In a previous article, Marya Mushtaq has highlighted how some Shia leaders in certain ethnic parties (e.g., Abdul Khaliq Hazara) are trying very hard to misrepresent Shia killings by the Saudi-funded, ISI-sponsored LeJ-SSP-Taliban terrorists in Pakistan by giving them an ethic colour to deflect the attention from the real killers.
In this article, we will highlight how some politically active Shia ulama (religious scholars) are equally complicit in the crime of deflecting Shia Muslims’ attention from the real killers, i.e., by deflecting the attention to Israel, India, USA etc instead of boldly naming and condemning the Saudi-funded, ISI-sponsored Takfiri Deobandi militants of Sipah Sahaba Taliban.
Let’s start with a brief historical context of Shia activism in Pakistan in the aftermath of the Iranian revolution.
After the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran led by Grand Ayatollah Khomeini, some Pakistani Shia religious scholars misled the Iranian Ayatollahs and the Iranian government by ensuring them that a pro-Iran (or pro-Shia) Islamic revolution in Pakistan was not very far. The formation of the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Fiqah-e-Jafaria (TNFJ) in Pakistan in 1979 was a good move to confront the enforcement of Deobandi-Salafist laws and discrimination against Shia Muslims and other oppressed groups during martial law of Geneal Zia-ul-Haq. However, TNFJ then took a path which was rather injurious to Pakistan’s Shia community.
In the subsequent years, TNFJ (later renamed as TJP) became tightly aligned with Iran’s ruling clergy, its controversial notion of the Vilayat-e-Faqih (the political authority of an Ayatollah) and Iranian government’s foreign policy goals, and in that process sacrificed the very interests of Pakistan’s Shia community. (Pakistan’s military establishment was able to create an off-shoot of TNFJ in 1984 under the leadership of Agha Hamid Moosvi, however, the influence of this GHQ-version of TNFJ remained limited to one or two cities.)
Despite their low numbers (Shia Muslims constitute 10 to 20 per cent of Pakistan’s population), some Iranian influenced Shia ulama in TNFJ (later TJP) kept dreaming of bringing about a pro-Shia Islamic revolution in Pakistan in support of Iran’s revolution.
A pro-Shia revolution in Pakistan was never a possibility; the entire idea reflected an immature mindset which had little understanding of the demographics and religio-political situation in Pakistan. While the notion of an Islamic revolution was apparently intended to promote Iran’s or Shias’ interests in Pakistan and the region, the actual effect was completely opposite. As a numerical minority group in Pakistan, it was in Shia Muslims larger interest to support secular parties instead of forging alliance with Deobandi-Wahhabi groups to bring out an Islamic revolution in Pakistan.
Pakistan’s military establishment, ISI in particular, wanted to teach Shias a lesson particularly due to their opposition to General Zia-ul-Haq’s Islamization (or Wahhbization) agenda. Saudi Arabia too was anxious about the prospects of a growing Iranian influence in Pakistan particularly in view of increasingly aggressive public postures of the TNFJ.
The so called Jihad (1980-1988) against the Soviet-backed regime in Afghanistan provided Saudi Arabia and its radical Wahhabi and Deobandi affiliates in Pakistan army with an excellent opportunity to nurture, train and produce Jihadis who were not only useful as cheap mercenaries in Afghanistan (and India) but were also vehemently anti-Shia and anti-Iran. The demographics as well as the extent of financial and institutional support were in favour of anti-Shia Deobandis and Wahhabis, who were recruited, trained and brainwashed for an external Jihad in Afghanistan and Kashmir and an internal Jihad against Shias and other oppressed groups in Pakistan.
If Pakistan’s Shia ulama had any better sense of the entire situation, they would have dissociated themselves from an Iranian agenda and, instead of wasting their energies on an impossible pro-Shia Islamic revolution, would have struggled for a democratic, progressive Pakistan, separating religion from the state. Contrary to what some Sunni and Shia mullahs dishonestly claim, secularism is not equal to la-deeniat (faithlessness), it rather indicates that faith is each individual’s private matter which is of no concern to a state. This is exactly what the founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, himself a Shia Muslim, stated as his vision of Pakistan in his speech to Pakistan’s first Legislature Assembly on 11 August 1947.
