Original Articles

Media Discourse on Deobandi Terrorism : April 07 – April 21


The U.S. Muslim Honor Brigade Strikes Again

The Daily Beast

21 Apr, 2015

On the homepage of its website, a photo of teachers and staff shows five of 21 scarved women peering out from behind full-face black veils, only their eyes visible, over the shroud of a dark gown. Latif covers her face with a veil. The most puritanical interpretations of Islam require veils. The Deobandi school of thought, the driving ideology of the Taliban, militant groups and strict orthodoxy in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, requires full-face veils for women, as does the Wahhabi and Salafi schools of thought exported to the world from Saudi Arabia. My mother’s family required she wear the face veil as a woman.

I definitely have a difference of beliefs from Baqir, but would defend his right to express them. He had started a mosque, Masjid Isa ibn-e-Maryam (“Jesus, son of Mary”), known in the community as ascribing to the strict Salafi and Deobandi schools of thought. Baqir says it doesn’t. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” he says.



Raising the black flag?

The Economist

21 Apr, 2015

In any case IS will face an uphill battle in Afghanistan, ideologically speaking. For one, the Taliban adhere to a Deobandi school of Sunni Islam, while IS espouse a stricter, Salafi interpretation of the faith. Whereas IS have ambitions of a transcontinental caliphate, Taliban have a Pushtun-nationalist outlook. And while the Taliban occasionally target ethnic Hazaras, they do not seek the type of genocidal purge of Shias that IS has undertaken. Indeed, the police chief of Helmand province said this week that he has evidence of IS activity in his districts—where they have taken up arms against the Taliban.



Pakistan-backed LeT Needs Action In Yemen

S Subrahmanyam

18 Apr, 2015

The spate of public support meetings in Pakistan now is being organized by Ahl-e-Sunnat-W’al-Jama’at (ASWJ), the erstwhile Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), the mother of all Sunni Wahhabi and Deobandi terrorist tanzeems (elements) in Pakistan. Its emir, Maulana Muhammad Ahmed Ludhianvi, is a close friend of the Sharif brothers and the PML(N) has an electoral understanding with him and ASWJ. The Punjab government is very generous with him. He does to the Shias what Muawiyah ibn Abi Sufyan, who had established the Umayyad dynasty, did to the Byzantines of Syria: slaughter them.



The myth of the Muslim monolith

Maryam S. Khan


In Pakistan, prominent Sunni sub-groups include:
– the Sufis: a largely non-political, mystical and ritualistic tradition organised around fraternal orders of saints that developed in the Indian sub-continent centuries ago;
– the Deobandis: an anti-imperialist, socially conservative and religiously dogmatic movement that emerged in colonial India in the nineteenth century to “purify” Islam;
– the Barelvis: a movement that arose in defence of Sufism in reaction to the Deobandi agitation;
– the Salafis/Wahabis: a puritanical movement that originated in eighteenth-century Saudi Arabia, and found a jihadist foothold in Pakistan during the Afghan war and formed close alliances with extremist Deobandi groups.

Pakistan’s internal diversity within Islam led to sectarian contests over who was and was not a Muslim. As early as the 1950s, there were anti-Ahmadi riots spearheaded by Deobandi groups, in particular the Jamaat-i-Islami and Majlis-e-Ahrar.

In 1974, however, the Deobandi ideology prevailed in parliament. Only a year after the constitution of 1973 came into force, the legislature passed an amendment to the constitution, declaring that people who believe in prophets after Prophet Muhammad are not Muslim. One sectarian version of Islam had thus managed to impose its world view on the constitutional order. Because Pakistan’s president and prime minister must be Muslims, Ahmadis have since been excluded from these offices.

Deobandi and Salafi madrassas (religious seminaries) proliferated and became more radical. They were sponsored by the state and benefited from Saudi money in particular. These madrassas were integrated into mainstream education to train, recruit and mobilise Islamic fighters called the “mujahideen”, who joined the insurgents in Afghanistan. The military regime’s policies facilitated an arms and drugs trade across the border, and silenced the opposition at home through despotic laws and harsh repression.

