The Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Pakistan is a political party and the largest religious organization in Pakistan. Almost on a daily basis, it organizes countless seminars, conferences, and public rallies on national and international issues in different Pakistani towns and cities.
Prof. Khurshid Ahmad, the JI's Vice President, is also its top ideologue. Born on March 23, 1932 in Delhi, Professor Ahmad is the founder of the Islamic Foundation, England; and is currently chairman of the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), Islamabad. He holds a bachelor's degree in law and jurisprudence, a master's in economics and Islamic studies, and an honorary doctorate in Islamic economics conferred by the International Islamic University, Malaysia.
In a recent interview, Professor Ahmad answered a range of questions, including on the 9/11 attacks, Al-Qaeda, the differences in the positions of JI India and JI Pakistan on the Kashmir issue, and the Palestinian issue. The interview was conducted by the Politics & Development magazine (www.pol-dev.com).
Excerpts from the interview formed part of a report posted on the magazine's website. The report also contains a few questions and answers that were not recorded on video. Following are excerpts from the report:
"Hindus and the Muslims Coexisted Peacefully Only under the Muslim Rule, and Such an Existence was Otherwise Impossible"
"Prof. Ahmad answered a number of questions concerning the JI's politics and its credentials as a moderate Islamist party. For example, after 9/11, the former JI Emir Qazi Hussain Ahmad stated that Al-Qaeda was a figment of the U.S. imagination. On the contrary, the then-JI Secretary General Syed Munawar Hassan (the current Emir) said that 'Al-Qaeda leaders were our brethren…'
"Prof. Ahmad said: 'There is no contradiction between the two. The Muslims in Al-Qaeda are our brethren. They should be punished if they are criminals!' He sounded mightily reluctant to hold Al-Qaeda responsible for 9/11. He even refused to give any credence to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's statement that Al-Qaeda was responsible for 9/11. (It may be added here that Hekmatyar is Jamaat-i-Islami's favorite Afghan leader.) Instead, he finds 'dozens of scholarly books' casting doubt on the official version more credible.
"Prof. Ahmad justified the two-nation theory saying that the Hindus and the Muslims coexisted peacefully only under the Muslim rule, and such an existence was otherwise impossible. 'The colonial rule divided the Hindus and the Muslims… that resulted in the 1947 riots!' He admitted that during the last 15-20 years, Pakistani society had become increasingly intolerant.
"He conceded that the blasphemy laws were being misused but he did not support any amendment to them. 'The punishment for blasphemy is death – in Christianity, Old Testament, New Testament, the Kora,n and the precepts of the Holy Prophet Mohammad.' The blasphemy [law] does not apply to serious academic debate, he said. 'It applies only to derogatory remarks.' He dismissed the argument that the Barelvis consider the [rival Islamic sects of] Deobandis and the Ahl-i-Hadith blasphemers.
"On the Kashmir jihad, Prof. Ahmad said that the JI has no organizational relationship with the [Kashmiri militant group] Hizbul Mujahideen. 'But of course, we do meet and whatever the Hizb is doing, it is its fundamental right.'
"The JI India and JI Pakistan have different ideas on certain issues such as Kashmir though the source of inspiration for them was the same. He justified it saying that they became different and independent organizations after the partition [India in 1947] because the political situation had changed."
"Israel Lacks Legitimacy Both in International Law as well as in Grammar of Politics of the Region; Jews have Always Lived in this Area"
"He said that Israel was an illegitimate country, but did not support the annihilation of the Israeli Jews. In fact, he supported the idea of a single state in which the Jews and the Palestinians live together.
"[On the video, when asked if he thinks Israel is an illegitimate country and has no right to exist, Professor Ahmad says: 'The two things are different. Israel lacks legitimacy both in international law as well as in grammar of politics of the region. Jews have always lived in this area. Jews were expelled when the Crusaders conquered Palestine. And when Salahuddin Ayubi reconquered it, Jews were rehabilitated and they have lived ever since. And they have every right to live, but the basis on which the state of Israel has been established, and that is, the people who did not belong to this land, they were brought from all over the world and those who were living there they were thrown out; it is an occupying force; it is an imperial power; but as many Jews want to live, whether it is a few hundreds of thousands or a few millions we have no problem.'
"[At this point the interviewer asks him if he agrees with Hamas's objective of eradicating the state of Israel, and Professor Ahmad answers: 'Let me conclude… that only means vacation of occupation. An Israeli is a settler occupying' The interview interjects with another question before the sentence is complete and asking How do you describe Israel without killing Jews, Professor Ahmad answers: 'No, not at all… Let there be a one state solution. The Zionism and the military power which they are controlling that should not be there…' some words are unclear here]"
"The U.S. and NATO Played Some Positive Role in the Balkans, but They Allowed the Massacre of the Muslims; Their Intervention was Aimed at Preventing the Revival of Islamic Movements There"
"[Professor Ahmad] acknowledged that the U.S. and NATO played some positive role in the Balkans, but they allowed the massacre of the Muslims to continue. Their intervention was aimed at preventing the revival of Islamic movements there.
"The following part of the interview was not video-recorded:
Q: "Once you wrote that in the last days of [Jamaat-e-Islami founder] Maulana Maududi had accepted that he had revised some of his opinions that he had expressed in his book 'Al-Jihad Fil Islam.' 'I am a human being and I am also subject to evolution,' you had quoted him as saying. On what issues had he changed his opinions?"
[Prof. Ahmad]: "This conversation did not take place in the exclusive context of Al-Jihad. He had revised his opinions in other areas as well. For example, first he believed that the head of an Islamic state should be there for life term, as was the case under the divinely guided caliphs, Khulfa-i-Rashideen [the four caliphs of Islam], but later he came to change his opinion.
"Similarly, he first believed that there should be a separate assembly (Shura) consisting of non-Muslims, but eventually he came to the conclusion that there should be just one assembly consisting of both the Muslims and non-Muslims. As for Al-Jihad, he realized that it did not include discussion of developments that took place after the Second World War. For example, laws of warfare and Geneva Conventions."
Q: "There are many people who have criticized the Jamaat-i-Islami. Whose criticism is the most reasoned in your opinion?"
[Prof. Ahmad:] "That's tough one. [Indian Islamic scholar] Maulana Ali Mian's criticism is the most reasoned one, but I may not agree with it."
Q: "What do you think of the Sudanese Islamic scholar Hassan Turabi? Are you in touch with him?"
[Prof. Ahmad]: "I have known him for a long time. I have been in touch with him. I haven't met him lately because I am not in a position to travel frequently…"
Q: "Is it true that you admire both Hassan Turabi and Omar Al-Bashir, the Sudanese President, who threw him in prison?"
[Prof. Ahmad:] "Yes, we want reconciliation between them…"
Q: "What is your opinion of the Swiss-born Tariq Ramadan, a grandson of the founder of the Egyptian Brotherhood?"
[Prof. Ahmad:] "He is like my offspring (Woh meri aulad kee tarah hae). He worked with me at the Islamic Foundation in Liester for one year. He is a rising Muslim intellectual. I also knew his father very well…"
 The entire interview can be watched by clicking these three YouTube links: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dqZDGxRx1pQ&feature=player_embedded#at=81;
 Professor Khurshid’s views on Israel as expressed in this interview can be watched by clicking the following YouTube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPDHeH8yphU&feature=player_embedded