For example, Shia ulama could have engaged with other progressive parties and groups (e.g., centre left PPP and ANP, centre right PML, liberal MQM, JWP, moderate Barelvi organizations etc) in creative, pragmatic and constructive ways to ensure equality and protection of Shia Muslims and other oppressed groups (Barelvis, Ahmadis, Christians etc) in Pakistan. They could have dissociated from all such organizations (e.g., MMA, AMTKN, JI, JUI etc) which were involved in Jihadi-sectarian activities or spreading hate speech against other religions and sects, e.g., anti-Ahmadi, anti-Christian, anti-Jew, anti-Hindu organisations, and also those organizations which were creating xenophobia against the USA, UK etc because of their specific pro-Taliban, pro-Al Qaeda agenda. (Of course, it is legitimate to criticize USA’s unjust policies towards Pakistan, Iran, Bahrain, Palestine etc, however, that does not mean that Shia Muslims should share platform with the pro-Taliban, pro-Sipah-e-Sahaba leaders to reinforce hate speech against Jews, Christians, Hindus or India, USA etc.)
Instead of supporting the JI, JUI and other Deobandi-Salafist parties, Shia ulama could have developed close links and reciprocal support mechanisms with other oppressed communities of Pakistan, e.g., Balochs, anti-Taliban Pashtuns, Barelvis, moderate Deobandis and Wahhabis, Ahmadis, Christians etc in order to develop a broad based alliance against an ISI-sponsored Jihadi-sectarian Wahhabi-Deobandi network. However, they never chose this pathway because it did not match with the dictations of their Iranian mentors and financiers.
The Shia ulama’s dream of a pro-Iran Islamic revolution through a superficial alliance with the ISI-sponsored radical Deoabndi groups (JI, JUI etc) was not only childish but also counter-productive. Shia ulama conveniently ignored the fact that the Sipah-e-Sahaba was an off-shoot of the JUI and that many SSP-LeJ activists were also a simultaneous part of the Jamaat-e-Islami and other radical groups.
In this entire process (pursuit of an imaginary Islamic revolution in Pakistan), Shia Muslims of Pakistan were and are still exposed to unnecessary threat in promoting Iranian foreign policy agenda. While urban elite Shias (a tiny minority) remain unharmed because of their class and tight alignment with Pakistan’s military establishment, the vast majority of poor, disadvantaged Shia Muslims in Pakistani cities, towns and villages, imambagahs and mosques, offices and streets remain victims of frequent suicide attacks and target killing by the Saudi-funded, ISI-sponsored LeJ-SSP-Taliban terrorists. Same groups of terrorists who are attacking Shia Muslims in Pakistan also attack Western individuals and institutions not only in Pakistan but also in Afghanistan.
There are plenty of examples not only in Pakistan but also in other countries, e.g., Afghanistan, Egypt and Palestine, which show that Iranian regime has been using Shia Muslims as a consumable item or canon fodder to promote its specific foreign policy agendas, with little consideration to the immediate interests of local Shia community in the respective country.
For example, some Shia ulama of Pakistan blindly follow Iran’s foreign policy by supporting the Hamas in Palestine, Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Jamaat-e-Islami in Pakistan, completely ignoring the fact that the Hamas, Muslim Brotherhood and JI are pro-Saudi, anti-Shia organizations, which have brutally oppressed Shia Muslims and attacked Muharram gatherings on various occasions.
