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Islam and Sectarianism

Since 2001, Taliban militants operating in the Pashtun-dominated tribal areas along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province have destroyed as many as 800 music shops, according to some estimates. In addition, Talibs have kidnapped and killed several musicians and singers, and banned all forms of musical expressions in the territories under their control. Their objectives are simple: to kill the collective consciousness of the Pashtun people, eradicate centuries-old aesthetic values, create space for jihadist religious propaganda, and break the people of the region from their rich socio-cultural heritage. The Taliban’s anti-music campaign has actually given rise to a new form of Pashtun music that has been dubbed The Music of Resistance. The spirit of resistance through art has existed in the region since the British colonial times when Pashtun poets wrote poetry advocating independence from a foreign yoke and the establishment of a peaceful society based on their own values, traditions, and cultural heritage. This theme continued through the days of jihad in Afghanistan. Now, changes in the cultural scene are occurring at all levels. Traditionally, men and women from artists’ families adopted music as a career; but now, members of the highly educated and socially stable families, wearing western dress and holding their brand new guitars, are dominating the scene. -- Irfan Khan, a Pashtun singer

Karachi Noor Masjid in the heart of Karachi is disputed territory. And like any such territory, it stands barricaded along with a well guarded entrance.

Here, men in shalwar kameez stand at the ready. Outside, there are policemen in vans, waiting as if there is a battle that is about to begin. Unlike other mosques where the government worries about the clerics within the premises, here the danger comes from the outside, say police officials.

The mosque is currently in the hands of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, formerly known as the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP). The SSP was banned in 2002 by General Musharraf on grounds that it bred extremism. Today, with government patronage seemingly withdrawn from the organization, it is struggling to ensure that the mosques in its possession are not taken away from it. -- Imtiaz Ahmad

Photo: A demonstrator belonging to the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, formerly known as the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP).

 

Even after facing a natural calamity and being displaced from their home and hearth, people at a roadside camp near Makli are reluctant to give up their prejudices and will not even share water with members of the Hindu community while sharing the same camp.

Some 35 families are living at a camp in front of the district and sessions court near Makli, Thatta. Arranged side by side, these camps include members of a minority community as well. Despite a drinking water tank just a few steps away, arranged by an NGO a month ago, most of the people at the camp walk as far as six kilometers in search of water just because that tank is frequented by the Hindus. -- Saher Baloch 

If this is a testing time, then some have passed with flying colours. Hats off to a rabbinical student in Massachusetts, Rachel Barenblat, who raised money to replace prayer rugs that a drunken intruder had urinated on at a mosque. She told me that she quickly raised more than $1,100 from Jews and Christians alike.

Above all, bravo to those Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders who jointly denounced what they called “the anti-Muslim frenzy.” “We know what it is like when people have attacked us physically, have attacked us verbally, and others have remained silent,” said Rabbi David Saperstein. “It cannot happen here in America in 2010.” Cardinal Theodore McCarrick put it this way: “This is not America. America was not built on hate.”

“Shame on you,” the Rev. Richard Cizik, a leading evangelical Christian, said to those castigating Islam. “You bring dishonour to the name of Jesus Christ. You directly disobey his commandment to love your neighbour.” Amen. -- Nicholas D. Kristof

In 1959, there was a lilting melody from the Bollywood film Dhool ka Phool 'Tu Hindu banega na Musalman banega, Insaan ki aulad hai insaan banega.' Written by Sahir Ludhianvi, sung by Mohammed Rafi and picturised on character actor Manmohan and a child, it became popular not only for its lyrics, its melody and its visual ambience. It became popular for its basic essence, its magnanimity - the popularity reflecting the massive appeal for secular values not only in this country but throughout the sub-continent and upholding humanity....

