In the post September 11th scenario the world has been turned on its head. Once, close friends have become open foes. Taleban who were a creation and brain child of Pakistani Intelligence services (ISI) were betrayed and classed as terrorists by their founding fathers. Mullah Zaeef the Foreign Minister of the Taleban regime was captured, shaved and handed over to the Americans by the brotherly Pakistani government. Taleban who had massacred and butchered thousands of Shias in Afghanistan during their reign of terror have retreated to the safety of caves and mountains following in the foot steps of their forefathers.
The regime of Saddam Hussain who had more Shia blood on its hands then any other government in this century was finally destroyed and brought to its knees by the American might. Saddam Hussain, a tyrant and a dictator who brought fear and death to his own people was captured from a little hole in the ground. Despite all the claims of bravery, Saddam Hussain did not offer any resistance to the American forces and instead surrendered without a fight. He was humiliated and paraded in the world media as a coward and a broken man.
The collapse of Taleban and Saddam regime have impacted the Shias more than any other group of people in this world. The Shias of Afghanistan and Iraq are finally free to practise and follow their religion without the fear of being killed or put in jail. The Shias all over the world have hopes and dreams of a better future where they can live in peace and harmony and rebuild their shattered lives. The massive gatherings of Chelum and Ashoora in Karbala are a testimony to the freedom enjoyed by the Iraqis at the moment.
Similarly there have been big muharram processions and majalises all over Afghanistan including Khandahar (the ideological capital of Taleban) and many parts of Southern Afghanistan which were the bastion of Taleban power. The Pakistani Shias were also delighted to see the back of Taleban who had given shelter and refuge to the terrorists of Sipha-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) and Lashkar-e-Jangvi (LJ). These two organisations are involved in the killings of hundreds of Shia professionals in Pakistan.
The two most repressive governments from the Shia point of view i.e. the government of Taleban and the regime of Saddam Hussain have disappeared and the state sponsor killings and massacres of the Shias have come to an end in both Afghanistan and Iraq. However a new evil in the form of Wahabbi sponsored terrorism has become the biggest threat and challenge to the lives of ordinary Shias especially in Iraq and Pakistan. The deadly suicide attacks on Ashoora in Karbala and Khadmiya, the massacre of Shias on the same day in Quetta Pakistan, and the subsequent massacre of Shias in Karachi Imambargahs are a testimony to the distorted ideology of Wahabbism.
Today our world has become a global village. Internet, media and economy are all global. There is no country, nation or group of people who can live and survive in isolation. Events which take place in one country affect the lives of people in another. Unfortunately in today's world terrorism has also become a global phenomenon which affects the lives of everybody in this world. The whole world knows that the only truly global terrorist organisation is Al-Qaeda which has its sympathisers and supporters in almost every country of the world. The aim of Al-Qaeda is pretty straight forward. They want to establish a global so-called Islamic state stretching all the way from North Africa to the shores of Europe.
This so-called Islamic state would obviously be based on the narrow and rigid interpretation of Salafi and Wahabbi doctrine. In this global Islamic state there would be no room for the Shias. We have already witnessed the glimpses of this Islamic state under the regime of Taleban. The lives, property and women of Shia in Afghanistan were a commodity for the Taleban and Al-Qaeda. Hundreds of young Shia girls were taken as slaves (Kaneez) by Taleban and their Jihadi masters. The lives of the Shias were worth less than the lives of astray dogs on the streets of Kabul. It is estimated that almost 60,000 Shias were butchered during the reign of Taleban.
Al-Qaeda have identified three prime enemies in their mission to form this global Islamic state:
1- Shias of the world
2- Muslim rulers
3- The West, specially America
In this article we will focus on the strategy and policies that we as Shias should adopt to face off this threat and challenge from Al-Qaeda and its supporters.
First of all we have to understand how Al-Qaeda works. Al-Qaeda is funded and supported by many rich Saudi and Arab Sheikhs through a network of charities which is spread all over the world. In every country Al-Qaeda works with local groups which adhere to its ideology and aims. In Afghanistan it was the Taleban, in Iraq its Zarqawi's group, in Pakistan its Sipha-e-Sahaba, Lashkar-e-Jangvi, Jaish-e-Mohammed and many other jihadi outfits.
We will concentrate on two countries where Shias have become a prime target for Al-Qaeda.
Iraq is an ancient country and Shias and Sunnis have lived in this part of the world for centuries. In the last 30 years Saddam Hussain ruled Iraq with an iron fist. Saddam had a particular dislike for the Shia and butchered hundreds and thousands of them in his long and brutal rule. The discovery of mass graves all over Iraq is a testimony to his inhumane legacy which was beyond belief.
After the downfall of Saddam's regime Shias were hoping for a change of fortune but another evil and deadly enemy in the form of Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi has surfaced to deny the Shias a bright future in Iraq. Zarqawai is Jordanian by birth, he with other Jordanians and Arabs came to Pakistan in 1980 to join the jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan. During Afghan jihad Zarqawi met several members of Sipha-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) and was inspired by their anti-Shia ideology. He later joined Sipha-e-Sahaba (SSP) and became a close friend and associate of Riaz Basra who headed the military wing of Sipha-e-Sahaba (SSP) known as Lashkar-e-Jangvi (LJ). Zarqawi alongside Basra participated in several Shia massacres in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran.
On June 20 1994 Ramzi Yusuf (now in American custody) along side Al-Zarqawi planted a bomb in the Holy city of Mashad in Iran which resulted in the deaths of more than 100 innocent Shias. Zarqawi's anti-Shia grooming began in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Zarqawi wrote a letter outlining his strategy for Iraq, his letter was found on a computer disk after U.S. forces arrested Hassan Ghul, an Al-Qaeda courier in northern Iraq. Hassan Ghul is a Pakistani linked to various jihadi groups and Sipha-e-Sahaba (SSP). Following are some extracts from Zarqawi's letter which can be seen in full here.
“[They are (Shias)] the insurmountable obstacle, the lurking snake, the crafty and malicious scorpion, the spying enemy, and the penetrating venom”
“The unhurried observer and inquiring onlooker will realize that Shi'ism is the looming danger and the true challenge. They are the enemy. Beware of them. Fight them. By God, they lie”
“Shi'ism is a religion that has nothing in common with Islam”
“The danger from the Shi'a, however, is greater and their damage is worse and more destructive to the [Islamic] nation than the Americans”
“I come back and again say that the only solution is for us to strike the religious, military, and other cadres among the Shi'a with blow after blow until they bend to the Sunnis”
“Those [Shi'a] are the most cowardly of God's creatures and that killing their leaders will only increase their weakness and cowardice, since with the death of one of their leaders the sect dies with him”
“As for the Shi'a, we will hurt them, God willing, through martyrdom operations and car bombs”
From the above extracts it is clear what Al-Qaeda feels and thinks about the Shias. It considers Shias as a bigger danger and threat than the Americans. It wants to strike blow after blow against the Shias in the hope that they in turn will attack the Sunni muslims of Iraq and start a sectarian war. The Iraqi Shias are far too sensible to fall in such traps. They realize that it is not the Sunni brothers who are attacking them in Najaf and Karbala but it is the foreign terrorists and jihadis who are responsible for the carnage of Karbala and Najaf.
During the last Hajj many extremists and jihadis from Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, Egypt, Jordan and many other muslim countries went to Saudi Arabia disguised as pilgrims. There they linked up with various Salafi and Wahabbi jihadi groups of Saudi Arabia and travelled to Iraq across the border to wage the jihad against the Americans and their age old enemy the Shias. The suicide bombings of Karbala and Khadmiya were perpetuated by these foreign fighters and not by the former Bathists.
The Najaf police chief Gen Ghalib Al-Jazairi after months of investigation finally confirmed that it was an Al-Qaeda cell headed by a Libyan who carried out the bombing of Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf. This resulted in the martyrdom of Ayatollah Baqir-Al-Hakeem and over one hundred other worshippers. The Libyan has been named as Haidar Waw Shnawa who has also accepted the responsibility for the Ashoora bombings in Karbala and Khadmyya.
Al-Qaeda wants maximum instability in Iraq. The daily suicide car and truck bombs against the Iraqi police, Iraqi army, Iraqi politicians and Iraqi leaders is done to destabilise the country as much as possible and terrorise its people. The killing of Izzedine Salim was one such incident. He was a great Iraqi leader who had vision for his people and his country and wanted to bring Iraq back into the 21st century. He wanted prosperity and justice for all Iraqis but in the eyes of Al-Qaeda this was his biggest crime. Al-Qaeda also has a vision for Iraq, it wants Iraq to become another Afghanistan where Shia, Sunni and Kurds are at each others throat. Lets hope the Iraqis can see this plot of Al-Qaeda and through unity and brotherhood defeat this menace.
After decades there is an opportunity in Iraq to have the first majority Arab Shia government and this opportunity must not be wasted. Syria and Lebanon already have pro Shia governments. Once Iraq stabilizes, and elections are held and democracy returns to Iraq, the Shia being the majority will be at the helms of power. We are looking at a Shia state stretching from the Persian Gulf (Iran) all the way up to the Mediterranean (Lebanon). This in fact is the biggest challenge and threat to Al-Qaeda and they are well aware of this as Zarqawi mentioned in his letter.
“As the days pass, their hopes are growing that they will establish a Shi'i state stretching from Iran through Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon and ending in the Cardboard Kingdom of the Gulf”
The Salafis and the Wahabbis regard Shiaism as a cancer in the muslim ummah. For decades the Salafis and the Wahabbis have been preaching their anti-Shia message, they have been writing books, giving lectures and warning the muslims about the beliefs and the practices of Shia Islam. The Shias are considered ahl-e-bida and apostates by the Wahabbis. They can never accept the rise of the Shia to power in any country of the world, let alone in their own backyard (the middle east). Things aren't going according to plan for the Salafis, a Shia state stretching from Iran to Lebanon is not part of the script.
This is the reason why we have daily car bombs, truck bombs, and suicide attacks in Iraq. They have no choice but to destabilize Iraq. Regardless of what we think about the American invasion of Iraq, we must work with the coalition forces to bring peace and stability to Iraq. America has over 130,000 troops in Iraq, if America pulls out all of its troops today then Iraq would become the next Afghanistan and this would directly benefit Zarqawi and his misguided jihadis. On the other hand if Iraq stabilizes and starts producing oil to its full capacity then it would become one of the richest and the most prosperous country in the whole of middle east.
It would be far more wise for Ulema like Moqtad-as-Sadar to take into account the broader Shia interest in Iraq before making a decision to challenge the Americans. Moqtada-as-Sadar must realize that before the American invasion of Iraq there was no Mehdi army and Sadar city used to be called the Saddam city. It was only after America over threw Saddam that Shias were able to rename Saddam city to Sadar city and Moqtada-as-Sadar was able to raise the Mehdi army into a proper malitia.
Imagine if Moqtada-as-Sadar and his Mehdi army would have challenged Saddam's regime! There is no doubt that Saddam's republican guards would not only kill every single member of Mehdi army including Moqtada-as-Sadar but would have also tortured, jailed and killed their family members too. This new found freedom that the Shias have under the American led government must not be misused.
Instead of using the Mehdi army to rebel against the Americans it would be far more sensible for Moqtada-as-Sadar to persuade his young followers to join the police force, security services and the army of Iraq. This would not only enable these young unemployed Shias to get a job but would also allow them to defend their country against the Wahabbi inspired insurgency.
Many analysts and experts among the Muslims claim that Iraq is under American occupation. They fail to realise that a country can only be occupied if it was free in the first place. Iraq was under Saddam and Bathist occupation for decades where no Iraqi citizen had any rights whatsoever. Only Bath party workers and Saddam's chorines enjoyed a life of unprecedented luxury whereas everybody else in the country suffered especially the Shia majority. Prior to the American invasion of Iraq there were no political parties in Iraq except the Bath party, there were no elections either local or national ever held in Iraq during the 30 years of Saddam's rule.
Nobody in the country was allowed to say a word against Saddam and his regime and if anybody did then they were tortured, jailed or executed. The killing of Baqar-as-Sadar, the gassing of Kurds in Halabja and the poisoning of the marshlands in the south were some of the tactics used by Sddam to subdue his political rivals and crush any opposition to his rule in the country.
It is utter rubbish to suggest that some how Iraq was a free country and now it is under occupation. Iraq was never free, at least now the people of Iraq enjoy freedoms which they could not even dream off. There are hundreds of political parties in Iraq now, there is freedom of expression, there is freedom of press, people can protest against the government and there will be elections where everybody can participate if they choose to. This infact is the reality of Iraq and many Muslims choose to ignore this due to their hatred for the Americans.
Finally I would like to say that there is a chance to rebuild and reconstruct Iraq and to end the discrimination and sufferings against the Shias once and for all. Iraqis have suffered immensely under Saddam specially the Shia and it would be a tragedy if the Shias fail to avail this golden opportunity to get their fair share in Iraq's future.
Pakistan was created in 1947 as a state for the Muslims of India. The founding fathers of Pakistan had a very different vision for this new state then the one promoted by many religious organisations operating in the country today. In Pakistan there has never been any Shia Sunni conflict at the people's level and this is the case even now. Both Shias and Sunnis have lived peacefully in the subcontinent for centuries.
