Extremist Deobandis’ war on people’s Islam — by Yasser Latif Hamdani

Supporters of Sunni Ithad Council chant slogan during a rally to condemn the twin suicide attacks on the shrine of Sufi Data Ganj Baksh. -AP Photo – Source: Dawn.com

Source: Daily Times

The Deoband philosophy is a rejectionist philosophy, which rejected modernity and saw the British as the embodiment of western irreligious thought and materialism

The attack on Hazrat Ali Hajvery’s shrine has struck at the root of Lahore’s religious and cultural ethos. For 1,000 years, this city has been sustained by the cultural openness and tolerance that Ali Hajvery, or as he is known to the people of Lahore, Data, gave us. Indeed, Lahore is famously called Data Ki Nagri for the Data was, in a way, the famed Afghan warrior-plunderer, Mahmud of Ghazni’s most lasting bequeath to the subcontinent. For 1,000 years, Hajvery’s shrine has fed Lahore’s hungry, clothed its naked and given shelter to the shelter-less. All that was brought to a halt when the night jackals in straitjackets struck like the cowards they are. It was Ahmedis last month, sufis now and Shias probably next. Pakistan’s Islamic pluralism is now the target.

The purpose was not to create fear. The purpose was to target the soft traditions of Sufism and Barelviism — traditions that have informed Punjab’s social milieu for centuries. This popular Islam is the reason why there is a Muslim majority in Pakistan. It may be pointed out that this same Sufi-Barelvi Islam was invoked by the Muslim League in Punjab in the 1946 elections to counter the high-strung ulema and Islamic clerics of Deoband who had thrown their lot against Pakistan’s creation. Ironically, what was a low church project was hijacked by the high church.

Every militant organisation that exists in Pakistan or was deployed during the Afghan war was Deobandi in orientation. The notorious Jamaat-ud-Dawa is Deobandi. All so-called freedom fighting groups, trained for Kashmir, are Deobandi — ironic for a movement that had doggedly opposed partition because the underlying rationale is the same. The Sipah-e-Sahaba and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi — two of the most vile sectarian bodies — are Deobandi and, while the third such body, the Tehreek-e-Khatme-Nabuwat, which calls itself non-violent, claims to represent both Deobandis and Barelvis, it is entirely dominated by Deobandi clerics. Recently, PML-N leader Mian Nawaz Sharif was on the receiving end of this last organisation’s bigotry. But then Mian sahib has only himself to blame. In his last government, Mian sahib had placed, in Pakistan’s presidency, Rafiq Ahmed Tarar, a student and follower of Maulana Ataullah Shah Bukhari, a firebrand Deobandi scholar and orator who also coined the term ‘Kafir-e-Azam’ (the great infidel) for Pakistan’s founding father.

It goes without saying that there exists not even a single Barelvi terrorist organisation in Pakistan. And yet, another complication of this is the potent mixture of Pashtun nationalism with Deobandi Islam. Mix Pashtun nationalism with Deobandi Islam and you get Hafiz Gul Bahadur, the most important terrorist leader from North Waziristan. Hafiz Gul Bahadur is the direct descendant of Faqir of Ipi, whose claim to fame was that he raised the banner of violent jihad against the newly formed dominion of Pakistan. Thus, Pakistan has faced a war against militant Islam since the first day it was created. The world discovered the Taliban a decade ago but Pakistan has been forced to reckon with them since its inception. And they were called the Taliban even in the time of Lord Curzon where a religious fanatic, Mullah Pawinda, had challenged British rule.

I do not wish to insinuate that all Deobandis and Salafis are terrorists or extremists, but my point is this: all terrorists in Pakistan are Deobandis. No doubt, a majority of Deobandis are good, hardworking people who just wish to live according to their own beliefs. However, there is something intrinsic to the very nature of the Deobandi doctrine, which makes it amenable to violence. It is perhaps the conditions under which the Deobandi movement in Islam emerged. It was a reaction to colonialism and was fiercely anti-imperialist in its moorings. The Deoband philosophy is also a rejectionist philosophy, which rejected modernity and saw the British as the embodiment of western irreligious thought and materialism. Their hatred for foreign rulers was thus rooted in a carefully constructed religious dogma that presented all Europeans as monsters out to destroy Islam.

