Islamic preachers contributing to radicalisation of Pakistanis across all classes: Analysts
Karachi, Sept 15(ANI): Pakistan's Islamic preachers have gotten far less international scrutiny than terror outfits since the 9/11 attacks, but the social and religious conservatism they preach could be an even more radicalising force that would ultimately lead to more silent support of militant groups, a news report has warned.
"Especially after 9/11, there is increasing extremism in terrorism-hit Pakistan. These preachers, by radicalising various layers of the society, will ignite it - so these groups and their activities should be put under the counterterrorism [microscope] rather than ignoring them as nonpolitical and nonmilitant preachers," The Christian Science Monitor quoted Arif Jamal, author of "Shadow War: The Untold Story of Jihad in Kashmir," as saying.
The use of the hijab (veil), the act of growing beards, and the wearing of ankle-length trousers- all symbols of conservative Islam- are increasingly the norm in Tablighi Jamaat, an offshoot of the Deobandi sect, which takes a literal approach to Islam, according to the report.
"The continuous indoctrination of [the] orthodox version of religion at the Tablighi missions [events] turns a large number of people into Islamists and jihadists. Even when they do not take part in violent jihad, its loose organizational structure helps militants conceal their identity, and they provide it popular support," says Jamal.
Tablighis, however, shrug off these allegations as conspiracies. "We are nonpolitical and only focus on spreading the message of Islam, which is of peace and love across the world. Not on a single occasion has any local or international investigating agency found the faintest of evidence of militancy in our movement," says Syed Imran, an imam and member of the Tablighi Jamaat religious movement for almost a decade.
The Dawat-e-Islami of Barelvi has a similar proselytizing campaign in Karachi, the report said, noting that another nonmilitant but highly political organisation, Hizb ut-Tahrir (Liberation Party), is working for the reestablishment of a caliphate, or Islamic state in the Muslim world, and is dismissive of the idea of democracy.
Many analysts believe that although these groups are not perceived as a serious threat because they are not armed, their views are contributing to the radicalisation of Pakistanis across all classes.
"While they seem nonpolitical, what they propagate ultimately provides ideological ground to militant outfits. Because they are not armed does not mean they are tolerant of other views," says leading rights activist Farzana Bari.
"[The groups] insist that people's only valid identity is their religion, and they thrive on a narrative that Muslims all over the world are the victims of conspiracies... They are shrinking secular spaces in the public sphere," says Nadeem Farooq Paracha, a cultural critic and newspaper columnist.
While Taliban militants use guns and bombs, the preachers use nonviolent tactics, such as securing support of world-class cricket players and pop stars, which Paracha terms as "poster boys" for attracting millions of youths who idealize them.
"Their tentacles are spreading among politicians, bureaucrats, law enforcement agencies. From poor to filthy rich, their claim of being peaceful helps them attract [the] Muslim Diaspora especially those who live in kind of a social guilt of living in western society," he argues. (ANI)
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