Huge Crowd Attends Funeral Of Controversial Pakistani Cleric
By RFE/RL November 21, 2020
Thousands of mourners gathered in the Pakistani city of Lahore on November 21 for the funeral of a hard-line Islamic cleric accused of terrorizing the country's religious minorities for years, inciting riots, and advocating the destruction of European nations in order to fight what he had deemed to be blasphemy.
The massive crowd could be heard chanting in unison at the funeral of the Pakistani cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi -- the leader of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan party (TLP).
Pakistani authorities did not immediately provide an official estimate of the crowd size. But some observers said the mourners numbered in the hundreds of thousands.
Some supporters, like funeral attendee Farhad Abbasi, vowed that a "movement" of Rizvi's followers would continue without him.
Authorities have not announced the cause of death for the 54-year-old Rizvi, who died on November 19 after suffering a high fever and difficulties breathing.
Reports say there was no autopsy or COVID-19 test conducted on the long-time wheelchair user.
Rizvi stirred sectarian resentment in Pakistan and was able to quickly mobilize thousands of fanatic supporters by issuing declarations about what he deemed to be cases of blasphemy against Islam.
Rizvi's death came just days after he'd led a rally in Islamabad against France and threatened to repeat a 2017 blockade that crippled Pakistan's capital.
Rizvi claimed that he ended the three-day anti-France rally after he forced Pakistan's government to agree to kick out France's ambassador.
The protests came weeks after French President Emmanuel Macron defended his country's freedom of speech laws, following the killing of a teacher who had shown caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad to his young students.
Rizvi's controversial declarations included calls for the nuclear destruction of European countries where he claimed the Prophet Muhammad had been dishonored.
Prime Minister Imran Khan and Pakistan's powerful military have appeared aware of the power that Rizvi's movement could continue to wield following his death.
Pakistan's military hailed Rizvi as a "great scholar," and Khan quickly offered condolences after his death.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP
Copyright (c) 2020. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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