With the month of Muharram approaching, the secular divisions present within the country seem to be deepening. Individuals with certain names are suspiciously looked at more than usual; are they one of ‘them’? Wearing black during Muharram is going to get you stares, no matter which sect you’re from.

It is funny how in the West, we protest about how men with beards and women wearing a hijab get stares from people. It saddens us to see such discrimination based entirely on a person’s attire and set of beliefs. We call the West an intolerant society for not being able to entertain the idea that certain groups always have and will continue to have different beliefs than ours. The funny part is that we promote the exact same discriminatory practices in our country very blatantly and with great pride.

Islam boasts about promoting equality and unity and brotherhood; every Muslim is another Muslim’s brother. Yet we stand divided far more than any religious community in the world. Our mosques are either Shia mosques or Sunni mosques or Wahabi mosques; one God, multiple homes.

It doesn’t stop here. This is merely where the ridicule begins. The harmless comments about the Shia community passed on by individuals in their everyday lives lead to the brewing of hatred amongst the minds of people leading to the more serious issues of target killings and sectarian violence. The division of mosques leads to a perceived difference in the Gods of the two communities, and owing to the ‘my God is better than your God’ mindset, the majority ends up making life difficult for the minority.

Violence against the Shia community is widely condemned. However, deep inside the average households of Pakistan, these condemnations are pieces of hollow rhetoric. In many households, this violence is not acknowledged while in quite a few households, it is even justified and encouraged. Every time I have spoken in favour of the Shia community, someone or the other has tried to convince me that the discrimination, the hatred and the violence is all justified and that I too would feel the same way if I studied religion more closely. If becoming a bloodthirsty monster is what happens when one studies religion, I’d rather stay away.

The world has moved on to debate issues such as allowing same gender marriages, yet we are still rigid on how marriage between Shias and Sunnis is simply not acceptable. Such unions are scarce, and even in situations where the do exist, criticism is showered upon them. It saddens me to realize that we have become so blinded by hate that we cannot tolerate the celebration of love. Most certainly, hate has overshadowed love in this case.

The same community that the founder of this country belonged to has now been reduced to the status of a minority. Travelling to the northern areas for members of this community has become a challenging task not because of the hostility of the terrain but due to the hostility of the people. Praying in peace has become a dream for nobody knows when the next Imam bargah will be blown up. We’ve become so thirsty for blood that we feel no remorse in destroying places of worship – God’s home.

As Ashura approaches, instead of uniting in remembrance of one of the most significant events in Islamic history, we choose to stand divided more than ever.  Perhaps this is the reason the Islamic community has become so easy to break down and why Muslims all over the world are seen to be leading their own religion to its demise.