February 24, 2013

KARZAI LOOKS FOR RELIGIOUS SUPPORT TO END SUICIDE ATTACKS

 

 
 
Afghan President Hamid Karzai flew to Egypt from Oslo on 05 Feb 13 after signing a Strategic Partnership Agreement with Norway. He arrived in Cairo  to attend the two-day summit meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) that began on 06 Feb 13.The 12th summit of the 57-member OIC, commenced as leaders from 56 Islamic nations excluding Syria gathered in Cairo to push for a solution to the  Syrian crisis.
 
Karzai in his address to the OIC forum requested them to condemn terror and initiate firm and concerted action to prevent extremists from misusing Islam for their ends and tarnishing its image. He appealed to the delegates that "We must prevent our mosques and madrassas from being misused to propagate extremism and hatred. Terrorist groups must not find safe haven, sanctuary, funding or sponsorship in our countries". He went on to add that religious scholars and ulema across the Muslim world must effectively engage the extremists, who are undermining the ummah's progress and stability.
 
In this context, Karzai referred to the position taken by Sheikh Abdul Aziz, Mufti-i-Azam of Saudi Arabia who, according to a Saudi newspaper, had said that suicide attacks were prohibited in Islam. "He (a suicide bomber) claims to be a mujahid (holy warrior) in the name of Allah, but he is not. He is fighting in the name of the devil who has tempted him and convinced him" to carry out the attack,.
 
Afghan government spokesman quoted Karzai as arguing that mosques, seminaries and other sacred places were being blown up and young boys turned into human bombs in the name of Islam. Karzai also said that challenges facing the Muslim world require not only strong political consensus, but also sustained efforts to nurture human capital and bring about economic development.
 
The Afghan foreign minister Dr. Zalmai Rasoul echoed similar sentiments while addressing the foreign ministers' conference of 12th summit of the OIC. He described terrorism as being against Islamic values and religious teachings and welcomed the Fatwa or religious verdict of the Mufti-i-Azam of Saudi Arabia wherein he termed suicide attack as Haram or against Islamic teaching. Dr. Rasoul called on the religious scholars to unite against terrorism and those fighting against Islamic values.
 
Afghanistan along with Iraq has borne the brunt of suicide attacks. The country had never experienced a suicide attack until September 9, 2001, when the Northern Alliance Commander Ahmad Shah Masood was assassinated at Khwaja Bahauddin in Takhar Province, by two Arab al Qaeda suicide bombers. With that attack, Afghanistan was drawn into a new dimension of armed conflict, though suicide bombing came to the fore only after mid-2005.  According to partial data collected by the Institute for Conflict Management from open sources, there have been 736 suicide attacks in Afghanistan since September 9, 2001, killing at least 3,755 people. The number of suicide attacks in Afghanistan rose from one in 2001 (the bombing that killed Ahmad Shah Masood) to 736 by September 05, 2011. As per the data maintained by the Conflict Monitoring Center, Islamabad, militants carried out 102 suicide attacks in 2011 in Afghanistan resulting in 675 fatalities.
 
Afghanistan's intelligence agency the National Directorate of Security (NDS) recently detained a six member suicide bomber group in Kabul which was planning to conduct an attack even as the Trilateral Peace Talks got underway in London. Also apprehended were four coordinators of the recent attacks on the Kabul Traffic Police department and a suicide bomber with three companions. The agency claims that about 241 suicide bombers, planning to target government officials and parliamentary members, have been arrested in Afghanistan in the past two years. However, NDS believes that the Taliban does not have the capability to conduct complex suicide attacks and these attacks are organized by spy agencies (read Pakistan and Iran) and terrorists (Al-Qaeda and its affiliates), from the neighbourhood.
 
On July 27, 2011, the Mayor of Kandahar City, Ghulam Haider Hamidi was killed in a suicide attack. This followed an attack on July 13, when a suicide bomber blew himself up inside the Sara Mosque in Kandahar City, killing Mawlawi Hektmatullah Hekmat, the head of religious council of Kandahar and four others. The mayor and the head of the city's clerical council were both killed by turban bombers in what is believed to be the first use of the tactic. Turbans are fiercely-defended symbols of pride and identity in Afghanistan, making them difficult to search without offending the wearer. At that time President Karzai called upon the clerics to convince insurgents not to use turbans and other religious attire to carry out suicide bombings, not to target mosques and to make them aware that suicide was un-Islamic.
 
Karzai's efforts to curb suicide attacks received fresh impetus when in November 2012, Pakistan agreed to a proposal by the Afghan High Peace Council, to hold a conference of ulemas in Kabul in late January 2013. The conference was to specifically address the issue of suicide bombings and reiterate the finding that they are un-Islamic and not permitted by the Koran. However, on December 27, 2012 the Taliban issued a statement criticizing the proposed conference as an American ploy and in turn called on the Ulema -- especially those in Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Dar al-Uloom Deoband of India, Al-Azhar University, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia -- to support the mujahideen, as a matter of religious duty and to boycott the "fraudulent gathering." On January 09,2013  the Taliban leader Mullah Omar issued a four-page statement condemning the conference and warning that any scholar who attended would not only lose credibility but would be "answerable to God." 
 
The Taliban has a good reason to oppose, directly and indirectly, any attempt to rein in the use of suicide attacks, which  have been one of its most effective and feared weapons. Secondly, Taliban intends to retain its moral high ground in religious matters that comes with waging a jihad including imposition of Sharia in Afghanistan and justifying suicide attacks in the name of religion. Mullah Omar's statement is a strong indication that as far as suicide attacks are concerned there is going to be no let up in its employment.
 
Meanwhile the Afghan government in the face of Taliban threats and apparent Pakistani apathy has taken up the issue on an international platform in sheer desperation and hope that the collective religious wisdom across the borders might be heard by its people.

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