January 28, 2021 MEMRI Daily Brief No. 255

At 'Israel Unacceptable Million March' In Karachi, Pakistan's Islamic Leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman Says His Party's Constitution Advocates 'The End Of Israel'

January 28, 2021 | By Tufail Ahmad
MEMRI Daily Brief No. 255


On January 21, 2021, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), a religious political party headed by Pakistan's leading Islamic scholar Maulana Fazlur Rehman, held a million-man march against Israel in Karachi. There is a video of Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who has served as a member of Pakistani parliament for two decades, declaring at another event: "My Lord [Prophet Muhammad] ordered the expulsion of Jews from the Arabian Peninsula – and you are talking about bringing them back to the Arabian Peninsula. Therefore, today I, in the presence of this huge gathering, the decisions of the leaders, heads of different states, under which they have recognized Israel, we reject them. And Pakistan's ruler [Prime Minister Imran Khan] must forget that offices in Pakistan will have Israel's flag flying while we are alive [i.e., we will die fighting against the normalization of relations with Israel] (slogan of Takbeer, Allah is the Greatest; What is the meaning of Pakistan, La Ilaha Ill aallah)."[1]

Maulana Fazlur Rehman (center) on the stage with other leaders

The Arabic words La Ilaha Illa allah ("there is no deity but Allah") are uttered to declare one's faith in Islam. Over the years, these words have become a slogan in Pakistan whose meaning is deemed to constitute the meaning and identity of Pakistan, a state created in 1947 out of India as a homeland for Indian Muslims who chose to go there. This also means that historical animosity against Jews from early Islam has entered Pakistan's mass consciousness – an issue examined by this writer in a MEMRI research paper titled "Pakistan's Jewish Problem."[2]

The Constitution of Fazlur Rehman's JUI-F party, among other points, calls for "training every adult Muslim for jihad" and "the end of the Jewish, American, and British colonialism from Palestine, Jerusalem, and all Arab areas."[3] Fazlur Rehman's statement about Israel follows the recent normalization of relations with Israel by several Islamic countries like the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco. However, the immediate reason for his statement was a rival Islamic scholar from his JUI-F party, Maulana Muhammad Khan Sherani, who in an interview, reignited the long-standing debate in Pakistan about Israel and Jews by publicly advocating normalization of relations with Israel.

Maulana Sherani, who has now been expelled from the JUI-F, told the interviewer: "This is an international issue. I support recognition of Israel [by the state of Pakistan]"; "Educated Muslims need to understand that the Koran and history prove to us that the Land of Israel belongs only to the Jews. King David built the house of God in Jerusalem for the Israelis [sic] and not for the Palestinians."[4] Liberal writers in Pakistan have often supported the idea of Pakistan establishing diplomatic ties with Israel, but Maulana Sherani's advocacy of this position was perhaps for the first time the opinion came from a leading Islamic scholar.[5]

Former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi: "Pakistanis Would Resist Any Move To Recognize Israel"; Prime Minister Imran Khan Accused Of Being "An Agent Of Jews"

To counter Maulana Sherani's advocacy of normalization with Israel, Fazlur Rehman, who has been leading mass protests against the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan in recent months, called for an "Israel Namanzoor [Israel Unacceptable] Million March" in Karachi, the financial capital of Pakistan. The rally was also addressed by personalities from Jerusalem and Gaza – including Imam and Khateeb of Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem Sheikh Ikrima Sabri and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh from Gaza, among others.

A view of the million-man march in Karachi

Fazlur Rehman was joined on stage by former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, a leader of the Pakistan Muslim League; Mehmood Khan Achakzai, chief of Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party; Saeed Ghani, a minister in Sindh government of Pakistan People's Party; JUI-F central secretary general Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri; senator Maulana Ataur Rehman and lawmaker Mufti Asad Mehmood; Asadullah Bhutto, a senior leader of Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan from Sindh; and Allama Owais Noorani, chief of Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan, among others.

According to a media report, these leaders delivered hard-hitting speeches in which they "not only condemned Israel" but also accused Prime Minister Imran Khan of being "an agent of Jews" who received funds from Israel and India.[6] Allama Owais Noorani, the leader of Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan, said: "The war between Palestine and Israel was not just a land dispute but a battle of truth and falsehood."[7] In his speech, Mehmood Khan Achakzai said: "The recognition of Israel should be linked to the independence of Palestine. Palestinians should be given their rights. Jerusalem should be freed [in lieu of the recognition of Israel]."[8]

Asadullah Bhutto of Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan declared: "U.S.-led pro-Israel bloc has hatched a conspiracy against Pakistan to sabotage the issues of Palestine and Kashmir."[9] Saeed Ghani, the minister in the provincial government of Sindh, told the rally: "Except Pakistan, other countries have traded the blood of Palestinians [for their own interests], but Palestinians have hopes from Pakistan even today... Today's protest is enough to open the eyes of the institutions [i.e., the intelligence agencies and the military of Pakistan]."[10]

Sheikh Ikrima Sabri, the imam of Al-Aqsa Mosque, addresses the rally by video

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who served as the prime minister of Pakistan for ten months starting in August 2017 and belongs to the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) party of Nawaz Sharif, told the rallyists: "Pakistanis would resist any move to recognize Israel."[11] According to another media report, Abbasi said: "The condemnation of Israel is the expression of the heart of every Pakistani and Muslim. A narrative that 'the recognition of Israel is in the interest of Pakistan' is being created in the country. The Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) rejects this narrative. The people of Pakistan have agreed upon this point, that they will not allow the [interests of the] people of Palestine, Jerusalem, and Kashmir to be traded..."[12]

