Renowned Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen has strongly condemned the brutal terrorist attack on a children playground in the eastern city of Lahore, Pakistan that killed at least 72 and wounded more than 300 people, including many children.
“I have learned with grief about the horrible terrorist attack in Lahore, Pakistan that took 72 lives, majority of whom women and children,” Gülen, who resides in rural Pennsylvania, said in a statement.
He condemned the attack in the “strongest terms”, denouncing “all forms of terror regardless of their perpetrators.”
Gülen is among Muslim clerics who are usually quick in condemning terrorist attacks perpetrated on behalf of Islam and emerged as a moderate voice at a time when attacks by sympathizers of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) are on the rise across Europe.
Gülen described assaults on civilians as a murder, a “violation of the sanctity of life” that “deserves nothing but unconditional condemnation in the strongest terms.”
The blast occurred in one of the largest and most popular public parks in Lahore, Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park. Victims are mostly Christians, who came out to celebrate Easter.
On Monday, the entire city was almost shut down, while the people were pouring in to the hospitals and the cemeteries. A spring festival was also cancelled.
The suicide bombing on Sunday in Pakistan is only one of dozens of attacks that have killed hundreds of civilians in the country in recent years, with the Taliban or its splinter groups claiming responsibility for many.
Gülen emphasized that the possibility that the attack was aimed at members of Pakistan’s Christian minority celebrating Easter should alarm all Muslims and move them to become more sensitive about protecting religious minorities among them and take action toward that end.
Speaking at the Vatican, Pope Francis also called for better protection of religious minorities and condemned the attack aimed at Christians in central Pakistan.
The attack came just days after the Easter and the Hindu festivals of Diwali and Holi recognized as public holidays by National Assembly. Jamaat -e-Ahrar, a splinter group of Pakistani Taliban, has claimed responsibility and said their target was Christians who had come together to celebrate Easter. Pakistani officials said the death toll was unselective, both Muslims and Christians were killed in the barbaric attack.
“Regardless of who claims ownership for the attack and their stated identity, they should be seen as monster-like beings that lost touch with their humanity,” said Gülen.
“I send my condolences to those who lost their loved ones in the attack, and to the people of Pakistan, starting with President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.”
Last week, Gülen also condemned the attacks on Brussels’ two main transit hubs, the International Airport and the metro station, which left at least 35 people dead and scores injured.