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The War Within Islam ( 17 Apr 2011, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Saudi Imam’s Visit: Was it meant to Foment Sunni-Shia Discord in India?


By Mohd Akram Nawaz, New Age Islam

The wave of pro democracy uprisings in the Middle East is the most defining moment and a welcome step for the whole Arab World on the one hand; on the other it is a frightening alarm for the American backed Sheikhdoms.

The massive protest, emanating from Tunisia, followed by successful mass revolution in Egypt forced the self styled Arab Monarchs to mull over to handover the power to the people, including freedom of speech, basic civil and human rights and dignity. One of the most remarkable features of this ongoing uprising is the wider participation of women folk, who had been the most deprived section of the society. For almost half a century, the Arab Monarchs kept the larger population bereft of their rights. Col. Moammar Ghaddafi’s treatment of the rebels and common citizens is deplorable. But so is the condemnable act of allied powers led by France in the beginning and now under NATO.

West’s immediate response to Libya is a testimony to their double-standards and smacks of some hidden motive because Arab League and the UN did not approve of full fledged attack but a no-fly zone to deter Ghaddafi’s loyal forces and masquerading militia. What could be the motive behind US, Britain and France’s unilateral step is not difficult to imagine – it’s again, as in the case of Iraq earlier, seeking to control the wealth of oil. The same oil which inspired Bush to attack Iraq and decimate Saddam Hussain who stood against their imperialistic drive. Here in the case of Libya again, the West did not go by the actual UN Security Council resolution and went on to strike till their real objective of regime change is attained.

The Arab League support for a no-fly zone was an extremely unwise decision; the Western powers were just looking for such an opportunity and the League helped them to grab it. From the very first hour of enforcing a so-called no-fly zone, they started attacking Libyan tanks as if they were flying.

But what made Saudi Arabia and Qatar back the West’s unjustified attack on Libya is the moot question. Does Saudi Arabia really mean to bring Democracy in Libya when Saudi government has itself banned any pro-democracy demonstrations terming it as anti-Islamic from the viewpoint of Shariat. In fact, the Saudi government, a well known US client state, is following the double standards of the US and fooling the people. Having no better excuse than Islamic Sharia, Saudi despot’s stand on democracy and human rights lies exposed as 30 percent of the Saudi’s own Shia population are a victim of maltreatment, bias, and prejudice. 

The recent and sudden visit by Dr. Shaikh Sudais, the Imam of Harem at Mecca, the holiest city of Islam, to India is considered to be a well thought step to stem the larger pro-democracy sentiments which had a considerable impact on Indian Muslims who are Sunni in majority. Dr. Sudais visited India on a personal invitation of Maulana Arshad Madani to attend a conference on 'Azmat-e-Sahaba’, organized by Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind in New Delhi on 26 March. Addressing the conference, attended by millions of believers, Sudais spoke at length on the life and contribution of the companions of the Prophet Mohammad (SAW). He also led the Maghrib and Isha prayers at the Ramlila Ground, the venue of the conference.

But the motive behind the visit is more than what meets the eye. Sudais’s visit was all about pacifying the Sunni Muslim world including India, which has the second largest Muslim population after Indonesia. And if that was not the case with his visit, then why did Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind not hold the conference on any pressing social issue like health, education, backwardness, and poverty. There could have been a conference on other issues too - like unemployment, illiteracy, status of Muslim women and caste discrimination in Muslim society in India.

 Yes the motive was something else. In fact, it had nothing to do with freedom of speech and expression, civil rights, and life with dignity for the common people as the Shia minority is subjugated in most of the Gulf countries ruled by Sunni kings. Saudi Arab’s intervention in Bahrain is the latest example.  It brutally crushed the combined Shia-Sunni uprising against a dynastic Sunni Monarch Khalifa. Rather than talking about democracy or other social and political problems facing the Arab monarchs, Sudaias in India focused in his lecture on establishing institutions and councils in order to protect the companions of the Prophet from vilification and execration. He said this in the backdrop of a tradition of Shia Islam which allegedly engages in vilification and execration of some of the companions of the prophet (pbuh).

