‘Takfiri groups can’t establish strategic presence in Kashmir: expert

TEHRAN, Aug. 11 (MNA) – The shadowy forces of takfirism pose the biggest danger to Islam and Muslims today. They are hell-bent on destroying the fabric of Islam and sow seeds of discord among Muslims.

Groups like ISIl, Taliban, Al-Qaeda are products of this very ideology that breeds on hatred for ‘others’. This wave of neo-Salafism and takfirism has reached Kashmir as well, and is increasingly threatening to tarnish the rich syncretic Sufi culture of Kashmir.

Sajjad Haider is a senior journalist and political commentator based in Indian controlled Kashmir. He is the editor of Kashmir Observer and Trans Asia News Service and has contributed to many international media organizations. In this interview, he talks about the scourge of sectarianism and neo-Salafism, attempts being made in Kashmir to sow seeds of discord between Shias and Sunni, and why OIC has been reduced to a toothless tiger.

With the scourge of sectarianism and neo-Salafism spreading like wild fire across the world, what needs to be done to defeat the forces that seek to sow discord among Muslims?

For me, they are neo-Kharjites who too could easily muster sufficient support base during their time. More so, these groups are the offshoots of Takfiri thought propounded by well-organised and powerful institutions patronised by certain countries who are out to obfuscate the reality of Muhammadan Islam as that remains a threat to their very existence.

Holy Quran strongly and clearly emphasises the importance of preserving and promoting Islamic unity, solidarity and brotherhood? Have we understood the message in letter and spirit?

Unfortunately, a large majority of people, whether Sunni or Shia, disregard this key Qura’nic injunction. Sectarian prejudices supersede vital Islamic interests. And this disease is more chronic in places where various sects live in close proximity.

In Kashmir, for example, many desperate attempts are being made by vested interests to sow seeds of discord and hatred between Shias and Sunnis. How can such sinister designs be defeated?

Islam in Kashmir was, in my view, a truly Muhammadan Islam till some time ago. It was a unique model for the rest of the Muslim world to emulate. For example, Islam in Kashmir, unlike other places, was not introduced by invaders or merchants, but by preachers and most of them Sayeds. The founders of Islam in Kashmir were Syed Sharafudin Musawi alias Bulbul Sahab, a descendant of seventh Shia Imam Musa Kazim, who came from Ardabil Iran and Mir Syed Ali Hussaini alias Shah e Hamdan who came from Hamadan Iran.

The shrines of these noble Sayeds and of those who came after them are revered by both Shias and Sunnis. They remained symbols of Muslim unity until the time successive ruling elites succeeded in driving a wedge between the members of two sects, and unfortunately we allowed that to happen.

Looking at the contemporary history, what has been the role of Muslim clergy – both Shia and Sunni – in fostering Islamic unity and brotherhood in Kashmir?

Genuine Muslim clergy, on both sides, has all along played a key role in countering the malicious campaign of pseudo Mullahs and ‘Durbari historians’, especially during the 500 years of ‘alien’ rule. Unfortunately the trend has picked up again and these pseudo Mullahs and paid writers are doing a great disservice to Islam and Muslims in Kashmir.

Terrorist groups like Taliban, Al Qaeda and ISIL have brought bad name to Islam and Muslims. Today they are killing Shias in Afghanistan and Pakistan and calling them ‘heretics’. How important is it for Muslims to not play into their hands?

A. The question is not what is important. The question is how ordinary Muslims will differentiate between right and wrong when majority of Muslims remain in darkness about certain important historical events even after the passage of 1500 years. These groups may have been founded by imperialist powers but the fact is they have willing volunteers.

Q. Today our political leadership is also divided, in both Arab and non- Arab world. How far do you see it responsible for the degeneration of Muslim Ummah across the world?

When were they united in the first place? The only difference now is that Muslim politicians are increasingly becoming irrelevant and ordinary Muslims rely more on social media for guidance, and there lies the bigger danger.

What is the role of OIC (Organisation of Islamic Countries) and how far has it been successful in its stated objectives?

It has been reduced to a toothless tiger. Even member states do not take it seriously. It is seen as an extension of Saudi government's foreign office.

Do you see the possibility of Takfiri groups succeeding in their evil designs in Kashmir? What should Muslims do to preserve the syncretic Sufi culture of Kashmir in which radical brand of Islam has no place?

They may not be able to establish a strategic presence here but they certainly and undeniably have a sympathetic base, albeit very small. Moreover, vested interests who want to perpetuate turmoil in Kashmir may make the young people, already pushed to wall by circumstances, vulnerable to exploitation by such forces.

How do you see the role of Muslim youth in advocating and advancing the narrative of unity and brotherhood, in the context of Kashmir and the region?

A. Let me cite a personal example. In 2005, I got a call from Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten while I was on a Bangalore trip. The reporter on the other side was enquiring if there were any protests in Kashmir during the day over caricatures of the Prophet of Islam (pbuh) that had appeared in the said newspaper on the day.

hen I called my office and found out that no one in Kashmir was aware of such cartoons. The news gradually made it to headlines and all hell broke loose. Later I learnt the newspaper was anticipating protests in places like Kashmir before bringing out such sacrilegious cartoons. The point being gullible Muslims play into the hands of such mischief mongers. Sometimes, it is a cartoon and sometimes burning of Quran. Our response has to be measured and intelligent.

What needs to be done to bring the two communities closer and how do you see the role of clergy in it?

A. I wish our leaders, along with their followers, make it a point to visit shrines controlled by the either side. Conscientious Shia Muslims should offer Friday prayers at Jamia Masjid and Eid prayers at Eidgah. In the same way, conscientious Sunni Muslims should attend Hussaini Majalis during Muharram and pray in Shia mosques in places where they are in minority.

Media is a forum of public debate and stimulus of political and social change. As a journalist and political observer, what do you think should be the role of media in Muslim societies, Kashmir in particular, to bring peoples from different sects closer together?

It is precisely because of the power of media that powers down the ages have manipulated it. It is that manipulated media which is responsible for present day confusion and chaos the world over. Ideally media should be a catalyst for positive change but a vast majority of media outlets today, controlled by the state or operated by corporates, are doing exactly the opposite.

In the context of Kashmir, it is near impossible to have an independent media. Ironically, it is the absence of free media or lack of it that breeds confusion, resulting in conflicts.

Interview by: Syed Zafar Mehdi

MNA/TT

News Code 136674

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