Sunday, 15 May 2016

QK Archives: Assembly of Faith

Newsbeat Inside
Original source Newsline May 2001 issue.

Assembly of Faith

A mammoth religious moot takes the US and UN to task.

By Behroz Khan

The three-day religious moot organised in April at Peshawar by Maulana Fazlur Rehman's Jamiat-i- Ulema-i-Islam concluded amidst calls to the Muslim ummah for unity to ward off conspiracies of the western world, with special reference to the United States, against Islam.

"Jihad will continue till the total destruction of America", "Death to America and the Jewish state", and "Who will save Pakistan? Taliban, Taliban," were some of the slogans chanted by the emotionally charged JUI-F activists at the conference. In addition, banners inscribed with these slogans were displayed all over the premises at the Taru-Jabba Housing Scheme where the Darul-ul-Uloom Deoband conference was held. Maulana Fazlur Rehman claimed that this was the largest gathering of religious scholars in Pakistan's history, attended by more than two million people. While analysts and intelligence agencies put the number of people attending the conference at not more than half a million, it was a mammoth gathering by any standards.

The venue of the conference that drew religious scholars and delegates from all over the country, India, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Iran, UK, UAE, Libya and Afghanistan, was the under-construction WAPDA Taru-Jabba Housing Scheme which has the capacity of housing more than two million people at a time. Elaborate arrangements were made to provide food, water and accommodation to the participants, but everything fell short of requirements as attendance surpassed all expectations. A strong windstorm followed by heavy rains, embarrassed the organisers on the second day as the entire tentage city collapsed and had to be erected again for the next day's proceedings.

Security arrangements at the conference were extremely tight and trained activists of the Kashmiri militant outfit Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, formerly known as Harkat-ul-Ansar, conducted a thorough body search on everyone entering the premises. No display of arms was allowed during the conference.

Although the Harkat's activists from the Punjab played a major role in the security arrangements, the assembly was dominated by Pashtuns from Balochistan and NWFP, including FATA.

The Indian delegation was headed by the mohtamem (chief organiser) of the Darul-ul-Uloom Deoband, Maulana Marghoob-ur-Rehman, the Iranian delegation by Maulana Ishaq Madni and Syed Muhammad Rizvi, advisors to President Muhammad Khatami. The Peshawar-based consul general of Iran, Abbas Ali Abdullahi, attended the conference and the Taliban delegation was led by deputy minister, Mulla Muhammad Hussain, and Badghis province governor Mulla Abdul Mannan.

Among the Pakistani politicians invited to speak were the head of the Alliance for Restoration of Democracy, Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan, PML-N's Raja Zafar-ul-Haq and chief of his own faction of JUI, Maulana Sami-ul-Haq and other invitees to the conference. ANP president, Asfandyar Wali Khan, PPP's senior vice president, Makhdoom Amin Faheem, MQM leaders and the central leadership of the PML (like-minded) were conspicuous by their absence.

The conference was meant to highlight the achievements of the prestigious Darul-ul-Uloom Deoband during the last 150 years, but the show turned out to be a pro-Taliban and anti-US event. The Afghanistan-based Saudi dissident, Osama bin Laden, issued a message on this occasion, exhorting the scholars and participants of the conference to train and educate the Muslim youth in the concept of jihad. However, the message was not sent to the organisers of the moot due to ideological differences of the Deobandi and Egypt-based Al-Akhwan-ul-Muslimeen schools of thought with which Osama is affiliated.

Opening the conference in the name of Allah, a booming Maulana Fazlur Rehman supported the struggle of the Muslims fighting for independence in Kashmir, Palestine, Chechnya, Kosovo and Bosnia. He said the miseries being faced by the Muslims were mainly due to the conspiracies hatched by the United States and the western world against Islam and Islamic movements. "This is because of the struggle of the ulema and the strong ideological foundation provided by Darul-ul-Uloom Deoband to spread Islam in every nook and corner of the subcontinent. The ulema graduating from Deoband have served the cause of Islam by opening madrassas (religious schools) to enlighten Muslims and prepare them for jihad," said the Maulana.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman was nominated head of the Majlis Al-Tanseeq Al-Islami, an organisation meant to coordinate action among the ulema from India, Pakistan, UK, UAE and Afghanistan regarding problems confronting Muslims.

"We have put the entire western world in a quandary by peacefully conducting the proceedings," claimed a jubilant Maulana Fazlur Rehman at the end of the conference.

There were no women at the mammoth gathering as the JUI-F opposes women's participation in the political process. "We don't have men in our ranks who cannot represent their women," said the Maulana at a post-conference press briefing in Peshawar. The party has been campaigning against the participation of women in the local bodies polls in the province.

JUI-F leaders narrated the achievements of the Darul Uloom Deoband and said that it was due to the struggle and sacrifices of ulema from this institution that the people of Pakistan and India had won freedom from colonial rule. Almost all the speakers were critical of the UN and termed the world body a tool in the hands of the United States for imposing sanctions against the war-weary people of Afghanistan in the guise of punishing the Taliban for protecting and sheltering the alleged terrorist, Osama bin Laden.

Mulla Omar, in a recorded speech in Pushto, reiterated the Taliban's stand on Osama and said Afghanistan would not bow to pressures from and intimidation by the non-believers to hand him over for trial on charges of terrorism. He condemned the UN Security Council sanctions against Afghanistan, terming them unjust and aimed at punishing the Taliban government for enforcing Islamic Sharia as the supreme law of the country. He said that the achievements of the Taliban, such as the elimination of the poppy crop in Afghanistan and the restoration of peace in the war-shattered country, were ignored and the issue of human rights violation was selectively highlighted to discredit them.

On the third and final day, the speakers adopted a more aggressive tone. Resolutions were passed to challenge and condemn US hegemony amidst calls to the Muslims to rise against the pro-Jewish UN to liberate Al-Quds and win freedom for the Palestinians.

The resolution on Kashmir was, however, toned down perhaps due to the presence of Maulana Marghoob-ur-Rehman and other members of the delegation from India. Maulana Marghoob-ur-Rehman was also very selective in choosing words for his speech and the general impression at the conference was that the head of Darul-ul-Uloom Deoband did not openly support the armed struggle for the liberation of Kashmir. The resolution on Kashmir called upon the political leadership of India and Pakistan to find a peaceful and just solution to the problem to save the region from confrontation and disengage the two nuclear powers. Another resolution accused the international media of being biased and working against Islam, adding that the Muslim ummah should establish its own network of information to counter the propaganda of the foreign media controlled by the Jews. The US was dubbed a "man-eater" in one of the resolutions for dropping atomic bombs on Japan in World War II and a terrorist state for targeting the alleged military bases of Osama bin Laden in Khost province in August 1998.

The meeting condemned the anti-human and anti-peace approach of the United States and its allies. "Sanctions against Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan are cruel and an open aggression against Muslims and should be lifted forthwith," said one of the resolutions. It further stated that "the presence of American and European armed forces in Saudi Arabia is the biggest tragedy of our times. We ask the Arab brethren to facilitate early removal of these forces from the holy land of the Muslims."

Maulana Ishaq Madani of Iran regretted that Muslims and the Islamic countries had become weak and vulnerable despite the increase in their numbers and accumulation of resources and military hardware. He appealed for the unity of Muslims and shunning of factionalism and sectarianism to face the challenges faced by Islam at the hands of non-believers and enemies of Islam. A communique from Libya, sent by the World Islamic People's Leadership and Islamic Call Society, included a message from Gaddafi wishing the organisers success and lauding their efforts at serving the Muslim ummah

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