Zainab’s murderer was a self-appointed ‘Naqshbandi’, a Sunni Sufi sect that traces back to the Holy Prophet, via Caliph Abu Bakr. But it is not the only case involving men, who claim to be the keepers of our religion, engaging in the vilest activities. Within 24 hours, a cleric in a seminary beat an 8-year old boy to death, and an angry student killed the principal of a Charsadda college for rebuking him for skipping school to attend the Faizabad protests. This is the problem with contemporary religion in Pakistan. Zainab’s murderer had a visiting card that depicts the green dome of the Holy Prophet’s mosque in Medina, Saudi Arabia. It is one of the holiest sites in Islam, and instantly recognisable to any Muslim around the world. The rapist claimed to be a man of faith, who had knowledge of the ‘dark arts’ and people came to him for solutions to their problems via religious prayer and devotion. This pious man, this pillar of the community, this flag bearer of Islam, has brutally raped and murdered at least eight children, confirmed through DNA forensics. The public seems to be confused by this diametric juxtaposition. How could a man so overtly pious, be such an abhorrent individual beneath the veneer? The answer is simple. It is because we are blinded by religion and religious entities. It is because we see blatantly religious people as righteous, infallible, and incorruptible. It is because it is inconceivable for us to imagine that a religious person could have a dark, demented side. Religiously motivated individuals in Pakistan are willing to kill for the Holy Prophet, and they are willing to die for the Holy Prophet; but they are not willing to live like the Holy Prophet In Sindh, a young child by the name of Muhammad Hussein tried to escape a seminary. His parents returned him to the institution. A cleric at the institution, enraged by the child’s insolence, beat him with a stick, repeatedly and for hours, until the child perished. This cleric, this man of God, with a beard down to his chest, physically beat a child to death. The picture released to the media shows the child’s back, with not an inch of skin that isn’t black and blue. The parents have refused any requests for a postmortem and already forgiven the cleric for murdering their son. Fortunately, the state has stepped in, arrested this animal masquerading as a human, and is pressing charges. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), a 12th-grade student shot and killed the principal of his college. He was censured for skipping school to attend the protests in the capital in November. The student claimed the principal had committed blasphemy by reprimanding him. In a chilling video, he can be seen speaking in Pashto: “I am not afraid to kill”. And that is the central problem. Religiously motivated individuals in Pakistan are willing to kill for the Holy Prophet, and they are willing to die for the Holy Prophet; but they are not willing to live like the Holy Prophet. Within a span of days in Punjab, Sindh, and the KP, we have seen individuals with a religious background engage in the extremism of the worst kind: murder via rape, murder via torture, and cold-blood murder. These murderers wear the beard as a symbol of virtue, showcase their devotion to religion as their shield, and claim the moral high ground solely on the basis of piety and godliness. The measure of an individual should not be in the form of their apparent devotion to God, or the thickness of their beard, or the length of their pants. The measure of an individual should come from their social conduct, their sincerity toward fellow human beings, and their willingness to help when needed. Collectively, if we started judging individuals on the basis of their conduct, instead of their perceived piousness or religious devotion, perhaps we would not be fooled by the wolves that lurk beneath the sheep’s clothing. The writer serves as a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Research and Security Studies, Islamabad. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org and tweets @zeesalahuddin Published in Daily Times, January 26th 2018.