How likely is it that a Muslim would turn into a Salafi or Deobandi extremist or terrorist? A Pakistani checklist


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In the last few decades, Pakistani Muslims, particularly Sunni Muslims, have been experiencing a phenomenon which has been described by Professor Pervez Hoodbhoy as Saudi-ization of Pakistan.

Many Sunni Sufis (Barelvis) and moderate Deobandis and Ahl-e-Hadith (Indo-Pak version of Salafis or Wahhabis) have been undergoing a subtle transformation to more puritanical and intolerant Deobandi and Salafi interpretation of Islam.

Sufis and Barelvis are shifting towards Deobandis while Deobandis are shifting towards takfiri Deobandis and Takfiri Wahhabis. Even Ahl-e-Hadith of the Subcontinent are converting to more intolerant version of Takfiri Salafism.

According to a recent survey by Pew research, in Shia majority countries (e.g., Iraq, Lebanon), most Shias accept Sunnis as Muslims. Converse is not necessarily true in Sunni majority countries (e.g., Egypt, Pakistan etc). Increasing hatred of Shias and Sunni Sufis/Barelvis indicates growing Salafi Wahhabi and Deobandi influence in Muslim countries and communities.

Most interestingly, but not surprisingly (due to Saudi-project of unifying all Sunnis in Wahhabi-Salafi brand of Islam), majority of Sunnis in Pakistan seem to be unaware of important differences between peaceful Sunni Sufis/Barelvis and intolerant Deobandis and Wahhabis. Many of them are completely unaware of the creeping puritanism and intolerance in their own thoughts and practices.

A number of factors (media, preachers, televangelists, textbooks, Saudi funding, State policies etc) have enabled a gradual but sure conversion of moderate Sunni Muslims to more strict and puritanical Deobandi Salafi interpretation of Islam.

Those Sunnis who are aware of their Sunni Sufi cultural identity and roots are less likely to be affected by Deobandi and Salafi radical ideologies. Similarly, Shias and Ahmadis remain largely unaffected by  Deobandi and Salafi Wahhabi influences, however, they constitute a numerical minority in Pakistan (15% and 2% of Pakistan’s population respectively).

It is a proven fact that the majority of educated upper-middle class militants (e.g., Faisal Shahzad, Adnan Rashid, Rashid Rauf, Mohammad Sidique Khan etc) are affected by radical Deobandi or Salafi Wahhabi ideology. Almost none of the Islamist terrorists in or from Pakistan is from Sunni Sufi/Barelvi, Shia or Ahmadi backgrounds.

A terrorist is someone who uses the tactics of fear to spread a message of whatever social or political change they’d like to see.

What’s the likelihood that you (yes you) or individuals in your personal circle are affected by gradual, subtle conversion to radical Deobandi or Salafi Wahhabi ideology?

Here is a quick test which may help you in evaluating the probability that in a weak moment you or someone in your own family or friends could convert to a potential Jihadi militant. Please respond to all questions and tick as many boxes/choices as applicable.

1. Do you listen to speeches by any one or more of the following clerics or preachers:

(a) Dr. Zakir Naik (b) Dr. Israr Ahmed (c) Dr. Farhat Hashmi (d) Tariq Jamil (e) any other Deobandi or Salafi cleric (f) none of the above

2. How frequently do you listen to speeches of the above preachers:

(a) almost daily (b) weekly (c) monthly (d) only a few times in a year (e) very rarely (f) never

3. Do you consider Ahmadis:

(a) Murtid (apostate) or/and Wajib-ul-Qatl (must be killed) (b) a British conspiracy against Islam (c) Worse than infidels (kafir) (d) Non-Muslims (e) Not as good as Sunni Muslims (f) Muslims as respectable as Sunni Muslims

4. Do you consider Shias:

(a) Enemies of the Sahaba (companions of the Prophet) and Wajib-ul-Qatl (must be killed) (b) a Jewish (Sabai) conspiracy against Islam (c) Worse than infdels (kafir) (d) Non-Muslims (e) Muslims but not as good as Sunnis (f) Muslims as respectable as Sunni Muslims

5. Do you consider Sunni Sufis / Barelvis:

(a) grave worshippers (b) polytheists / mushrik (c) misguided (gumrah) (d) biddati (bad innovators in religion) (e) Non-Muslims (f) Muslims but not as good as Salafis and Deobandis (g) Muslims as respectable as other Sunni Muslims

6. Do you know the difference between Sunnis and Shias:

(a) Yes (b) No

7. Do you know the difference between Sunni Sufis/Barelvis, Deobandis and Salafis?

(a) Yes (b) No

8. Do you consider the Muharram rituals of Shias:

(a) A bad Biddat (a bad innovation in religion) (b) Not permissible in Islam (c) A law and order problem (d) a traffic management problem (e) an unnecessary display of power by Shias (f) disgrace to Islam (g) a respectable religious tradition

9. Do you believe in intercession (Wasilah) to Allah through Imams from Prophet’s Ahl-e-Bait and other holy Saints (Aulia-Allah)?

