statements.” The inter-faith group also sought action against a Muslim cleric who called for all the expulsion of all Christians from Pakistan. In a recent video sermon, Qari Mahmood Qadri, a cleric from Gujarat district, told his supporters that that he can’t stand the sight of a Christian Church. “Christians should not be in Pakistan’s parliament or government departments. Christians shouldn’t have property or churches and they shouldn’t even be in Pakistan. Those living in the country must be kicked out as they are the worst people in the world,” Qadri said. Samson said Christians were Pakistani like everyone else. “I want to tell this cleric that Pakistan belongs to all be it Christians or Hindus or Muslims. It doesn’t belong to any single faith or community,” he said. 

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