At least 50 people gathered in Peshawar on Tuesday afternoon to offer in absentia funeral prayers for the Kouachi brothers—the two gunmen who attacked the offices of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo last week and killed 12 people.
Led by Peer Muhammad Chishti, the administrator of the Jamiat Dar Ul Uloom Ghausia Noumani madrassah, the funeral-goers also staged a small demonstration against Charlie Hebdo and its blasphemous depictions of Islam’s Prophet. “Down with French Hebdo publication,” the protesters chanted, in addition to slogans in support of Said and Cherif Kouachi.
“We are here to salute the two brothers who died while defending the honor of Islam’s Prophet,” said congregation leader Chishti, who is also a member of the Sunni Ittehad Council. “They released the world’s Muslims from a debt,” he said, claiming over 200 people had participated in the funeral prayers. Chishti claimed he was not protesting on behalf of any organization, sect or madrassah. “We are merely here to raise the voice of the common Muslim,” he said.
When asked if he was aware of the history of the Kouachi brothers or their first names, Chishti was momentarily taken aback. “Knowing their names is not important. I only know they killed the men responsible for blaspheming against our beloved Prophet,” he said.
According to Chishti, he organized the protest against Charlie Hebdo because Pakistan’s major religious and political parties failed to take any action. “They usually organize huge rallies and demonstrations over minor issues, but they are completely silent over such a heinous and blasphemous act,” he added.
To questions on whether the government had attempted to block the protest and funeral prayers for extremists, Chishti said no Muslim would ever dare to bar such efforts. “No Muslim, if strong in his faith, would resist and bar us from offering prayers for people who proved their love for Islam’s Prophet,” he added.
Despite the stated nature of the protests, there was an obvious political bent to the proceedings. Demonstrators criticized the government and demanded they identify the “real” terrorists. They also demanded TV channels give due coverage to their protests and the Kouachi brothers.
While scattered and relatively few in number, the demonstration included participants from across Pakistan, including Sindh and Punjab provinces. A participant of the rally from Punjab said their protest was against the double standards of Western media. “The West often silences people who even dare question the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust. How is blaspheming against Islam’s Prophet permissible?”
Chishti also dismissed questions about the Kouachi brothers executing a Muslim cop deputed to guard the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris. “I have no knowledge of this, but if anybody was killed falsely or deliberately by them we strongly condemn it as no body is allowed to kill any innocent.”