A comment on Vali Nasr’s lecture in Karachi on “Sectarianism in Muslim politics globally and in Pakistan” – by Abdul Nishapuri


Related post: Vali Nasr’s problematic discourse on ‘Sunni-Shia sectarianism’

On 22 November 2014, Professor Vali Nasr delivered a lecture at the Habib University Karachi on the “growing role of sectarianism in Muslim politics globally and in Pakistan” .

Nasr, who is also a member of the US government’s board on foreign policy, said the growth of sectarianism in Pakistan had been the manifestation of the Iran-Saudi political rivalry stemming from trying to maintain a hold in the Middle East. (Source)

I was sent a video of Vali Nasr’s talk by a friend. Here are my comments:

Nasr needs to update his knowledge and discourse on the nature and facts of sectarian violence in Pakistan, Iraq and elsewhere.

In his lecture, he tries to convince us that Shia genocide in Pakistan is an outcome of the 1400 years old Sunni-Shia sectarian violence and more recently the Saudi-Iran confrontation.

How does the issue of the succession of the Prophet (pbuh) or the Saqeefa incident explain the massacre of Christians, Sunni Sufis, Ahmadis and Hindus at the hands of Deobandi terrorists in Pakistan? This narrow sectarian view and false Sunni-Shia binary actually strengthens the hands of those Deobandi militants who are killing both Sunni and Shia in Pakistan and elsewhere.

Nasr did not care to mention or explain the common Deobandi identity of terrorists who have killed 45,000 Sunni Sufis in Pakistan in addition to 22,000 Shias and hundreds of Christians, Hindus and Ahmadis.

Such obfuscation enables further target killing of Shias and Sunni Sufis and the Deobandi killers are able to do their job without impunity.

In his entire speech he makes dozens of mentions of Sunnis and Shias, a couple of mentions of Wahhabis and Salafi, only one mention of Barelvis and not a single mention of Deobandis, the sectarian terrorists who are killing Sunni Sufis, Barelvis, Shias, Ahmadis and Christians in Pakistan!

In his speech throughout, he indulges in false Sunni-Shia binary, refers to an imaginary Iran and Saudi Arabia proxy war in Pakistan, a discourse which is often used by the likes of ASWJ and TTP to rationalize the Shia genocide in Pakistan.

At 35:00 time mark, he makes a factual mistake about the number of Shias in Yemen which according to him are 10 per cent only. The actual number is about 50 per cent.

The use of this very term ‘sectarianism’ and the reference to 1400 old history (eg succession of Prophet) is problematic because it gives an impresion of false Sunni-Shia binary, somewhat equal violence between Sunni and Shia against each other and also omits the massacres of Sunni Sufis (at the hands of Deobandis) who represent majority of Sunni Muslims and are as pluralistic as Shias.

He uses generic and vague terms such as Islamism and radialism which serve to hide the Deobandi dimension of terrorism in Pakistan and elsewhere.

At 43:00, he claims that Pakistan started becoming a Sunni State in 1977. Once again he omits that it was Deobandism and Wahhabism, not Sunnism, which was promoted by General Zia within civil and military establishments. For example, appointment of only Deobandi or Wahhabi clerics in Pakistan army mosques, promotion of Jamaat Islami and Maududi, close ties with Saudi Arabia, Saudi funding of Deobandi and Salafi/Wahhabi madrassas etc.

47:00-49:00 is the most problematic segment where he refers to (an imaginary) vicious Iran-Saudi proxy war in Pakistan and the mutual campaign of violence, aggresson of murder by Sunnis and Shias. Here, Vali Nasr’s discourse is a replica of that of the Sipah-e-Sahaba (ASWJ).

From 50:00 to 52:00 and also at other places in this lecture, he constructs false Sunni Shia binary in Iraq and elsewhere by providing demographcs of Sunni and Shia. However, he doesn’t mention that in Iraq, more Sunnnis (most of them Sunni Sufis and Hanafis) have been killed by the Wahhabi Salafi ISIS than they have killed Shias or Yezidis.

At 55:00 he once again refers to Saudi Iran proxy war, sectarian acts and terrorism in Iraq and Pakistan!

At 1:02 he makes a factual mistake that Hanbalis were/have been decimated by Wahhabis from Saudi Arabia. He doesn’t know that Hanbalism is the sect of the ruling familly and is endorsed by the Saudi State.

At 1:09:10 to 1:11.20 he presents the ISIS as a Sunni phenomenon against Shias of Iraq and Alevid Shias of Syria. He does NOT mention that ISIS, a predominantly Salafi-Wahabi-Deobandi outfit, has killed more Sunnis than Shias and has also killed hundreds of Christians, Yezidis etc.

At 1:13:00, he makes a very dangerous and non factual claim that Shias consider all Sunnis as terrorists and Al Qaeda supporters, and Sunnis hold similar views about Shias.

Concluding comments:

I have heard that Nasr is currently working for an improvement in the Iran-US relations which is a project that I support. However, my comments are only limited to his present speech.

In the context of genocide of Shias and Sunni Sufis in Pakistan, I am not ready to buy the false Iran-Saudi proxy war theory or the Sunni-Shia sectarianism binary that he tried to sell in his present speech.

Such a discourse obfsucates the true nature of Shia genocide and Sunni Sufi genocide in Pakistan at the hands of Deobandi takfiri terrorists and enables further massacres in the future.

Vali Nasr needs to update his knowledge and discourse on the sectarian genocide of Shias and Sunni Sufis at the hands of Deobandi and Salafi/Wahhabi terrorists.