Photographs shared with PT by Karim Shah Nizari
Read more about the people of Kalash: http://kalashapeople.org/
Nestled among the valleys of Pakistan’s mountainous northwest, a tiny religious community that claims descent from Alexander the Great’s army is under increasing pressure from radicals bent on converting them to Islam.
The Kalash, who number just about 3,500, are spread over three valleys along the border with Afghanistan. For centuries they practiced polytheism and animal sacrifice without interference from the Muslim majority.
But now they are under increasing danger from proselytising Muslim militants just across the border, and a hard line interpretation of Islam creeping through mainstream society – as it was discovered.
After falling unconscious during a car accident, a mid-20s member of the paramilitary Chitral Scouts woke to find that people with him had converted him to Islam.
“Some of the Muslim people here try to influence the Kalash or encourage them by reading certain verses to them from the Quran,” said his mother, Shingerai Bibi.
“The men that were with him read verses of the Quran and then when he woke up they said to him, ‘You are a convert now’. So he converted.”
The conversion was a shock for his family. But they were lucky compared with other religious minorities under threat from growing religious conservatism that is destabilising the country.
In May 2010, more than 80 Ahmadis were killed in attacks on two mosques in Lahore.
Then in March this year, Shahbaz Bhatti, the Christian minorities’ minister whose job it was to protect groups like the Kalash, was assassinated outside his home in the capital city in an attack claimed by the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan.
Complete at Source: Express Tribune