Pakistani religious leaders on Taliban violence inside Pakistan

This two-part debate on Saleem Safi’s show, Jirga, is very interesting (sorry about the ad banners of women in bras):

In both parts, Saleem Safi basically asks the same question, which is, do you think that violence and specifically suicide bombing is permissible in Pakistan against the current government. His guests are Qazi Hussain Ahmed, the former amir of Jamaat-e-Islami, Sajid Mir, Ameer Markazi Jamiat Ahlehadith, Ahmed Ludhianvi, the leader of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (formerly the Sipah-e-Sahaba-e-Pakistan), Sarwat Ejaz Qadri the leader of Sunni Tehreek, Allama Amin Shahidi, the general secretary of majlis-e-wahdat ul muslimin, Hamid Saeed Kazmi, the minister of religious affairs, Dr. Khalid Masood the chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology and religious scholar Dr. Muhammad Farooq Khan.

Of these scholars, the three who are consistently most equivocal about the Pakistani Taliban and suicide bombing in Pakistan and most supportive of the Afghan Jihad are Qazi Hussain, Sajid Mir and Ahmed Ludhianvi. The most vociferous opponent of individual Jihad and suicide bombing is Dr. Muhammad Farooq Khan. Interestingly, every single one of the three most “extreme” leaders claims that the bombing in Pakistan is part of a foreign conspiracy (Israeli, Indian and American). The closest any of these three come to acknowledging the religious nature of the Pakistani Taliban is when Ahmed Ludhianvi gets carried away describing the unislamic nature of the Pakistani government (especially the unislamic antics of Punjab governor Salman Taseer!) after a few leading questions by Saleem Safi. He ends up admitting that although suicide bombing under such a regime is not technically allowed by Islam, it is a natural reaction.

The most interesting sub-debate is the one between Qazi Hussain Ahmed and Dr Muhammad Farooq Khan. Qazi reacts very quickly to Khan’s claim that Jihad without an Imam is unislamic. According to Qazi, this would make Kashmir, Palestine and Afghanistan unislamic Jihads and this, to him, is ridiculous. The two go back and forth for a long time with Qazi reciting Medinite verses and Khan countering them with Meccan ones advocating restraint until one has a state.

One of the more interesting comments is made by Allama Amin Shahidi. When asked by Saleem Safi whether Imam Hussain should have refrained from resisting during the caliphate of Yazid since there was a state at that time too, Shahidi replies that that time was different from today because today governments are elected on the basis of popular support and don’t just assume power.

The blog Jihadica has a post describing an article by Jordanian writer Yasir al-Za’aterah which describes some problems with the revisionist Islamists who reject violent Jihad by using the argument of religious legitimacy. The most salient example in this debate above of someone who uses this approach is Dr Muhammad Farooq Khan. But the interesting thing is that to some extent almost all the leaders (with the exception of Ahmed Ludhianvi) subscribe to this. Dr. Muhammad Farooq Khan is the most extreme, even suggesting that the Palestinian struggle is useless and counter-productive. But even Qazi Hussain Ahmed is unwilling to acknowledge that it’s just to fight against the Pakistani regime, and Sarwat Ejaz Qadri argues that the Pakistani army makes individual Jihad unneccessary and simply “thuggery”. In the article cited in the Jihadica post, the author argues that this rejection of violence is more of a practical move in the face of impossible and does not represent a fundamental intellectual rejection of the ultimate aims of the violence.

It’s fascinating to watch how Qazi rejects any suggestion that the Pakistani Taliban are misguided muslims, as the other more moderate leaders seem to think. It’s because for Qazi it’s imperative that the ideas of suicide bombing and violent resistance against Kaafir regimes must remain unsullied from any sort of doubt or gray areas. One wonders how long Qazi can hold out.


2 responses to “Pakistani religious leaders on Taliban violence inside Pakistan

  1. I saw this episode on GEO, but I couldn’t understand most of it as I basically don’t know Urdu. I mean, I know it to some degree, but when the multisyllabic words come out I’m lost 😛

    At the end of the day the best the mullahs can do is what the guests on Jirga are doing (i.e. say the Taliban are un-Islamic due to the absence of an Imam or whatever). The problematicness of this is obvious though, as it is only supposed to work until there is an Islamic state, and because it is not a robust enough criticism.

    At the end of the day, frankly, Islam is a big part of the problem. One has to step outside that paradigm to question the Taliban in any true sense, and not the pusillanimous questioning you see being done by mullahs.

  2. Rabia

    true that —
    I think there are 4 levels of condemnation that we are seeing
    1. No condemnation, an honest acceptance (the person who comes closest to that is Ahmed Ludhianvi which is not surprising since SSP has the longest history of violence within Pakistan).
    2. Calling the TTP CIA/RAW agents. People who do that are Sajid Mir, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, Zaid Hamid, Ahmed Qureshi etc.
    3. Saying that these people are misguided neo-Khwarijites – the Sunni Tehreek guy and Allama Amin Shahidi come pretty close to this and Dr. Khan explicitly says this
    4. Saying that this violence is part of mainstream Islam, that the distinction made between Afghanistan and Pakistan is hypocritical and inadequate. (The host of the show seems to be leading to this).

    I think that 4 is unlikely to ever gain mainstream acceptance but if 3. gains widespread acceptance, that would be a great thing.

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