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6/4/04 - VIOLENCE IN PAKISTAN - 2004-06-04

On May 31st, a bomb exploded at a Shiite Muslim mosque in Karachi, Pakistan, during evening prayers. At least twenty worshipers were killed and several dozen were wounded. The bombing came a day after the assassination in Karachi of Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai, a leader of Pakistan's Sunni Muslims.

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says this “violence against religious communities is a direct attack on Pakistan’s efforts to promote religious moderation and tolerance”:

“And it negatively affects efforts to strengthen democracy. . . . We join with all those who are encouraging tolerance between Shias and Sunnis and who are working to ensure that Pakistanis can practice their faith without fear.”

Over the years, thousands of Pakistanis have been killed and many others wounded in violence between Shiite and Sunni extremists. In March, terrorists fired on a Shiite religious procession in Quetta, killing more than forty people. In the rioting that followed, a Sunni mosque was burned. On May 7th in Karachi, a Shiite mosque, part of a government-run religious school, was bombed and more than twenty people were killed. Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf says Muslims must confront the fact of violence and intolerance:

“The unfortunate reality is that both the perpetrators of the crime as well as the sufferers from it happen to be Muslims.”

“It is not Islam as a religion that has created militancy and extremism,” said Mr. Musharraf, “but rather political disputes that have led to antagonism among the Muslim masses.”

President George W. Bush says that terrorists who claim to act in the name of Islam are doing nothing of the kind: “None of these acts [of terror] is the work of a religion; all are the work of a fanatical, political ideology.”

“The servants of this ideology,” says President Bush, seek tyranny, and the death of everyone “who desires peace over theocratic terror.”