Saudi government’s massive propagation of Wahhabi Islam and blatant support to “Sipah-e-Sahaba” has already wreaked havoc in Pakistan. Will Sudais’s India visit engender same kind of schism in Indian Muslim society and polarize it into Shia and Sunni sects so as to crush the uprisings in Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries and to protect their dynasties? Needless to say, Iran is playing hatemonger against Sunni Muslims in the region and the present Shia government of Iraq is following suit. This is not a good sign for maintaining stability, peace and tranquility in the Muslim world in general and in the region in particular.

The fact of the matter is that Asrhad Madani has lost his support-base and gone into oblivion after the Jamiat was bifurcated between him and his nephew Mahmood Madani. He no longer has any real influence beyond the boundaries of Deoband. However, Arshad Madani got an opportunity far beyond his expectations to cash in on Sudais visit. Arhad Madani, who was at the forefront in opposing Mohd Tayyib Qasmi, the former Vice Chancellor of Darul Uloom at Deoband in 1980s along with his brother Maulana Asad Madani, successfully tried to wrest the control of the seminary into the Madani clan. Indeed, due to such opportunist and self styled leaders, many a Muslim bodies suffered division.

The esteemed All India Muslim personal Law Board (AIMPLB) witnessed such an unfortunate split. Later on, AIMPLB was further divided into All India Shia Personal Law Board led by Maulana Mirza Mohd Athar, All India Muslim Personal Law Board (Jadeed) led by Maulana Tauqir Raza and All India Muslim Women Personal Law Board led by Shaista Ambar.

The sponsored visit of Sudais, organized by Jamiat, is nothing but a crude joke on the Muslim sentiments. What is unique about it and what merit Indian Muslims gained in praying behind Sudais? Absolutely nothing. With Sudais’s visit, only Jamiat Ulamae Hind, Jamate Islami Hind, and Jamiate Ahle Hadith Hind and some opportunist people like Arhad Madani, Imam Bukhari and others benefited. These so called religious leaders and organizations try to make money in the name of Deen (religion) and do little for the betterment of the Muslim community.

Darul Uloom at Deoband and Madrasa Mazahir Uloom at Saharanpur, both the premier Islamic institutions of the country, were divided in the name of Deen. Millions of rupees donated by the community for the students were spent lavishly for winning the suit over the rival party and this is still going on in the latter seminary. Very recently the Jamiat Ulamae Hind was bifurcated in the name of Deen. Tablighi Jama,at is still Ameerless (without chief). After the demise of Maulana Inamul Hasan Kandhlawi no Ameer (chief) was yet elected fearing division. It is irony that the same greedy clerics appeal to the community and students at the Madrasas to abjure winning Duniya in return for Deen.

If I can bring in a personal note, through this writing my purpose is never to target any specific person or organization. My intention, as an ordinary Indian Muslim, is only to make the motives of the said elements crystal clear. I intend only to unmask those elements who have been playing with the Muslim sentiments. I do not want a Shia-Sunni conflagration imposed upon us as Saudi Arabia and Iran have already succeeded in doing in Pakistan.

We Indian Muslims should try and do everything possible to avoid the fate of Pakistan. Our Mullahs, as I have explained earlier may indeed be leading us towards that fate. Hence, I urge upon all fellow Indian Muslims to avoid participating in such irrational and counterproductive activities, and press these personalities and organizations to work for the welfare of the society instead of indulging in divisive games on behalf of either Saudi Arabia or Iran-Iraq. This will be in the best interests of the community. We do not need organizations like Sipah-e-Sahaba or Sipah-e-Mohammad or Lashkar-e-Jhangvi or Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Jafaria in our midst. We just do not want to become another Pakistan or Afghanistan, the playfields of Sunni monarchs or Shia Mullahs.

A regular columnist for Mohd Akram Nawaz is a Research Scholar at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi