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Rise of Wahhabism in Kashmir: Literature and Madrasas Radicalizing the Youth

The religious schools in the Kashmir valley have successfully radicalized the youth of the region and indoctrinated them with the Wahhabism school of thought in Islam

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Wahhabism in Kashmir
Youth has been active in the separatist movements against in the Indian Army. Twitter
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  • Islamic religious schools, known as Madrasahs, is where the study of Islam takes place
  • The Sufi Islam, once cultural to the local Kashmir population, has gradually been replaced
  • The rise of Wahhabism is a significant reason as to the growing violence and reactions in the region

July 10, 2017: It can be seen how in the past decade there has been a shift from one school of thought in Islam to another. The traditional and moderate school, known as Hanafi/ Barelvi Islam, has been fading away while the radical and Saudi-induced Salafism/ Wahabism better known as Ahl-e-Hadith has become increasingly popular.

Last month, the clips of Mufti Shabir Ahmad Qasmi’s loud shouts of religious influence went viral on social media. It was the first time that a religious cleric had openly used his responsible position to support, and influence others to support, Zakir Musa, the former Hizbul commander. It is believed that the video instantly turned many to followers of Musa, mentioned TOI report.

The mosques in Kashmir have always been used to benefit religiously and politically, and especially the increase in their demands for a separate state since 1989 when militancy broke out.

Muzafil, a Sufi practitioner, explains to TOI that even though Moulana Abdul Rashid Dawoodi among many other Hanafi clerics are trying to suppress and oppose this rising fascination with Wahhabism, the attendance in major Sufi gatherings is nonetheless decreasing. Dr. Abdul Latif, the general secretary of the Ahl-e-Hadith, estimates one million out of the total six million Muslims in the valley are now followers of their organization, highlighting the swift rise in a number of followers.

ALSO READ: Kashmiri Pandits Demand The Status of “Internally Displaced People”

Wahhabism, funded majorly for by the Arabs, combines the pre-existing schools of thought such as Deobandi and Jamat-e-Islami. Interestingly, Shabir Ahmad Qasmi, the Mufti who made a plea in support of Zakir Musa, is a Deobandi from Jamati background.

The transition from one Islam movement to another is a threat to the stability of Kashmir region. Sarjan Barkati earned himself the title of “Pied Piper of Kashmir” as he glorified the Hizbul commander Burhan Wani who intended to establish an Islamic caliphate. Sarjan, famously called the ‘Freedom Chacha’ in Kashmir, was a self-proclaimed Sufi cleric.

This incident brings to light the transition of ideology which then manifests itself into incidents like the mob lynching of deputy SP Ayub Pandith.

According to the TOI report, the majority of the people believe that Wahhabism had emerged after the killing of Burhan Wani, but it existed before. Maulana Mushtaq Ahmad Veeri was popular in 2015 for praising the ISIS and the caliph Al-Baghdadi. Very soon, ISIS flags were seen in Kashmir as a clear-cut sign of support. Additionally, Burhan Wani and Zakir Musa were declaring “Jihad for the caliphate.” More and more Kashmir youth thus became ISIS supporters.

Wahhabism
Burhan Wani, who became a popular face of the separatist movement in Kashmir. Twitter

Official sources of the TOI have also estimated that “there are over 7,500 mosques and seminaries in Kashmir, of which over 6,000 are Hanafi and around 200 are syncretic Sufi shrines. Ahl-e-Hadith, Deoband, and Jamat put together have just over 1,000 mosques and charity based seminaries, of which Ahl-e-Hadith has the largest number.” The reason for Ahl-e-Hadith’s growing popularity is its modern furnishing and other facilities. The Ahl-e-Hadith organization is widely acknowledged for funding numerous clinics and orphanages.

Ahl-e-Hadith mosques have doubled in the last 27 years. In the last decade alone, the state of Jammu & Kashmir has received somewhere between 10 to 100 crores from International donors. The top foreign nations who have funded the state are UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, all of which are not surprisingly Salafist practicing states.

A Shia Muslim in the TOI report reveals that the Kashmiri diaspora in the Middle East who send the radical literature through Hawala. Hence, a lot of Salafi writings are distributed for free on the streets of Kashmir.

The joint Hurriyat Conference, which split up in 2003, embedded Ahl-e-Hadith in their separatist movement. The Ahl-e-Hadith also has close relations with Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba.

The problem is not just confined to literature and Madrassas, but the internet as well. Radicalization through the internet and social media is dangerous as we have seen in the past. The glorification of separatist movements and leaders such as Wani are instantly shared among the 2.8 million mobile internet users. Thus, it is easy to reach out to the masses.

