The Sunnis and Shias aren’t just killing each other; they’re killing the Sufis, a mystical branch of the faith which can be seen as a contemplative strain of Sunni Islam—but one that sees itself as above political machinations. It’s not surprising then, that Sufis have been persecuted within the faith, and just today one of their most famous singers, Pakistani Amjad Sabri, was assassinated in his car in Karachi. As the BBC reports:
Sabri was a leading exponent of Sufi devotional music, known as Qawwali.
Sufism, a tolerant, mystical practice of Islam, has millions of followers in Pakistan – but in recent years has come under attack from Sunni extremists.
In the past, attacks on targets linked to Sufi Islam have been blamed on the Taliban who view Sufism as heretical. But no such attacks have taken place during the last couple of years, the BBC’s M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad reports.
Sabri, who was among the sub-continent’s top Qawwali singers, was hit by five bullets, police said. Another person, thought to be a relative, was wounded in the shooting and is said to be in a critical condition.
“It was a targeted killing and an act of terrorism,” said senior police officer Muqaddas Haider, AFP news agency reports.
Here’s Amjad and his brothers doing a Qawwali song; he begins singing at 1:24. It’s an amazing performance (hear the long note at 1:50).
and a bit more:
Amjad Sabri came from a family which traces its musical links to the 17th Century court of India’s Mughal empire. The family adheres to the Sabiriyah branch of Sufi Islam, hence the name Sabri. It migrated to Pakistan when India was divided in 1947, and has been based since then in Karachi.
The band led by Amjad’s father, Ghulam Farid Sabri, dominated the Qawwali scene in India and Pakistan during the 1970s and 80s. Amjad himself was considered a great performer who produced both traditional and commercial music and also sang for movie soundtracks in India and Pakistan.
It is not yet clear who killed him, but he apparently presented a soft target with a wider shock value.
A blasphemy case was filed against Amjad Sabri last year after he mentioned members of the Prophet Muhammad’s family in a song.
However, there is still no confirmation the shooting is related to that incident.
Here’s the reaction of a presenter on a Pakistani television show when she heard the news of the killing. She runs off the stage, but her connected microphone still reveals her uncontrollable sobbing: