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Countering the extremist narrative one fatwa at a time

The fatwa against terror provides counter narrative to the people who want to challenge the Islamist militant groups wanting to impose Sharia in Pakistan through the barrel of gun

By Abar Ayaz

The government has finally managed to get a unanimous fatwa (religious decree) from over 1800 Islamic religious leaders which was named ‘Paigham-e-Pakistan’. Though late by almost three years, it can be termed as an achievement on the government’s part to convince religious scholars and Muftis of all sects of Islam in Pakistan to issue a joint religious decree against terrorism and sectarianism.
The need for this fatwa was felt soon after the terrorists attack on Army Public School Peshawar on 16 December 2014 which rocked the country, although it was not the first terrorist attack that took lives of children in Pakistan. The APS attack brought all the stakeholders of Pakistan including the political parties, the sitting government, and military establishment to agree on a unanimous document detailing steps to curb terror.
It was named as the National Action Plan and was formed in January 2015. The National Action Plan called for building a counter narrative against the terrorist group’s narrative that their Jihad is to implement a Sharia Khilafat (Islamic caliphate) in Pakistan.
The Paigham-e-Pakistan fatwa pronounces that “These people (Islamic terrorist groups) are waging war against state institutions of Pakistan. According to the principles of Sharia, these elements are rebels and committing heinous crime of hirabah (waging war against society). Their punishment is clearly mentioned in the Holy Quran.”
The Fatwa has referred to the Islamic militant groups fighting against the state as Kharjis who waged rebellion against Hazrat Ali (RA). Another important edict of the fatwa addresses the frequently used practice to declare the fellow Muslims apostate. The fatwa clearly says: “It is totally unacceptable in Islam that a certain group takes law into its own hands, declares people infidels, starts killing them in the name of commanding good and forbidding from evil. These trends, in any given society, lead to anarchy0 and chaos.
Islam has clearly set the path for commanding good and forbidding bad by upholding the rule of law. Only the state has the right to implement punishments on citizens and regulate their characters in accordance with law”. This clause of the Fatwa implicitly goes against the followers of Mumtaz Qadri, the assassin of Governor Salman Taseer.
I wonder whether the leaders of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan who idolise Qadri were part of over 1800 Ulemas who collectively issued this Fatwa. Though late by almost three years,the latest fatwa can be termed as an achievement on the government’s part to convince religious scholars and Muftis of all sects of Islam in Pakistan to issue a joint religious decree against terrorism and sectarianism.
One of the most important clauses of the Fatwa under the present regional geo-strategic situation is the declaration: “Some segments, in the name of Islam, oppose the national citizen charter and international contracts and few even disregard geographical boundaries and become part of an armed insurgency in another country. According to Islamic teachings, this behaviour is categorised as breaking covenants or betrayal.”
This clause should be welcomed by Afghanistan as it disparages the fatwas given by many Pakistani and Afghan scholars who justify jihad against the Afghan and Indian governments. This edict of the fatwa is music to the ears of our neighbours.
As this fatwa has the blessings of the State of Pakistan including its military establishment should we celebrate that now Pakistan would no more use the non-state Jihadis against its neighbours to leverage its National Security Strategy? Again the effectiveness of this promulgation would be only judged by keeping an eye on the activities of the Afghan Taliban, Jaish Muhammad, Jamaatud Dawah and Hisbul Mujahideen.
From the professionally astute interviews taken by anchor Salim Safi on the various aspects of a fatwa, I gather that the Afghan government is not fully satisfied by the above assertion of the fatwa that no group can declare a Jihad in the name of Islam and interfere with our neighbouring countries.
This is despite the fact that Salim Safi asked some of the leading Ulemas who have signed the Fatwa directly that whether the Jihad against Afghan government was according to the tenets of Islam. All the leading Ulemas on his panels not only distant themselves from Fatwas which called for Jihad in Afghanistan but also stressed that what is good for Pakistan is also good for Afghanistan.
However, we still don’t know the reaction of Hafiz Saeed, Maulana Masood Azhar and Maulana Salahuddin regarding this particular clause which prohibits participating in the Jihad in neighbouring countries. As the country suffers from bloody sectarian terrorism the all encompassing fatwa has clearly lashed at the killing in the name of sectarian rightness. It says:
“Sectarian hatred, armed sectarian conflict and imposing one’s ideology on others by force is in clear violation of the injunctions of Shariah and is disorder on earth. Further, it is a national crime as per the law and the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan”. The good thing is that this fatwa which denounced sectarianism is signed by leading Ulemas of all the sects and Islamic jurisprudence. But unfortunately this would have little effect on the extremist sectarian organisations like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ).
Undoubtedly, this fatwa provides counter narrative to the people who want to challenge the Islamist militant groups wanting to impose Sharia through the barrel of gun. Getting the Ulemas of different shades to agree to the fatwa was a difficult feat, but now what is important is to pack it up with an effective communication strategy.
Surprisingly, the media has not given it due importance baring a few exceptions. Some quick suggestions that come to my mind are that nicely printed copies of this Fatwa’s salient features should be framed and put in all the mosques and madaris; as most of the heads of the madaris federations have signed this fatwa. The government should hold awareness seminars about the fatwa in these madaris and universities to reach out to the youth. At the same time, the Inter Service Public Relations (ISPR), which is the mother of all the PR organisations of the country, should propagate this fatwa aimed at introducing a counter narrative to the narrative of terrorists.
‘Courtesy Daily Times’.

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