December 11, 2008
Anti-Semitism in Pakistan—hate on a sliding scale
(Page 3 - Previous Page)In the middle, neither here nor there: Madrassas, Zionists and Jews
Mufti Abdul Qadir is a renowned aalim, or scholar, at Karachi's best-known madrassa, Darul Uloom Islamia, Binori Town. When asked to comment on the attack at the Chabad House, Qadir categorically stated that they were "un-Islamic" and a "crime" perpetrated by "sadists." He clarified that it was not allowed in Islam to attack places where people worship God, irrespective of religious affiliation.
"Jews have the right to live peacefully according to Islamic laws," he said, adding that he believes that Jews not involved in atrocities against Muslims should not be targeted. However, he acknowledged a common misconception among "the masses" that all Jews should be wiped off the face of this earth.
"Whatever is happening against Jews is a reaction to what Israel is doing," he said.
"We condemn Israel as a state, as it is involved in atrocities against Muslims," Qadir said. The attack on the Mumbai Chabad House may have been a reaction to the policies of the Israeli and Indian governments, he said. "We respect Jews as humans, and that's what we teach, but those who want to crush Muslims are our enemies."
Qadir explained that Darul Uloom Islamia, Binori Town madrassa does not treat Jews as a separate subject in the curriculum. "Our people are ignorant of Islamic law, which is why they take all Jews for their enemies," he said, referring to the clearly stated quranic injunctions that even in an Islamic state, the rights of Jews and people of other faiths have to be protected. "Most people see Jews as a part of Israel that is involved in the genocide of Muslims; that's why they hate [them]. They have no idea that not all Jews support war."
Qadir's stance resonates, in part, with that of Barelvi cleric Maqsood-ul-Islam, who said that for many Muslims, the actual problem was with Zionism. He believes that Zionists want to "capture the whole world and kill Muslims specifically." Otherwise, the cleric says, there was no difference between Jews and Christians, as they both follow a holy book. "As Muslims, it is our responsibility to respect each of the followers of a holy book," he added.
Even prominent Shia cleric Allama Hassan Zafar expressed the belief that Muslims are justified in waging jihad against Zionists. "Otherwise, Islam does not even allow you to pass negative remarks about the people of another religion," he said. "It is categorically mentioned that you cannot call any non-Muslim an infidel, as Islam is not just the religion of Muslims, but it is a religion for all of humankind."
It is clear, however, that these beliefs are not the ones espoused by those behind the Chabad House attack. On the other hand, even if a madrassa student were theoretically anti-Semitic, it would not necessarily follow that he would be willing to actually kill a rabbi. Kashif Naeem, a senior student at the Binori Town seminary, said that he does not believe Islam allows you to kill a Jew or Christian without a fatwa or clerical edict. "Jews cannot be true friends of Muslims, but this doesn't mean that we should kill all Jews without any reason," he said.
This is not to deny the fact that there are madrassas that teach hate, and there are camps where suicide bombers are trained. It is also true that there are average Pakistanis who are anti-Semitic.
It is telling that even the language used to discuss anti-Semitism is simplistically polarized: Muslims/Jews, friends/enemies, good/evil. With almost no exception, all the people who were interviewed for this story, from the clerics to the students, categorized people as either friends or enemies in a language half reminiscent of playground alliances and half echoing biblical and quranic words.
For example, eight young men interviewed at Jamia Haqqania, a well-known seminary with 3,500 students in Akora Khattak, NWFP, say that "Jews were not worth friendship." They come to this conclusion partly via classroom teachings, prior social conditioning and input from "news."
Madrassa students are not generally allowed to watch television or read mainstream newspapers. Television is haram, or forbidden, as is music and film. Even if they do read the mainstream press, they hold a deep suspicion of the facts reported there. For many of them, the only source of reportage is from the jihadi literature or newspapers.
However, the spoken word is revered. Radio, in particular, has long been a powerful tool in the NWFP and tribal areas. Maulana Bijli Ghar (Cleric Power House), for example, is a popular speaker who is exceedingly anti-Semitic. "Video and audio are all a product of the Jewish mind," he condemns, while referring to mainstream music and film. But ironically, that very same technology is used to spread his message.
Contradictions are an inherent part of this picture. The students of Jamia Haqqania agree that it is forbidden in Islam to attack a place of worship, but at the same time, they justify the Chabad House attack as motivated by "revenge and jihad" against Israel.
"If attacks on Muslims were stopped, Jews would be safe," opined Mangal Bagh, who is the ameer, or chief, of Lashkar-e-Islami, another banned group. He heads the militants in the Khyber Agency of the Tribal Areas of Pakistan. He believes that all Jews support Israel and are therefore the enemies of Muslims.
But what about a person's innate sense of justice, conscience or sense of reason? Can it triumph over indoctrination?
Perhaps in the given environment it is difficult to sift through the conflicting messages that are not consonant with what is out there in the world. But somewhere there may inhabit an imperceptible space where prejudice stops short and a vacuum commences.
Consider the response from a student of Jamia Al Rasheed, one of Karachi's biggest seminaries, who did not want to be named. When asked whether he condemned the Chabad House attack, he replied that it was not "fair," but he was not taking part in any further discussion on the issue.
Is this silence the place where perhaps hatred can be tackled?