The cruel face of the Faith industry

April 7, 2017 Asia , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS , Pakistan

EPA photo



Imad Zafar

The blind following of religion is a very common phenomena in Pakistan. People usually go to the shrines and self proclaimed Sufis or saints for the solution to their problems.

Many people who suffer from psychological diseases go to these Sufis and saints where they are told that they are occupied with evil spirits. People usually follow these saints and Sufis blindly and obey whatever they order. There are hundreds of cases reported monthly in Pakistan where these self proclaimed Sufis and saints are found guilty of torturing their followers or raping the women devotees.

Recently news shocked the country whereby a self proclaimed Sufi and saint in a village in the district of Sarghodha killed 20 of his followers. According to the police and intelligence agencies reports the criminal saint abid is a patient of paranoia and schizophrenia. He gave drugs to his followers first and then killed them with a knife and sticks. Residents of the area have stated that the self proclaimed saint used to beat his blind followers with sticks in order to clean their sins. So strong was his followership that even after this brutal incident the relatives of victims refused to lodge a FIR (First Investigation Report) with police.

This happens on a daily basis in Pakistan. Everyday women who are not able to give birth to a child and subsequently go to these Sufis, known as ‘peers’, are raped by them. Men and women suffering from split personality disorder or epilepsy are declared under the possession of the evil spirits and, in order to get rid of evil spirits, they are beaten and tortured badly, some of them even losing their lives.

In the modern age of knowledge, following these Sufis blindly is a result of ignorance and not being able to think objectively. In our society following a saint Sufi or a mullah is considered a highly moral thing and it gives a social certificate of being pious and a good ethical human being, no matter how corrupt he or she is. So in order to get a good ethical and moral certificate and social acceptability,   most people in our society become a mureed of these Sufis or mullahs. Mureed/Murid is a word for someone who promises to surrender his life, his ideology and his wealth to the peer, Sufi or mullah he is following. Usually an oath is taken from a person and then he is declared mureed, a follower of the saint or mullah. Even educated people go to these peers and mullahs and become their mureed.

Usually bhang, a very famous toxic liquid, and opioids are served 24 hours in shrines. So many find these Sufis and shrines a safe way of getting free drugs and alcohol.

This Faith industry is one of the biggest profit making industries in Pakistan and there is no check on the money earned through this business. This devotee industry works very cleverly. The saints, Sufis and mullahs make connections with politicians and other movers and shakers in their respective areas. In return politicians get votes of the followers of peers and mullahs and other influential people get monetary benefits. After making connections they usually make “mazars” or they are already busy in controlling the shrines of famous Sufis who died centuries ago. People run to them for the solution to their problems and these peers exploit their beliefs and ignorance.

Human life is a series of successes and failures. One gets success sometimes and one fails sometimes, it happens to almost every human being, likewise happiness and grief are part of human life. It is obvious that no situation, however good or bad, is permanent. Nor does it come through any divine instruction or act. Instead of analyzing the situation and trying to make it better through practical steps these idolatrous run to the peers and mullahs and ask them to help them through divine powers. These peers and mullahs claim to have spiritual powers and a direct connection with God and they usually tell their devotees that someone has cast black magic on them and they will take care of this matter. Billions of rupees are spent annually just to get rid of the so called black magic and this huge amount goes to these peers and mullahs.

In other cases women who face problems in giving birth to children go to the shrines and ask the peers to pray for them so they can have a baby. Mostly the peers convince these women to sleep with them and assure them that through their divine power they will get children. Married women who are not able to give birth to a child are considered vicious in our society so the social pressure and fear of getting divorced, combined with a set patron of blind belief on a peer or mullah, somehow convinces them to sleep with these peers and have sex with them. Likewise many people with mental illnesses are declared under an evil possession and they are tortured so badly that some of them become paralysed and most of them die.

These peers enjoy power, money and status in society for doing nothing but exploiting people, their slaves gifting them the power to manipulate and exploit millions of people. In our society where objective and critical thinking is rare and questions regarding religious beliefs and practices are considered a punishable offense, there is no one who can dare expose these peers and other religious exploiters. Even my colleagues from print and electronic media do not want to cover stories on this issue and never want to do programs on radio and TV regarding this issue, nor does anyone likes to write about it.

There is a reason behind this fear. If you dare to speak or write on the issue pertinent to religious beliefs and exploitation through peers or mullahs you actually risk losing your life. Millions of blind followers of peers and mullahs turn against you and you can be found dead anytime or become a missing person.

Unfortunately the educated class also do not want to think rationally. It is not difficult to understand for someone having common sense that a person who is suffering from mental illness or psychological disorder can be treated and live a better life if he is taken to a good psychologist instead of peers and Mullahs. A woman having problems in pregnancy can get it treated by going to a gynaecologist or adopting a medical procedure instead of going to shrines. A man suffering with kidney pain, heart or liver disease can get it treated by a medical doctor and get well instead of wasting money and time on peers and mullahs and by drinking water that contains steroids or painkillers and being named as holy water. A person having financial problems or problems in a business or job can work hard to change the circumstances rather then wasting money on peers and mullahs.

This is not a rocket science and any person using common sense can understand it. But people in our society do not want to come out of the comfort zone and do not want to think for themselves. So as a result, this religious industry continues to grow and millions of minds become useless and non productive. Mostly people are taught they only have to worry about the life after death and there is no need to worry about this world, this belief and ideology creating a mindset that does not take any interest in contributing towards society in any form and makes most people believe that their problems are the result of God testing their patience. No one dares to even think about the fact that most of their problems are the result of their own weaknesses.

It is normally said that extreme poverty and lack of education leads people to blindly follow these peers, Sufis and mullahs. But this is not true, even the wealthiest and most educated follow them too. The recent massacre of 20 devotees in Sargodha is just a small glimpse of the ugly face of this cruel Faith industry. The real face of this industry is very ugly and is compelling millions of people to live in a hallucination.









Imad Zafar

Imad Zafar

Imad Zafar is a journalist based in Lahore. He is a regular Columnist/Commentator in newspapers. He is associated with TV channels, radio, newspapers, news agencies, political, policies and media related think tanks.

1 Comment

  1. Leslie DeLuca April 07, at 18:33

    Highly informative, profoundly disturbing and quite distressing to even venture forth with a comment. That said, I now fully realize there is also another insidious partner to human traffickers and child sexual exploitation and though I may have gleaned just a smidgen of enlightenment regarding this topic in previous glances of same like literary exposure I am now stewing in the absorption of complete comprehension and fear the worst for humankind. I hate feeling inept, insecure, incapable of helping anyone trapped in such horrific manipulations but am humbled to be sincerely swept away with emotion when reading of such vile vicious treatment of people at the hands of others. Thank you for writing this chillingly horrific insightful piece on the clearly horrendous truth of this particular Faith Industry. Little wonder that I and million others lower our eyes in embarrassment and hang our heads in shame that this happens on our watch.


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