N. S. Rajaram sends us a disheartening dispatch from The Hindu, which he calls India's foremost newspaper, about the very serious situation in Pakistan, the only Islamic nation with nuclear weapons. The American press, obsessed with dissident generals, a stripper claiming rape, and (sigh) poor Natalee Holloway, barely noticed a serious terror incident last wek in Pakistan:
Last week, a massive explosion at a Karachi congregation, held to celebrate the birthday of Prophet Muhammad, claimed 57 lives and left over 200 injured. The congregation was organised by the Jamaat Ahl—e—Sunnat, a body of the Barelvi religious sect that is opposed to Islamist groups affiliated to the Deobandi and Salafi traditions such as the Jamaat—ud—Dawa, the Tablighi Jamaat and the Jamaat Ahl—e—Hadis.
Experts believe that the bombers targeted Abbas Qadri, Amir or supreme leader of the Sunni Tehreek, a Barelvi organisation fighting since 1992 to regain mosques which it claims were usurped by the sect's opponents. Sunni Tehreek leaders claim to have seized at least 62 Deobandi and Salafi mosques between 1992 and 2002 in ways that have on occasion sparked violence.
Now that most Americans have discovered some of the differences between Shiite and Sunni Muslims, perhaps we are ready for the even finer distinctions, such as those between the Deobandi and Barlevi sects within Sunni Islam. The disputes may seem unimportant to outsiders, but they are strong enough to generate murderous hatred and actions aimed at seizing power, and nuclear weapons. A quick primer:
Set up at Karachi in 1956, the Jamaat Ahl—e—Sunnat, or Organisation of the Followers of the Scripture, rapidly emerged as one of the largest organisations of the Barelvi faith. According to Mohammad Amir Rana's encyclopaedic A—Z of Jihadi Organisations in Pakistan, the Jamaat Ahl—e—Sunnat is raising upwards of Rs. 400,000,000 to build educational and social service institutions and even a bank.
Barelvi organisations such as the Jamaat Ahl—e—Sunnat represent the mainstream of popular Islam in South Asia, drawing on theologian Raza Ahmad Khan (1856—1921). In the Barelvi tradition, the Prophet is an immanent presence, not flesh [bashar] but rather light [nur]. For followers of the high traditions that emerged from the Dar—ul—Uloom seminary in Deoband, the Prophet is a perfect human [insan—i—kamil] but a mortal nonetheless.
In practice, the Barelvis believe in intercession between humans and the divine through Pirs or holy personages who are bound in a chain that reaches, eventually, to the Prophet. The Barelvis venerate the tombs of Pirs and holy relics.
Deobandi groups, such as the West Asia—based Salafi school, argue that these practices — which include celebration of the Prophet's birthday — are heretical deviations from scripture.
... the Indian National Congress had the support of Deoband. In the years after the creation of Pakistan though the elite rallied behind the high—church practices of Deoband. The Tablighi Jamaat and the Jamaat Ahl—e—Hadis flourished, making significant inroads into Pakistan's most important institution — army.
After the Iranian revolution of 1979, President Mohammad Zia—ul—Haq threw the resources of the state behind Deobandi—Salafi clerics, hoping to contain Shia radicals. However, this course of action had two unanticipated consequences. First, the emergence of anti—Shia terror groups provoked a backlash from the minority. Secondly, the Barelvi groups also began to mobilise against the growing influence of their Deobandi radicals.
Both groups, it seems have terror ties. From our standpoint as infidels, neither can be identified as the good guys. For reasons beyond the scope of this brief item, while other major religions have mostly left behind religious warfare (the notable exception being the Sri Lanka terror of the Tamil Tigers), Islam seems to be rife with it.
I would much prefer to remain blissfully ignorant of the finer points of the disputes between Sunni Islamic sects. But the fact that they threaten the stability of a nuclear—armed regime means that I no longer have that luxury. Neither do you.
Thomas Lifson 4 18 06