by Adnan Gill
Many moons ago, I remember looking at the Lal Masjid through the holes in the wall of my junior school, right across the Masjid. Sometimes I would stair at the Masjid for minutes at a time while hanging upside down on the monkey-bars. Sometimes, during the dog days of summer, I used to take refuge in the Masjid from the scorching heat, which was always delightfully cool as the sun would shine through its greenly tinted windows. For some reason, I always found it to be a very peaceful place. I can't remember if it was always painted red, but when I close my eyes, I see it white. In good old-days we used to call it ‘Jamma Masjid’.
In those days, during the regular prayers, barely a row or two used to fill with the devoted worshipers. Even the regular shoppers from -- then known ‘Jumma Bazaar’ -- ‘Itwar Bazaar’ used to barely make a dent in the attendance. However, Jumma prayers always attracted large crowds. So did the Eid prayers. In those golden days, I never remember the Imam issuing calls for Jihad or physical violence. The sermons always focused on the peaceful teachings of the Koran and life of Mohammed (PBUH). When and who transformed the Masjid into a symbol of extremism is not known to me. Luckily, I left Islamabad before the Masjid took a turn for the extremism. At least, I can still revert back to the nostalgic days of Jamma Masjid when the worshipers were more concerned about each other's well-being than the length of their beards.
Fast forward to late 80s. I remember meeting a young and joyful man in the Northern-Areas, which some say depicts the heavens. I still remember exchanging pleasantries with that young man on the lush green lawns of an Army mess as the ‘Megrib’ time fell upon us and as the flying-squirrels started their air-ballet gliding from a tree to tree. I will never forget the time I spent with that young and brave man under the clear blue skies of the Northern-Areas. That young man's name was Captain Haroon Islam. Yes, I am eulogizing Shaheed Colonel Haroon Islam who gave the ultimate sacrifice while breaching the walls of Lal Masjid in an effort to secure the innocent lives of our children stuck inside the Masjid whose Imam time and again refused to order his impressionable students to leave the Masjid; unless, the government agreed to issue him and his mother a full-amnesty. In other words, he was willing to exchange blood of innocent children with a free get-out-of-jail card.
Who is to be blamed for radicalizing, the once, peaceful Masjid to the point where so many innocent lives have been lost is a matter for another debate, but we need to make it loud and clear; that no more we will allow another Imam to brainwash our impressionable children so they can consolidate their power through an army of children. No more we will allow Mosques that are supposed to be places for warship and sources to cleanse one’s souls to become the hubs of extremism. No more we will allow the extremists to hijack our religion whose meaning, and message is peace and welfare for whole creation of Allah.
Let's not forget what the Qur'an has clearly declared: Whoever killed even a single soul - except being a punishment of murder or that of spreading unrest in the land - is as if he killed the whole of mankind.
(Al-Maaidah 5: 32) Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to resist these radicals (who are spreading unrest in the land) with every fiber of our being so they can no longer corrupt and poison the pristine minds of our children.
Till we take such a strong stand against the extremists, these thieves of peaceful souls will continue hijacking the impressionable minds of our blossoming children, and more and more brave fathers will have to save these children with the gifts of their lives.
I hope, the next time I see the Lal Masjid I will not have to close my eyes to see the peaceful Masjid, I once knew. I also hope, the Masjid to be renamed to ‘Masjid-ul-Islam’ in the memory of the Shaheed Haroon Islam, so we will always remember the price we had to pay to rescue our beloved children. Finally, I hope, the government will no longer get in the business of granting general-amnesties to the murderers of our children.
Rest well, rest well my friend Haroon Islam. May Allah bless you with every reward he has promised to a Shaheed.