Pakistan: Scores killed during devotional activities at Sufi shrine

At least 88 people have been killed, and hundreds more injured, on 16 February 2017 after a suicide bomber detonated a bomb at a crowded Sufi shrine in Sehwan, a town in the southern province in Sindh, reported The Guardian on 17 February 2017.

“The explosion took place when a large number of people were inside the shrine boundary,” a local police officer told the newspaper. “A huge number of people come to the shrine every Thursday to take part in ritual dances and prayers.”

The attack, claimed by the Islamic State, took place at the country’s most revered Sufi shrine to Saint Lal Shahbaz Qalandar on its busiest day of worship, at the time of “Dhamaal” when devotees engage in dance and song to remember the saint.

“Attacks on religious practices involving dance and music should be considered as intentional destruction of intangible, living arts and culture”, says Freemuse Executive Director, Ole Reitov. “Music plays a very significant role in Sufi traditions and such attacks affect not only Sufi devotees, but even artists performing Sufi-devotional music.”

On 22 June 2016, respected Qawwali singer Amjad Sabri died after two men on motorbike shot him in his car. Qawwali music is a Sufi spiritual music. The two suspected gunmen, both member of an anti-Shia militant group, have been in police custody and have confessed to killing the singer on sectarian grounds.

The Islamic State and other radical Sunni militant groups see Sufis as heretics.

New UN report
A new report from Ms. Karima Bennoune, the UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, addresses the phenomena of fundamentalism and extremism and their grave impact on the enjoyment of cultural rights. Reminding the UN member states of all citizens rights to take part in cultural life, she notes that:

There are common themes across fundamentalist and extremist abuses of cultural rights. Such abuses often involve attempts at cultural engineering aimed at redesigning culture, based on monolithic world views, focused on ‘purity’ and enmity toward ‘the other’, policing ‘honour’ and ‘modesty’, claiming cultural and moral superiority, imposing a claimed ‘true religion’ or ‘authentic culture’ along with dress and behaviour codes often alien to the lived cultures of local populations, stifling freedom of artistic expression and curtailing scientific freedom.

In the report the UN Rapporteur makes several recommendations to states including to: “prevent violations of cultural rights by non-State actors, including by prohibiting funding of fundamentalist and extremist groups, in accordance with international standards; redouble efforts to stop the flow of arms and resources to extremist and fundamentalist groups.”

» Click here to read the Report of the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights

» Read the Threats and Attacks from Non-State Actors section from Freemuse’s Art Under Threat in 2016 annual report

Photo: Shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar/Wikicommons


» The Guardian – 17 February 2017
Pakistan launches crackdown as Isis shrine attack toll rises to 88

» Hindustan Times – 17 February 2017
Over 70 killed in suicide blast triggered by IS at Pakistan Sufi shrine

» Reuters – 16 February 2017
Suicide attack on Pakistani shrine kills 72, claimed by Islamic State

More from Freemuse

» 11 November 2016: Pakistan: Two suspects arrested over musician’s murder

» 10 August 2016: Pakistan: Music returns to region amid scepticism

» 27 June 2016: Pakistan: The war on living arts in Swat

» 23 June 2016: Pakistan: Famed Sufi singer killed in drive-by shooting

» 15 April 2015: Pakistan: Drummer and performer killed by armed men

» 3 March 2015: Pakistan: Artists and singers need safety, not a Censorship Act

» 19 June 2014: Pakistan: Pashto singer Gulnaz killed by four gunmen

» 17 March 2014: Report: Religious extremism disastrous to music in Pakistan

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