The leadership of the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC), an alliance of seven Ahle Sunnat Barelvi parties, is collecting donations in the UK for a planned campaign of protests in Pakistan, The Express Tribune has learnt.
Sources said that SIC chairman Sahibzada Haji Fazle Karim arrived in Britain in the first week of August after getting a medical check-up in the United States and was staying in Nottingham, where he also celebrated Eid.
The sources said that he was expected to return to Pakistan with “millions of rupees” in donations collected from mosques and religious centres in England during Ramazan and on Eid.
Earlier, the SIC had said that its ‘train march’ from Karachi to Rawalpindi scheduled for September 11 had been postponed because of Karim’s engagements abroad. However, SIC sources said that the march had been postponed because they didn’t have the Rs10 million budget required for such a venture. They said that the march, which is said to be a protest against terrorism attacks on Sufi shrines and several other issues, would now be held on October 24.
Pir Afzal Qadri, the vice chairman of the SIC, also recently visited Britain and attended religious congregations in various cities. Mufti Fazlur Rehman, a member of the SIC Supreme Council, joined Karim in the UK this week. The SIC leaders have been visiting mosques, charity organisations and individuals seeking donations for the train march.
A senior Barelvi cleric, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that any criticism of the group for collecting funding from abroad was unfair. He said that Deobandi, Ahle Hadith and Wahhabi groups were running organisations and seminaries with funding from foreign governments like the USA, UK, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Iran. “Our people are running their organisations and collecting charity themselves. It is not wrong. We are not getting donations for Western interests but to run our madrassas and mosques,” he said.
Other religious groups are also actively seeking funding in Britain. Abdul Mustafa Hizarvi, the acting general secretary of Tanzeemul Madaris, the examination board of Sunni madrassas, has been staying in Ilford, East London, for the last two months and gathering funds for his Jamia Nizamia in Lohari Gate, as well as a central secretariat for the Tanzeem.
Tehreek Minhajul Quran chief Prof Tahirul Qadri recently arrived in London from Canada to organise the ‘Peace for humanity conference’ on September 24, where Muslim, Christian and Jewish scholars are due to speak. They include Qadri himself, Shaykh As’ad Muhammad Sagharji, Shaykh Dr Abd Al-Fadeel Al-Qawsi (Egypt), Shaykh Abdul Hakim Murad (UK), Shaykh Ahmed Babikir (UK), Shaykh Muhammad Al-Ninowy (USA), Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani (USA), Qari Syed Sadaqat Ali, Noor Muhammad Jaral (USA), Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, Prof John Esposito (USA), Dr Joel Hayward (UK) and Mesut Kurtis.
The Minhajul Quran is selling tickets for the conference at 10 pounds (Rs1,395) each and 35 pounds (Rs4,883) for a VIP ticket. Qadri will return to Canada after the conference, sources said.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 7th, 2011.