April 9, 2008 Special Dispatch No. 1846

Statement by 30 Prominent Pakistani Islamic Scholars: "The Taliban Are Not Terrorists; Do Not Look Through American Eyes at [Those You Call] 'Terrorists'"

April 9, 2008
Pakistan | Special Dispatch No. 1846

In late January 2008, 30 prominent Islamic scholars and principals of madrassas in Pakistan issued a joint statement, published in Pakistan's newspapers, discussing the state of affairs in the country and suggesting ways to deal with it. The signatories, who belonged to different schools of Islamic thought and who control a vast network of madrassas, affirmed: "We do not belong to any political group; neither do we have any political agenda."

The following are excerpts from the statement as it appeared in the London edition of the Urdu-language Pakistani newspaper Roznama Jang: [1]

"Cowardice Was Shown Vis-à-Vis the U.S. and India After 9/11;" "Our Troops were Used… Against Our Fellow Citizens;" Pakistan was Set "On an Irreligious Path"

In their statement, the Islamic scholars and clerics discussed the role played by the Pakistani government in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, and whether the government of Gen. Pervez Musharraf had acted against Pakistan's "national interests." They wrote:

"Most of our [previous] governments have been under the influence of the United States... But the way our government sacrificed itself on the altar of American interests after September 11, 2001, and ruthlessly murdered our national interests by bringing an American-interest war into our country, is an example on its own.

"Our forces were used in military operations against our fellow citizens. Cowardice was shown vis-à-vis the United States and India..."

"On the other hand, efforts were launched with full preparedness to take the nation [Pakistan] on an irreligious path in the name of 'moderation' and 'progressive thinking.' Changes were made in the curricula of the educational system, to make them look good to 'others/foreigners' instead of... [making them appropriate for] our national interests. Completely unjustified amendments were made in hudood law [regarding women,] in the name of women's rights - [amendments] which were not only unrelated to women's rights but also included further injustices against them.

"Vice and nakedness were promoted; centers of vice were patronized practically; and mosques were martyred in Islamabad. Rising inflation and unemployment made it difficult for the poor to live. The storm of killings and lootings is raging in the country, and because of this no one's life and property is safe..

"And the government, instead of resolving these problems, remained busy with promoting dancing, the Basant [kite festival], [and women's participation in] marathons...."

"Can a Suicide Attack be Carried Out to Cause Serious Harm to the Enemy During A Right And Justified War?"

In their statement, the scholars examined the justification of suicide attacks according to shari'a. A thin difference emerges between a suicide committed by an individual in despair and suicide bombings as a tactic of war. They discuss the conditions under which suicide bombings can be justified, stating:

"These are collectively the apparent situations which created irritation in the hearts of some individuals that is appearing in the form of suicide attacks. Insofar as the status of suicide attacks in shari'a is concerned, almost all Muslims know that [individual] suicide is forbidden in Islam, and in this regard the orders of the Koran and the hadith are absolutely clear.

"But can a suicide attack be carried out to cause serious harm to the enemy during a right and justified war? As per jurisprudence and shari'a, there can be two different opinions about this.

"Some scholars think that if a need is realized during a right and justified war, and if targets are not innocent people, then a suicide attack is right. This would be the type of suicide attack [carried out] at the Chavinda Front during the 1965 [India-Pakistan] War, when the soldiers of Pakistan's army tied bombs to their bodies and crashed into Indian tanks, and as a result of which the advance of the tanks was stopped - and tales of this are popular.

"Because this is an issue for ijtihad [reasoning by consensus as a source of legislation in Islam], and if an individual took such a step [i.e. suicide bombing] during a right and justified war, then there is hope that Allah will accept his sacrifice in consideration of the beauty of his intention."

The Problem of Suicide Attacks Cannot Be Resolved by Condemning Them - We Must Consider Why So Many Are Willing to Carry Them Out

The scholars discussed the reasons for suicide attacks and ways of eliminating them. They wrote:

"The problem cannot be resolved only by condemning these attacks. The real question is, who is carrying out these suicide attacks? And why?

"Along with completely condemning these actions, it must not be forgotten that those who carry out this kind of attack do it with the knowledge that whether somebody falls victim to it or not, they themselves will first go into the mouth of death. Under normal conditions, life is dear to everybody, and nobody wants to lose his life without extremely extraordinary conditions.

"Therefore, one needs to think why such a large number of people is prepared suddenly take such an extraordinary step that they do not care about their lives, nor do they have concerns about their children, who will become orphans, their wives who will become widows, their family members who will be sad...

