Pak Shia family faces death threats over interfaith dinners with Christians

August 9, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

Sajjad Hyder MalikLahore, August 05, 2014: A Shia family which annually hosts religious feasts for Muslims and Christians has received threats through pamphlets.

Sajjad Hyder Malik, a manager in a top medical company, has been attracting criticism from an outlawed Sunni militant group when he organized Koonday (clay pot), a public dinner offered in the name of Hazrat Imam Jafar As-Sadiq, a descendant of Ali.

His family of two daughters has been receiving abusive phone calls since May especially for inviting relatives from the maternal side, all of them Catholics.

“My mother in law was a Catholic,” described Sajjad slightly beating his chest at an Imambargah (Shi’ite religious hall) guarded by two armed policemen in a densely populated colony of Lahore. “After her death, it took several years to revive the family bonds. Now we celebrate our feats and attend family ceremonies but I did not know a harmonious gesture of dining could provoke anyone.”

His worries worsened especially after receiving around three threatening letters in recent months, ordering an end to the family tradition, conversion to Sunni sect or face death. The latest note was signed by Ahle-Sunnat-Wal-Jamaat, formerly called Sipah-e-Sahaba.

“We inform all that this person is a kafir (infidel) and an American agent. We prohibit all from meeting Sajjad,” it stated.

“Together with Isais (Christians), he has been indulged in boisterous festivities and celebrating the death of sahabi-e-rasool (disciple of Prophet Muhammad). This hurts the heart of the Arabic Prophet. We shall blow him and his family with explosives. Leave this city or face death.”

A roadside an anti-Shia poster in Lahore

Shias, who constitute 20 percent of the country’s overwhelmingly Muslim population, are generally denounced as heretics and non-Muslims by Sunni extremist groups.

According to US Department report on International Religious Freedom for the year 2013, 500 Shia Muslims were killed in “sectarian bloodletting” in Pakistan last year.

But Sajjad never thought of being persecuted for religious beliefs in his 19 years of married life. “Shias are called khatmal (bed-bug) in Karachi and Kafir elsewhere but there used to be a general acceptance in the society. Now we get worried when a family member gets backs home late,” said Sajjad, 43.

“I have learned a lot about Christianity through my relatives. I record cell phone videos of them praying and show it to my friends who get very impressed. They were like an eye opener for them. I just did not know what it would cost.”

– gcic

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