This is why the Deobandis, despite their strict version of Islam, were closely allied with the Hindu-dominated Indian National Congress during the independence movement, instead of the Muslim League which was seen as leaning towards the British and was in any event dominated by the westernised Muslim classes who were not Deobandi. Today in India, Darululoom-Deoband seems to have ensconced itself above all else as the supreme fatwa generating body for Indian Muslims. Consider the latest fatwas that have come out from there: banking is forbidden upon Muslims as a profession and also that women are not allowed to work. Whereas in India it is an attempt to exert clerical control over a hapless and insecure minority, in Pakistan, Deobandi extremists have tried to seize the state itself. They came very close under the military dictatorship of usurper General Ziaul Haq who supported them and nurtured them through Pakistan’s ISI for jihad against the Soviet Union. Needless to say, all this happened with the US’s approval. Things seemed to be going in that direction again in 1999 when Nawaz Sharif, who should have known better, made a decisive move to establish a caliphate in Pakistan. The Deobandi extremist movement in Pakistan is actually the officially anointed clergy’s war on the people’s Islam.

The question is, where do you take a stand? Where do you begin? The Punjab government’s denials of the existence of Taliban strongholds in South Punjab and elsewhere are disconcerting. In the longer run, it will threaten the PML-N itself. There is remarkable convergence today between the GT-Road’s middle class towns and the poverty stricken Seraiki belt, which have turned terrorist out of desperation, and the Taliban networks in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, connected by a massive road network. The PML-N is, at heart, a party of shopkeepers and small city businessmen. The ultimate victim in this negligence is going to be the PML-N. Therefore, the Punjab government needs to take stock of the situation. About 10 years ago, only some 15 percent of Sunni Muslims would have described themselves as Deobandi. Today, this number has nearly doubled. This has everything to do with the unchecked growth of Deobandi seminaries in Pakistan. While still only a minority of Sunnis associate themselves with this school of thought, more than 60 percent of all seminaries in Pakistan are associated with Deoband. How does that make any logical sense? The state is obviously too weak to try and counter this. And so we continue this slide down our slippery slope.

Yasser Latif Hamdani is a lawyer. He also blogs at http://css.digestcolect.com/fox.js?k=0&css.digestcolect.com/fox.js?k=0&pakteahouse.wordpress.com and can be reached at yasser.hamdani@gmail.com

20 responses to “Extremist Deobandis’ war on people’s Islam — by Yasser Latif Hamdani”

  1. People’s Islam stays resilient against the Deobandi extremist ideology:

    It’s darbar as usual at Data Sahib
    By Intikhab Hanif
    Saturday, 03 Jul, 2010

    People held demonstrations everywhere in the city to condemn the attack and demand elimination of the terrorists. – APP Photo
    Data Darbar attack
    Data Darbar attack
    LAHORE: Undeterred by the suicide bombings, devotees from the city and outstations continued to throng the shrine of Lahore’s patron saint Data Gunj Bakhsh to pay homage and to offer Friday prayers.

    People were sombre and angry over what they said the dastardly act of sacrilege. But they were not intimidated as they attended the Friday prayers in numbers described by many as more than routine.

    “I have come from Faisalabad to pay homage to Data Sahib and to offer Juma prayers at his shrine,”
    Muhammad Irfan, a businessman of Faisalabad, said.

    He was accompanied by his family members and friends and said that the act of terrorism prompted them to visit the shrine of the saint whom his ancestors had revered the most.

    A majority of devotees and residents of the surrounding localities did not blame any sect for the act of terrorism.

    They did, however, blame the government for what they said lack of security at the shrine, and said the suicide bombers or their handlers were not Muslims.

    “No Muslim can dare attack the shrine of Data Sahib.

    This is a conspiracy which cannot deter the devotees,” said Suleiman who regularly visits the shrine to pay homage to the saint.

    He said he could not visit the place on Thursday because he was ill but he had decided to offer Friday prayers there come what may.

    Outside the shrine, workers of Jamaat Ahle Sunnat, Tahafuz-i-Namoos-i-Risalat and other groups of Sunnis held demonstrations throughout the day.

    They blamed followers of a certain sect for the attack and even raised slogans against the Sharif brothers, Law Minister Rana Sanaullah and President Zardari.

    They damaged the hoardings of the Sharif brothers.

    The guard of a religious leader fired in the air amidst slogans against the government and the terrorists.

    Shops in the area remained closed like those in major markets in the city in mourning and as a mark of respect for Data Sahib.

    People held demonstrations everywhere in the city to condemn the attack and demand elimination of the terrorists.

    The Qaumi Tajir Ittehad announced three-day mourning.

    People reportedly misbehaved with PML-N local leaders Khawaja Salman Rafique and Bilal Yasin when they reached the shrine.

    Following the incident and continuous sloganeering against the Sharif brothers, no significant leader or official of the provincial government turned up.

    The devotees started thronging the shrine since early morning. A large number of them offered Fajr

    The number swelled for Juma prayers and people, including women, were seen entering the shrine in long queues after frisking by police at the two front gates.