"These suicide attacks are in fact irritation and apprehension (which result from complete hopelessness) against the policies of the government. These people have begun [to follow] the path of violence due to their despair from all types of peaceful paths. Among them are youth whose homes have been turned into wreckage in the operations of the government or of the United States, and those who have seen their dear ones dying in these military operations.

"This mindset has reached the stage where no oral or written argument succeeds against it. And if more violence is used to fight against such a mindset, it will provoke greater reaction. Therefore, the military operations against the civilian population of Pakistan are not a solution to this situation.

"In our opinion, the most important and fundamental point is that the government try to see those who are called 'militants' or 'extremists' through Pakistani eyes, rather than looking at them through American eyes. These people, whether they are in tribal areas or in Swat, or in the Malakand Division or in Baluchistan, are indeed our own brothers, our fellow nationals, and from our own religion. They are not enemies of Pakistan; rather, they have always guarded Pakistan's frontiers in the Tribal Areas. But the circumstances created by the government have made them enemies of the government and enemies of every person who is not aligned with them in the enmity of the government."

Admit That the American Strategy has Failed; Military Operations Should Be Stopped; Turn Musharraf's Anti-U.S. Statements Into Policy

In their statement, the Islamic scholars list a series of measures for the consideration of Pakistani government and policy-makers. Some of these measures are:

1. "We [should] admit with open heart that the American strategy we have adopted blindly in the name of the 'War on Terror' has failed completely. This strategy has given us nothing, but has snatched much from us; it is the fundamental reason for our internal conflicts, and because of it, it appears that our dearest nation itself is at stake...."

2. "The military operations in the Northern and Tribal Areas [should] be stopped forthwith, and an effort must be made to understand the causes of the insurgency there. Talks should be held with the leaders of those areas with open heart, and importance should be given to their just demands, which they deserve."

3. "Realize this reality: The Taliban are not in fact terrorists, and neither do all of them have extremist sentiments. There are among them elements with whom talks can reasonably be held."

4. "The moderate ulemaa and elders in the Northern and Tribal Areas are not in favor of violence, but their voice is not effective among the provoked elements because the government is continuing anti-Islamic policies - in the face of which the appeals by moderate ulemaa and elders are ineffective...."

5. "The people of the Baluchistan province have some real problems and demands, which to a great extent are based on justice. Launching military operations by declaring these demands to be anti-national is not farsighted. The insurgency there can be overcome by starting meaningful talks with [Baluch nationalist] leaders."

6. "Recently some courageous statements have come from President [Pervez Musharraf] about the United States [i.e. that he will not allow military action inside Pakistan], which is what national pride requires. These statements have heartened the people. Instead of keeping these statements merely as words, there is a need to make them the basis of future practical policies."

The scholars conclude their joint statement by saying that President Musharraf should rise above his personal considerations and take the initiative to unite the people of all schools of thought in the interest of national consensus. They add that the political leaders should overcome their differences to save the nation; that the independence of the judiciary be restored as per the requirements of the constitution in order to remove these problems after problems; and that Musharraf should resign for the sake of the nation and the ummah.

The signatories are: Maulana Muhammad Sarfraz Khan Safdar, Maulana Salimuddin Khan, Maulana Dr Abdur Razzaq Askandar, Maulana Mufti Muhammad Rafi Usmani, Maulana Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani, Maulana Dr Sher Ali Shah, Pir Muhammad Aminul Hasnat Shah, Allama Syed Azmat Ali Shah Hamdani, Maulana Hafiz Muhammad Salfi, Maulana Nayeemur Rahman, Maulana Ubaidullah, Maulana Abdur Rahman Ashrafi, Maulana Qari Hafeez Jalandhri, Maulana Anwarul Haq, Maulana Mehmood Ashraf, Maulana Mufti Abdur Rauf, Maulana Mufti Syed Abdul Quddus Tirmizi, Maulana Ghulamur Rahman, Maulana Mufti Azizur Rahman, Maulana Fazlur Rahim, Maulana Zahid Al-Rashdi, Maulana Fidaur Rahman Darkhwasti, Maulana Abdul Ghaffar, Maulana Qari Arshad Ubaid, Maulana Muhammad Akram Kashmiri, Maulana Muhammad Siddiq, Maulana Mufti Abdullah, Maulana Abdul Maalik, Maulana Mufti Muhammad Tyeb, Maulana Mufti Muhammad Zahid.

[1] Roznama Jang, London, January 30, 2008.

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