HASAN ABDAL, Pakistan — Thousands of Indian pilgrims barely registered the man in the orange bandanna and Ray-Ban sunglasses taking their shoes and storing them in wooden cubbyholes before they entered the Sikh shrine in this town in northwest Pakistan.
The unassuming 62-year-old tending to the shoes is a top government lawyer and devout Muslim. At the shrine, he is on an unusual solo quest – taking on menial jobs to atone for the beheading of a Sikh by Islamist militants.
Over the past two years, Muhammed Khurshid Khan has traveled to Sikh shrines in Pakistan and India, volunteering to polish shoes, clean bathrooms, cook meals and do other chores. Such service is known as “seva” – selfless service – in Sikhism, and it holds a special place in the faith.
Attacks against Sikhs, Christians and Hindus have spiked in Pakistan in recent years as the Taliban and their allies gained strength. Atrocities by Muslim extremists against religious minorities now are so common that they rarely illicit more than routine condemnation by officials, much less collective contrition or shame.