However, the peace and tranquillity of Pakistan was shattered by two extraordinary events which took place in the neighbouring countries of Iran and Afghanistan. One of these events was the Islamic revolution of Iran and the other one was the Russian invasion of Afghanistan.
Iran is a majority Shia country. The Iranian revolution although Shia in nature was not against the Sunnis. The revolution was against the Shah of Iran who himself was Shia.
The leader of the Iranian revolution Ayatollah Khomeni wanted to unite all the Muslims to form a joint strategy against Israel and America. However, this is not how General Zia-ul-Haq (a fanatical Deobandi) and his Saudi friends (Wahabbi mullahs) saw it. To them Iran was exporting its Shiaism to Pakistan, a majority Sunni country through the Shia minority living there. General Zia and his Saudi friends analyzed and pondered over this new threat from Iran extensively.
They decided to form a strategy to counter this supposedly new challenge form Iran by forming an organisation called Anjuman-e-Sipha-e-Sahaba. Off all the things which are common between Shias and Sunnis for example namaz (salah), Roza (fast), Hajj, Zakat, Quran etc they choose to ignore it all and only focused on Sahaba. Since Sahaba is one issue where there are significant differences between Shias and Sunnis.
Anjuman-e-Sipha-e-Sahaba later to be called Sipha-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) used the issue of Sahaba to justify attacks against the Shias and declared them Kafir (non muslims). This was done to keep Sunnis away from Shiaism and in turn away from the Iranian revolution too. The fatwas and the war of words against the Shias soon turned violent. Shia doctors, Shia lawyers, Shia Ulema and Shia mosques all became a legitimate target for the cadres of SSP.
The violent campaign against the Shias got an unprecedented boost from the Afghan conflict. Even before the Taleban came to power SSP established links with various extremist groups operating in Afghanistan and got its men trained in the use of weaponry and explosives. After the rise of Taleban Afghanistan became their second home and they forged strong ties with both Taleban and Al-Qaeda who were both extremely anti-Shia. SSP and LJ would commit crimes against the Shia community in Pakistan and take refuge with their brothers in Afghanistan. Their sanctuaries were finally destroyed by the American invasion. This meant that many of the hardcore fighters of SSP and LJ have returned back home and are hiding in the major cities and towns of Pakistan.
The Shias of Pakistan have suffered enough at the hands of SSP. A generation of Shia doctors, lawyers, ulema and professionals have been assassinated by the terrorists of SSP. And more recently the new menace of suicide bombings have compounded the sufferings of the Shia nation in Pakistan. Its about time we form a strategy to counter this ruthless group of thugs and save the Shias in Pakistan from further carnage.
I suggest a two pronged strategy:
(a) Shias must Infiltrate SSP to gather intelligence
The suicide bombings of Shia mosques and Imambarghas is the latest tactics used by SSP to kill and injure as many Shias as possible in one hit. Even developed countries like Israel and America who have state of the art technology are unable to fully defend themselves against suicide bombings. With thousands of Shia mosques scattered all over Pakistan there is very little chance that we can secure every single one of them against such organised acts of terrorism. The only way to prevent suicide bombings is through intelligence gathering of the enemy or in other words we have to infiltrate SSP and keep an eye on their activities.
This should ideally be the work of countries intelligence agencies. Unfortunately Pakistan being a third world country, its intelligence agencies are not as efficient or well paid as they should be and often lack the professionalism and discipline needed to nab the terrorists. Hence the honours is on us to do the work of the intelligence agencies and save ourselves from these inhumane acts of terrorism.
A few Shias in every city, town and village would have to join and become part of SSP. These Shias would have to visit and pray in mosques controlled by SSP, attend their meetings and gatherings and pretend to be inspired by the ideology of Haq Nawaz Jhangvi. These Shias would effectively be working as spies on behalf of the community. Once these Shias have gained the trust and the confidence of the local SSP activists it would be easy to find out what these guys are up to.
The leadership of SSP and LJ uses its local activists as informers against the Shia community of the area. These SSP activists would keep track of all the local Shia mosques, people who regularly visit the mosque, security arrangements in the mosque and any local Shias who are actively working for the community. These SSP agents would simply pass all the information to their central leadership who would decide which Shia mosque to target or which Shia leader in the area should be eliminated.
