~ Mahvish Qureshi ’10

Muharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar which follows a lunar system. This is a particularly important month for all Muslims as it marks some very important religious days. The first two weeks of Muharram are mourned by Shi’a Muslims everywhere in memory of the martyrdom of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, Husayn, the third Imam, and his family. Particularly potent is the day of Ashura, on the 10th of Muharram, which marks the death of Husayn during the battle of Kerbala. However Ashura is not just a religious day for Shi’a Muslims, as it marks importance for Sunni Muslims as well as Jews. Sunni Muslims mark Ashura as an important day because Prophet Muhammad was said to keep a fast on this day in honor of Moses would also fast on this day. Due to this religious importance, Muslims worldwide, Shi’a or Sunni, are known to fast on this day. Despite the similar sanctity of this day, for many years there have been Shi’a-Sunni clashes bringing to the forefront prejudices amongst groups within Islam. These clashes are expressed as displays of violence and are particularly frequent during the month of Muharram when the differences between the beliefs in Shi’a and Sunni muslims are more apparent.

On Ashura, Shi’a Muslims generally have a procession in memory of Imam Husayn, however on December 28, 2009, just one day and two years after Karachi, Pakistan witnessed violent outbursts, and strikes due to the death of Benazir Bhutto, a new type of violence hit the streets. As the Ashura procession was going along on Muhammad Ali Jinnah Road in Karachi, the southern port city of Pakistan, a bomb blast claimed the lives of 45 people and injured over 46 people. Karachi, a bustling city with a population of over 18 million, has witnessed ethnic violence in its history, but has always remained generally peaceful during Muharram and has been able to avoid the recent Taliban activities and attacks over the past couple of years. This bomb blast not only marked what seemed to be a Sunni Shi’a clash but also gave way to creating havoc in the relatively calm city, and worked to destabilize the country. Karachi was shut down for a day in honor of those who were killed in the blast. This strike was decided upon by religious and political leaders and meant that everything from shops and transportation to the stock market were closed for the day.

While the question turns to who could have committed such a crime, it is sure that there may never be an answer. While many jumped to the conclusion it was a suicide bomber, it was later said that Taliban took claim for the blast, however now almost a month later Rehman Malik, Interior Minister of Pakistan claims that the government has collected enough evidence to support the theory that a network of terrorist groups are behind the act. Truth be told the minds behind this act may never be identified, but the thoughts should change from who did this act to how to prevent such acts from occurring in the future. The police in Karachi were confident that they had the best security in place to prevent any harm from coming to the people in the Ashura day procession; they had sniper squads on the roof tops following along the procession route, and many other security measures in place. However as security increases, violent minds become more and more clever, as this was the first explosive of this type ever seen before-a remote controlled explosive working with a GPS system.

Hopefully in the coming year of 2010 more peace and stability will be found amongst the citizens of Pakistan. After all acts of violence by Pakistanis in Pakistan is only working to destabilize their own country, and hopefully people will realize this before it gets too late.