You don’t have to read this blog very long to realize that your GetReligionistas are not fond of religious labels — especially inaccurate uses of words such as “fundamentalist” and the lazy use of vague, content-free words such as “moderate.”
Here’s an example, in a Washington Post story about the latest wave of suicide bombings in Pakistan. Here’s the lede, plus another key paragraph:
A suicide bomb attack on a religious seminary in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore Friday killed a top anti-Taliban Muslim cleric and three of his followers, police said. …
Sarfraz Naeemi, a moderate Pakistani cleric known across the nation for his strong opposition to the radical Islamist Taliban movement, was attacked at his seminary complex just after he had led Friday prayers. He was rushed to a hospital, but his wounds proved to be fatal.
So Naeemi is defined — twice — in terms of his opposition to the Taliban. That’s fine. Then he is called a “moderate,” which implies that the Taliban is either “conservative” Islam or “traditional” Islam. I mean, perhaps Naeemi was a traditional Muslim and the Taliban are actually radical, uh, heretics?
What we need to know, more than anything else, is how this man disagreed with the tactics of the Taliban. Might we have one or two sentences of content instead of labels? Did he favor the education of females? Did he oppose the Taliban’s trademark hangings, beheadings and school burnings? Can we have just a little bit of content that suggests why he was killed?
In other words, what is the doctrinal content of this division within Islam in Pakistan? One paragraph would do it. We are told that he labeled the activities of the Taliban as “un-Islamic.” Activities based on what teachings? I mean, the bomber attacked a SEMINARY.
Later in the story, there’s another missed opportunity:
Infuriated seminary students staged a demonstration against the killing of Naeemi. They blocked the road outside the religious school and shouted slogans against the Taliban.
I don’t know about you, but I love shouted slogans. They almost always contain crisp expressions of content that cut to the heart of a conflict. Yes, sometimes you have to explain them, a bit. But that’s good. In this kind of situation, people shout their beliefs. In this case, they shouted slogans that could cost them their lives.
Might we be offered a chance to read a few of these slogans? They are probably short and punchy. I bet there is religious content in there.
A Los Angeles Times story about this suicide booming is slightly better. It avoids the labels but, once again, gives readers almost no information about the content of this cleric’s teachings — which cost him his life. For example:
“He was receiving a lot of threats. They wanted him to stop his anti-Taliban activities, but he wouldn’t do so,” said Naeemi’s brother, Tajwar. “We want to tell the people who killed him that Sarfraz’s death does not mean that his mission has been stopped. We will continue his mission.”
OK, I’ll ask. What was his “mission”? What was Naeemi trying to do?
Then we are told:
… Angry students took to the streets, shouting “Down with the Taliban!” and burning tires. Naeemi’s son, Waqar, pleaded with protesters to exercise restraint, telling them that any act of revenge would contradict Naeemi’s teachings.
“His death is a very significant event. He was one of the most prominent scholars who stood up clearly against suicide bombings and against the Taliban,” said Khalid Zaheer, a Pakistani professor and religious scholar.
“His argument was simple: Religion does not stand for violence. You can’t take the life of any individual, or your own life. And you can’t wage jihad against your own state.”
That helps. It appears that he opposed the theology that validates suicide bombings. That’s huge. But that hardly — I hope — makes him a “moderate.” There must be other issues that fueled his feud with the Taliban. One or two sentences. That’s all we need, if we want to understand some of the divisions within Islam that are tearing at the fabric of life in Pakistan.