The Devil in Us

It is true that there is far more pluralism and freedom in
most non-Muslim countries. The more we open our souls to
the devil, the more he will find a nourishing environment.

By Nikhat Sattar | July 2020

On 13th May, 2020, a deliberate grenade attack on a maternity hospital in Kabul left at least 24 dead, with new born babies and mothers among them. The latter were specifically targeted. The Taliban refused to take responsibility and it seems that a faction of the ISIS had carried out the attack. The hospital is in an area inhabited mostly by the Hazara community, a persecuted sectarian group, both in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is a crime which defies description: an evil manifestation of a logic that would be envied by the devil. This was also a crime that carried small headings in international news and disappeared a day later. Muslim leaders, governments and organisations were conspicuous by their absence in denouncing it.

On 18th May, a 19 year old Lebanese law student, Aya Ismail Hachem, was shot dead in what is being termed a hate crime in Blackburn, UK, while she was out grocery-shopping. It is worth noting that no one is calling the perpetrator a terrorist. Aya’s friends have started a fund-raising campaign for her family to carry out Sadqah e Jariyah in her name. Until recently, more than $25,000 had been donated by over 270 people. When donors came to know that Aya belonged to a particular sect, many of them requested for a refund.

In Punjab, Pakistan, a brother-in-law of Aasiya Bibi, the woman who was falsely incarcerated in prison for seven years on charges of blasphemy, was cleared by the Supreme Court and while he had to escape to Canada, he was killed. No news has come to light about the killers.

The seemingly unrelated events have two very important points in common. They resulted in killing of innocent humans and all three belonged to minority groups. The logic that drove the killers in the first case was, presumably, that neither the babies nor the mothers had a right to live. The distorted views that the killers held of their religion, the victims were kafirs and deserved to die. Whatever the source of this line of thought, it has found resonance among many Muslims, including those who would like to be seen as “open minded” and “tolerant”. These Muslims have an entrenched system of beliefs that they are on the absolute right and divine path, laid out for them through direct intervention; their interpretations and those of the clergy they follow is the “sirat ul mustaqeem” that will take them to Paradise and that all other paths lead to Hell. This is the foundation of extreme fanaticism that results in killing of members of “other” sects and religions on the one end of the spectrum and their readiness to donate to their “own” sect and not to another, even if it is for the same purpose. This hatred of the other manifests itself in various and often bizarre ways.

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The writer is a development professional, researcher, translator and columnist with an interest in religion and socio-political issues. She can be reached at

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One thought on “The Devil in Us

  • July 4, 2020 at 2:06 am

    Hazaras have lived in peace in Afghanistan for the past eight centuries. Their troubles started only after they aligned themselves first with the Soviets and later the U.S invaders. Many took shelter with their brothers in Quetta and trouble followed. The issue is not based in religion; it is Afghans taking revenge for the atrocities committed against them.

    Aasia Bibi case, shameful as it is, does not reflect Pakistanis as a whole. It has been played up in the media shamelessly as a political tool. To put things in perspective, the same country where a Christian and a Hindu served as chief justices of the Supreme court something that is conveniently ignored.