The PML-N and Pakistan People's Party (PPP) of slain prime minister Benazir Bhutto are part of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), a coalition of opposition parties led by Maulana Fazlur Rehman. Thanking Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and Sheikh Ikrima Sabri, the imam and khateeb (i.e., the person who gives the sermon) of Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque, for their speeches at the rally by a video link, Maulana Fazlur Rehman said in Arabic: "I am conveying a clear message to the Palestinian brothers that Pakistanis will stand by you until the last drop of their blood."[13]

Fazlur Rehman Urges U.S. President Joe Biden To Reverse Decision "That America's Embassy Will Open In Jerusalem, Play A Role For The End Of The Forcible Occupation By Israel"

The main speech at the million-man march was delivered by Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who is at the center of anti-government protests in Pakistan led by the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM). Under government pressure, the speeches made at the rally were not shown live by TV channels, but from which newspapers and television channels ran excerpts. However, Fazlur Rehman's supporters streamed his entire speech live on the YouTube channel of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F).[14]

In the speech, Fazlur Rehman spoke bluntly against Imran Khan, telling the prime minister directly that even his father cannot dare to recognize Israel. The religious leader also noted that the constitution of his party, the JUI-F, is clear on the point that Israel cannot be recognized, and instead it advocates "the end of Israel" and "the freedom of Palestine." He also called on U.S. President Joe Biden to reverse his predecessor's decision to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognize the right of plebiscite for Kashmiris to decide their future.

Following are excerpts from Maulana Fazlur Rehman's speech:

"To the inhabitants of Palestine, our Palestinian brothers, I want to convey a clear message that the Pakistani nation, till the last drop of its blood, will stand shoulder to shoulder with you. We, step by step, shoulder to shoulder, are standing with you. And until Palestine gets independence, until Al-Aqsa Mosque gets freedom from the clutches of the Jews, neither Pakistan nor any Muslim in the entire world will sit silent..."[15]

"And I want to recall that the late King Faisal the Martyr [of Saudi Arabia] said that, 'even if all the Arabs accept Israel, we will never accept Israel.' The founder of Pakistan [Muhammad Ali Jinnah] said that Israel has stabbed a dagger in the back of Muslims, we will never accept Israel. Today, the Muslim Ummah has not forgotten those voices, has not forgotten that standpoint..."[16]

Maulana Fazlur Rehman flanked at an earlier event by Bilawal Bhutto (Left), son of former PM Benazir Bhutto, and Maryam Nawaz (Right), daughter of former PM Nawaz Sharif

"Today when there is a foreign-funding case in Pakistan, the foreign-funding case is revealing that the money for the 2018 election of Imran Khan, while it came from many countries, it also came from two enemy countries of Pakistan – India and Israel. The strong probability is that the center of the Qadianis [Ahmadi Muslims deemed infidels by Islamic clerics] inside Israel, the Qadiani lobby too put in a part in funding Imran Khan. And, I said this the very first day, that he is an agent of Jews, [though it] is not the time to prove it. (Slogans: Naar-e-Takbeer, lots of curses on Qadianis, on Jews, on Israel; lots of curses on Israel; lots of curses on Israel; Lots of curses on America; Lots of curses on Qadianis)..."[17]

"Today when I am uncovering the realities on the background of the cruel Pakistani ruler [Imran Khan], then my speech is not being telecast live, a ban has been imposed on showing it live [on television channels]. My respected friends, they can do everything, anything, my voice has now reached every corner of the planet earth. All praise be to Allah, now my voice cannot be suppressed. Even your father cannot recognize Israel..."[18]

"Europe and America, having Israel as their bagal bachcha [child held in their arms], since they have occupied the Al-Aqsa Mosque, they are the ones hatching conspiracies, that Harmain Sharifain [i.e., the two holy mosques in Mecca and Medina] be occupied. The Constitution of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam says that, Israel or countries having positions favoring it, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam will advocate the end of Israel, and will advocate the freedom of Palestine. This is part of our faith. This is part of our Constitution. And Allah willing, this stand will remain alive..."[19]

"Since [Donald] Trump announced that America's embassy will open in Jerusalem, this is against international law. According to the resolutions of the United Nations, this is a disputed territory; and no embassy can be opened in a disputed territory. So, Joe Biden, first of all, should take back this announcement [by Donald Trump] that America's embassy will open in Jerusalem, play a role for the end of the forcible occupation by Israel and to give the Palestinians their rights on their land. If he really loves democracy, then accept the right of plebiscite of Kashmiris, play a role for giving right to self-determination to Kashmiris."[20]

* Tufail Ahmad is a Senior Fellow at MEMRI


[1], January 21, 2021. The slogan "Allahu akbar" (Allah is the Greatest) is frequently used as an Islamist battle cry by Islamic religious leaders. For a detailed discussion of this slogan, see MEMRI Daily Brief No. 140, 'Allahu Akbar' – 'Allah Is The Greatest' – A Jihadi Battle Cry, November 1, 2017.

[2] MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 676, Pakistan's Jewish Problem, March 11, 2011.

[3], accessed January 27, 2021.

[6] The News (Pakistan), January 22, 2021.

[7] The News (Pakistan), January 22, 2021.

[8] Roznama Express (Pakistan), January 22, 2021.

[9] The News (Pakistan), January 22, 2021.

[10] Roznama Express (Pakistan), January 22, 2021.

[11] The News (Pakistan), January 22, 2021.

[12] Roznama Express (Pakistan), January 22, 2021.

[13] Roznama Dunya (Pakistan), January 22, 2021.

[14], January 21, 2021.

[15], January 21, 2021.

[16], January 21, 2021.

[17], January 21, 2021.

[18], January 21, 2021.

[19], January 21, 2021.

[20], January 21, 2021.

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