The sub-continent is not the only example with its increasing cases of Islamic fundamentalism as witnessed in Lahore and Karachi or the Hindu chauvinism that surfaces in Malegaon or Gujarat, often in forms that are such a slur on humanity. Fanaticism is currently in a high cycle of intensive activity everywhere we look. Controversies like the mosque at Ground zero and call for burning of Quran are shameful indicators of how humanity stands divided torn apart by hate soaked divisions. Identity politics that have existed since times immemorial have become so intrinsic to the socio-political fabric around the world in the last one decade to an extent that politics, global or local, shapes itself around these. The process has indeed been accelerated in the aftermath of 9/11 and Bush invoking the clash of civilizations theory. The divisions into binaries of 'us and them' have become quite well pronounced throughout the world, evoking not just venomous hatred and intolerance but also lethal violence. Besides, it is giving rise to competitive fundamentalisms in almost all societies of the world. -- Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal

These days everybody feels emboldened to criticise other people's religions.

The worst offenders are frequently Islamist fanatics. It is almost a rite of passage for aspiring terrorists to denounce Judaism as a murderous religion and to declare that it is a great and glorious thing to kill Jews. Forget about burning Jewish books, these guys would rather burn Jews. Nor are Islamists unwilling to target entire nations in the name of Allah. Thirty years ago Ayatollah Khomeini used Islamist imagery to condemn the United States as the Great Shaitan and various Shia mullahs have followed his lead. More recently, Sunni Islam has followed the Ayatollah's lead. All talk of violence against Americans is framed in religious terms. It is either a jihad or the holy duty of believers to kill Americans according to the likes of Osama bin Laden.

The Taliban — who are now ready for what must be the most horrific comeback of our times — governed in the name of religion and discriminated on the basis of their malevolent distortion of Islam. They did not just burn Buddhist texts, they actually destroyed the historic Bamiyan Buddhas. Not only could Hindus not brandish their own holy books, but they were also required to wear signs on their clothes identifying them as non-believers. ...

The columnist and TV anchor Sagarika Ghose has coined the term ‘Internet Hindus' to describe a dedicated band of men who post comments on the Web and on Twitter in particular caricaturing Islam as an inferior and violent religion. The things they say make the Reverend Terry Jones sound like Mahatma Gandhi in comparison.

The real reason why we are so horrified by Terry Jones's prejudice and venom is because we believe that somehow, Americans will be different. It is all right for some mad mullah on the West Bank to bless suicide bombers, we say, but how can an American pastor go on television and exhibit such prejudice and ignorance? -- Vir Sanghvi, Hindustan Times

The sectarian strife has afflicted Pakistan virtually from the moment of its birth, but has escalated continuously since 1979, with the former President General Zia ul-Haq’s ‘Islamicisation’ of Pakistani politics. Shias resisted this process as a ‘Sunnification’ of Pakistan, since most of the laws and regulations introduced were based on Sunni Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence). Notably, in July 1980, 25,000 Shias gathered in Islamabad to protest the Islamicisation laws. However, the more the Shias protested, the more were they targeted, and the strife widened. Under Zia, sectarianism in Pakistan, especially in Karachi and South Punjab, became quite violent. The violence worsened after September 11, 2001, and the expulsion of the Taliban from Afghanistan, leading then President Pervez Musharraf to ban some 104 terrorist and religio-extremist groups, including the LeJ and SSP. ...

Reports indicate that Pakistani courts are yet to convict a single person in any of the country’s major terrorist attacks in the past three years. Instead, the Government is contemplating the release of as many as 390 suspects, detained on charges of having links with banned militant groups like SSP, LeJ and others. Officials of the Home Department, Punjab Police and Prisons Department confirmed the "gradual release" of detainees over the coming days, as not a single case had been registered against any one of them. This, despite the fact that an intelligence agency report to the Federal Government reveals that an escalation of sectarian violence could not be ruled out after release of these suspects in large numbers. -- Ajit Kumar Singh and Tushar Ranjan Mohanty

 

About ten years ago, a Saudi- funded Wahhabi madrasa was built at the end of the track leading to the dargah. Soon its students took it upon themselves to halt what they saw as the un- Islamic practices of the shrine. On my last visit there, in 2003, I talked about the situation with the shrine keeper, Tila Mohammed. He described how young Islamists now regularly came and complained that his shrine was a centre of idolatry, immorality and superstition.