(a) No, it is shirk (polytheism) (b) No, but don’t mind. (c) Yes

10. Do you consider visiting of shrines:

(a) shirk (polytheism) (b) a bad innovation/deviation in Islam (c) Not permissible in Islam (d) a respectable religious tradition

11. Do you consider Deobandi and Salafi Wahhabis’ attacks on Pakistani civilians and army soldiers:

(a) Purely Islamic as a part of Jihad (b) A legitimate reaction to pro-USA policies of Pakistan army and government (c) Illegitimate act of violence (d) Not permissible in Islam

12. Do you consider religion:

(a) most important thing in life (b) important (c) quite relaxed about religion (d) a private affair (e) don’t practice religion at all

13. Do you consider:

(a) Karbala as a war between two princes Yazid and Hussain (b) Both Yazid and Hussain on the right path (c) Hussain was killed by Shias, not by Yazid (d) Karbala and Shias a Jewish conspiracy against Islam (e) Hussain was on right path, Yazid was wrong. (f) Not sure

14. Do you equally mourn Shia genocide in Pakistan and Muslim massacre in Burma (Myanmar) and expressly state the identity of the persecuted groups and the persecutor:

(a) Yes (b) No

15. Do you consider secularism:

(a) negation of religion (la-deeniat) (b) a western concept not suitable for Muslims (c) atheism and opposition to God (d) tolerance of different religions and sects (e) separation of religion and state

16. Do you consider democracy:

(a) a western concept not suitable for Muslim countries (b) a great system of government (c) a flawed system

17. Do you consider Khilafat (Caliphate):

(a) the only solution to problems facing Muslims of the world (b) an old system not suitable in modern times

18. In your view, Islam’s dominance over entire world:

(a) should be a goal of all Muslims (b) there is no need for dominance over others, all faiths are equally respectable

19. Do you think saying Ya Rasulullah or Ya Ali is:

(a) shirk (polytheism) (b) not permissible in Islam (c) Islamic (d) not sure (e) don’t care

20. Have you ever offered prayer behind a Shia prayer leader (Imam):

(a) never, and will never do so (b) yes, quite often (c) yes, very rarely (d) never, but don’t mind

21. In your view:

(a) Pakistani state should be declared as secular one (b) Pakistan should delete “Islamic” from its official name (c) There should be no mention of religion in passport and national identity documents (d) none of the above

22. In your view:

(a) Pakistan should implement full Islamic sharia system (b) Only good Muslims should be allowed to be elected to Pakistan’s parliament and important governmental posts (c) None of the above

23. In your view:

(a) Pakistan army should not create or support non-state Jihadi group (b) Pakistan needs Jihadis to liberate Kashmir and Afghanistan (c) Pakistan army should cut down all connections with non-state actors including Jihadis

24. In your view:

(a). State is not responsible for declaring someone Muslim or non Muslim. (b) State must legislate on who is kafir and who is not

25. In your view:

(a) All Muslims belong to same Ummah (b) Pakistan is a fort of Islam (c) Pakistan ka matlab kia – la ilaha illallah (d) none of the above

26. In your view:

(a) Madrassa should be in state control (b) Madrassa should not be in state control (c) Madrassa are not a major source of terror (d) Madrassas are spreading sectarian hatred

27. In your view:

(a) Deobandi fanatics of Taliban and Sipah-e-Sahaba (ASWJ) are responsible for most terrorist activities in Pakistan (b) No Muslim is behind terrorist activities in Pakistan. (c) Terrorists are operatives and agents of Blackwater, RAW, CIA etc

28. In your view:

(a) Majority of drone attack victims are innocent civilians (b) Majority of drone victims are terrorists (c) Drone attacks are a reaction of cross-border terrorist activities in Afghanistan from Pakistan’s tribal areas (d) Those who support drone attacks are enemies of Islam

29. In your view those who support democracy are:

(a) Enemies of Islam (b) Ignorant people (c) Kafir (non-Muslims) (d) Good Muslims

30. In you view:

(a) It is not permissible to listen to entertaining music in Islam (b) Music is the diet of soul

31. In your view:

(a) Pictures and TV are not allowed in Islam (b) Pictures and TV are permissible in Islam

32. In your view:

(a) Zionism is an international conspiracy against Muslims (b) State of Israel does not have a right to exist (c) Israel and Palestine can co-exist peacefully (d) Violence by Israel and Hamas is equally condemnable.

33. In your view:

(a) Jews and Christians are worst enemies of Islam (b) Jews and Christians are as respectable as Muslims (c) All religions are equally respectable. (d) Islam is the best religion, all others should either convert or give Jazya (tax) to Muslims

34. In your view:

(a) Hindus are enemies of Islam and Pakistan (b) Jihad in Kashmir is a religious duty on all Muslims (c) Hindus are as respectable as Muslims. (d) Jihad in Kashmir by non-State actors is illegal and un-Islamic.

35. Do you prefer:

(a) Sala instead of Namaz (b) Allah Hafiz instead of Khuda Hafiz (c) Saudi style hijab instead of Pakistani style dupatta or chadar (d) Ramadan instead of Ramzan (e) none of the above

36. Do you feel satisfaction or pleasure when Al Qaeda or other groups attack Americans, Europeans and other Western targets?

(a) Yes (b) No (c) Not sure

37. Do you regularly watch the following TV channels:

(a) Al Jazeera (b) Al Arabiya (c) Press TV (d) Peace TV (e) Islam Channel (f) Iqraa TV (g) Other Deobandi or Salafi channels

38. Do you update your Facebook or Twitter status with pictures and comments in support of Palestinians while remaining mostly silent about massacres of Sunni Sufis, Shias and Christians taking place at the hands of Salafi and Deobandi terrorists in Pakistan, Iraq, Syria?

(a) Yes  (b) No






Note: This post contains pictures of 5 Pakistani or Pakistan-origin educated terrorists.

  1. Faisal Shahzad (Pakistani American – Times Square car bombing)
  2. Ajmal Kassab (Pakistani – Mumbai attacks)
  3. Adnan Rashid (Pakistani – ex PAF, attack on Gen Musharraf)
  4. Mohammad Siddique Khan (Pakistani British, 7/7 attacks in London)
  5. Rashid Rauf (Pakistani British – 2006 transatlantic aircraft plot by Al Qaeda)

Could your picture be next?



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