Sunday, April 18, 2010

Pakistani Cleric Schools the Taliban

After the Taliban attack on the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar, Pakistan, I cited some informed speculation that such terrorist attacks might cause a backlash. I didn't know then that such a backlash had already come, and in the form of a fatwa against terrorism by a Pakistani cleric.

Foreign Policy magazine has the story of that fatwa, Sheikh to Terrorists: Go to Hell:

Pakistani newspapers recently picked up an intriguing story from the country's security establishment. Reporters learned that their government had intercepted a secret message circulating within Tehrik-e-Taliban, the most prominent of several militant groups trying to overthrow the government in Islamabad. The jihadists, it seemed, had just added a new target to one of their death lists. His name is Tahir ul-Qadri, and he's no government official. He's one of Pakistan's leading Islamic scholars, an authority on the Quran and Islamic religious law.

It's no wonder the terrorists want to see Qadri dead. Last month he promulgated a 600-page legal ruling, a fatwa, that condemns terrorism as un-Islamic. A few Western media outlets gave the news a nod, but the coverage quickly petered out. And that's a pity, because the story of this fatwa is just beginning to get interesting. "I have declared a jihad against terrorism," says the 59-year-old Qadri in an interview. "I am trying to bring [the terrorists] back towards humanism. This is a jihad against brutality, to bring them back towards normality. This is an intellectual jihad." This isn't empty rhetoric. Last year militants killed one of Qadri's colleagues, a scholar named Sarfraz Ahmed Naeem, for expressing similar positions.

The fatwa was published in London on February 10, 2010. Here's a preface in English which was published on Sheikh Qadri's website. I found Chapter 3 particularly interesting, since it is on "The Forbiddance of the Indiscriminate Killing of Non-Muslims and of Torturing Them." Page 37 of the preface refers specifically to the protection guaranteed to ambassadors from non-Muslim countries and others working on diplomatic assignments.

Foreign Policy's article continues:

So it's not too hard to imagine why the Taliban aren't amused. "Qadri has been very bold in saying that these terrorists are awaited in hell," says Hassan Abbas, a Pakistani scholar at Harvard University's Belfer Center. "He is clearly provocative, in a positive sense, and this courageous act is also noteworthy." He notes that the fatwa includes a number of specific criticisms of the conservative Deoband movement, whose teachings underlie many of the militant Islamic groups in South Asia -- something that has angered many of the Deobandis. (Qadri himself is a prominent representative of the Barelvi school of Sunni Islam -- a Sufi-influenced group that, says Abbas, has historically outnumbered the Deobandis in Pakistan.) But few of the hard-core jihadis are likely to be swayed by Qadri's formidable scholarly credentials. It's a different constituency that Qadri has in mind -- namely the wavering middle.

-- snip --

This is, in a word, pretty strong stuff -- additional evidence, if any were needed, that the so-called "war on terror" pales beside the war within Islam itself, the continuing, subtle, and utterly vital struggle for the soul of the faith. So it will be worth keeping an eye on the impact these 600 pages will have on Islam's restless minds in the years to come. "The real contribution of the fatwa cannot be evident in a matter of a few weeks," argues Abbas. "The message will go out slowly." But go out it will. Stay tuned.

Just wow.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh, TSB, I hope it does sway the middle! That would be very nice.