Hamas militants attack Shias in Gaza
17 January 2012: There is only a tiny proportion of Shia Muslims in the Gaza Strip, the slice of Palestine run by Hamas, a branch of the Saudi-Salafi inspired Muslim Brotherhood, which recently emerged as a majority party in Egypt’s parliament. Even so, Hamas security men wielding clubs stormed a private gathering of some 25 Shias held to mark the end of the 40-day mourning period for Imam Hussein’s death (Arbaeen or Chehlum), sending several to hospital. This was despite Iran’s being a notable patron of Gaza’s Islamist rulers (Hamas). (Source)
Muslim Brotherhood’s attack on Shia Muslims in Cairo
5 February 2012: Egypt is continuing to crackdown on Shia Muslims in the country. According to a report in the state-run al-Ahram newspaper on Saturday, two Shia activists were arrested upon arrival at Cairo International Airport from Tehran for allegedly carrying “Shia books.” (Source)
December 2011: Egypt’s small Shia community has also felt a chill Sunni wind. On Ashura (5 Dec 2011), Egyptian police forced hundreds of Shias to abandon a ceremony at the Mosque of Hussein in Cairo, where the Shia martyr’s severed head is said to be buried. A government official said that a stop had been put to their “barbaric rituals” so as to protect them from attack by angered citizens. (Source 1, Source 2)
June 2011: Head of Egypt’s Higher Council of the Al al-Bait Mohammed ad-Dereini has reacted angrily to the country’s authorities on arrest of a large number of Shiite Muslims. According to ad-Dereini among 306 Shiite Muslims held were Sheikh Hassan Shahat – a Sunni cleric who converted to Shiite faith ten years ago and as a punishment he was sacked of his office; he was a speaker at masjid shohadaa al-Jamia in Cairo. Al-Misriyon daily reported that Shahat was arrested from his house on June 22, 2011. The report said accusation thrown on Shahat and other detainees was that they were a threat to national peace. Ad-Dereini said the detainees have been kept in unknown place and their relatives have not been allowed to reach them. Shias are not allowed to hold their celebrations and conferences as well as dissemination of their faith and thoughts. (Source)
Jmaat-e-Islami’s students attack Shia Muslims in Lahore
On 22 December 2011, extremist Deobandi-Wahhabi affiliates of Jamaat-e-Islami’s student wing Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba (IJT) attacked Shia students of the Punjab University with bamboo sticks and stones and opened the indiscriminate firing to sabotage a program of Youm-e-Hussain (as) to mark the sacrifice of grandson of the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) Hazarat Imam Hussain (as) and his companions in Karbala. At least thirteen Shia students were critically injured in the firing and attack by the IJT militants who were supported by the Sipah-e-Sahaba students. (Source)
Also read the following article in which Abbas Ather hints towards the fact that several of the Sipah-e-Sahaba (Lashkar-e-Jhangvi) terrorists were previously a part of the Jamaat-e-Islami. http://criticalppp.com/archives/299
In the meanwhile, Iranian-influenced Shia ulama of Pakistan keep praising Hamas: (Source)
It is the same Iranian-agenda Shia ulama who do not hesitate from joining hands with the protectors and spiritual mentors of the LeJ-SSP militants:
Shia Muslims of Pakistan must realize that the Iranian government has its own geo-strategic alliances and enmities, Pakistani Shias cannot afford to blindly follow the Iranian foreign policy at the cost of their own existence.
Also, it is a fact that in matters of faith (Taqleed, i.e., religious followership), as many Pakistani Shias are aligned with Iraq’s Najaf Seminary as are with Iran’s Qom Seminary. In other words, Iran is not the sole proprietor of Shia community or jurisprudence. Of course Shia Muslims are free to follow any leading Ayatollah (Marja) for the purpose of Taqleed whether he is from Iran, Iraq or any other country, however, the institution of Taqleed must not be confused with the controversial institution of Vilayat-e-Faqih. In other words, Pakistan’s Shias need to think independently in terms of their political direction and priorities. They need to liberate themselves from the vilayat-e-faqih and the Iranian-agenda ulama who routinely hide the fact that the Saudi-funded, ISI-sponsored LeJ-SSP-Taliban terrorists are killing Shias in Pakistan. Instead, Pakistan’s Shia Muslims should think about securing their specific interests within the context of Pakistan with an independent and critical mind.