Will the silent Sunni Barelvi majority rise against the brutal Taliban-SSP-LeJ terrorists?

Clashing interpretations of Islam

Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and leaders of the Sunni Tehrik party, who visited her for condolence, pray for the victims of Friday's bombing incident at her residence in Karachi October 22, 2007. Pakistani authorities are considering banning political processions in the run-up to a general election after a bomb attack on Bhutto killed 139 people.Sufi Muhammad of the TNSM and the Swat Taliban led by the TTP have rejected the Darul Qaza judges appointed by the NWFP government in the Malakand-Swat region. Sufi Muhammad’s explanation for rejecting the appointment of “judges” where he would have appointed “qazis” could have been endorsed by a majority of the madrassa clergy in Pakistan but for his other “edicts” that offend the national clergy across the board. One can say that the madrassa clergy has developed a schism in which the Sufi and the Taliban stand isolated.

There has emerged a third variant, that of the “mazar” clerics who reject the theology of the madrassa plus the Taliban brand that the Sufi wants to impose. The most significant statement of the third variant has come from our Foreign Minister Mr Shah Mehmood Qureshi who is also the spiritual custodian of one of the country’s most important “mazar” shrines, that of Shah Rukn-e-Alam in Multan, where he recently addressed the devotees of the mystic saint on his 695th anniversary.

Breaking with the custom of not emphasising the Deobandi-Barelvi schism, Mr Qureshi said on Sunday: “The Sunni Tehreek has decided to activate itself against Talibanisation in the country. A national consensus against terrorism is emerging across the country”. The Sunni Tehreek, of course, is an aggressive version of the Barelvi faith that has emerged in Karachi in the face of Deobandi-Ahle Hadith dominance in the mega-city and is now actively seeking cooperation from Barelvi organisations in the rest of the country to face up to the armed madrassa followers.

Pakistan began as a Barelvi-dominated country with only the NWFP and parts of Balochistan under Deobandi control. After 1947, however, the state inclined in favour of the Deobandi madrassas when faced with the task of Islamisation under the Objectives Resolution. Later, exigencies of jihad, whose fighters had to be trained in a predominantly Deobandi Afghanistan, compelled the state to avoid empowering the Barelvi school of thought. Today, most cities are under the sway of Deobandi thinking while the country’s rural majority is still devoted to the Barelvi saints.

Sufi Muhammad has created a new situation in which a new “national consensus” is forming about the Deobandi view of the national security state. Foreign Minister Qureshi has come to the conclusion that since the Sufi and his Taliban have offended the predominant Deobandi clergy by rejecting democracy it may defuse the latter’s objections to Barelvi practices. Or at least the state may feel more secure in taking action against the isolated militants of Malakand and thus find it easier to oppose the tough version of Islam called Talibanisation in the rest of the country. The reference to Sunni Tehreek by him however hints at an alternative power in civil society that may balance the street power of the Taliban sympathisers.

Sufi Muhammad has cut himself off from the powerful Deobandi consensus because of his charismatic and heroic self-image, very much like Maulana Abdul Aziz of Lal Masjid in 2007 when he began to reject his Deobandi backers because of what he claimed was their passivity in the face of the challenge to enforce sharia in Islamabad. One often forgets that an important factor that persuaded the government in 2007 to attack Lal Masjid was the disavowal of Maulana Aziz by the confederation of Deobandi madrassas in Multan. Unfortunately, the country, after a spurt of support to this action, went back to calling it a “blunder”.

The situation has changed since 2007, however. The Taliban are not the distant upholders of true Islam in Kabul being pulverised by the Americans after 2001. They are militants who use terror to subjugate communities, kill innocent Muslims through suicide-bombing, and want to replace democracy with a despotic order. A highly disciplined political entity, the MQM has resolved to stand up to them. It may come to regard the Barelvi school of thought as its ideological base because most of its cadres are old followers of the great Barelvi leader, Maulana Shah Ahmad Noorani of the Jamiat-e Ulema-e Pakistan.

The state has supported jihad and empowered the madrassa. Will it now be neutral and take advantage of the “consensus” referred to by Mr Qureshi and play a fair game vis-à-vis the people of Pakistan? This consensus is useful only in so far as it stands behind the army as it confronts the Taliban. The state must win this war. (Daily Times)


paki said…
War against terror in fact is a war between injustice Vs injustice.That’s why people are neither supporting taliban nor so called liberals.People in Pakistan are Muslims and a bit traditional.Both liberalism and talibanism is threat to them but they don’t want to open war battles with either of them that’s why s far they have not joined any party.It’s realy bad that this topic is intended to ignite the war on the basis of secterianism.Anything which would be based on sectarianism will not help pakistan and its people.It is realy bad some dishonest pakistanis are dividing people on the basis of sectarianim,liberalism and extremism.Public should be beware of such elements.

5 MAY 2009 09:55
Anonymous said…
All the Muslim World and especially Pakistani nation is against these deobandi taliban.
We all know that Islam is the religion of peace and it doesn’t allow killings of innocent people neither it allows sucide bombings.
Our ullama have declared them as a curse on the nation

5 JUNE 2009 16:40
Anonymous said…
hate taliban

5 JUNE 2009 16:41
Anonymous said…
All the Muslim World and especially Pakistani nation is against these deobandi taliban. Let’s make no mistake, the roots of all terrorisms are in Saudi Arabia. Wahabi brand of Islam is widely seen at the holly places i.e Mecca and Medina. We should wake up and reject the Saudi Islam. This deobandi fitna(terrorism) will die automatically.
Khalid Nasarullah

14 AUGUST 2009 06:00
Anonymous said…
Yes, Islam may be prohibts the killing of innocent but condones killing of infidels( none Muslims ) becuse they are not innocent.Sura 5

16 AUGUST 2009 22:55
Anonymous said…
Yes, Islam does prohits the killing of innocent but same time Iaslam also condones and encourges the killing of Infidels (Christians, Jews ). The Quran says”find the infidels and kill them”Sura 5:19

16 AUGUST 2009 23:05
Abdul Nishapuri said…
Anon: Either you don’t understand the Quran or you are misinterpreting its verses. Decontextualising and distorting the message of the Quran (or any other religious book, per se) would not help anyone.

16 AUGUST 2009 23:24



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