Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri’s Exclusive Interview with ARY OneWorld

(Mr. PJ Mir, the renowned anchor of ARY OneWorld’s weekly programme Q&A, conducted a special interview with Shaykh-ul-Islam Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, the founding leader and patron-in-chief of Minhaj-ul-Quran International, which was telecast on February 2, 2010. Given the importance and relevance of issues discussed, it is being reproduced here in English language for the readers)

Shaykh-ul-Islam Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri said that terrorism was being associated with Pakistan and Islam. It was not such a tree, which had grown up all of a sudden within days or weeks. The fact of the matter is that terrorism only started about 30 years ago in Pakistan, while its inception in other parts of the world has longer history and backgrounds. Extremism, religious conservatism and sectarianism provided the ground where the seed of terrorism was sown and nurtured. Unfortunately, Pakistan has a long history of being ruled by dictators with no tradition of democracy and representative rule. During the times when so-called unrepresentative and unelected governments were in power, they were more interested in finding ways and means to perpetuate and prolong their stay in power. This clique of power hungry despots felt no qualm of conscience when they destroyed institutions, defanged parliament, violated fundamental rights and suspended the Constitution.

These governments did two things. Firstly, this was the time when the Afghan war was underway to win over freedom from USSR and was being fought in the name of Jihad. Secondly, the cold war between USA and USSR had entered its final and decisive phase. In case of defeat of the USSR, the USA could realize the dream of its being the sole superpower of the world. Thus it put all of its energies, resources and efforts into defeating USSR. It armed the Jihadis with most modern weapons, gave them abundant resources and co-opted Pakistan to serve as ground zero in its fight against Godless Communism. The interests of both Afghanis and Americans overlapped, for in case of evacuation of the USSR from the region, the former could get freedom from the Communist occupation and the latter could eliminate the major challenge posed to its establishment as the only superpower of the world. With the fall of Communism, both were able to achieve their respective purposes. However, the US left Afghanistan within no time while those who had become habitual and hardened in the art of fighting were left there.

The people who were trained and armed up to their teeth for years on end did not have any other preoccupation except fighting. They were neither scholars, nor scientists, nor technologists, nor engineers nor professors. Nor were they trained in any other profession or skill. They were only warriors. They sought refuge in the Kashmir Jihad for some time but later on, when it was not possible for them to continue with it owing to change in regional and global climate, they permeated into the body politic of Pakistan. Meanwhile, domestically the undemocratic forces were in a need of such brainwashed ‘workforce’ that could advance its interests as its proxy. So such elements were raised and nurtured on political, sectarian, linguistic and religious grounds. Such terrorist elements would get foreign aid from different sources including India, whereas the intelligence agencies and international powers also used to sponsor them. These people kept on cutting one another’s throats in the name of Shiite-Sunni differences. They would spread mayhem and anarchy as and when needed in any part of the country. A time came when these elements were able to develop their own agenda and started standing up to their foreign masters and patrons. They were suppressed at that time with the result that they went underground. When the need arose again, they were packaged into their previous mold of terrorists. This is the game of ‘hide and seek’, which has continued to be played for last 25 years.

Members of these outfits, whatever be their identification i.e. Taliban and Al Qaeda etc, became terrorists, extremists and militants who came under one umbrella in the name of Jihad against the policies of the US and their client Muslim governments. Both democratic and military governments dealt with these elements on ad hoc basis. Some of them were even elevated to become members of parliament or hold other positions of esteem. This double game has been played with Pakistan, people of Pakistan and international community. General Musharraf turned out to be the master of double-speak and hypocrisy. He kept collecting resources from the international community to fight terrorist and extremist elements on one hand. It is a different matter that some of these funds were distributed among the very people for whose elimination they were collected. On the other, he and his government helped them to get elected to national assembly.

Shaykh-ul-Islam said that there was time when these terrorists were disorganized, scattered and working without any central command and control structure. Dealing with them was easier at that time. Now they have grown into Frankenstein monsters. Their elimination could still be achieved provided there was consensus and continuity in the national policy against terror. That is why, the military operation should continue until the elimination of their last man.

Secondly, what we need to be clear about once and for all is that whether we want to retain these sectarian, extremist and terrorist outfits or not. The people of Pakistan deserve to be brought of this political quagmire. There should be continuity in our policy against terrorism whether this is democratic or military government. The government should think that we have been robbed of our national honour, esteem and our independence has been bartered away for petty money and greed. We have compromised our national integrity, and sold out the peace and tranquility of our people. The government needs to have holistic policy against terror which gets fully implemented in letter and spirit.