If some of our brothers join and infiltrated SSP or LJ then we can keep track of their activities and plans. This would allow us to pre-empt any attacks which are eminent or are in the pipeline. SSP has stalked and harassed the Shia community for decades in Pakistan and its about time we do the same by infiltrating their organisation and acting as informers. This is the only way to fight SSP. I really don't see any other way of preventing suicide bombings except through intelligence gathering on the activities of SSP and LJ.
General Musharraf is America's linchpin in its war on terror against Taleban and Al-Qaeda. The Pakistani army and its security services are collaborating with the American intelligence to nab the terrorists of Al-Qaeda and Taleban. We can easily use the war on terror in our favour. As far as the West is concerned Taleban, Al-Qaeda, SSP and LJ are all one. This indeed is true for us too, since all these groups share the same anti-Shia ideology and have killed hundreds and thousands of Shias one way or the other.
Any intelligence that we gather on SSP or LJ can be simply passed to the Pakistani security agencies who are closely working with the Americans. In this way we neither have to kill, attack, injure or hurt anybody. All we are doing is passing the information and the rest is done by the agencies themselves. This is exactly what the Wahabbis did after the Iranian revolution, they collaborated with the Americans to fight Shiaism in every corner of the globe. Its time we treat them with their own medicine!
(b) Develop a pragmatic approach towards America
Since the Iranian revolution of 1979 some Shia organisations like Imamia Students Organisation (ISO) and Tehrik-e-Jaferria Pakistan (TJP) have been advocating an extremely anti American line in Pakistan. Any incidents of Shia killings in Pakistan become a justification for anti-American rallies, protests, speeches and slogans. We are told that the killings of the Shia is a Jewish-American conspiracy to harm the muslim unity. America is singled out as the great satan which wants muslims to be divided so that they cannot challenge the American might. Fiery anti-American speeches are delivered and Israeli and American flags are burned and trampled over to show our hatred for America and Israel.
These conspiracy theories may have had some truth in eighties and the early nineties at the peak of Iranian revolution but the reality could not be more different now. All those forces (the Wahabbis of Saudi Arabia and the Deobandis of SSP) which conspired against the Shias in Pakistan have become America's number one enemy after September 11th. America is now hunting down Taleban and the Wahabbis of Al-Qaeda in every corner of the globe. As America has shifted its foreign policy towards our worst enemies it would only be logical if we also reconsider our position towards the American establishment.
Even organisations like ISO and TJP must accept the reality that America is no longer conspiring with the Wahabbis to kill the Shia in Pakistan or elsewhere. However Wahabbis and their jihadi prodigies are conspiring to kill American citizens and ordinary Shias all over the world. Its about time we drop the slogan of 'Death to America' once and for all. We haven't achieved anything through such hollow slogans. The only people who have faced death and destruction in the last 25 years since the Iranian revolution have been the Shias of the world. On the other hand America has become the sole super power of the world after the collapse of the Soviet Union so our slogan of 'Death to America' has had absolutely no effect!
In Pakistan we are unable to defend ourselves even against SSP who have killed hundreds and hundreds of Shias. When our situation is so bleak then what right do we have of challenging the biggest super power in the world! We can't even bring death to SSP but we are hoping to bring death to the Americans! We should stop living in this Utopia and face the reality. Its time we close the foreign front against America and concentrate on the local enemy whose sole aim is the destruction of the Shias in Pakistan.
In the end I would like to say that Shias all over the globe are sitting at a critical juncture especially in Iraq. The policies and strategies we adopt today will shape our future for generations to come. We must make rational, realistic and pragmatic decisions which ensures a bright future for our children and helps Shiaism flourish in the world. Shias have suffered throughout history not at the hands of non muslims but unfortunately at the hands of fellow muslims.
The dynasties of Banu-Ummayah and Banu Abbas had massacred thousands and thousands of Shias in their quest for power. The fatwas of Ibn-Taymiyya against the Shias are over seven centuries old. The Wahabbis and the Salafis of today regard him as one of the greatest scholars of all time. Our enmity with the Salaf goes back many centuries.
America on the other hand has been a super power only in the last 50 years or so. America has no historical rivalry with the Shias. America is a materialistic power which has no permanent friends or enemies in this world. It does not care about Shia, Sunni, Wahabbi, Salafi, Sufi etc. Like any other country America only cares about its national and foreign interests.
However in the post September 11th scenario the American foreign policy for whatever reason has directly benefited the Shias specially in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan (and this is an undeniable fact!). If we use our heads and follow a sensible policy then we can change the course of history in our favour and if we don't then history will never forgive us
May Allah protect the lives and honour of the followers of Ahl-e-Bayat (A.S) and grant them victory.