“Sheep get butchered everyday. Don’t be afraid of sacrifice,” said Maulana Tariq Jameel yesterday, easily glossing over the pain of hundreds of families in the aftermath of blasts in Lahore and Sehwan Sharif, from the safety of the pulpit. In a time when people are clearly panicked, our religious elites must refrain from glorifying death. Our physical lives can be happy peaceful ones. We don’t need to be slaughtered for our eternal reward. The anger of people must not be diverted from terrorists. On the face of it, statements that call these tragic deaths martyrdoms give our grieving communities some comfort, but they also repress our outrage, and our desire to demand justice and retribution.

The influential Maulana, heard by hundreds, did not clearly condemn the blasts, or the Taliban, nor did he mention the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar by name. We can argue that he implied it, by the “sheep being killed by dogs” analogy, but it is time to call out such illogical tirades. Just one influential religious leader, naming and shaming these terrorist groups, speaking out against these attacks and pledging help and obedience to Pakistan’s security agencies would go a long way in making sure terrorist groups have no support in our communities. These clerics are in positions of mass influence over communities, and if they had sided with the state, vocally and actively, there would be no influence extremist groups would be able to peddle with the masses. Pakistan’s community of religious scholars and clerics could have been a huge bulwark against the apologists for terrorists.

Our religious parties have not fared well in advocating peace in Pakistan. On February 2, they actually protested against the NAP at an All Parties Tahufiz-i-Namoos-i-Risalat Conference with JUI-F Chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, JI Amir Senator Sirajul Haq, Jamiat-i-Ahle Hadith (JAH) Chief Senator Prof Sajid Mir, and Difa-i-Pakistan Council (DPC) Chief Maulana Samiul Haq all rejected the NAP and demanded the government delink religion from it. Rather than condemn terrorism and hate speech, these leaders ended up condemning the state’s plan to protect people from dying. Too much time is spent by these leaders criticising Ahmedis, or people calling for the debate on the blasphemy law, both groups that are peaceful and ultimately harmless to Pakistan’s security.

We must uproot this paranoia that Islam is in threat, no less in a state that is an Islamic republic with a 98 percent Muslim population. But Pakistanis are at threat, from terrorism that emanates from misguided interpretations of Islam – something that out religious leaders have disastrously failed to keep a check on.