What must it feel like to drop your child off to school and for them never to come home? That's what most parents in Peshawar are facing this evening. After the Pakistani Taliban or the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), killed at least 141 people, with 132 of them children in a brutal attack on a school in Peshawar, in the north-west of the country. Indeed, this senseless act of cold-blooded murder points to one simple question i.e. 'Why would anyone ever point a gun at a child?' As the heart breaking images of young children drenched in blood were circulated on our television screens, I could not help but remember my visit this year to Peshawar, a city of beauty, culture and rich heritage. Far from the picture, that I witnessed today of bloodshed, massacre and anarchy. Let's not forget, however that parochial groups such as the Pakistani Taliban have a track record in targeting innocent people. For example, they have in the past claimed responsibility for the bombing at the Wagah border in Pakistan that killed at least 60 people and left over 110 injured and in May 2010, at least 80 people were killed and more than 120 injured after simultaneous attacks of two mosques targeting the Ahmadiyya community.
Pakistan's army spokesman Asim Bajwa tweeted: "This ghastly act of cowardice of killing innocents clearly indicate they are not only enemies of Pak but enemies of humanity" and the British Prime Minister David Cameron similarly declared: "It's horrifying that children are being killed simply for going to school." Just last week, Pakistan celebrated the achievements of Malala Yousafzai, who collected her Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo. In her self-deprecating and gentle tone, she stated that: "Education went from being a right to being a crime."
Attempting to rationalise the madness and senseless murder that took place today will no doubt be part of the investigation process. Indeed, beneath the massacre and rubble of hate, there are serious questions about how these individuals were able to conduct these acts of terror? And how can anyone who believes in God justify these acts of violence, hate and tyranny that are both barbaric and inhumane? And then sadly, there are those that continue to use such occasions to whip a sense of fear and Islamophobia. The Jihad Watch article entitled: 'Pakistan: Islamic jihadists murder over 100 people in attack on school' was accompanied with the words: 'Coming sooner or later to a school near you...' So whilst there are those who will use this incident to partake in Muslim-bashing headlines, there are those of us who must remember that religion or communities are not to blame in this, but instead the ideology of hate and terror.
Indeed, Islam is a religion which encourages social justice and order, community cohesion, freedom, equality, morality, and mutual understanding and respect. Indeed, the word "Islam" means "submission" or "surrender", and derives from the Arabic root term "Salaama", which means "peace" and "safety". This means everyone is entitled to equality, human rights and justice, including the right for all citizens to live in peace and security. Such affirmations of justice and equality are sacrosanct within the Muslim diaspora, and moreover among individual Muslims who aim to promote social freedom and the growth of community cohesion. Islam values human life and dignity, and the Quran prohibits any persecution or killing of human life in all its forms: "... whoever kills a soul ... it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one - it is as if he has saved mankind entirely" (5: 32). Why is it that groups like the Taliban continue to skip such verses and instead hijack the Islamic faith for there own warped ideologies? Ultimately, this attack was not about individual grievances but an attack against children who were going to school. Whilst, it is right to condemn such acts of violence and barbarism, there is also now the time for the Pakistani government and others to take swift action. Such violence against children reinforces the notion that militants are using such tactics to intimidate and cause fear, and at the same time they are losing the battle to win hearts and minds.