Takfiri Militancy A Threat to Pakistan

Takfir: the ideology of hate —Dr Mohammad Taqi

An ordinary Salafi may believe in the non-violent call to convert to their version of Islam but the Salafi jihadists are proponents of violent jihad. The doctrinal differences that set the jihadist group apart include practising takfir, i.e. labelling other Muslims as infidels or apostates

“It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can stop him from lynching me, and I think that is pretty important” — Dr Martin Luther King Jr.

While some in the Pakistani media seem to have bought into Pervez Musharraf’s Facebook flight of fantasy and were focused on his ‘Desperate Housewives’-style, primetime soap performances, the peddlers of the ideology of hate struck again.

There were two major attacks: one against yet another symbol of South Asian religious diversity — the Abdullah Shah Ghazi shrine in Karachi — and the other before that, which killed the Islamic scholar and practising psychiatrist, Dr Farooq Khan. The assassination of Dr Khan is, by far, the more significant and more ominous of the two because he was a person who had dedicated his life to preserve and promote pluralist thought, which shrines like Shah Ghazi’s have epitomised for centuries.

However, the news media, especially the television networks, covered these two stories for just about 24 hours and after that moved on with the preferred national pastime of Zardari-bashing and betting on his exit date. But, given the open jihadist tirades of certain anchors, anti-Ahmediyya vitriol of a particular televangelist and outlets that air the interviews of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, this is hardly a surprise.

Last week, Ms Gulmina Bilal Ahmad, in her article ‘Historical distortions’ (Daily Times, October 8, 2010), has written eloquently about Dr Farooq, his thoughts and work and has alluded to those who are out to counter this thought. I did not know Dr Farooq except from a conversation we had at the humble yet dignified guest room of the late Professor Saeedullah Qazi, the then Dean of Sheikh Zayed Islamic Centre, Peshawar. His words are rather vague in my mind, but it is hard to forget his soft-spoken mannerism. What Farooq has done in his death — and Ms Ahmad has taken up in her column — is to open the debate about a virulent ideology hell-bent on eliminating anyone who does not conform to it.

In recent times, the biggest manifestation of this ideology has been the suicide bombings or the so-called ‘martyrdom missions’. While we focus on suicide bombings as the dastardly acts that have killed thousands, we have been somewhat remiss in assessing the role of the doctrine providing the religious-political and psycho-social ‘rationale’ of this foremost tactic in the global Salafi jihad.

The Salafi jihadists form an extreme fringe, even of the Wahhabiist-Salafist spectrum itself. An ordinary Salafi may believe in the non-violent call to convert to their version of Islam, but the Salafi jihadists are proponents of violent jihad. The doctrinal differences that set the jihadist group apart include practising takfir, i.e. labelling other Muslims as infidels or apostates (kafir) and concluding, therefore, that violence against the latter is permissible (halal or mubaah), condoning acts of violence against civilians and the use of suicide missions. Violent jihad is held at par with the basic tenets of Islam by the Salafi jihadists. The most explicit endorsement of killing Muslim civilians came from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who said in a 2005 audiotape message: “The killing of a number of Muslims whom it is forbidden to kill is a grave evil. However, it is permissible to commit this evil — indeed, it is even required — in order to ward off a greater evil, the evil of suspending jihad.”

Dr Farooq was not the first Islamic scholar to have differed with the hateful ideology of takfir and to have paid with his life for this dissent. Ironically, the grandfather of al Qaeda, Abdullah Yusuf Azzam, was killed on November 24, 1989 in Peshawar, in a bomb attack by his own cohorts, for opposing takfir.

The late chief of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Syed Maududi, had also written against invoking takfir in religio-political polemics. I was told that one cannot find his books in Saudi Arabia and I did find this to be true, as far as the shops around the Holy Ka’aba and the Masjid-e-Nabvi go. This, perhaps, has something to do with his very favourable opinion of Imam Abu Hanifah in doctrinal matters, a tolerant view of the Shiite and a general condemnation of takfir.

Indeed, the key pan-Islamists such as Muhammad Abduhu and Rashid Rida — like Maududi — had tried a selective application of takfir against the relatively newer sects in Islam. They feared that indiscriminate use of the label would lead to endless strife (fitna) within the larger Muslim community and advised their followers that wrongly accusing another Muslim of being an infidel is a major sin in Islam.

However, even this self-serving and rather meek condemnation of takfir is not acceptable to the ardent takfiris who are quick to condemn even Maududi as a kafir. The jihadists and their apologists remain blind to the fact that these attacks, ostensibly against foreign occupiers, have killed more Muslims than any other group, have divided the country deeply and have reinforced the belief that the jihadists consider common Muslims as expendable. Moreover, suicide attacks — though not as common — did take place in Egypt, Algeria and Afghanistan even when there was no foreign occupier.

This suggests that, while challenging the appeal of the takfiri ideology is a crucial component of the counter-terrorism strategy, a scholarly discourse by itself is an insufficient antidote. What is needed is a holistic, multi-pronged approach to stymie the takfiri groups. Civilian law-enforcement officers have made great strides in understanding takfiri terrorism in Pakistan and have apprehended many of its leaders. However, no high profile leader has ever been put on trial or any madrassah shut down — let alone levelled — limiting the deterrence value of counter-terrorism operations.

The trial of the far-right extremist, anti-Islam Dutch parliamentarian, Geert Wilders, resumed yesterday in Amsterdam. He is facing charges of inciting hatred against Muslims. This has some of his friends on the US side of the pond, up in arms. Ayaan Hirsi Ali went on bewailing in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that the Netherlands, a 21st century democracy, has put free speech on trial. What has actually been put on trial, however, is hate speech.

The Dutch law may not make Geert Wilders love Muslims, but chances are that it will prevent him from inciting hate and potential hate crimes. One may woefully concede that for something like this to happen in Pakistan, many Dr Farooq Khans may be lynched first.

The writer teaches and practices medicine at the University of Florida and contributes to the think-tanks http://www.politact.com and Aryana Institute. He can be contacted at mazdaki@me.com

Courtesy: Daily Times

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010/10/14/story_14-10-2010_pg3_2

Via – Twitter » ChagataiKhan

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