To more firmly establish his power, moreover, Zia “islamised” various laws in a way that reflected an extreme and rigid version of Deobandi doctrine. All Muslims who did not subscribe to rigid religious fundamentalism – the majority – were thus legally reduced to a minority status. Moderate Sunnis as well as non-Sunnis had no choice but to be regulated by these harsh laws. The only exceptions were “personal laws” concerning private matters like inheritance, marriage and divorce etc. All religious groups, whether Muslim or not, were allowed to apply their traditional rules to these matters.

Deobandi ideology increasingly marked various kinds of legislation. Examples include:
– the “Hudood” laws that criminalised and severely punished drinking and extra-marital sexual relations for example,
– constitutional amendments that introduced religious “Sharia Courts” to police compliance with Islamic principles,
– changes in Pakistan’s criminal laws that introduced corporal punishment for various offences and “blood money” for murder for instance.

New militant groups like the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, for instance, have emerged from the Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan. Typically, they are marked by fundamentalist Sunni ideology of the Deobandi, Salafi/Wahabi and related traditions. Not only do they attack government institutions, they are also at the forefront of sectarian violence, targeting Shia communities for instance. Thousands of Shias have been killed in the last decade alone, leading to claims of “Shia genocide”. The Ahmadis are being brutalised in a similar way.



The corruption of militant leaders

Iftikhar Hussain Jazib

Daily Times

April 17, 2015

To further clarify this point and strengthen the argument on the non-religious nature of terrorist movements, some facts are presented about the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which is an al Qaeda affiliate in Pakistan. The term talib, plural Taliban, meaning student, was coined to indicate the incomplete education of these terrorists. Therefore, the TTP hardly had such persons in its ranks that had even completed the Dars-e-Nizami, the basic religious course taught at Deoband madrassas (seminaries). Its intellectual hollowness can be simply gauged from the fact that the TTP founder, Baitullah Mehsud, and his successor, Hakimullah Mehsud, did not use a religious title at all. TTP Chief Mullah Fazlullah is a matriculate and he was working as a lift operator in Swat before becoming a militant. He is using the title of mullah wrongly as he never finished his madrassa education. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JA) chief Omer Khorasani is also a matriculate and previously worked as a blacksmith. He has not used a religious title so far, which speaks about his lack of Islamic education itself. Mangal Bagh, the commander of the Lashkar-e-Islam, received no Islamic education and he worked as a bus conductor formerly.



Are Islamic Extremists Poised To Swallow Bangladesh? – Analysis

Bhaskar Roy

Blocking terrorist funding is possible to some extent only and that is generally limited to bank transfers. Some banks like the Islami Bank are suspected of being complicit in these transfers. Substantial money comes in from workers returning from countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE. There are approximately 10 million Bangladeshis working in the Gulf and West Asia. They return indoctrinated in Deobandi Islam and with the belief that they must contribute part of their earning to the cause of jihad against infidels, the surest path to heaven. This kind of funding is very difficult to track and stop.



The illusion of normalcy in Pakistan

April 15, 2015

There are other reasons to believe that this decision may create trouble for Pakistan. These reasons are domestic and not external. Within days of the resolution, influential religious leaders, mostly adhering to the Deobandi theological persuasion, called on Parliament to reconsider. Ominously, just days after the resolution, the leader of the Binoria madrassa in Karachi—a hotbed of terrorism in that city—also made that “request”. In the week before the passage of the resolution, Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), an organization whose leaders are responsible for the Mumbai terror attacks, launched a campaign to “defend” Saudi Arabia. It is only a matter of time before other religious seminaries in Pakistan join this chorus.
Daily Times

April 13, 2015

Regular readers of this space will remember that I have already partially dedicated two articles to this very important book, which, while drawing on the rich literature available on the Pakistan Movement, is deeply problematic in its treatment of the facts. This is why it is very important to address the book in its entirety. Dhulipala’s basic thesis in the book is that Pakistan was not insufficiently imagined but fully and even ambitiously imagined in the public sphere. To argue this he has relied on three things essentially: 1) the role of a sub-section of Deobandi ulema who broke with the Jamiat-e-Ulema-Hind and supported the Muslim League; 2) the debate that followed Dr B R Ambedkar’s classic Pakistan or Partition of India and MRT’s treatise on the constitutional problem of India and 3) the ideas of various actors in the public sphere putting up their own ideas about what this Pakistan should look like, including but not limited to the breakaway section of the Deobandi ulema first under Ashraf Ali Thanwi and then under Shabbir Ahmed Usmani.