The data usage on mobile is higher in Kashmir as compared to other Indian states. The reason behind this, as one security official pointed out, was a lack of options for other entertainments. Cinemas and others were shut down in the state in the 1990s when militancy started opposing everything that was “against Islam”

The Hanafi school of Islam, which was once a dominant ideological path, is gradually fading only to be substituted by the reactionary form Wahhabism which was identified by the European Parliament as “the main source of global terrorism.”

Saudi Arabia has very strategically fueled Wahhabism in the Kashmir region. Successfully infiltrating this ideology in Pakistan, it slowly made its way into India. It very effectively indoctrinated the youth and made them distant to their Sufi culture.

– prepared by a Staff Writer of NewsGram 

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U.S. Welcomes Pakistan’s Actions Towards Peace in Afghanistan

Pakistani officials say their influence over the Taliban has significantly declined over the years because the insurgents have gained control over large areas of Afghanistan

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Imran Khan, Pakistan, Afghanistan,
Pakistan"s Prime Minister Imran Khan is seen during talks in Beijing, China, VOA

The United States said Saturday it welcomes actions Pakistan is taking to promote a negotiated solution to the war in neighboring Afghanistan.

The acknowledgement came a day after Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan announced his country has arranged another round of Washington’s peace talks with the Afghan Taliban scheduled for Monday.

“The United States welcomes any actions by the Pakistani government to promote greater cooperation, including fostering negotiations between the Taliban, the Afghan government, and other Afghans,” a U.S. embassy spokesperson in Kabul told VOA.

US negotiator

U.S. special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, has met, and will continue to meet, with all interested parties, including the Taliban, to support a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan, the spokesperson added.

Neither Khan nor the U.S. spokesperson have disclosed the possible venue for the upcoming meeting with Taliban officials.

Some Afghan sources say Monday’s meeting will take place in Islamabad, but no official confirmation is available.

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U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, talks with local reporters at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 18, 2018. VOA

Khalilzad, who is visiting regional countries to gather support for Afghan peace talks, is to lead the U.S. delegation in talks with insurgent representatives. This will not be the first time Khalilzad has met with the Taliban.

Since taking office in September, the special U.S. envoy has held two publicly known rounds of preliminary discussions with insurgent negotiators in Qatar, where the Taliban runs its so-called political office. The talks have been for the sake of talks, according to insurgent and other sources aware of the meetings.

Trump’s letter to Khan

U.S. President Donald Trump earlier this month wrote a formal letter to Khan asking for his help to bring the Taliban to the table for negotiations. A day later, Khalilzad visited Islamabad where he met with Khan and his military chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, to follow-up on Trump’s request, Pakistani officials say.

Speaking in northwestern city of Peshawar on Friday, Khan said the U.S. has changed its tune by requesting help instead of saying Islamabad is not doing enough, as U.S. officials have previously insisted.

“By the grace of Allah, the dialogue is now happening inshallah [God willing] on the 17th [Khan did not mention the month] and Pakistan has facilitated the talks between America and the Taliban,” Khan said. He did not share further details.

taliban, afghanistan
Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai, right, head of the Taliban’s political council in Qatar, takes part in the multilateral peace talks on Afghanistan in Moscow, Nov. 9, 2018. VOA

Khan recounted Friday that critics used to mock him as “Taliban Khan” for saying the Afghan war could not be ended without political negotiations but now all key stakeholders are jointly working to pursue a political settlement to end the violence in Afghanistan.

“If peace were achieved, God willing, Peshawar will change and become a hub of commerce and tourism, as things around the 2,500 years old living city are likely to change,” Khan said Friday.

Ambassador Khalilzad is 13 days into an 18-day visit to the region. He has traveled to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Belgium and plans to visit the U.A.E. and Qatar.

Withdrawal an issue

Pakistani officials privy to the U.S. interaction with the Taliban have told VOA that until now no progress has been achieved because the insurgents adamantly demand “a date or timeframe” for all foreign troops to withdraw from Afghanistan before the Taliban decides to participate in an intra-Afghan peace process.

Also Read: What to Make of Taliban’s Continued Rare Silence on Ghani’s Peace Offer? 

U.S. officials have long maintained Taliban leaders are sheltering in Pakistan with covert support from the country’s intelligence agency. Washington has been urging Islamabad to use its influence to bring the insurgents to the negotiating table.

Pakistani officials say their influence over the Taliban has significantly declined over the years because the insurgents have gained control over large areas of Afghanistan and continue to pose serious battlefield challenges for U.S.-backed Afghan security forces. (VOA)