The assault by religious zealots has now been undertaken by the Sunni Tehreek. The transformation of this otherwise peaceful group of Muslims shows how deep an effect the religious right-wing has had in radicalising all other religious parties and sects. Now, it can be safely said that there is no tolerant Islamic sect among Pakistani Muslims
It seems that the movement for Tahaffuz-e-Namoos-e-Risalat (TNR) has become a source of political power for the mullahs. As expected, wherever there is power, there are contenders for the throne. Thus, the intense competition between the mullahs has begun and it is in fact a stampede under which Pakistan is being brutalised and crushed.
The prime mover of the TNR is the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), the mother of most theocratic and extremist religious trends. Presently, the JI is competing for influence for itself versus Fazlur Rehman but that is its secondary goal; the main goal is political power. For the JI, the TNR is a vehicle to keep religious parties united and to slowly dismantle what is left of the secular institutions of the state. The Taliban and other jihadi groups fit very well in its strategy to undo the system. Therefore, while the Taliban and other jihadis keep the state engaged with guns, the JI provides a political cover to them with rhetoric. The ‘Free Aafia Siddiqui’ and TNR movements are just political covers masterfully orchestrated by the JI.
The JI uses very subtle and sophisticated means to stoke the fires of religious extremism and bigotry. It tries to give the impression that it is temperate and modernistic unlike jihadi groups like the Taliban, but this is far from the truth: the JI uses the Taliban’s crude methodology in educational institutions where they have real influence. To its credit, the JI has slowly implanted the ‘Campus Model’ elsewhere in society. What is happening in Punjab is a macro version of what happened in Punjab Universitysince the 1970s.
The JI, by its very composition, is very different from Jamiat-i-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) because it does not recruit its members from madrassas: most of its middle and lower middle class recruits come from regular national educational institutions. The JI has another advantage, which is usually ignored by everyone: practicable or not, the JI has a complete blueprint of an alternative Islamic society and its main ideologue, Maulana Maududi, articulated an Islamic alternative for every aspect of life. No other religious or even socialist group has such a comprehensive plan for replacing the present system.
In this backdrop it is not very difficult to understand that for the JI, TNR is just an instrument to further its ultimate goal of Islamisation. This is why the JI refuses to follow Imam Abu Hanifa on the blasphemy law (otherwise it follows fiqah Hanfia) and its leaders distort the interpretation of Quranic verses. For JI every distortion is justified because it is done for a higher goal of imposition of a Pakistani theocracy. However, in the process the sanctity of religion itself has been completely compromised because of the ambivalence of the JI.
Fazlur Rehman is not very subtle and has even broken all the boundaries of a civil and democratic society. Addressing a rally in Lahore he suggested to Punjab Governor Latif Khosa that the latter should meet killer Mumtaz Qadri and congratulate him because he is the one who got him the governorship. This is the cruellest and most cynical statement a leader can make on the killing of an innocent citizen. Rehman has not only violated the country’s law with this statement but has shown his prejudicial ruling in favour of the killer before the due process system allows him a hearing.
Fazlur Rehman claiming to be the model Pakistani and Muslim wants us to forget that his party, the JUI, opposed the creation ofPakistan. His father, Maulana Mufti Mahmood, was reported to have said: “Pakistan banaane ke gunah mein hum shaamil nahin thay” (We were not part of those sinners who created Pakistan). And when Fazlur Rehman was asked in India if both countries can reunite, his response was: “Elders should sit down and talk.”
However, the assault by religious zealots has now been undertaken by the Sunni Tehreek, which includes the Barelvi sect of Indian Muslims. The transformation of this otherwise peaceful group of Muslims shows how deep an effect the religious right-wing has had in radicalising all other religious parties and sects. Now, it can be safely said that there is no tolerant Islamic sect among Pakistani Muslims. They have all become ritualistic and followers of mullah shahi (rule of the mullahs).
The Sunnis, particularly the Barelvis, were the least affected by political Islam. Following the Sufi traditions, faith was a purely personal belief for them. However, the temptation of power and fame of political Islam was too hard to resist for the mullahs, even of the Barelvi sect. When they saw the JI and JUI leaders like Liaqat Baloch and Fazlur Rehman regularly appearing on TV talk shows and rubbing shoulders with powerful people, they thought that they were in a majority and yet being ignored. Therefore, they had to venture into political Islam and TNR was a perfect excuse for them.
It is clear in Pakistan that mullahs of all sects are now part of a narrow vision of political Islam. No place is left for Islamic apologists who claim that Islam is a religion of tolerance. Every religion becomes tolerant according to a certain socio-political environment, which is not there in Pakistan anymore. Therefore, a secular state — separation of religion and the state — are inevitable if the country has to exist.
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