Talking Jihad

Three Views of One War

At the Shia study center near Tariq-e-Jaafia, Rashid Hussain, a Shia elder, or scholar, says that things were better before 1947, the year Pakistan was partitioned from India. "Before partition, we were poor, and Shia and Sunni all got along," he says. "Then the money came, and we all built our religious schools, and each school began to criticize the other." As for the Taliban, he says, "The Shia hate the Taliban, because they are creating a separate religion. They are teaching people how to hate."

Hussain singles out the Taliban leader Mullah Omar for scorn. "He is saying, 'I am the caliph, I am appointed by Allah.' Nobody has ever done that before. He is claiming power that is not his." As for the U.S. military action, he says the Afghan civilians should be spared, but argues, "It has been proven that Osama and the Taliban are behind the September 11 attacks. We could never go on jihad under the circumstances."

Khaled Ahmed is one of Pakistan's most prominent journalists, and he writes frequently about the country's religious factions. He also makes regular payoffs to the extremists to avoid assassination. Asked about Sunni extremists like Abu-Sufian, Ahmed explains that the very concept of jihad is a foreign import. "The state brought this in from Afghanistan, from the Arab states in the 1980s. The government needed to rile up the people to go fight against the Soviets, and it worked. Now it's a part of our culture," he says. And, he explains, jihad won't go easily back into the box from which it came.

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