Growing Up A Shia In Pakistan

Growing Up A Shia In Pakistan
As a Shia, there were many occasions when I was made to feel apologetic about my faith. I belong to a practicing Shia Muslim family which means that I grew up seeing all Shia rituals. But at school I came across people who would say all sorts of absurd things about Shia belief. The most common was that Shias mourn Imam Hussain's killing because it is a punishment from Allah as they had themselves partaken in the Karbala massacre. Then there were people who said that Shias spit in the food (tabbaruk) served during their religious gatherings. Another myth was that they consider Hazrat Ali (A.S) as God and worship him.

Growing up in a Shia household, I had always been told by my parents not to talk religion in public. When I was little, I did not understand why I cannot talk about my religious beliefs in public. But as I grew up, it all began to make sense.

The kind of hostility I faced in classrooms after my teachers would say the nastiest things about the Shia faith made me realise that I should better keep my religious belief to myself. Once in my academy a teacher (who did not know I was Shia) said that Shias' beliefs are 'nonsense'. Among other false things, he said that Shias do not follow the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), but they instead follow Prophet Moses' teachings. I was shell-shocked. This is one myth I had never heard before, so I corrected him and said that it was false.

As I expected, he immediately asked if I was Shia. I was a newcomer in that academy so not many people knew about my sect and to be honest, I had made up my mind that I would not tell anyone in this new academy that I was Shia. My schoolfellows knew about my faith, but in the academy no one knew me for long. So I was hesitant when the teacher asked this question. But I could not have lied so I told him that I was indeed Shia and that what he just said about the sect was wholly untrue. Instead of regretting having spoken ill of a person's religious belief right in front of them, he proceeded to say that I was too young to understand the 'complexities' and that I will understand the 'truth' in a few years. No one else in the class was Shia so I thought it was better not to argue.

This was one of the many incidents of hostility I faced due to my faith, so it shattered my confidence and I thought that I would be harshly judged if I mention my Shia faith. I was in the seventh grade then. In a few months' time, we were to move to a different house where I had to attend a new school. So I decided that in my new school I would not tell anyone that I am Shia.

So at the new school even during conversations about religion, I would not mention that I was Shia. I spent three years in the school until my matriculation and I told no one about my faith because I did not want to be judged. But looking back, I realise how I shouldn't have been apologetic about my faith and that I should have called out the bigots by telling them they were wrong. The persecution that my community goes through is worse than the bigotry I faced as a child, but I would address that in my next article.