A Red Mosque that breathes fire

Category: Asia, World Affairs Topics: Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, United States Of America Views: 5018
5018

Religious students standing near Lal Masjid or Red Mosque in Islamabad.

In the central district of Pakistan's purpose-built capital, Islamabad, stands a mosque that, in recent months, has attracted worldwide attention for asserting religious law in disregard of state authority. 

Architecturally, the Lal Masjid (the red mosque) is totally eclipsed by Islamabad's magnificent Faisal Mosque. 

But way back in 1979 when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, this rather inconspicuous place of worship began a militant career, the latest twist of which is a confused and bloody confrontation with the Musharraf regime.

A firebrand imam, Abdullah, and his two sons, often called the Ghazi brothers, collaborated closely with the Pakistani government and its Arab partners in assisting the Mujahideen battling the Soviet army. 

They took advantage of this nexus and made the mosque the nucleus of a large complex that includes Pakistan's most radical madrassa (religious school) for women. 

In the process, the Ghazi brothers, who took over the complex after their father was mysteriously assassinated, expanded its premises into adjacent government land. 

A distinctive feature of the seminary's educational program was the emphasis on activism in ushering in an Islamic way of life. Since the beginning of this year, the Lal Masjid seminaries have pushed the limits of autonomous action inviting criticism from the Westernized elite that they were acting like a state within a state. 

Demolition of some small mosques built illegally on government land seemed to have fuelled their indignation at President Pervez Musharraf's secularization of the society. 

In April, the two brothers set up a Sharia Court outside the state system that issued a fatwa (religious edict) against a woman minister of the Musharraf government who eventually resigned in a huff. The students attracted attention by kidnapping policemen on surveillance duties and later some Chinese women working in pain management clinics. 

With government's credibility plummeting, there has been no lack of cynical explanations of this bizarre activism. It has been seen by some as a crisis contrived by the government to divert public attention from the much bigger agitation for the reinstatement of the Chief Justice of Pakistan. 

Allegedly, the threat from religious centers was also designed to scare the United States that the alternative to Musharraf was the seizure of nuclear- armed Pakistan by Muslim extremists.

If the regime was using the Ghazi brothers for its own ulterior purposes, it has been gradually sucked into a dangerous situation. On July 3, strong para-military forces laid siege to the premises saying rather disingenuously that it was to prevent the Lal Masjid vigilantes from embarking upon raids on various establishments in the capital. 

This force of tough Rangers was allegedly fired upon from the complex. As it retaliated, about 20 people died in fire fights that kept erupting till late into the night. On Day Two of the stand off, the government was, however, more skilful, encouraging seminary students to surrender in return for promise not to prosecute them. More than a thousand accepted the deal.

The highs and lows of the Lal Masjid movement to enforce Sharia during the last six months may well be remembered as an illustration of the shallow approach of the present political dispensation in Islamabad to the Islamic issue in Pakistan's polity. 

Muslim societies have historically needed a framework of beliefs - a superstructure of ideas - for reference. 

The Musharraf regime has shown little interest in furthering the renaissance of Islamic thought that began in South Asia in the late 19th century and, instead, relied on superficial slogans such as "enlightened moderation" coined largely to rationalize and justify alignment with the United States in the current Afghan war. 

Under external pressure, it opted for ad hoc use of extreme force against "extremists" and after suffering serious losses in the tribal belt along the Afghan border reverted to a more moderate policy mix. 

It has failed to create an intellectual ethos that would resonate well with a Muslim nation and consequently its partnership with the United States has lacked popular validation. Crude manipulation of state decisions by Washington has undermined national cohesion and fomented ideological anarchy.

This situation impacts negatively on Musharraf's plans for his own re-election and for the next elections to the federal parliament and provincial assemblies.

Five years ago he helped an alliance of religious political parties to make significant gains; the alliance, MMA, reciprocated by enabling him to secure parliamentary approval for combining the office of president with that of chief of army staff against the spirit of the Constitution. This time, Musharraf is still undecided about potential electoral allies.

The intensity of the present political conflict in the country makes it prone to episodes like that of the Lal Masjid. It will hopefully be over with some loss of human lives but Pakistan's political class is yet to compute long term damage to the national polity. 

Muslim states need processes of accommodation of faith, tradition and heritage; it is a dynamic and continuous engagement. Instead, Muslim rulers often accept Western pressures that divide, rupture and polarize them making them susceptible to violence. 

The Islamic tendency has to be brought into mainstream and not driven into underground asymmetrical warfare. Only a more indigenous and inclusive approach to issues can restore tranquility.

Tanvir Ahmad Khan is a former foreign secretary and ambassador of Pakistan.


