It is said, “Islam is simple, culture is complicated”, but societies, especially in the contemporary Muslim world, interfused religion and culture and preferred to manipulate it for strategic regional power. This religious adventure jolted their existence through the wave of religion-based terrorism, and now Muslim leaders have locked horns to uproot the seeds of extremism which they themselves allowed to sow during past decades.
In November 2013, a petition was filed in the Islamabad High Court against the leader of Jamiat Ulama-e-Islam (F) leader – Maulana Fazal ur Rehman, on considering even a dog as a martyr if it is killed in a drone strike. His statement was an answer in reply to a question on the killing of Taliban Leader, Hakeem Ullah Mehsud. US drone strike killed Hakeem Ullah Mehsud a day before official dialogue between the Taliban and Pakistani state. Political elite, media and religious fractions left no stone unturned to show their outburst against the US.
This ultra usage of religion and culture of hatred against the US, and the trend to label every evil with India and Israel, especially by the banned religions outfits and religious-political parties, needs to be analyzed in historical and current Islamic alliance contexts.
The Islamic-American Summit that was conducted in Riyadh some months ago clutched the world media as it was President Trump’s first stop on foreign visit. However, the Pakistani media, as per its own culture, criticized the government for having ill-devised foreign planning because ex-PM Sharif was not given the chance to speak. No one is questioning whether those who have tagged Pakistan to join them in the efforts to counter terrorism have the capability to lead and if their past records and regional political agenda allow us to shake hands with them.
In Riyadh, the US and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia did not only devise plans to counter terrorism in the regional and global context, but also closed arms deals worth $150 billion. Last week, the White House has also cleared the sale of THAAD system to be placed at Saudi borders.
How ironic and complicated is it to see them both countering Jihad. The radical philosophy that was marketed during the Afghan jihad for fighting against Soviet forces in Afghanistan, under the ingenuity of religious ideology, is an example.
In 80s – USA and KSA were the biggest supporters and funders of Afghan jihad. Through madrassa funding and logistic support, these Islamic alliance makers invigorated Gen Zia for constant supply of Jihadis in the Afghan war. In the name of Jihad, the youth (Al Qaeda leader Usama Bin Laden had also participated in Afghan Jihad) was encouraged to fight the evil Soviet Union.
During the Afghan war, Jihad’s philosophy through speeches and writings of Egyptian Scholar Sayyed Qutab and Pakistani cleric Abul ala Maudidi were pinned into young minds to build manpower for war. After the Soviet Union defeat, the fighters who had fought in the name of Islam questioned the Islamic justification of monarchies and so, through terror bombings, their own product decided to challenge their power. The post effect of this religious adventure was not taken into account, which shows their shortsightedness while playing with religious sentiments.
Majority of the fighters who joined IS, Afghanistan jihad and Syrian war, were driven by the prevalent Jihadi education and architecture by Saudi funded madrasaas and organizations in South Asia and Middle East. IS also achieved fertile ground due to the presence of unemployed extremist minds during the existence of rigid Islamist environment and dictatorships in Syria and Iraq.
President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, King Salman and President Trump inaugurating Global Centre for Combatting Extremist Ideology in Riyadh, Picture Credits: AP
All banned outfit and religious political parties in Pakistan, including JUI-F and Jamaat-e-Islami, consider the US Invasion of Afghanistan as a core factor of instability in the Pak-Afghan region. The religious class is quick to pin the blame on three countries – America, India and Israel – for any conspiracy and/or adversity against or in Pakistan. On the other hand, KSA has deep economic and strategic relations with these counties.
In 2005, ex-President Musharraf hinted towards starting diplomatic ties with Israel but he had to face fierce verbal retaliation from pro-Saudi fundamentalists. In their protests, enthralled clerics explained the atrocities of Israel in Palestine. These elements are inefficacious to understand anfractuous foreign policy of their spiritual centre (Saudi Arabia).
The Israel diplomatic mission has started working in UAE while Saudi Arabia, through a strategic intelligence partnership, is working with Israel to counter Iran in the Middle East. In a meeting of Council of Foreign Relations in 2015, it was revealed that both countries have covert diplomatic ties and had discussed the possibilities to counter Iran’s nuclear ambitions, while in the past religious fanatics in Saudi Arabia pumped millions of dollars in Palestine to support Hamas and other organizations for jihad against Israel.
In Huffington Post, Samuel Ramani wrote, “Saudi monarchy’s domestic legitimacy depends on continuing Riyadh’s existential struggle against Iran; King Salman is likely to make similar diplomatic compromises to Israeli interests in the years to come”.
Israeli diplomat Dore Gold and Ex- Saudi General Anwar Eshki at CFR event 2015, Picture credit: The Atlantic
Pakistan condemned the military coup in Egypt and called for the immediate release of President Mursi, while General Al Sisi received $10 billion in aid from Saudi monarchs to strengthen the economy. In Pakistan, religious political parties, including Jamaat-e-Islami, consider Sisi a western backed dictator of secular government.
The trade volume between KSA and India in 2014 was $39 billion and during Modi’s 2016 tour to KSA, King Salman conferred PM Modi with Saudi’s highest Civilian award, King Abdul Aziz Sash.
In Pakistan, the masses believe that what Israel, US and India are doing in Palestine, Middle East and Kashmir is terrorism, while the Saudi foreign political approach does not feel the same, and their foreign policy toward these counties is more pragmatic and practical under the influence of national interest. In this situation, how could we be a part of the counter terrorism strategy in the leadership of KSA?
The Riyadh Declaration says that countries in the alliance shall promote coexistence and constructive tolerance between different countries, religions and cultures. While in the same declaration, they decided to firmly confront Iran for its subversive and destructive activities.
The only Gulf country that challenged the regional supremacy of Saudi Arabia through establishing economic ties with Iran and investment in Russia was Qatar. Qatar has now been sidelined as diplomatic ties have been severed with the nation. Ironically, Pakistan’s energy plans depend on Qatar for the import of LNG for domestic use and electricity generation.
So Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy approach is in misalliance with Pakistan. Pakistan has to get its legs out of this regional supremacy battle that is being promoted in the name of counter terrorism.
For the tolerance between religions, cultures and countries; the doctrine of using religion cum sectarianism as a proxy in some countries, while enjoying practical economic relations with others has to be halted immediately.