In Pakistan, the Council of Islamic Ideology has been in overdrive. It could be a portent.
Pakistan is getting ready for “real” Islam after a Taliban takeover. Islamabad is promising Islamic banking and no “usury” in state schemes. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan says the March 3 murder of a “liberal” additional sessions judge in Islamabad was in fact the work of his own security guard gone trigger-happy “in panic”, and not the Taliban assailants who had broken into his court. The Taliban denied they killed the judge.
Soon enough, the reader of the court of the slain judge, Rafaqat Ahmed Khan Awan, accused the police of coercing him into backing Interior Minister Khan’s claim that the judge had been killed by his own guard. As icing on the cake, the guard too has denied before a special judge of the anti-terrorism court that he killed the judge.
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This is not the only act of sucking up to the killers. The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), which “advises” the state on how to implement true Islam, has dropped a new “anticipatory” bombshell on March 10, declaring Section 6 of the Muslim Family Law Ordinance (1961) as violative of the Sharia. It decreed that a husband did not require permission from the first wife for his second marriage.
As the law stands, if you marry again without the permission of your first wife, you go to jail for a year after paying Rs 5,000 as fine. But was the law ever enforced? People marry again and again with the consent of the clergy, who insist that Islam doesn’t stand in the way of the right to polygamy. The same is true of marrying underage girls. The law stands aside in bemusement. But now the CII says child marriage is Islamic. Facilitating rapists, it says DNA evidence is not permissible as decisive in Islam. The message for raped women: bring four male eyewitnesses or be whipped for qazf (wrongful accusation).
The CII has become aggressive with Talibanisation and the capacity of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to target-kill people supporting modern or “liberal” views that most Pakistanis despise anyway. Now it says more laws must be enacted to allow child marriage. The CII has become toxic after the induction, done by the outgoing “liberal” PPP government and extended by Nawaz Sharif, of Maulana Muhammad Khan Sherani from the hardline Taliban-friendly Deobandi religious party, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam.
The women’s rights NGO, Aurat Foundation, led by Justice (Retd) Nasira Javid Iqbal, daughter-in-law of the national poet Muhammad Iqbal — who cares? — demanded in Lahore that the order appointing the JUI’s Maulana Sherani as chairman of the CII should be revoked. Women were already suffering the past appointment by the ruling Muslim League of misogynist Justice (Retd) Nazir Akhtar as head of the charity treasury (Baitul Maal) in Punjab. A champion of the blasphemy law, he was definitely not a champion of unveiled women’s rights. Prostration before Islamist terror is not of recent vintage.
Let us take a quick look at what the CII has thought and deliberated in the past. The CII announced that nikah of a girl without the permission of wali (male member of family) was un-Islamic and those girls getting married of their own choice should be punished under law. A verdict undoing such a marriage at the Lahore High Court was set aside by the Supreme Court not long ago, but the CII favoured the earlier verdict.
The CII stated that coeducation should be banned and that all lotteries, like prize bonds, should be wound up and the paper used for printing the Quran should not be recycled. It criticised the Supreme Court for postponing the abolition of bank interest for another year. Its then-chairman, S.M. Zaman, said that it was not an economic issue but one related to the Quran and the Prophet. The CII had earlier endorsed the destruction of Afghanistan’s archaeological heritage by the Taliban.
The CII also rejected a religion minister’s plan to use zakat (poor due) to allow the poor to invest in businesses, by saying that zakat could not be used for investment of any kind. It ruled that insurance of all kinds was against Islam and should be abolished forthwith. It came to the conclusion that soft drinks sold as non-alcoholic beer were not jaez (allowed) in Islam. It said any drink that is not sharab (alcohol) could not be called sharab and that the name beer should not be put on it. It said preparation and trade of non-alcoholic beer inside or outside Pakistan was haram (prohibited).
The CII repeated the recommendation that kalima (declaration of faith) be inscribed on the Pakistani national flag along with the call to war, Allahu Akbar. It declared that it was wrong to label jihad as a defensive war alone. It recommended the government fire civil servants not saying their namaz. It resolved that Pakistan should revert to Friday as the weekly holiday for Islamic blessings. It declared that sending anyone to prison was against Sharia and recommended that prisons be abolished.
The founder of the Banuri mosque complex, Maulana Yusuf Banuri (1908-77), was made member of the council by General Zia on coming to power in 1977. The Banuri mosque later became heavily sectarian under Mufti Shamzai, who was killed by the opposed sect. The CII has not been a guide for the non-pious because of its avoidance of commonsense.
Hafiz Saeed, the great panjandrum of jihad and thorn in the side of India since his bloody assault on Mumbai in 2008, includes the CII in his trajectory of fame and power. After graduation in 1974, Saeed was appointed lecturer at the University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore in the Islamiat department. He was sent from there to Saudi Arabia for “higher studies”. There, he got the famous “blind” Saudi high priest, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Baz — who insisted our planet was flat — to pronounce the fatwa of jihad in Afghanistan in 1979. He returned to Pakistan and was selected as a research scholar at the CII, a several-years-long tenure mandated by a panel of high court judges.
In March 2011, Justice (Retd) Javid Iqbal, son of the national poet Muhammad Iqbal — who cares? — was interviewed by a TV channel on the nature of the Pakistani state. He accused Pakistan of selling itself to alien Islam and named Maruf Dualibi, the Arab scholar who was sent to Pakistan by Saudi Arabia to impose the tough anti-Shia laws that Pakistan was averse to enforcing.
The fact is that the 1980 Zakat and Ushr Ordinance, imposed by General Zia on Sunnis and Shias alike, was framed by Dualibi in Arabic. The CII has the dubious distinction of taking dictation from an anti-Shia Arab scholar, while he sat inside the CII headquarters, to frame a law that he didn’t even show the CII members. The ordinance triggered the country’s first sectarian clash that year.
Javid Iqbal clearly said that moderate and liberal elements were silent in Pakistan because they feared harm at the hands of extremist forces. But the religious seminaries support terror, while their many graduates actually mature into alleged killers in the fullness of time. Nigeria has finally decided to fight Boko Haram with foreign military help. Pakistan has fallen to the sanguinary charms of its own Boko Haram.
The writer is consulting editor, ‘Newsweek Pakistan’