Under attack in Mosul and Aleppo, the Islamic State  of Iraq and Syria has renewed the extension
of its tentacles in the subcontinent. As much is the sinister message of
Saturday’s suicide attack, said to have been carried out by a 14-year-old, on a
Sufi dargah in Baluchistan. There are a couple of facets to the outrage. One,
the Caliphate has extended the conflict beyond the Shia-Sunni confrontation. It
was an attack on tolerant Sufism, indeed the manifestation  of the conflict within Islam. Dargah Shah
Noorani stands today as an awesome symbol of the calculated malevolence. The
other is the surge in the attack on Sufi artistes, notably singers, in parallel
to the accumulation of arms by the Islamist militants. As recently as June,
the  qawwali singer, Amjad Sabri, was
shot dead in Karachi, a killing for which 
the Taliban had claimed responsibility. Pakistan has reached a stage
where the label of the terrorist is of lesser moment than the grim reality of
innocents being done to death with fearsome regularity.  Less than a month ago, cadets of the
Baluchistan Police College in Quetta were killed by the Taliban, a disaster
that followed  the bombing of a hospital
in the Baluch capital.

The tragedy at Dargah Shah Noorani would seem to be still
more poignant as the targeted innocents had assembled for the weekly songs and prayers,
notably when the worshippers were performing the dhamal, a ritualistic dance of
profound importance in the Sufi tradition. It was, to use contemporary jargon,
a surgical strike  not merely on the sect
but on the tolerant and liberal culture that it has propagated over time. In
death, the 52 victims have conveyed the chilling message, and not to the Muslim
bloc alone. Amidst the mushroom growth of militant hubs across Pakistan, the
shrine culture still prevails. And there is little doubt that the offensive of
the hardliners, who strike to kill, is directed against any modern, let alone
liberal, interpretation of Islam. Notably, the song-and-dance  religious culture of the Sufis has palpably
turned out to be an anathema, perhaps even heretical. Direly alarmist must be
the fact that its religious philosophy of tolerance is perceived as anti-Islam
through the fundamentalist prism. Indeed, the contribution of the Sufi saints
to Pakistan’s social development has been no less significant than that of the ulema  and clerics.

Till the emergence of mortal fundamentalism, more Pakistanis
are said to have visited Sufi shrines than they did mosques. Saturday’s mayhem
is an affront to a noble tradition. Aside from the Shias, the Sunni Caliphate
has widened its targeted flank. The terrorist, whatever the label, will find it
difficult to digest that Sufism, a tolerant, mystical practice of Islam, has
millions of followers in Pakistan. And it shall not be easy to obliterate the
groundswell of support.