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Islam and Sectarianism ( 20 Nov 2017, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Political Engineering of Religious Extremists


By Munir Ahmed

November 21, 2017

Pakistan seems to be a fertile land for any type of religious manoeuvring. Just shout a religious slogan and many ‘faithful’ would start following you blindly, without going deep into accessing the motives you have in your mind. These religious manoeuvres in the politics know quite firmly that people here become sentimental when it comes to religion. They also know very well that only a few can judge their hidden motives and their voice would not be able to overcome or overshadow their stance. The hate mongers know that no thin voice of truth and reality would be able to suppress their louder noise when they will chant slogans about ‘protecting the honour’ of the Prophet (PBUH). By the time the actualities of their stance and the hidden agenda will get revealed to the general public, they would have achieved their ulterior objectives.

Time has proven that the Islamic faith-based controversies has become an easy ladder for the less known clerics and like-minded to rise up for their political vested interests. Chanting hateful slogans against the ‘evil’ non-Muslims seems to have become the easiest way to get acceptance and support in Pakistan where most people remain ignorant about the actual religious teachings. What is even more disappointing is that such individuals have a following among the general public and people think of them as religious leaders. The faith-based fanatic and foully protests and sit-ins also attract the national and international media — and this coverage ends up strengthening them. The violent protests also disturb the public life and commuters in the capital have been facing difficulties for the last twelve days just because the government is not sure how to deal with a handful of extremists who have brought the city on a standstill.

Sometimes delayed actions have dangerous consequences. This applies to the seemingly successful ‘launch’ of Tehreek-e-Labbaik. They hardly care about the inconvenience their protests are causing because all they want is political relevance

Almost everyone in the helm of political and strategic affairs strongly believes that all the foully protests are the result of political engineering by the establishment. Many political and religious parties were used by the powers-that-be in a bid to topple the political regimes in the past. It appears that the same strategy is carried forward with a little change in tactics. Weaker political system and chaotic society lead to extremely segregated opinion of masses and often to anarchic situations, the ones our society is consistently leading to very fast, and it may termed as the best fit for a stronger establishment.

Religiously motivated politics is not new in the subcontinent. It had been nucleus even in other parts of the world. In the developed world, it has been controlled to make the democracies flourish, and we need to do so for the sake of consistent and vigorous social and economic growth in our country.  Politics in the name of religion is a centuries old phenomenon that was used massively during the Pakistan movement in the early 1900s, and strengthened after the India was divided in 1947.

The religiously motivated political engineering has delivered nothing but political chaos and instability, an ultimate social segregation and unbearable economic losses to the country. The ridiculous sit-ins cannot be a remedy to any political situations — a tradition developed by the Jamat-e-Islami (JI), a religious political party, in late 1980s when late JI chief Qazi Hussain Ahmed conducted a so-called ‘million march’ and sit-in against the then Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto for her and her spouse’s alleged corruption and other ‘wrong-doings’.

The Dharna tradition was strengthened by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan and his followers who staged a similar protest in Islamabad. Now everything is out in the open and it is not a secret as to what hidden hands were behind the 2014 Islamabad sit-ins. The truth about the Faizabad sit-in will also soon be out, but what we know so far is that it is nothing more than a cleric’s attempt to gain cheap publicity and that too at the cost of the public inconvenience. Many political and other religious factions would have joined him if it had been genuinely the matter of finality of the Prophet (PBUH), but what the protesters demand is not something any sane individual would support.

It’s a sad state of affairs when the government and establishment turn a blind eye to the activities of the fanatics and later regret their inaction when these extremists become uncontrollable. Sometimes the delay in action has dangerous consequences. This applies to the seemingly successful ‘launch’ of Tehreek-e-Labbaik. They hardly care about the inconvenience people are facing because of their protest because all they want is political relevance. They will continue to use sensitive religious issues to incite violence against minorities and spread anarchy in the country.

The vested agendas of such groups end up radicalising the ignorant people most of which are youngsters who get brainwashed by these fanatics. This leads to an endless cycle of misery.

Munir Ahmed is an Islamabad-based policy advocacy, strategic communication and outreach expert.