Jehad outside Pakistan Islamic?
By Sandhya Jain
Gen. Pervez Musharraf'smuch-touted initiative to showcase Islam's?peaceful? face to the world has come a cropper even before it could get off the ground. The Pakistani dictator had entrusted Dr Aamir Liaquat Hussain, Minister of State for Religious Affairs, with the task of securing a unanimous fatwa (edict) from the clergy of the various Islamic sects in the country to the effect that suicide bombings in the name of Jehad were haraam (forbidden) (The News, May 18, 2005).
The move aimed at convincing the General'sAmerican backers that Pakistan would no longer serve as the international helipad of Islamic fundamentalism. But it backfired immediately, partly on account of the incomplete nature of the original fatwa, and partly on account of an immediate challenge launched by religious leaders who refused to endorse the government-sponsored fatwa. As a result, the current Islamic Jehad in Iraq, directed against American troops and the nationals of countries that have committed troops in that country, has been further strengthened.
To his credit, Dr Aamir Liaquat Hussain strove hard for six months to fulfill his assignment, and eventually secured a decree from 58 Islamic scholars that, he claimed, ?proved that Islam is a religion of peace and non-violence which is not against any sect, creed or ideology.? According to the fatwa, Islam strictly prohibits suicide attacks on Muslims and those committing such acts at places of worship and public congregations cease to be Muslims. If this means that henceforth there will be no violence against Shias praying in mosques, the fatwa is a step forward for that besieged community. But even prima facie, the fatwa excludes the country'sAhmediya (a declared non-Muslim sect by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto) and non-Muslim groups from its purview.
What is more, it is riddled with qualifications, which render it useless to those hoping to change Pakistan'sembodiment as the paradise of Islamic fundamentalism. To begin with, the fatwa makes it clear that it applies exclusively to Pakistan and does not include those running ?freedom movements? in Palestine, Iraq and Kashmir. Thus, while it prescribes the death penalty for killing innocents or fellow-Muslims without Islamic and legal reasons, it leaves scope for sanctioning the kind of killings that are so abhorrent to the civilised world. In this way, it remains anti-Israel on account of Palestine, anti-India on account of Kashmir, and anti-America on account of Iraq. This defeats the very political objective behind securing the fatwa.
According to the fatwa, Islam strictly prohibits suicide attacks on Muslims and those committing such acts at places of worship and public congregations cease to be Muslims.
Actually, it was obvious from the start that the Pakistani government exerted considerable pressure to procure the fatwa, and that the Ulema who did sign the document were not at ease doing so. At a hurriedly convened and highly select press conference, the religious scholars admitted that they issued the fatwa because the growing instances of suicide attacks at places of worship in Pakistan were giving Islam a bad name as people said that religious bodies brainwashed the bombers into becoming martyrs in return for an assured place in paradise. Since the Islamic clergy was being blamed for sectarian killings in the country, they wished to rectify this situation.
However, the absence of several top Ulema denied credibility to the endeavour. Many scholars refused to sign saying the timing was faulty and might be construed as support to the United States? illegal occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. They pointed out that the officially-sponsored fatwa failed to even mention the crimes committed by American troops against Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq.
As if this was not bad enough, 40 religious groups in Pakistan immediately countered the fatwa by declaring that suicide attacks by Muslim ?freedom fighters? were justified in Kashmir (India), Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan (ANI, May 19, 2005). They even said that suicide attacks were legitimate in countries where Jehad is already being fought, but they were forbidden in countries where Jehad has not been launched, even if these are non-Islamic countries. These scholars insisted that as there was no domestic reason for such a fatwa on suicide attacks, its purpose was solely to help Washington tide over the controversy over the sacrilege of the Holy Quran.
* Pakistani government exerted considerable pressure to procure the fatwa, and that the Ulemas who did sign the document were not at ease doing so.
To add to the General'sdiscomfort, a Pakistani in Guantanamo Bay, believed to be a member of the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, has told a US tribunal that Islamabad officially sponsors terrorism. Exposing America's?frontline ally? in the war against terrorism, the prisoner said Pakistan backed the violence in Kashmir and added ?if you consider this organisation a terrorist organisation, then you should consider Pakistan a terrorist country,? according to testimony procured by the Associated Press news agency under a freedom of information lawsuit.
The prisoner'sconfession incriminating Islamabad is significant as the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba ranks among the Pakistani organisations that the US State Department has branded as Foreign Terrorist Organisations (FTOs). Its sponsors can be taken to task under UN Security Council Resolution No.1373 against terrorism. Indian intelligence has always held that LeT and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) were essentially Pakistani outfits; the prisoner'sadmission is proof that this is indeed the case. Regardless of what Washington does in the wake of this testimony, New Delhi should take off its red-tinted glasses and reconsider the mindless policy of open borders and premature settlement of the international border.