After the independence of Pakistan in 1947, the JI advanced its aim of declaring Pakistan an Islamic state with a religiously-endorsed constitution. There is a popular misconception that Maududi and his JI were against the creation of Pakistan: actually, he was in favour of a separate homeland for Muslims, but objected strongly to Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the Muslim League’s vision and plan of action for Pakistan.
While the JI projects itself as a pan-Islamic movement rather than a political party, this has not stopped it from taking part in most of the general elections in Pakistan, irrespective of not being able to garner a significant vote share. On most occasions, the party takes antagonistic positions on certain issues, such as human rights in general and women’s rights in particular, in comparison to most other parties. The JI, while being in disagreement with popular Western ideals of democracy, goes on to take part in elections and the practice they consider as a means to obtaining people’s support to get into the circles of power in Pakistan.
The JI demands change not only in Pakistan but also in the entire Muslim world, which is to unite and rise again. Even the JI’s founder, Sayyid Abul Aala Maududi, presented this ideal with examples of the fall of Muslim empires in Spain and in the Indian subcontinent. The JI’s founder wanted the party to always follow a peaceful path and to practice non-violent activism for achieving desired goals. However, the non-violent path was not followed for long, as in the 1980s the JI drifted towards the Pakistani military’s agenda of exploiting jihad (holy war) to fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan. That was the time when their ideology got tainted by fundamentalism, with demands for sacrifices in the name of the religion of Islam.
With slogans of people’s power, human rights, poverty alleviation, security of people and communities, etc. the right-wing extremists in Pakistan still openly practice means such as subversion and violence to satisfy their demands. If right-wing groups have been advocating human rights, then the scope of the advocacy campaign has been limited to the rights of Muslims or the people belonging to their ethnicity. In the 1950s, the JI and orthodox Sunni Islamists demanded exclusion of Ahmadiyas from Islam. The state was reluctant to make this move, which caused riots followed by attacks on Ahmadiya mosques and members. The JI’s nationalism is camouflaged under the party’s ideologies and operations. It is somewhat similar to Pervez Musharraf ’s famous slogan, ‘Sab se pehlay…Pakistan’ (‘First of all…Pakistan’), but the JI’s intention and access is globalized with affiliations with similar pan-Islamic movements in other parts of the world.
Islamic nationalism in Pakistan emerged out of the insecure pre-Partition atmosphere, when the Muslim League had demanded a separate homeland for the Muslims of the subcontinent. The JI, particularly Maududi, was sceptical of the fact that the Muslim League or Congress Party represented the Muslims. The idea of the JI was initially anti-Muslim League and anti-Congress, and in the post-Partition period the party slowly moved from anti-India to anti-West, and currently anti-US as well as against the so-called Jewish lobby. However, over the course of the past six decades, the JI has been practising street power with slogans in resistance to democratic leaders, such as Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and in recent times opposing the dictatorship of Musharraf. Overall, the JI was denouncing the secularism of Bhutto and the pro-West ‘enlightened moderation’ of Musharraf.
The JI labels its rivals as ‘traitors’, ‘CIA agents’, ‘Indian agents’, ‘Israeli agents’, or simply as ‘infidels’. In fact, it seems as if such aggressive remarks help in bringing in more people on the streets to add to the JI’s power. A significant portion of the JI’s strength comes from the party’s students’ wings, particularly the Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT). The IJT is widespread, authoritative, and violent, and knows nothing but to preach their radical version of Islam and build the JI’s strength. Nevertheless, the IJT has been the success behind the street power of the party.
ABM Nasir, Ph.D.
In Bangladesh, Jamaat-e-Islami is the reincarnation of the Fascists of Italy and the Nazis of Germany. Its antipathy like that of Karl Ruegar toward democracy and liberty, its penchant for organised violence similar to those of Black Shirts and Gestapo, and its discriminatory principles against religious minorities like that of Nazis are causes for serious concern. The reasons that should have prohibited Karl Ruegar from participating in the democratic process equally apply to Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh. At least four compelling reasons would justify why Jamaat must be rejected from participating in the democratic process. These reasons are as follows.
First, Jamaat-e-Islami doesn’t believe in democracy or any form of godless materialism. The excerpt ‘Muslims who form the overwhelming majority will not tolerate secularism, socialism, capitalism or godless materialism’ (Abbas Ali Khan, Jamaat-e-Islami’s views on defence of Bangladesh, p4) bears testimony to this effect. A political party or any organization which doesn’t believe in democracy must be cast out from the democratic process.
Second, Jamaat’s view on political participation is discriminatory. Once ascended to political power, Jamaat will not hesitate to restrict or even deny the rights of religious minorities and women, thereby degrading their status to second-class citizens. This fear is rightly justified when one reads the following passage extracted from the article ‘An Introduction to the Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh’. The passage reads: ‘Any sane and adult person can become a Member of the Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh if he or she accepts the basic creed of the Jamaat-e-Islami as his or her own creed, accepts the aims and objects of the Jamaat-e-Islami as his or her own aims and objects, pledges to fulfil the demands of the constitution of the Jamaat-e-Islami, performs the obligatory duties ordained by Islam’ (An Introduction to Jamaat-e-Islami; Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami). Jamaat’s creed being the belief in Islam, for any non-Muslim aspiring to hold political office under Jamaat’s hegemony must submit to the creed of Jamaat-e-Islami. Such membership criterion is discriminatory, exclusive and unconstitutional. Any form of forced exclusion is anti-democratic. And, by requiring individuals to submit to the belief of any particular religion to be eligible to participate in the political process is against the country’s constitution. Therefore, Jamaat is working against the constitution and must not be allowed to participate in the political process.