Thirdly, revolutionary steps need to be taken for poverty alleviation and for making education inexpensive and easily available at the doorsteps of people. Education has become a business and a commercial activity. The private educational institutions are minting money through provision of very expensive education. When majority of poor people cannot afford to pay for this kind of education, it is likelier that they would send their children to religious seminaries where education, residence and food are available for free. Parents are least bothered about the kind of education being imparted to their children. They do not care whether they are becoming religious scholars or being indoctrinated terrorist ideology. A long-term policy is required which aims at bridging this widening gap, creating employment opportunities and promoting industry and commerce. Feudalism should be done away with through effective land reforms. There is a need to end concentration of wealth in a few hands. As long as the priorities of the ruling class do not change, this monster would also continue to stay.

The government would have to change the educational system to eliminate terrorism from the country. About one thousand years, there was no compartmentalization between religious and modern education as it used to be imparted at the same place. This was the educational system which produced Imam Ghazali, Farabi, Ibn-ul-Hathim, Jabir Bin Hayyan, Imam Suyuti, Fakhar-ud-Din Razi and Ashari. This was the chief attribute of the educational system that people would choose their field of specialization. They would either become jurist, scholar, intellectual or scientist etc. For last two hundred years, the imparting of religious education became the sole preserve of religious seminaries. Those graduating from these institutions have little exposure to the wider world and its issues. Their knowledge is limited to religious rituals. On the other hand, the teaching of modern sciences and education was assigned to universities and colleges. The graduates of these universities and students of modern subjects such as Sociology, Humanities, Social Sciences, Political Sciences, and Computer Sciences do not know anything about religion. These two conflicting extremes have been created who look upon one another with hatred. There is a need to combine both of these sciences so that the students should know both religious as well as modern sciences. A student of seminary is living a life of isolation. On the other hand, the seekers of modern knowledge are least exposed to modern interpretations and application of Islam. They are unaware of Islamic teachings vis-à-vis contemporary challenges in the domain of politics, economy and science. They think that Islam is becoming irrelevant to the modern-day issues due to their ignorance of religion.

Replying a question, Shaykh-ul-Islam Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri said that those killing innocent people in the name of Islam, Jihad and the Holy Quran were not even Muslims. Doing so was an act which violated the basic injunctions of Islam. The world ‘Islam’ has been derived from ‘Silm’, which means peace. The second word is Iman, which also means peace, security and tranquility. The believer is a person who is source of peace and security for others. Likewise, the world Ihsan also means to do good to all and sundry without any discrimination. Islam attaches so much importance to the sanctity of human life that it regards killing of one person as killing of an entire humanity. Quoting a fine Hadith, he said that destroying the entire universe is preferable to killing a Muslim. If the entire world kills even a single person, Allah Almighty declares to throw the entire world into hell for its killing of that person.

He said that Islam strictly forbids the killing of non-Muslims. You cannot kill foreigners, diplomats, monks, Christian preachers, the old, children, women, traders, industrialists and the sleeping in a war, nor can you destroy their crops, properties and animals. The Holy Prophet (saw) used to pass out these instructions as a policy which was followed religiously at that time. Therefore, how can those who claim to be a Muslim and contrarily are on the killing spree be Muslims? The terrorists of today represent the continuation of Khawarij (those out of fold of Islam). These elements got intellectually nurtured in the Caliphate of Hazrat Usman Ghani (ra) and took up the sword in the holy city of Madina. They got organized practically during the Caliphate of Hazrat Ali (ra) and made Haroora their capital. Their slogan at that time was that they wanted to impose the Divine Order, eliminate polytheism, and innovation from the world. They branded Hazrat Ali (ra) as infidel and fought against him. They would shed the human blood as water. Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri clarified that some people are under the misconception that Khawarij belonged to the age of Hazrat Ali. The Holy Prophet (saw) said that these people would continue to come in different forms till the Day of Judgment. This is the continuation of their movement which is underway even today. Their last group would join Dajjal on the Day of Judgment.

