Statement Against the Persecution of Shia Muslims in Pakistan
“And hold fast to the rope of God, all together, and be not divided. Remember the Blessing of God bestowed upon you, when you were enemies and He joined your hearts, such that you became brothers by His Blessing. You were on the brink of a pit of fire and He delivered you from it. Thus does God make clear unto you His signs, that you may be rightly guided.”
—Qur’an, Surah Al-Imran (3:103)
The American Muslim Bar Association (AMBA) along with Solidarity for Shia Rights (SFSR), a collective of concerned Shia Muslim advocates, stand in solidarity with the Shia Muslims of Pakistan. We denounce and stand firmly against the persecution and state-sanctioned violence perpetrated against Pakistani Shia Muslims and call on the Pakistani government to cease all human rights violations and state-sanctioned oppression against them. We also call upon the United States government and international actors to denounce the violence and facilitate an end to these human rights abuses through diplomatic and international pressure.
New Wave of Anti-Shia Persecution in Pakistan and State-Sanctioned Violence
Shia Muslims, who constitute one fifth of the population of Pakistan, have been victims of sectarian violence for over five decades. The rise in systemic violence against Shia Muslims stems predominantly from banned, violent anti-Shia organizations such as Sipah-e-Sahaba (operating as Ahle Sunnat Wal Jammat (ASWJ) and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ)) and other Takfiri groups. This latest wave was ignited by the emergence of a controversial sectarian and censorship bill, wrongfully exploiting Chapter XV of Pakistan’s Penal Code. The bill is deliberately ambiguous, subject to interpretation, and perpetuates unlawful and arbitrary arrests that are in contradiction to the provision for freedom of religious rights enshrined in Part Two, Chapter One, Subsection Twenty of the Pakistani constitution.
The leaders of these Takfiri organizations are mobilizing masses in anti-Shia rallies and inciting violence against Shia Muslims through hate-filled speeches. A cornerstone of these demonstrations is a chant declaring Shia Muslims as “Kafir,” a derogatory word for blasphemous non-believers, implicitly justifying the killing of Shia Muslims. The Pakistani government has failed to take meaningful action to condemn or denounce these divisive rallies. Instead, the government has enabled and furthered their oppression by permitting organizations previously banned for such sectarian hate speech to attend under the guise of a different name.
Additionally, the Pakistani government continues to carry out its own persecution of Shia Muslims by enabling state-sanctioned violence. This year alone saw a rise in state-sanctioned violence and targeting of Shia Muslims, particularly during the Islamic month of Muharram. As Shia Muslims attempted to peacefully and openly practice their mourning rituals, the government carried out a slew of arbitrary arrests of Shia clergy and those simply practicing their Shia faith openly.
Across the country, mobs defiled Shia places of worship while Shia Muslims were killed in planned targeted attacks. The sectarian violence by Takfiri organizations includes targeted killings of Shia Muslims. This has severely impacted the Shia community’s religious rights and safety to practice their faith as enshrined in the Pakistani constitution as well as in numerous international covenants to which Pakistan is a party, including the International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Convenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights.
Pakistan’s government is unwilling to protect the rights of Shia Muslims and has further perpetrated violence against Shia Muslims and religious minorities through the manipulation of Chapter XV of the Pakistani Penal Code.
Call to Action:
Ban all Takfiri extremist organizations that incite violence and promote hate speech against Shia Muslims and other marginalized communities in Pakistan, including those operating under new names such as ASWJ and LeJ.
Urge the Pakistani government to cease using Chapter XV of Pakistan’s Penal Code (sections 295. 298., 298-A., and 298-B) in a manner which arbitrarily targets and persecutes Shia Muslims, as is currently the situation. Furthermore, the Pakistani government must adhere to and enforce the principles of religious freedom enshrined in Part Two, Chapter One, Subsection Twenty of the Pakistani Constitution,
Demand the immediate dismissal of all FIRs against Shia Muslims that were filed under Chapter XV of Pakistan’s Penal Code and call for the immediate release of arbitrarily detained prisoners under this clause.
Call on the United States government and international human rights monitoring mechanisms to ensure that Pakistan is in compliance with its obligations under the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Convention on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Under these conventions, it is Pakistan’s responsibility to respect its citizens’ freedom of religion and right to practice their faith.
