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December 17, 2010

Sindh demonstrates traditional religious harmony

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December 17, 2010

People in rural Sindh have again shown sectarian harmony, a tradition set by their elders hundreds of years ago, taking out Muharram processions together. In all big and small cities and towns of rural Sindh, including Hyderabad, Sukkur and Khairpur, processions have been staged peacefully through marked routes.
People are keeping a close eye on any attempt to create sectarianism in the holy month of Muharram. They say that there is no visible security threat in their areas during the Ashura processions and Majalis. It is an old tradition that people of each sect visit major mosques of their villages and towns for Eid prayers while on the occasion of Ashura they gather at Imambargahs.
There are many Imambargahs in Hyderabad, Khairpur and small towns like Hala New, Matiari and Sehwan. Some of them are as old as 150 years, and hundreds of people from neighbouring areas come there to attend Majalis and take part processions, and take Niaz (food).
In Sehwan, the shrine of Qalandar Lal Shabaz is one of the most attractive places for visitors. It is on this shrine that processions from all neighbouring towns converge on Muharram 8 travel to join a big procession through fixed routes. As far as security is concerned, people say it is the government that makes such arrangements, otherwise people join the processions without any fear.
People give credit of this to Sufi saints, who played a key role in the region in teaching them to avoid spreading hatred rather and to promote peace and love.
Matam on fire is common and has been practised for hundreds of years in Hyderabad, Hala, Bhit Shah and other parts. In towns like Hyderabad there are around 1,000 Imambargahs, from where processions are taken out. In small towns such as Hala and Matiari also, Muharram procession are taken out.
Elderly people in Hyderabad, sharing their experiences, say that despite security threats, hundreds of people from different parts come to attend Majalis, take

part in processions, recite Noha and Marsia throughout the night. However, over the part few years some changes have been noticed on account of the tightening of security. For example, until a few years ago a major procession led by women on Muharram 8 was taken out every year from the Khaki Shah Shrine to the Qadamgah Imambargah, Hyderabad. Hundreds of women used to participant in this procession but this not the case anymore due to security reasons.
In Hyderabad, the elder mourners say, there is a liberal culture, where people from different sects join the processions peacefully. Community people outside Imambargahs also distribute food among passersby.

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