Before the ‘Operation Silence’ against Lal Masjid, Jamia Hafsa students, reportedly, occupied the Children’s Library in Islamabad, terrorised locals, attacked shops and kidnapped people, including police officers, burnt down the ministry of environment building and damaged public property among other activities. Pakistani forces faced a serious backlash – to take revenge, suicide bombers attacked public spaces and security forces. Now, “with the rise of Dr Qadri,” says Shahibzada, “it seems Deobandi hardliners – the TTP sympathisers — seem troubled by the alliance of Shia and Sunni Barelvis against terrorism”.
Alongside, Ahl-e-Sunnah-Wal-Jamaat (ASWJ), formerly Sipaha Sahaba-Pakistan (SSP), an anti-Shia faction of Deobandis, pronounced in a statement that an internationally sponsored conspiracy to start a civil war in the country is evident. “We don’t want an inqilab march or any revolutionary parade but peace… Iran and other powers are supporting these groups to wage a war in Pakistan and these violent groups have plans to attacks various places in the Punjab. These are terrorists and they must be arrested,”reads the ASWJ statement.
He says though Sunni Deobandi religio-political groups are very organised for the past many decades as compared to Sunni Barelvi factions but religious politics in a country like Pakistan cannot make its claim support of the general public or get majority votes. “The PAT movement is not merely political; it hugely impacts the society too,” he adds.
He thinks many Islamic states are facing similar challenges but it is hard to overcome this issue without the state’s resolve to tackle it.
Dr Qadri surfaced on the political scene with his party Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) during General Pervez Musharraf’s dictatorship as part of his “voice of change” and to present a moderate and peaceful side of Islam. This was when Islamic extremists (Deobandis) were gaining increasing strength in the country.
Clarke used a WhatsApp chat group named “Park View Brotherhood” used by some members of staff at the school as evidence in his report, highlighting some of the worst examples of intolerant attitudes found in these discussions. He writes: “the balance of speakers and events promoted in the WhatsApp discussion weigh heavily towards the hard-line Salafi, Deobandi and occasionally Islamist spectrum.” The government report finds the contributions in this groups to be “overwhelmingly anti-Western”, “anti-American and anti- Israeli”. “There are numerous references to the conflicts in Syria, the Middle East and South Asia.”
Jahan Mahmood, a former counter-terrorism expert, says that the media has created hysteria about the Trojan Horse case. “We are looking at this through the lens of extremism and Islamophobia.” He thinks issues are being mixed up. “Salafism is not the issue here. Salafism is largely apolitical, and the head of the Salafi movement in Saudi Arabia was the first in the Muslim world denominations to denounce terrorism.”
The collapse of the USSR in December 1991 produced a hunger among Central Asians to reacquaint themselves with their Islamic heritage, heavily suppressed during the Soviet era. Foreign Muslim missionaries, often with suitcases of cash subsequently flooded Central Asia. While they were initially welcomed, Central Asian governments soon learned that the outsiders were not reacquainting their citizens with ideology from their historic Hanafi Islamic jurisprudence heritage, but instead were promoting Wahhabi, Salafist and Deobandi theologies, far more austere and radical than Central Asia’s indigenous traditions.