Urge the Pakistani government to take active steps to more explicitly and categorically include Shia Muslim scholars and representatives in governmental and religious bodies to proactively increase inclusivity and reduce oppression of marginalized groups in Pakistan.
Pakistan has had a troubled history with violence against Shia Muslims and other marginalized religious communities over the last several decades. While the people and nation have taken steps to overcome these problems, the threat of extremism persists and much more sustained action is necessary. The current oppression against the Shia Muslim community is posing a major threat to the political and economic stability of our nation. There is an urgent need for the Pakistani government to address this matter and safeguard the safety of all its people.
American Muslim Bar Association (AMBA)
Solidarity for Shia Rights (SFSR)
Interfaith Unity for Tolerance
Southern Punjab Legal Aid Group under Pakistan Adab Wa Aman Society
Voice of Hussain
Mohsena Memorial Foundation
Justice For Muslims Collective
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain
Rutgers University Ahlul Bayt Association
University of Illinois College of Law - Muslim Law Students Association
University of Chicago Muslim Law Students Association
Husaynia Islamic Society of Seattle
Dar-e-Zahra Women's Foundation
University of Michigan Muslim Student Association
Muslim Burial Organization of Los Angeles
Shia Muslim Council of Southern California
Los Angeles Muharram Procession
Indian Muslim Student Association at The University of Michigan
Zainabia Islamic Society
Muslims United for Justice
Jafaria Islamic Society
Al-Zahra Islamic Center of Charlotte
MSA Lone Star Council
Imamia Educational Center
Shia Racial Justice Coalition
Islamic Center of Zahra
Anjuman Asiran Dar e Batul NY
Majlis e Ulama e Shia Europe
Imamia Medics International
Stand for Justice LDN
Al Mehdi Islamic Center
Al Mahdi Welfare Organization Canada
SABA Islamic Center
The Qa’im Initiative
Islamic Shia Ithna-Asheri Association of Ottawa
Bargah e Abul Fazlil Abbas
Texas A&M University Muslim Students Association
Bab-ul-Ilm Islamic Center
Jafaria Association of Connecticut
FITNA-Feminist Islamic Troublemakers of North America
Ahlulbayt Student Association of City College
New York Law School Muslim Law Students Association
Islamic Educational Center of Orange County
Dar Al Nur
Ahl ul Bayt Center of Nevada
Islamic Education Center of Murrietta
Swarthmore Muslim Student Association
NYU Muslim Students Association
Shia Association of North America (Bait ul Qaym)
Masjid e Ali (Muslim Foundation)
Dar-e-Abbas Center Houston
Markazi Imam Bargah Al Murtaza
Shia Aasan of North America
Muslim Foundation Inc
Imam Zamana Foundation of North America
Hejrat Educational Center
Islamic Education Foundation of Arizona
Muslim Student Association - UMass Dartmouth
The Council of Islamic Guidance
Hussaini Association of Calgary
Babul Hawaij Islamic Center of Calgary
Islamic Shia Ithna-Asheri Association of Ottawa
AGA Islamic Inc
 Chap XV states that any negative statements made towards the most respected/esteemed companions of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) are considered blasphemy. However, it does not clearly define who those companions are, and this is a major point of contention between Sunni and Shia Muslims. As a result extremist Takfiri groups often attack Shia Muslims for condemning the murderer of the grandson of the Prophet, Imam Hussein (a.s.) on the day of Ashura. The ritual of condemning is part of the prayer known as ziyarat-e-Ashura and is fundamental to the proper observance of Ashura by Shia Muslims all around the world.
 The Islamic month of Muharram is an important time of mourning for Shia Muslims and lovers of the Ahl al-Bayt (the family of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW)) in commemoration of the martyrdom of the third Shia Imam, who was killed in modern-day Iraq 1400 years ago. Muharram commemorations focus on the tenth of the month, also known as Ashura, and large processions and gatherings of mourning take place across the world, including across Pakistan.
 An FIR (First Information Report) is a document prepared by police organizations in Pakistan after information is received about the commission of a cognizable unlawful offense.