Expressing concerns over the recent spate of attacks on Sufi shrines and people who associate with the school of thought in Sindh, speakers at a session titled ‘Sufism and Society’ at the 2nd Sindh Literature Festival on Sunday stressed the need to adopt a counter-narrative to defy growing militancy in the region.
Moderated by prominent journalist Riaz Sohail, the session had as panellists, social researcher Nazish Brohi, vocalist of Sufi band ‘The Sketches’ Saif Samejo and poet Shah Muhammad Pirzada.
Historically known for its diversity, tolerance, Sufi practices and progressive politics, Sindh’s socio-cultural landscape has in the past few years undergone a sea of change, the panellists observed.
Sohail said that in various countries, such as the United States, Pakistan, Nigeria and India, a debate over Sufism being a solution to today’s militancy has started taking place. “We should also find a narrative within it,” he said.
With regard to attacks on shrines, Nazish said the incidents are a new phenomenon. “Sufism had its opponents in the past too; a number of religious leaders, such as Maududi and Abdullah Yusaf Azzam were against it. But today, political Islam’s opposition has become violent,” she said.
The social researcher said that militant outfits have been making inroads in Sindh with the local population’s support and this can clearly be seen through the mushroom growth of madrassas in the entire province.
There is a huge difference between mainstream and militant ideologies, said Nazish. “Mainstream parties mainly focus on large urban centres and encourage elites and the influential, while militant outfits focus on rural and underprivileged towns.”
Adding to the discussion, Pirzada said some elements exploit the term ‘Sufism’ for their own political and personal interests. “Because of blind faith on shrines, it is very easy for the spiritual leaders associated with the school of thought to use shrines and devotees for their political interests,” he stated. The poet, however, asserted that Sufism is not something that the state can enforce as it is linked with human behaviour.
According to Samejo people visiting shrines to entertain themselves is an encouraging trend. “It is their fundamental right to do anything that gives them happiness. Sufism is an individual’s inner voice,” the vocalist stated.
— Originally published in The News
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