Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Mosque business

Currently the USA is not just reaping what it sow in Afghanistan, but also facing the same extremism over the issue of the Park 51 Muslim community centre project.

And although strategically it may be a wonderful idea to promote Sufism as opposed to the Salafis, there still are countless aspects that need to be kept in mind within Sufism, including the various orders, which can either be classified as Sunni or Shi'a. Moreover, remembering the rivalry between the Barelvis and Deobandis/Wahabis is important, while keeping in mind the violent aspect of Sufism.

The USA is without anticipating the repercussions putting two opposing Islamic schools of thought at loggerheads. Whether it is out of nobility or a genuine desire to promote peace between the Muslims and all other religions and ideologies, the proposal to patronize a Muslim cultural center would bring the same problems to the US that Pakistan is already facing.

For many the Muslim community center has been so blown out of proportion, it seems people have nothing better to do but to either support or oppose it. However, it is not as simple as that. It appears that this project has quite understandably exposed the extremist streak in the country.

Having evolved in a highly charged religious and sectarian environment almost every sect in Pakistan owns a political or militant wing to counter a rival sect.

And although the most famous are the Salafis and Deobandis for their militancy, the Shias and the Barelvis are not far behind in countering persecution any more. The only difference between all the political and militant wings of these religious sects is, some are blatantly violent and some are sneaky.

Under the leadership of Muhammad Saleem Qadri the Barelvis established the ‘Sunni Tehreek’ in 1990s, which was aimed to promote the interests of the Barelvi Sunnis, especially against the Deoband and Ahl-e-Hadith (Wahabis).

Several members of the Sunni Tehreek have died over the years facing the wrath of the former Sipah-e-Sahaba (now Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat) and the banned Lahkar-e-Jhanvi, while the Sunni Tehreek has also retaliated in kind.

Only in Karachi countless targeted killings of Pesh Imams and various religious scholars have been exchanged between the two schools of thought, as they both consider the other as ‘Kafir’ (infidel), and fights over the ownership of mosques often take place.

With all the rivalries different Islamic schools have with each other, locations of mosques for different sects are extremely important. The best location means, better outreach, increased donations, higher enrollment at Madrassas and more say in the development of the neighborhood. After that what matters is the size of the mosque, the bigger it is, the easier it will be to swallow up the smaller entities around it. Basically, it is not just a mosque but a business that the ‘mosque mafia’ is best at.

With such staunch rivalry between the Barelvi and Deobandi, it would be no wonder if after a few years, the heart of downtown Manhattan would become the center stage of urban warfare between these two schools of thought. As many mosques originally built by the Barelvis have been taken over by the Deobandis in Pakistan.

Many people may consider this opinion far-fetched, but when one compares the number of incidents in Britian and the United States since September 2001, it would be revealed that the Jihadists are well-organized and have infiltrated deep into the system.

Therefore, State sponsorship of the Barelvi school of thought would give rise to the same rivalries; and may emerge as something similar to the martial religion concept, that would wreck havoc in the long run.

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