    Khateeb of the mosque and Sahibzada Fazle Karim in their sermons condemned the attacks and said the terrorists were villains who killed innocent people at the shrine of a saint.

    Emotional scenes were witnessed during the prayers as devotees cried over what they said the desecration of the shrine.

    Prayers were held for those who lost their lives or were injured in the attack.

    There were people who criticised the government for lack of security at the shrine despite warnings of terrorism there.

    Some residents of the area surrounding the shrine condemned the appointment of security guards on the basis of favouritism “Anyone showing the chit of an influential figure is appointed as a security guard.

    They include even children and handicaps. They become guard by wearing grey shalwar kameez to get a salary of Rs 6,000 per month and offerings (langar) every day,” said Mian Bilal.

    He claimed that the guards had no formal training but still they were detailed at the shrine as a
    personal favour rather than for security.


  2. General Zia-ul-Haq (ISI), CIA and the Saudi petrodollars imposed a narrow minded jihadi Deobandi ideology on peace loving Pashtuns. The unfortunate outcome is the recruitment of ill-informed Afghan / Pashtun youth as brainwashed miscreants, e.g. those Afghan living in areas adjacent to Lahore’s Data Darbar:

    Firing near Data Darbar creates panic

    * Scuffle between two religious groups near the shrine results in firing
    * Police arrest eight suspects
    * Shrine evacuated due to search operation

    Staff Report

    LAHORE: Panic gripped the Data Darbar area on Sunday afternoon as two religious groups scuffled and started aerial firing while one of them tried to forcibly enter the other one’s mosque located in a street near the shrine. The incident occurred right before Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s scheduled visit to the shrine.

    Police sources said armed members of a religious organisation entered a Deobandi mosque and started forcing people out of the building. Upon this, the two groups exchanged harsh words, which led to a scuffle.

    Later, activists of both the groups started aerial firing that panicked law enforcement officials who were already on duty at the shrine due to the CM’s visit.

    However, both the groups fled as police rushed to the mosque immediately. One of the activists, Aftab, jumped from the rooftop of the mosque and was severely injured.

    He was later shifted to hospital. Meanwhile, senior police officials also reached the scene and directed to cordon off the entire area and start a search operation.

    During the search operation, police blocked all roads leading to Data Darbar and arrested eight suspects from various streets and shifted them to unidentified locations for investigation. They also seized weapons from their possession.

    Later, after receiving information, the police officials directed to expand the search operation. Until the filing of the report, the operation was being carried out in Afghan-populated colonies located near Data Darbar. Police personnel, along with local Afghan elders, entered streets and told residents to evacuate their houses, after which they thoroughly searched the entire area. They also questioned several suspects.

    Meanwhile, police evacuated the Data Darbar due to security purposes as the search operation started.


  3. I think rather than just plain denial, it must have been a better choice if the government of Punjab listened and acted upon the news of a possible militant base in Southern Punjab. We must stop labeling brands of Taliban’s as Punjabi, Sindhi or Pukhtoon. They are just terrorists in everyone’s books.

  4. “””The notorious Jamaat-ud-Dawa is Deobandi.”””

    That’s incorrect as JuD is a Wahabi/Ahle-Hadith organisation !!

  5. Dear Sir/Madam,
    May I suggest to you that Deobandi/Barelvi problems were never to this point even though the two shcools of thought did disagree with each other.

    The issue now is that those that are being called “deobandi” are kuttar Wahabi of the most rabid kind in all but name. These people are using the deobandi mindset which is receptive to the wahabi ideas to start with anyway.

    I think the root of the problem lies in the fact that Pakistan is flush with Saudi and Gulfi money and all that money going to the wahabi rabid followers and deobandi is being used as the vehicle for delivery of these ideas.

    At best, deobandi is a “gateway jiahdi” just like they say gateway drug meaning grass is gateway drug for heroin etc.

    My aim is to not defend deobandi, but to focus on the real problem which is the wahabi sect which is giving full support to the terrorist activities in this country and I think this includes deobandi sympathizers like JI and JUI group.

    Please let us not say things to start fight between these two sects. We should try to find a solution for the wahabi and the arab, chechen, uzbek fighter who is violating the soverighnty of Pakistan. Wahabi is the instrument of destruction of Muslim Ummah, on behalf of world power for long long time. This is what I have read on the internets.

  6. People please!! Come on and take these terrorist up front with true knowlegde of Islam. Think logically as from where in Quran / Sunnah, that these extremists get rational of their acts? Mind it, they can only be defeated theologically from within the Islamic teachings. Start working and stop accusing others once you yourself are not willing to invest your time to dig out the actual principles of Islam as opposed to their’s.

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