  Category: Asia, World Affairs
  Topics: Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, United States Of America
Views: 5018

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Older Comments:
ABDULLAH FROM CANADA said:
very much agree
2007-07-12

TAYAB FROM UK said:
THE BLOOD OF A MUSLIM IS WORTH MORE THAN THE KAABA AND ALL THAT SURROUNDS IT, YET IT IS SPILT VERY CHEAPLY FOR THAT DISGUSTING AMERICAN AGENT MUSHARRUF AND ALL THAT FOLLOW HIM INTO HELL
2007-07-10

MUHIBULLAH FROM UK said:
I really dont agree with this article. Musharraf is a person who should never be trusted.
2007-07-10

YOHAN DAHAL FROM BHUTAN said:
God save the President Musharaf, God save Pakistan and God deliver the Muslims from the bondage of corruption, by Islam. "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free" is the doctrine of the perfect Muslim. May all the muslim brethren know the truth and be free from the agonies of present uncertainty and future pain. How the enemy is fooling Muslims now even from a Mosque!
2007-07-10

SOFIA FROM US said:
I agree very much with this statement! "Muslim states need processes of accommodation of faith, tradition and heritage; it is a dynamic and continuous engagement. Instead, Muslim rulers often accept Western pressures that divide, rupture and polarize them making them susceptible to violence."
2007-07-10

SID FROM PAKISTAN said:
how long we will have this leader? who is killing his own civilians to make America happy. what a slave of America is he?
2007-07-10

ALI OMAR FROM USA said:
I totally disagre with this article, because it say nothing about the responsability of the amarican presure to musharaf goverment that is dividing this nation and pushingit to a civil war.
2007-07-09

KRIS FROM MALAYSIA said:
Assalamualaikum and greetings to all.

Dear Search For Knowledge,
I find it rather strange that in this forum / article, you requested for information pertaining to Islamic finance.

Any way, I'll briefly explain to you that Islamic finance or Islamic banking is a principle of loan and borrowing that distinct itself from the conventional banking. Conventional banking is prohibited because it thrives from the practice of gaining profit from interest, and interest or usury is prohibited in Islam because of it oppressive manner in business dealings.

Now, how an Islamic banking makes profit is by way of an agreed deal, the " aqad " in which the borrower and the creditor will agree on some margin of profits over the number of years that a loan is to be paid. If it is a housing loan, if the loan payment period is 10 years then the borrower will agreed to pay the full amount within that period which is made up of the difference between the value of the house now and the estimated value it will in 10 years. That is the LOWEST ESTIMATED VALUE.

Now that is just a brief introduction, I am not an expert in Islamic bank but I do recommend that you visit the websites of Islamic banking, i.e those in Islamic countries to find out more.

The Islamic banking system relies heavily on the Hanafi school of thought, in it's principles, which are nevertheless Islamic system.


I'll write more if time permits. Regards,
2007-07-09

CHRISTINA FROM PAKISTNA said:
musharraf is ahypocrite and will do anything toplease zionist masters he is just like the shah of iran .with anme only muslims
2007-07-08

AHMED ASGHER FROM BAHRAIN said:
All this killing and antagonism is not part of Islam that I know and practice. Killing people and being ruled by your passions is not part of this faith. Anyone who subscribes to it can not call themselves a Muslims even if they pray a 100 times daily. It is not only criminal to do so but they also inflict a major damage to the cause of this wonderful faith, at the core of which is peace and surrender to the will of God. Which means exercising patience in adversity and believing that all infliction is from Allah as a test of our faith.
2007-07-08

SAM FROM USA said:
Good analysis of this ongoing tragedy. This episode also illustrate how nieve and intellectualy immature the leadership of the islamic movement in pakistan is. They have no clue about the realities of the present world, not even their strengths and weaknesses. They are being played with like toys, wasting away whatever political capital they have and more tragically, wasting young blood.
2007-07-07

SEARCH FOR KNOWLEDGE FROM AUSTRALIA said:
can some scholar of Islam please explain what is Islamic Finance?

thank you.
2007-07-07

BABANDI A. GUMEL FROM U.K said:
It is very unfortunate the Mosque has been so much politicised ending up in unnecessary standoff and confrontation which will not bring any good to both parties.It is the Muslim again killing another Muslim and the end result is a dire consequence as Allah has said.He who kills a Muslim deliberately his jaza is Jahannam where he will abide for ever and Allah is going to be angry with him and He has cursed him and prepared for him such severe punishment.So it is very serious both parties have to make a move to find a better way of solving this problem than continued confrontation.If the Mosque really wanted Sharia be introduced in some areas they should allign themselves with some MPS to help gradually introduce the system by encouraging States or Provinces to introduce the Code as enshrined in the Constitution.They should do it effectively in a civilised manner democratically as they have the right like in Nigeria without resorting to unnecessary violence and confrontation which is giving Islam and Muslims bad name damaging the cause of the Muslims which can easily be capitalised by those wanting to find fault with our dear Religion.
2007-07-06

FAHAD F A FROM PAKISTAN said:
It would have been more appreciable if this article focused more upon the Red Mosque events, such as how one of the two cheifs of the school tried to flee disguised in a burqa (veil) with his wife, rather than deviating towards ones personal opinions about the secular policies of the Musharraf regime.
2007-07-06