Third, Jamaat’s ultra-nationalistic view is anti-democratic and is a threat to the regional peace and stability. Jamaat’s ultra-nationalistic view, similar to those of Karl Ruegar, Mussolini and Hitler, is reflected in the statement ‘the psychology of the defence forces in Bangladesh must be anti-Indian’ (Abbas Ali Khan, Jamaat-e-Islami’s views on defence of Bangladesh, p4). Such jingoistic attitude is a serious threat to the regional peace and stability of South Asia.
Fourth, in 1971, Jamaat not only opposed to the creation of Bangladesh, but it collaborated with the Pakistani army in perpetrating one of the worst genocides in the world history. Jamaat’s crime against humanity led to the death of three million civilians and **** of more than 200,000 women and destruction of billions of dollars worth of properties. It’s leadership including Golam Azam, Motiur Rahman Nizami, Ali Ahsan Mujahidi, Kamaruzzam, Delawar Hossain Saidi have never been tried in the court of law for committing such a heinous crime. Nor have they ever apologised for their opposition to the creation of Bangladesh. In contrast, they are thriving and constantly resorting to shenanigans to rub their dirty and bloody hands off their complicity in the crime against humanity and treacherous acts against the creation of Bangladesh. On October 28, 2006, the way few hundred armed Jamaat cadres stood up against thousands of angry opposition activists can be reminiscent of the way a few members of the black shirts used to dismantle political rallies during the Fascist rule in Italy. The thousands of rounds of bullets that came out of the guns of Jamaat cadres on that day indicates how ferocious Jamaat’s foot soldiers can get, even today, to protect their fervent belief from being strolled or discredited.
All these indicate that hatemongering, discrimination, and violence have always been the principle strategies of Jamaat’s politics to rise to political office. A political party whose strategy and politics is based on such principles is anti-democratic and must be rejected.If we are to learn any lessons from the consequences of the Fascist and Nazi rules, then, to protect democracy and liberty, we must stop the recurrence of the same in Bangladesh. We must constantly remind citizens of the country that Bangladesh is born out of the sacrifice of millions. Those who led the bleeding of innocent civilians, raping of women must be tried: we must compel the government to bring the collaborators to justice. The future of liberty, democracy, peace and stability in Bangladesh largely depends on the trial of the perpetrators of the genocide in 1971. We must resist any attempt by the government and/or any interest group to legitimise Jamaat’s politics of hatred, violence, and discrimination in our democratic process.
If we are to learn any lessons from the consequences of the Fascist and Nazi rules, then, to protect democracy and liberty, we must stop the recurrence of the same in Bangladesh. We must constantly remind citizens of the country that Bangladesh is born out of the sacrifice of millions. Those who led the bleeding of innocent civilians, raping of women must be tried: we must compel the government to bring the collaborators to justice. The future of liberty, democracy, peace and stability in Bangladesh largely depends on the trial of the perpetrators of the genocide in 1971. We must resist any attempt by the government and/or any interest group to legitimise Jamaat’s politics of hatred, violence, and discrimination in our democratic process. If we fail to resist the Jamaatification of the institutions of the country, Bangladesh will fall into the grip of the forces of darkness of middle age.
Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr
The Jama’at is one of the oldest and most influential of the Islamic revivalist movements and the first of its kind to develop an Islamic ideology, a modern revolutionary reading of Islam, and an agenda for social action to realize its vision. It has influenced Islamic revivalism from Morocco to Malaysia and controlled the expression of revivalist thinking in Southwest Asia and South Asia since 1941. There are today eight discrete Jama’at-i Islami parties: in Pakistan, India, India’s Kashmir province, Pakistan’s Azad Kashmir, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Great Britain, and North America. The party’s ideological reach and impact, throughout its history as well as across a vast geographical expanse, far exceed the boundaries of any one political arena or historical period. By mobilizing its resources in India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and England, the party played a central role in orchestrating the protests against Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses in England in 1988-1989, a notable example of its influence. Thanks to the Jama’at, Muslims in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Europe pitted Islam against the West and laid the foundations for the international crisis that ensued.
Muslim Networks and Movements in Western Europe – Muslim Brotherhood and Jama’at-i Islami
“The Pakistan-based Jama’at-i Islami is one of the most influential Islamic political movements in South Asia – with branches in India and Bangladesh – and among South Asian Muslims around the world. In Europe, the group is particularly strong in the United Kingdom, where more than two-thirds of the Muslim population of about 2.9 million comes from South Asia.
Groups affiliated with the Jama’at-i Islami share much in common with groups that have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, and both movements have followed a similar trajectory in terms of their evolution in Europe. The first formal manifestations of the Jama’at-i Islami in Europe date from the 1960s, with the establishment of the UK Islamic Mission and its affiliate, Dawatul Islam. These groups, which still exist today, promote Islamic education with a particular emphasis on Jama’at-i Islami thinkers and perspectives.”