Shaykh-ul-Islam Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri said that there is a complete consensus among all the four schools of thought that even if the rulers suffer from major vices, still we cannot brand them as infidel. One is not allowed to take up arms against them unless they declare war against Islam and prevent the observance of Islamic rituals by use of force. Peaceful demonstrations can be held against their policies. The people who take up arms against the rulers and declare war on them by branding them infidels are Khawarij. Allama Ibne Tamiyya described these signs of Khawarij. In addition to it, a Hadith from Bukhari and Muslim states that the Holy Prophet (saw) said that terrorists would be tender/younger in age. They would attack and would be brainwashed. It would be easier to provoke them into violent action in the name of Paradise, Jihad and infidelity. Poverty and unemployment is also one of the major reasons. Such people think that they are already on their way to death in the absence of any job or means necessary for living. They then get ready to die and kill for the sake of Paradise and martyrdom. Such is the erroneous concept entertained by these elements. The Holy Prophet (saw) said that these people should be eliminated in such a manner as the Nations of Aad and Samood were destroyed. These are the people who have nothing to do with Islam.

In a reply to another question about interfaith harmony, Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri said that if the government got serious and started action for the complete elimination of terrorists, it would not be too late in the day. It is better late than never. In order to defeat terrorism as an idea and ideology, both interfaith and intra-faith dialogue should be initiated forthwith. He said that his religious edict, which has now become a voluminous book of 600 pages, would remove many misunderstandings between Islam and other religions. The bottom line of the Fatwa is that Islam is a religion that espouses human rights, democracy, tolerance and wellbeing of entire humanity without having anything to do with terrorism or extremism.

He said that literature produced between 16th and 20th century in Europe spewed venom against Islam as it got its inspiration from the Crusades. Then within a span of one hundred years, the thinking of people started becoming neutral with gradual decrease in anti-Islam propaganda. But the last twenty years or so have brought us back to the period of Crusades. This state of affairs can be reformed through our collective recourse to interfaith dialogue. Without such an inter-civilizational engagement, differences and dichotomies cannot be wished away. It is incumbent upon the highest office holders of the land to take the initiative in their hands. They need to reach out to the Westerners through different multilateral and bilateral forums like UN and European Union to clear their reservations in a bid to make them end their double policy against Islam and the Muslim countries. Such proactive efforts could become the basis for revival of Islam. Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) should also get into action mode forming a contact group consisting of Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Malaysia, Indonesia and other influential countries. A Commission of Eminent Persons should also be constituted under the OIC to spearhead the effort.

Likewise, dialogue also needs to be held within the country aimed at isolating and eliminating sectarian tendencies within different groups by evolving consensus on basic parameters. It is high time that the idols of sectarianism got crushed in the larger public good. The government of Pakistan needs to focus its energy and funds on this initiative of bringing about harmony within different strands of religious opinion. There is a need to promote a culture of mutual tolerance and harmony. The western world has not reached this stage of harmony and peace within and without in a day. There is a consistent effort and work of centuries behind this phenomenon. Education has also played significant role in making this possible. We also need similar educational system which brings about changes in our attitudes and moderates our extreme opinions. If such a policy of intra-faith dialogue is followed for good 50 years, it would eliminate all the existing hatreds and biases within this much time.

In a reply to another question about “what attitude the Pakistani people should have as nation and what is the future of Pakistan?” he said that we are playing little proactive and dynamic role as a nation today. The present-day circumstances Pakistan is mired in have been caused by political extremism and political terrorism. There is no culture of mutual coexistence and respect among the political actors of all hues. There is lack of governance everywhere simply because the government has not made policies in accordance with national imperatives and demands. Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri asked both the government and opposition to play their constructive role lest the country should get bogged down in more political crises and instability.

Reply a question about “how would Pakistan progress?” he mentioned four things. Firstly, the establishment should allow democracy a chance to flourish and function without any impediment or backdoor conspiracy. Secondly, poverty should be done away with. That also includes elimination of unemployment, dearness and the ills emerging from it. Thirdly, education based on science and technology should be promoted through massive budgetary allocations and fourthly, there should be social development through active participation of the youth, traders, agriculturalists, industrialists and women. Terrorists need to be reintegrated back into the fold of society through reform and indoctrination of correct religious teachings. He said that our vision about democracy was very limited and that there was no real democracy in the country. We confine democracy to the electoral exercise only. Had that been the case, he said that he would not have left politics. He said that parliament was also toothless and did not have any powers to set the direction of the state and society in the right direction. He said that if the parliament had any power and pro-people agenda, he would not have resigned from his seat in the National Assembly. He said that democracy was more a façade in the country than a reality.

Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri said that we would have to attain social and economic democracy before the democratic elections. This complete process would have to be accomplished in phases, gradually. He said that one the one hand, people were committing suicide due to hunger and poverty without ever entertaining any luxury to take their affairs in their hands through democratic exercise, those who had turned politics into business were spending millions of rupees on elections to get elected on the other. This dichotomy is at the heart of lack of real democracy in Pakistan. He said that practically everyone who earns his living through honest means was disqualified to contest elections because he simply could not afford lavish spending on elections and subsequent jockeying for power. He said that about 90% people of the country were disenfranchised with real powers remaining in the hands of only 10% or so.

He said that our educated classes like doctors, engineers etc could not take part in elections. Contrary to this, the ministers in other countries hold PhD degrees in their respective fields. Only the moneyed classes can contest and reach the policy-making positions in the country. He said that it had been more than two years since the mantra was being repeated over and over that the 17th Amendment and 58 2(b) would be done away with and parliament would be made powerful by striking balance in the division of powers. No one asks when the rulers would walk their talk. He said that we are unfortunate in the sense that we ape Americans in a negative way but are not ready to take a leaf from their system. The American political system has been so structured along the idea of Separation of Powers among the pillars of the state that the President of the USA, a powerful man in his own right, cannot appoint a judge of the Supreme Court without approval of the Congress. Likewise, the American Supreme Court possesses the power of Judicial Review and can strike down any presidential order or legislative enactment if found contrary to the provisions of the American Constitution.

Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri deplored the quality and standard of bureaucracy in the country, saying that the bureaucrats were beholden more to their political masters than to discharging their duties in an honest and impartial manner. The sugar and wheat crisis were there because those benefiting from them were holding policy-making positions. He emphasized the need to integrate women into the national mainstream for national development and progress. The country would not be able to move forward unless we made our women active members of society in accordance with Islamic injunctions.

Answering a question about Pakistan’s foreign policy, Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri said that the country’s foreign policy became so uni-focal in the decade of 1950s that it became a victim of bloc politics. The American foreign policy is driven by the principle and primacy of its interests. It is neither a permanent friend nor a foe of any country. Their friendship is marked by their interests. As long as these interests continue to be served and protected, the friendship would stay intact or vice versa. Pakistan’s position has been reduced to a football which continues to get kicked from all around in the international politics. It never factored its national interests into foreign policy making. He said that every foreign policy had two facets; regional and international. In the domain of international relations, Pakistan has been a rudderless ship which has been caught in unchartered waters. This is so because our ruling elite think that without financial assistance from foreign countries, we cannot survive. Our defence would fail and our economy would crumble. This is the abnormality or weakness which has made our foreign policy reactive and apologetic. A foreign policy so worked out under the light of these guiding principles cannot protect the national integrity of the country. We have laid down arms thinking that we are too weak to survive in the comity of the nations without international assistance forthcoming.

We need to bring about fundamental change in our thinking processes. Our interests should define our foreign policy on partnership basis. It is high time that Pakistan reviewed its foreign policy. The US is in dire straits in the Afghan imbroglio and is thinking of ways and means to get out of this quagmire. This provides Pakistan with much needed breathing space to review its options and rethink its foreign policy. But we need vision and awareness for this. Regionally, our foreign policy is premised on anti-India pivot. Unless we rid ourselves of enmity syndrome, we cannot forge lasting partnerships and boost regional economic groupings. We need to partner with China and Iran to strengthen ourselves economically and politically. Instead of getting bogged down into blame game, we should focus on education, industry and other important matters which are so important for our national progress.

Pakistan should also improve its relationship with the Muslim world and institutionalize it in economic jargon. It should play active role in the affairs of the OIC to make it a dynamic organization capable of meeting the multiple challenges. It should be remodeled on the lines of the European Union. The Muslim Umma should create trade zones, enhance cooperation in the field of economy, banking, science and technology etc. We should establish joint fund and sing MoUs to exchange experiences to accelerate the efforts for development. We need to think of a long-term policy duly informed by input of researchers, think thanks and intellectuals. The European countries have research centres to assist policy making but we in Pakistan do not have such culture. Our parliamentarians do not take interest in such ventures because they know that the policy would be made not the forum of parliament but elsewhere. Their job is to beat desks which they do beautifully.

There is a need to reform Pakistan’s foreign policy in these four areas to meet the challenges proactively. Our foreign policy also needs performance audit that should determine as to where we stand today and where we should be ten years down the line. We need to think out of box. If we start working on these lines, there is no reason why we cannot regain our lost glory. The Pakistani people are second to none in terms of competence, capability and vision. The problem is that their talent is not being used in a positive manner. We need to act and act now, for failure is not an option any more.