A suicide bombing of a Sufi shrine in Pakistan's eastern city of Lahore has killed more than 40 people and wounded nearly 200 others. No one has yet claimed responsibility.
It looks like yet another in an unfortunate series of sectarian attacks that have plagued Pakistan for years. Sufism, a mystical form of Islam that is marked by its tolerance, has a long tradition in Pakistan. But, as The New York Times notes in a story today about the bombing:
In modern times, Pakistan’s Sufis have been challenged by a stricter form of Islam that dominates in Saudi Arabia. That orthodox, often political, Islam was encouraged in Pakistan in the 1980s by Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, the American-supported dictator. Since then, the fundamentalists’ aggressive stance has tended to eclipse that of their moderate kin, whose shrines and processions have become targets in the war here.
Minority Shiites have also frequently been targeted by such radical groups as the Sipah-I-Sahaba Pakistan and the Ahmadiyya religious community - seen by many Pakistanis as heretical for its adherence to a 19th century prophet - has fared no better. On May 28, gunmen and suicide bombers hit two Ahmadi mosques in Lahore, killing 93 people.
However, the Associated Press reports that many Pakistanis see America's war in neighboring Afghanistan and frequent U.S. "drone" attacks on militants inside their own country as somehow linked to Friday's attack. The news agency quoted Zahid Umar, 25, who frequently visits the shrine that was blown up:
"America is killing Muslims in Afghanistan and in our tribal areas (with missile strikes), and militants are attacking Pakistan to express anger against the government for supporting America."
The AP reports that others blamed the Ahmadis, saying the minority group was probably seeking revenge for the May attacks on its mosques.