“My family have been singing here for generations,” said Tila. “But now these Arab madrasa students come here and create trouble.” “What sort of trouble?” I asked.“They tell us that what we do is wrong. They tell women not to come at all, and to stay at home. They ask people who are singing to stop. Sometimes arguments break out, even fist fights. This used to be a place where people came to get peace of mind. Now when they come here they just encounter more problems, so gradually they have stopped coming.” “How long has this being going on?” I asked. – WILLIAM DALRYMPLE

If Pastor Martin Niemoller were alive today and living in Pakistan, he would have inserted few alterations in his famous statement about the inactivity of German intellectuals following the Hitler's rise to power and would still have sounded authentic:

THEY CAME FIRST for the Ahmadis,

and I didn't speak up because I wasn't an Ahmadi.

THEN THEY CAME for the Christians,

and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Christian.

THEN THEY CAME for the Shia,

and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Shia.

THEN THEY CAME for me

and by that time no one was left to speak up. -- Riaz ul Hassan

Though Pakistan is a multi-ethnic and multi-lingual society, it has a long history of marginalizing minority groups. Shiite Muslims have been the target of radical Sunni Muslim groups for years. Last year, in the central Punjab city of Gojra, a mob of 1,000 angry Muslims set more than 40 Christian homes ablaze, killing seven people.

The plight of the Ahmadi community, however, provides a window onto the intolerance that permeates Pakistani society. Ahmadis say the risk they face is heightened by the fact that, in a society where hard-line religious parties wield unchallenged clout, they are viewed as traitors to Islam. -- Alex Rodriguez

May 28 was a culmination of the hatred and intolerance that was and is still being fostered by the so-called ulema. These ulema continue to preach hate in their madrassas, even after the Ahmedi massacre, and readily distribute hate literature.

When Nawaz Sharif dared to profess solidarity with the Ahmedis recently, the sentiments of these very ulema got hurt. But then it is not unusual for them to get hurt easily. After all, they are just too sensitive…..

As BBC Urdu reported, leaders of 13 religious parties got together to condemn Nawaz Sharif’s statement and demanded from him to clarify his status regarding Ahmedis (message intended: denounce them or face our wrath). People may not know this, but some ulema have asked Muslims to renew their nikah and declare themselves Muslim again by reciting the kalima if they had attended the funerals of the Ahmedis. -- Salma B Ahmad

Alisher is determined to stay. "Osh is my home, I was born here," says the 43-year-old Uzbek. "What would I do in Uzbekistan?" Alisher does not want his real name published. He is one of around 120,000 ethnic Uzbeks living in Osh with a Kyrgyz passport. Some 54 percent of the entire population of the southern Kyrgyz town are Uzbeks, and 15 percent in the country as a whole. They make up the largest ethnic minority group in the Central Asian nation.

Alisher has seen dozens of dead bodies on the streets of Osh, including that of his brother-in-law. He was shot by someone in a passing car, just as he was leaving the Mosque after Friday prayers. Alisher says official figures of around 170 dead are totally unrealistic: "It must be several hundred!" he says. "More than 80 Uzbeks were killed here in the neighbouring town of Machallah alone. I've seen the charred corpses of babies." -- Edda Schlager

 

The Ahmadis, also known as Qadianis, have tens of thousands of followers in Pakistan, and the sect has long regarded as deviant and heretic and been persecuted and targeted in sectarian attacks in the country. Founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad towards the end of the 19th Century, the Ahmadis have a number of unique views, including the claim that Ahmad himself was a prophet, and that Jesus died at age 120 in Jammu and Kashmir, assertions regarded as heretical by orthodox Muslims. An Ahmadi website indicates that the movement, now headquartered in the UK, spans over 195 countries, with membership exceeding ‘tens of millions’. The Ahmadis also claim that they are the only leading Islamic organisation to categorically reject terrorism in any form. They have been systematically targeted by radical Sunni groups in the past. Significantly, the Pakistani leaders who condemned the attacks did not refer specifically to the Ahmadis in their statements. TV channels and newspapers avoided the word "mosque" in describing the attacked sites, preferring "places of worship." --Tushar Ranjan Mohanty

On April 19, 2010, a 14-year old suicide bomber walked into a crowd, mainly comprising Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) demonstrators protesting ‘load shedding’, at the bustling Qissa Khwani Bazaar of Peshawar, the capital city of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP, formerly the North West Frontier Province, NWFP). 23 persons, were killed, including three Police personnel, JeI city Naib (deputy) Ameer Dost Muhammad and JeI Dir-Bajaur Qaumi Jirga (community council) Chairman Ghausur Rehman. While most of the victims were Sunni, the Police said the target of the child-bomber was Peshawar Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Gulfat Hussain, a Shia. ...

