Wed 04 May 2016
A comic book in Pakistan’s speaking out against extremism and the persecution of Christians, as well as other minorities in the country.
Team Muhafiz follows a group of male and female teenagers from different faith backgrounds tackling crime and other social issues prevalent in the city of Karachi.
They include child marriage, drug gangs, polio, land-grabbing, acid attacks and terrorism.
The fact that different genders, styles of dress and religious beliefs are portrayed equally in Team Muhafiz is a significant statement in Pakistan, where a conservative interpretation of Sunni Islam is the norm.
One of the characters in Team Muhafiz, Zain, is a Christian whose church was burnt down.
His experience is a reminder of the twin church bombings in Lahore in March 2015 which killed 70 people – mainly Christians.
Other high profile instances of persecution against Christians include the murder of a Christian couple who were thrown into a brick kiln, and Asia Bibi – a Christian mother who has been on death row on blasphemy allegations for more than five years.
Imran Azhar, the creator of Team Muhafiz, told Premier: “The idea was to promote co-existence, interfaith harmony and to counter the hate narratives which unfortunately we see not only in Pakistan but we are seeing globally taking momentum.
“Maybe it’s a cliche to say but I’ll say it again: it’s the very small vocal minority [who commit terror or persecute minorities]. The silent majority is very moderate and it’s important to show the other side of the story.
“All our characters are based on true events or true people… So when we talk about multi-ethnic and multi-religious people working together there are thousands and thousands of examples in Karachi – which is supposed to be the most violent city right now.
“Amazing things are happening, amazing people are doing some really awesome work on co-existence… This is the real Pakistan, this is the real youth – they just need a voice.”
Listen to Premier’s Aaron James speaking to Imran Azhar: