Pakistan: Red Mosque signals green light to the Islamic State

Серенко Ирина Николаевна

ivran.ru '2015, №12

Pakistani authorities once again, as 8 years before, have beefed up security measures around the Red Mosque (Lal Masjid) in the capital Islamabad due to the call for anti-government protests by the firebrand Islamic cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz Ghazi who intended to re-launch his campaign for the enforcement of the Sharia law all over the country. In light of all this, it may be considered as one more signal of the growing radical Islam activity in Pakistan.

Pakistani authorities once again, as 8 years before, have beefed up security measures around the Red Mosque (Lal Masjid) in the capital Islamabad due to the call for anti-government protests by the firebrand Islamic cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz Ghazi  who intended to re-launch his campaign for the enforcement of the Sharia law all over the country. In light of all this, it may be considered as one more signal of the growing radical Islam activity in Pakistan. Maulana Abdul Aziz and his wife Umme Hassan (the head of the Jamia Hafza female madrassa) led in November 13, 2015 an unauthorized rally of students, teachers and followers in order to mark the establishment of his Movement  for Sharia. The participants shouted anti-government, pro-jihad, and pro-sharia slogans. One could once again see brigades of radical female madrassa students in their black burqa-clads on the streets of the capital. The chief cleric of the Red Mosque Abdul Aziz gave the government maximum two weeks to make a decision on this matter. [1]

The security measures have been heightened in Islamabad, since everyone still remembers the Lal Masjid events (2007) when mosque administration and students tried to impose Sharia in Pakistan and even managed to set up Qazi court at the Red Mosque. It led to a multi-day armed standoff and mosque siege which caused numerous casualties on both sides. [2] Nevertheless the military raid on Lal Masjid failed to damage the deep roots of Islamism in the Pakistani society. The government and public attempts to close the Red Mosque also have failed. Both the male and female madrassas, Jamia Faridia and Jamia Hafsa, attached to the Red Mosque have been restored and their number of students enhanced up to 11 thousands. Jamia Hafsa is the largest religious seminary for women in the Islamic world. An Oslo-based gender research scholar of Pakistani origin Farhat Taj conveys Jamia Hafsa girl students confession: “the madrassa is grooming wives and mothers for jihadis, female suicide bombers and female foot-soldiers who will clash with the law enforcement agencies of Pakistan, if necessary.” [3]

Madrassa students are strictly gender segregated and isolated from the outside world. Their life is totally reglamented: every morning wake-up at 5: a.m., five prayers a day, studying the fundamentals of Islam in its most extreme radical interpretation with minimum basic science knowledge. One can easily observe their everyday life routine and students brainwashing in the Red Mosque madrassas while watching the new Pakistani-American documentary film "Among the believers" (2015) which gives a striking and unprecedented access to the violent world of radical Islamism cultivated there so as to train the new generation of Jihad warriors. [4] One can also readily encounter You Tube clips of madrassa female students learning to handle Kalashnikov rifles in order to carry out jihad against non-believers. It would be not an exaggeration to say that main current battlefield is concentrated in the educational sphere connected with the struggle for the youth minds. Pakistani human-rights activists and civil society organizations have long demanded that the government crack down on Ghazi's madrassas so as to stop this jihadis conveyer, but without any significant results up till now because of the ruling power inaction.

The Red Mosque religious complex became the main center of Sunni radicalism in Pakistan and serves as the violent extremism propaganda platform for the jihadi units and organizations, especially for the Pakistani Taliban (TTP). Enough it to say, that the Lal Masjid  cleric Abdul Aziz represented TTP interests at the peace talks with the government in 2014. [5] Moreover, the Red Mosque administration has suspected links with Al Qaeda and the self-styled Islamic State.  While commenting in one of his interviews on the Islamic State`s decision to abandon the geographical component in its name (June 29, 2014), Abdul Aziz emphasized: “We want a caliphate across the whole world, including Pakistan. The caliphate is the solution to the problems. ... These arab mujahideen have started the process of creating a caliphate, and we think this is good news for the Muslim Ummah. God willing, if their order continues, we will see it flourish all over the world.” [6] He proved his ultra-radical stance after the release of a pro-IS video message by the female students of Jamia Hafsa, in which they had invited IS chief Abu Bakar al-Baghdadi to come and to avenge the military raid on the Red Mosque and Osama bin Laden death after whom the Red mosque library was named by them in 2014.[7]

In spite of the Peshawar tragedy on December 16, 2014 which caused public shock, Abdul Aziz refused to condemn the deadliest terrorist attack on the army-run public school which claimed above 140 lives of children and teachers. Most of the victims were students, ranging between eight and eighteen years of age. [8] Abdul Aziz all but justified their murder, claiming it was retaliation for the Pakistani Army operations in the tribal areas. The Peshawar militants modus operandi may be compared with the IS militants acts of cruelty on the territories under their control.