Despite the eyewash of a crackdown and some arrests, however, no sustained effort to dismantle the sectarian groups, particularly the Sunni formations that have powerful links with the religious parties and the Pakistani establishment, is visible. Indeed, the impulse of sectarianism is deeply rooted in Pakistan’s society and structure of power, and extremist violence manifests an entrenched social divide. Unless Pakistan’s political wellsprings are cleansed of extremist ideologies, their manifestation in militancy and violence cannot be contained.--Tushar Ranjan Mohanty 

Photo: Shia chidren killed in ambush on school van in northwest Pakistan in Feb,2009

Some unregistered and Deobandi-controlled madrasas in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and northern Balochistan continued to teach extremism. . Similarly the Dawa schools run by Jamat-ud- Dawa continued such teaching and recruitment for Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, a designated foreign terrorist organization.” The US is putting forth the relationship between religious schools and state authorities in the US, as a possible model for Pakistan. While funding the public education system, it must proactively replace Saudi Arabia charities as the source of funding madrasas so as to be able to legitimately control the Islamic philosophy being advocated in these institutions to bring it in line with majority beliefs. Just as important is the whole issue of accountability for funding monies to ensure that there is no misuse and leakage. -- Rohan Bedi

 

Wahhabism and the Muslim Brotherhood are two distinct forms of Sunni Islamism. They have separate histories and separate worldviews. In reality they are not even the same type of movement. Their origins were largely unrelated. Their historic missions have been completely different, as are their current goals and means of achieving those goals, Samuel Helfont writes for FPRI.

 

People who had gone over to the Wahhabi mosque and others who had hidden their true sympathies with the Barelvis have started to drift back. Whereas the Barelvi mosque used to be nearly empty with about 30 people, recent Eid prayers saw close to 300 people in attendance. Wahhabis in Bilehra who openly condemned anything involving the veneration of living or dead men as innovations in Islam, have found themselves drawn to a quiet, wandering man. A few refuse to acknowledge Mastaan Baba but, according to people who live there, their wives and daughters regularly and secretly go to visit him! It seems there are now a couple of more people in Bilehra who claim to be Mastaan Baba. Regardless of whether this man is genuine or not, it seems he has managed to single-handedly and unintentionally stall the rise of Wahhabism, in and around Bilehra. -- Ali khan

Photo: Barailvy Dargah

Unfortunately this "traditional baggage" has now entered into the ethos of the Islamic growth in America, where we find innocent Muslims being caught up in the negligence and excesses of the worldwide 'Ummah" following them in their schisms, ranging from claims of "sacred" cultural mores to disputes of the interpretation of the Sunnah (and ahâdîth) of the Prophet (saaw), to claims of the supremacy of ahâdîth over the Quran. Allah, Forbid! Then we now have claims of supremacy of one "School of Thought" over the others. And again claims of supremacy of one community over the other in the knowledge of Quran and Sunnah. How are we caught up in this?  Allah forbid. We fear that we stand in great danger of going the way of societies before us unless we pause and take heed to Allah's command: "Hold fast all together, by the rope which Allah stretches to you, and be not divided among yourselves..." (Quran 3:103). -- Imam Ghayth Nur Kashif

 

"The Messenger will say: 'My Lord, surely my people have taken the Quran for a joke" Surah 25:30.

