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Sectarian polarisation amid air strikes on Yemen

March 28, 2015

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Supporters of the Majlis-i-Wahdat-i-Muslimeen on Friday stage a demonstration in the Kharadar area against Saudi Arabia for launching air strikes against Houthi forces in Yemen.—Reuters
Supporters of the Majlis-i-Wahdat-i-Muslimeen on Friday stage a demonstration in the Kharadar area against Saudi Arabia for launching air strikes against Houthi forces in Yemen.—Reuters

KARACHI: The launch of air strikes by Saudi Arabia against Iranian-allied Houthi forces in Yemen and talk of Pakistan becoming militarily embroiled in the Gulf conflict stoked sectarian polarisation in the city on Friday.

A leading Shia party staged a protest demonstration against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as religious leaders representing the Barelvi school of thought termed the attack on Yemen a threat to world peace, while Deobandi clerics threw their weight behind the Arab monarchy.

A large number of people attended a protest demonstration organised by the Majlis-i-Wahdat-i-Muslimeen on Friday in the Kharadar area against the “Saudi-led attacks on Yemen”, warning the government that it should stay away from the kingdom’s policy that would affect harmony among the Muslims.

The founder of Pakistan, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, as well as Allama Mohammad Iqbal had always condemned pro-imperialists monarchs of the Middle East and the Turkish regime, said the MWM leaders while addressing the protesters.

“Innocent Yemeni civilians are being massacred brutally like Palestinians of Gaza,” said Mubashir Hassan of the MWM. “Sanaa, Saada and other parts of Yemen are being bombarded the way Zionist Israeli forces bombed Gaza. World silence against the war-mongers is a crime.”

Holding placards, the demonstrators raised slogans against the attacks on Yemen. They were also addressed by Maulana Ali Anwar Jafari, Maulana Ahsan Danish and Ali Hussain Naqvi, who in their speeches expressed solidarity with anti-imperialist Yemenis.

The Sunni organisations representing the Barelvi and Deobandi schools of thought did not hold an event to express their respective viewpoints over the emerging Arab crisis, but statements and sermons of their scholars articulated their positions.

Govt policy hailed

The Sunni Tehreek and the Sunni Ittehad Council endorsed this view in their separate statements. The leaders from both sides asked the government to stay away from toeing any country’s line and make an effort for a peaceful resolution to the issue.

Clerics and leaders of organisations representing the Deobandi school of thought clearly ‘lauded’ the government policy that emerged after Defence Minister Khawaja Asif told parliament that Pakistan was ready to defend Saudi Arabia’s “territorial integrity at any cost” but had not yet decided to join Riyadh’s coalition fighting Yemen rebels.

“This is a welcome sign,” a statement from the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat quoted its leader Allama Aurangzeb Farooqi’s speech before Friday prayers at Jama Masjid Khalilullah.

“Saudi Arabia has always supported Pakistan in the hour of need. The decisive action against Houthi insurgents has identified friends and foes in Islamic states.”

Same thoughts were expressed by Mufti Mohammad Naeem of Jamia Binoria Al Almia in the Site area. Also head of the Tehreek-i-Tahaffuz-i-Harmain Sharifain, Mufti Naeem said that the government decision reflected sentiments of every Pakistani. “To defend Harmain Sharifain is the duty of every Muslim,” he stated.

He said: “First the Houthis were used for bloodshed in Syria and now they have been centred in Yemen only to eye Saudi Arabia as their next target. At this hour the Muslims should unite with Saudi Arabia to defend Harmain Sharifain.”

Statements from Ahle Hadees Action Committee’s leader Syed Ashraf Qureshi and Syed Amir Najeeb also called the government announcement a ‘praise-worthy move’ that should be backed by every segment of society. They said this was not a sectarian dispute but a ‘battle against Islam’, which was needed to be defended by every Muslim.

Govt urged to stay away from crisis

Leaders from the Barelvi school of thought suggested the government stay away from the crisis and also demanded that the Saudi Arabian leadership look for a peaceful resolution of the issue. They called it a conspiracy to hit sectarian harmony in the Muslim states.

“Saudi Arabia took the action unilaterally without taking the Muslim world into confidence and without calling a meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Countries,” said Shah Muhammad Owais Noorani Siddiqi of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan while addressing a party meeting called to review arrangements for the upcoming Nizam-i-Mustafa Convention.

“If a country attacks the other overnight, it would definitely be called aggression. The Muslim world is already in crisis whether it’s Jordan, Egypt, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Tunisia, Iraq or other countries. In this hour, we need to forge unity instead of getting divided in the name of sect or minor issues.”

“Saudi Arabia attacks on Yemen are a threat to world peace,” said Sunni Tehreek chief Sarwat Ejaz Qadri while calling for a peaceful solution that could save hundreds of thousands of lives and renew much-needed sectarian harmony in the Muslim states.

Similar views were expressed by Tariq Mehboob of the Sunni Ittehad Council in his statement. He said: “If Saudi Arabia counts itself a true Islamic state then it should reflect the sentiments of Muslims and not world powers. Pakistan forces should not be used by any other state for its interest in the name of Islam and ideology.”

Saudi air strikes were also criticised by Sunni Ittehad Council chairman Sahibzada Hamid Raza in a telephonic talk with party leaders in Karachi, according to a press statement.

Published in Dawn, March 28th, 2015

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