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Wednesday, May 8, 2019
#DataDarbar - Why Pakistani Taliban keep targeting Lahore’s Data Darbar sufi shrine
ThePrint looks at the significance of Lahore’s Data Darbar shrine and why Pakistani Taliban has targeted it twice, apart from issuing threats.
At least 10 people, including five policemen, were killed and several injured in a blast outside Lahore’s Sufi shrine Data Darbar Wednesday.
As media reports quoted a Pakistani official saying the blast was a suicide attack, Hizbul Ahrar, a faction of the terror group Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for it.
This isn’t the first time, though, that the Pakistani Taliban or its faction has targeted the Data Darbar shrine. Back in July 2010, the Pakistani Taliban had conducted a similar suicide bombing at this shrine, which killed at least 50 people and left more than 200 injured.
In view of the latest attack, ThePrint looks at the significance of Lahore’s Data Darbar shrine and why the Pakistani Taliban has targeted it twice, apart from issuing threats.
Data Darbar and Pakistani Taliban
Lahore’s Data Darbar is the largest Sufi shrine in all of South Asia. It was built in 11th century to house the remains of Sufi Muslim saint Abul Hassan Ali Hujwiri, who is commonly known as Data Ganj Baksh. Hujwiri is believed to have lived here at some point during the 11th century.
The shrine had humble beginnings. It was a simple grave, next to a mosque until the 13th century, when the idea that Hujwiri had special spiritual powers became popular, leading to its expansion. It was further expanded in the 19th century as it went on to become South Asia’s largest shrine.
The Sufi nature of Data Darbar has often led to the Pakistani Taliban targeting the shrine. The Pakistani Taliban considers Sufis to be heretics.
Groups such as the Pakistani Taliban and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi accuse Sufis of being polytheistic, a highly disputed claim. Polytheism — worshiping other Gods than just the singular Allah — is considered a sin among most schools of Islam.
In the case of Data Darbar, its Sufi devotees are accused of worshiping Hujwiri, which amounts to practicing polytheism. Extremists also tend to look at Sufi shrines and saints as idols. Thus, groups like the Pakistani Taliban accuse worshipers at Data Darbar to be indulging in idolatry.
As is prominent among Sufi practices, the Data Darbar shrine is popular for hosting colourful festivals, where devotees often dance. Extremist groups like Taliban also consider dance and music to be un-Islamic.
Moreover, one of the most frequent visitors to this shrine are supporters of the Barelvi movement. Although, Barelvis are distinct from Sufis, they adhere to a lot of practices of the Sufi school.
Data Darbar is not the only Sufi shrine to be targeted by the Pakistani Taliban. Back in 2009, terrorists from Pakistani Taliban targeted the shrines of Sufi poet Rahman Baba (in Peshawar) and Sufi cleric Sarfraz Ahmed Naeemi (in Lahore). Although given the highly venerated stature of Data Darbar, attacking it would be seen a big symbolic victory by violent extremist groups.