Religion, however, was very much part of the campaign on both sides: Congress utilising its Deoband and Ahrari heavyweights to which the Muslim League responded by bringing in its own ulema. Another significant fact that seems to have been underplayed in the book but which strikes one as significant is the fact that while Jinnah remained completely aloof from the UP election campaigns, Nehru, the socialist secularist, was directly involved with them and therefore must have sanctioned the use of Islam by his maulanas himself. To this end, Dhulipala writes on page 93: “Nehru again campaigned intensively in all three campaigns, even as Jinnah stayed away.” At another point he refers to a poster with an appeal to Islam by Jinnah, which turned out to be a fake. On page 94, he mentions how Congress’s Maulana Madni gave a fatwa that not only was it najayaz (impermissible) to vote for the Muslim League in the elections but was maujab-e-azab (worthy of divine retribution). Congress mullahs further declared that voting for Congress meant divine paradise in the afterlife. Dr Ahmed’s review seemed to miss out on all of this as he missed out on the chapters that detail Jamiat-e-Ulema-Hind’s religious campaigns against the Muslim League. On page 310, Dhulipala writes: “Seoharvi also sought to provoke majority Sunni sentiment by indicating that Muslim League leaders were predominantly Shia. He ridiculed Jinnah, a Shia barrister, for doubling as a mufti. Seoharvi further bemoaned that Jinnah’s followers, such as Sir Zafrullah Khan, a Qadiani and the Raja of Mahmudabad, a Shia, were held up as conscientious Muslims.”



 Should we defend the Saudis?

Syed Kamran Hashmi

Daily Times

April 10, 2015

In Pakistan today, where society is overwhelmingly Muslim, Salafi ideology continues to split the nation into smaller fragments creating animosity between Shias and Sunnis, Sunnis and Wahhabis and Sunnis (Deobandis) and Sunnis (Beralvis). True, we cannot solely blame the Saudis for this mess. Pakistan’s insatiable appetite for free dollars and its establishment’s unreal foreign policy objectives have contributed as much, if not more, in throwing ourselves in front of this demon of religious extremism, a devil with multiple heads.



 Imagining Pakistan as an Islamic state

Dr Ishtiaq Ahmed

Daily Times

April 07, 2015

Venkat Dhulipala’s exhaustive study, meticulously researched and intelligently argued, pushes the origins of the Islamist foundations of the Pakistan idea by another five to 10 years into the past. Not surprisingly, it was in the stronghold of the Muslim ashraaf (elite), the United Provinces (Uttar Pradesh) of North India, that such an idea was first tried in the elections. The Deobandi Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind (JUH) and its leader, Maulana Hussain Ahmed Madani, steadfastly opposed the demand for Pakistan on the grounds that Hindus and Muslims should join hands to liberate India from the yoke of British colonialism. He based his standpoint on the grounds of wataniyat (loyalty to the land one is born in), which he asserted was fully compatible with the pristine model the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) had devised to build an alliance with the Jews of Medina to ward off any attack by his Meccan enemies.

On such a basis, Madani propounded the theory of muttahida qaumiyat (composite nationalism), in which all Indians, including Hindus and Muslims, would be equal partners. He advised Muslims to join the Congress Party. This argument was challenged by a prominent Deobandi dissenter, Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi. Thanvi argued that although joining Congress was in itself not against sharia, for Muslims to join any political organisation it was imperative that the supremacy of Islam was guaranteed. Additionally, non-Muslims had to be in a position of subservience in such an organisation. He rejected Madani’s argument that the covenant signed by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and Jews created equality between Muslims and the Jews. On the contrary, asserted Thanvi, the covenant required Muslims to be the leaders while Jews could only be in the position of followers.



 The Evolving Jihad in South Asia

About the author

Shahram Ali


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