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Karachi-based Madaris distance themselves from Lal Masjid issue

Karachi, July 5(The News): Thousands of Madressa students in Karachi remained calm and peaceful on Wednesday over the Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa issue - which was quite unexpected by their administrators and Ulema - despite having sympathies with their besieged colleagues and strong resentment against the government's policies.

Madressa students, on a number of occasions in the past, such as when the US invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, had reacted violently by taking to streets and torching vehicles and public property. However, no such reaction was witnessed in regards to the Lal Masjid issue.

"Unlike the past, when Ulema had to request their students to remain peaceful, this time there was no panic among them in Karachi although several precautionary measures were taken by Madaris' administrations to keep students under control over the Lal Masjid issue," an administrator of a local Madressa said.

However, Majlis Sautul Islam (Voice of Islam) Pakistan, which represents the Madaris belonging to the Deobandi school of thought in Karachi, did cancel the final of a debate competition, scheduled for Thursday. The event, which was expected to be attended by thousands of Madressa students as well as prominent Ulema, was cancelled to avoid any untoward incident.

"We cancelled our programme in which around 6,000 to 7,000 Madaris students were expected to participate due to fears that some unscrupulous elements could take the advantage of our gathering for expressing their anguish over government action against Lal Masjid," Mufti Abuzar, chief of Majlis Sautul Islam, claimed.

According to him, a

majority of local Ulema, as well as students, were against the attitude and

activities of Jamia Hafsa and the Lal Masjid administration as they believed that their "unwise activities" were resulting in the defamation of Islam and Madressas in Pakistan.

"They had no interaction with Jamia Hafsa, Lal Masjid or Jamia Faridia students. Due to the rejection of the policies of Maulana Abdur Rasheed Ghazi and Maulana Abdul Aziz by the eminent Ulema, local Madaris students never paid any heed to the appeals of the Lal Masjid administration," Mufti Abuzar claimed.

Mufti Abuzar said that a vast majority of Ulema and their students were against use of force, violence or any other means for implementing their agenda of an Islamic system of governance and also against laws that could destabilise society.

"People like Ghazi have rendered irreparable loss to Madaris as their activities would not only put seminaries under more internal and external pressures but would also create dissent among common people," he deplored.

Another administrator of a local Maressah, who did not want to be named, said the backlash of the government operation against Lal Masjid was possible in other parts of the country but not in Karachi or anywhere else in Sindh.

"There would also be no violence in Peshawar or other areas where JUI-F has influence."

However, he feared that if a violent operation was carried out with unexpected expected casualties, it could spark violence in a number of areas including Lahore, North and South Waziristan, Northern Areas and even in Azad Kashmir.

"Their (Lal Masjid) followers and influence is more in the areas of Waziristan, Northern Areas and in places of Azad Kashmir. They can cause trouble in those areas" he informed.

According to him, the Lal Masjid issue could also put Madaris into immense financial trouble as people would avoid donating fearing that their money could be used for violent activities, similar to those of Jamia Hafsa and Lal Masjid students.

The Madressa administrator deplored the fact that the hectic efforts made by Madaris to improve their image, especially after September 11, 2001, were ruined by the Ghazi brothers. He said that Madaris were now in the same position as they were in the aftermath of 9/11.

"Our hearts are full of sorrow for those who were killed in the Lal Masjid stand off but they did not sacrifice their lives for Islam in anyway.

They were wrong. We pray for the resolution of the issue without any further bloodshed," he observed.
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