Why blow up a mosque?


Maajid Nawaz August 05, 2010

Rehman Baba’s shrine. Jamia-e-Naeemi. Data Sahib's shrine. Scores of Muslims killed in places of worship meant to be a sanctuary for believers. And so it seems that dark forces using the name of Islam have started attacking the very people they claim to be fighting for. While it is not my purpose to speculate on which group carried out what attack, it certainly is my purpose to state that there are some among us who are seeking to force their version of Islam upon all others, even going so far as attacking places of worship and religious symbols in pursuit of this aim. I know this because I have spent years living and debating with many of them as a political prisoner in Egypt. I was imprisoned for being a member of Hizb ut Tahrir (HT), an extremist organisation seeking to establish an expansionist ‘Khilafat’ via military coups in Muslim-majority states.

So why would anyone seek to attack a place of worship? Surely this only serves to alienate them from the very society they claim to be fighting for. Occupation and oppression alone cannot be cited as reasons behind such terrorism. True, occupation breeds anger and frustration, but mosques never occupied anyone. Grievances plague us all, but many of us respond with legal and non-sectarian initiatives. Why then must some of us exploit those grievances to force one brand of Islam onto everyone else? What does the occupation of Afghanistan have to do with forcing men to grow beards, women to cover their faces, and the destruction of shrines?

Grievances will always exist — instead, the answer lies in the extremists’ perception of these grievances. While most of us understand the world and its wars through a geo-political lens, extremists insist there is some grand and global war against Islam and Muslims. In response, this obliges a global ‘jihad’ by Muslims against ‘infidels’ in ‘defence’ of Islam. Muslim versus ‘kafir’: choose your side! And just like that, the extremist narrative is born.

The trouble is, polarising the world in such a way requires defining exactly who is a Muslim, and who is a ‘kafir’. And so the first seeds of puritanism and sectarianism are sown. The resulting tensions sustain the flames of extremist recruitment; and the thirst to feed this narrative by seeking out the enemy leads to bloodshed. Defining the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ believer results in society declaring war on itself. Lest we forget, the Kharijites killed Imam Ali in pursuit of the very same slogan we hear being preached today; ‘The rule is for none but God’.

Extremists do not just insist on fighting the ‘kafir’ — by defining the ‘legitimate Muslim’, then forcing their definition upon everyone — they seek to draw battle lines to suit their interpretation of the grievances. In this way, dress codes and beards become symbols of the persecuted ‘true Islam’.

Weakness in these represents weakness in Islam, which means losing the war. Thus, those not deemed to be true Muslims are automatically aligned with the ‘kafir’, and attacking them symbolises a blow to the enemy.

As a person who has been down the path of extremism and back, I take every opportunity to stress that challenging extremism involves more than just addressing grievances and arresting terrorists. The government needs to start facilitating plans for a national counter-narrative, one that clearly differentiates the Islamic faith from the ideology of the extremists which necessitates the forced imposition of one interpretation of Islam over society either through violence or through law. Without such a counter-narrative, there will be little hope in stopping Pakistani Muslims killing fellow Pakistani Muslims (amongst others) in their quest to ‘defend Islam’.

The National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) has been established to do just this. Let’s hope that Nacta is soon able to adopt a strategy that seeks to tackle the causes of extremism – grievances, identity, recruiters and ideology – together in a coordinated and informed way.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 6th, 2010.

COMMENTS (12)

Bibi | 11 years ago | Reply Jews r doing this and their stooges
Mehnaz | 11 years ago | Reply Excellent! We need to say this more LOUDLY! We have to stop killing period. I believe in all people as equal regardless of religion, race, ethnicity especially worship. Do not bear witness to injustices, and i will not!
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