Wahhabis feel that they are up keepers of a purer form of religion than other Sunnis. The Wahhabis believe that their version of religion is derived from the salaf or the earliest three generations that succeeded the prophet - the generation of the sahaba or companions, then the tabiin (second generation) and finally the tabii tabiin (third generation) after the Prophet. They reject many rituals and other understanding of religion which is practiced by the Sunnis which they say were liberal innovations or bida'a that came after these three earliest generations. They use this word bida'a or liberal innovations very freely to describe many things that came into being after the first three generations. Before and soon after Abdel Aziz Ibn Saud the founder of Saudi Arabia established the Kingdom his supporters set off on murderous religious expeditions inside the land where they would wipe out entire villages including men, women and children who were not Wahhabis. This was done to cleanse Saudi Arabia of bida'a. -- Syed Akbar Ali

India: Aggressive Wahhabi assertion leads to riots in Vaishali
Ateequr Rahman, Translated by Raihan Nezami, NewAg

Islamic sectarian disputes between Deobandis and Barailavis create tension

A Dispute over the appointment of a Wahhabi Imam for a 100-year-old Barailavi mosque and a "Hafiz" for leading Taraveeh (special Ramazan prayer), resulted into violent clashes among the followers of Deobandi and Barailavi sects. -- Ateequr Rahman, Patna, Bihar

Translated from Urdu by Raihan Nezami, NewAgeIslam.com

 

The Sahaba-e-Karam too had different points of view, but they never resorted to violence or tried to tarnish other’s image by passing out derogatory remarks, or by issuing “Fatawahs” of “Kufr”, “Fasque”, or “Fajra”.

The rivalry between Allamah Sakhavi (ra) and Allamah Jalaluddin Seyuti (ra) is famous in the intellectual history. They had often commented on each other a lot in their respective writings, the differences are even found between a religious scholar and a learned person like Sufi Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani (ra) and Allamah Ibn Aljouzee who was a renowned writer, muhaddith and reformer. In the same way, Nawab Siddique Hassan Khan Qannouji (ra) and Maulana Abdul Hai Firangi Mahli (ra) too, were involved in scholarly debate without any scornful remarks and insulting expression. All the above mentioned negative elements are prevalent in the differences between Deobandi and the Barailvi scholars only who have diminished their scholarly figure and taken this conflict to the limits of “Takfeer” (Disbelief). -- Maulana Nadeemul Wajidee

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By Abdul Hamid Noamani

 

“Our dignity is more valuable than the unity of this land … If we don’t get our dignity, then we will have to consider seceding from this country.”

Sheikh Nimr Baqir Al-Nimr, Saudi Shia religious leader from Al-Awamiya, currently in hiding after having delivered a speech demanding an end to the oppression of Saudi Shiites.

Their demand and those of Shiites in other towns and cities in Saudi Arabia is a most basic and simple one. It is a demand the government can easily grant and one they should hasten to accept. It was written on the signs of those protesting in Awamiya, was encapsulated in a single word in Sheikh Al-Nimr’s speech, and has become the newfound rallying cry of the Shia-minority in Saudi Arabia: Dignity. -- RANNIE AMIRI

The Iraqi Shi‘i scholar, Muhammad Baqir as-Sadr, finds proof for the existence of the Hidden Mahdi in what he calls “the experience of a community”. The existence of the Hidden Imam, he postulates, was experienced by the Shi‘i community as a whole in the written communications that the representatives used supplied them with. The crux of this argument lies in the fact that an individual experience might be doubted, but never that of experience of an entire community. However, the glaring flaw in this line of reasoning is that it very conveniently overlooks the part of the representatives as the individual go-betweens. The community never had the privilege of seeing or meeting the person they believed to be the author of the tawqi‘at. Their experience was limited to receiving what the representatives produced. Even the argument of a consistent handwriting in all the various tawqi‘at is at best melancholy. There is no way one can get away from the fact that the existence of the Hidden Imam rests upon nothing other than acceptance of the words of the representatives.

The activities of those representatives furthermore go a long way to show that they were much, much more inspired by the desire to possess than by pious sentiments of any kind. So when the Shi‘ah commemorate the birth of their twelfth Imam on the 15th night of Sha‘ban, or when they seek to apply ahadith in Sunni sources which speak of twelve khalifas to their twelve Imams, then let us ask them on what basis do they accept the existence of the twelfth one? History bears witness to the existence of eleven persons in that specific line of descent, but when we come to the twelfth one, all we have is claims made by persons whose activities in the name of their Hidden Imam give us all the reason in the world to suspect their honesty and integrity. In Islam, issues of faith can never be based upon evidence of this kind.

--- Abu Muhammad al-Afriqi

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