Pakistan responded by adopting the National Action Plan (2015) with its 20 points program including the following measures to eliminate terrorism from the country: resumption of the capital penalty, establishment of military tribunals, ban on unlawful military formations and spreading of extremist propaganda, enforcing madrassas reform and regulation, etc. Previously the government had made several attempts to regulate religious seminaries, but failed due to the absence of a consistent and firm implementation policy as well as the religious conservatives opposition to any educational reforms. Abdul Aziz is certain that the government attempts to control religious schools are doomed to fail as the ideological struggle in the country has still been continuing. He believes, that “Western propaganda against madrassas basically has encouraged people to set up more such schools. There will be no stop to it” [9]

The Pakistani military expert, journalist, and civic activist Ayesha Siddiqa, while speaking at the Round-table discussion hold on September 30, 2015 together with the Russian research scholars at the Institute of Oriental Studies Russian Academy of Sciences, expressed deep concerns about the growing radicalization of the Pakistani society. She considers it as a result of the right-wing leaders desire to seize the levers of state power by extending their social base and society support through implementing their own version of Islamic education for all in Pakistan. The Red Mosque events only confirm this trend.

Projecting the current internal situation in Pakistan through the spectrum of external affairs one can predict with a certain degree of credibility the merge of internal and external Islamist actors involved in practical realization of their Road map designed to create the global Caliphate. Thus, considering all the above said, it can not be excluded, that the Red Mosque and its Islamist supporters who are inspired by the IS practical experience in Caliphate building, will give the green light to indoor this international ultra-radical terrorist network, despite the fact that Pakistan included  IS in its list of proscribed organizations (August 29, 2015).

1 Dawn, 13.11.2015; 14.11.2015; The Friday Times, 20.11.2015

2 For chronology of events (January-July 2007) see, for example: The Daily Times website “From library occupation to Lal Masdjid  operation”, 11.07.2007/http://www. dailytimes.com.pk.; for more details see also, for example: I.N. Serenko. Imperative urgency of religious education in Pakistan /И.Н. Серенко. Императив ускорения реформы религиозного образования в Пакистане(http://www.iimes.ru/rus/stat/2007/11-11-07b.htm); Топычканов. Исламисты свили гнездо под боком у пакистанских властей (http://www.carnegie.ru/rus/pubs/media/76412 htm); В.Я. Белокреницкий. Пакистан между военными и мечетью (http://www.iimes.ru/rus/stat/2007/08-07-07b.htm); В.Я. Белокреницкий. Пакистан: мечеть взята, что дальше? (http://www.iimes.ru/rus/stat/2007/16-07-07.htm); В.Н. Москаленко, П.В. Топычканов. Пакистан после «Красной мечети» (http://www.iimes.ru/rus/stat/2007/24-08-07.htm); О. Мохов. Исламисты погибли за Исламабад //Время новостей, 11.07.07, с.5; А. Степанов. Мины и минареты //Российская газета, 13.07.07, с. 3, 12; Е. Пахомов. Светский торг //Время новостей, 23.07.07, с. 5; В.Н. Москаленко, П.В. Топычканов. Ситуация в Пакистане накануне выборов (http://www.iimes.ru/rus/stat/2007/24-09-07 c.htm) и др.

3.Islamabad's Lal Mosque grooming jihadis: Research scholar. - http://www.rediff.com/news/2007/feb/03pak1.htm

4. Watch this film: http://www.amongthebelieversfilm.com/

5. Dawn, 06.02.2014

6. Dawn, 28.07.2014

7. The News International, 08.12.14

8. Dawn, 17.12.2014

9. The News International, 18.02. 2015

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