Monday, June 05, 2017

The Student-Taliban and the Islamic Scholars

"The reason the Taliban resort to such acts [assassination] is that they want to make sure their legitimacy is not questioned by the sermons of these ulema [Muslim scholars]."
"The only thing that undermines their legitimacy is the ability and power of these ulema if they preach and argue against them."
"Only they can challenge the Taliban's ideology, not the liberal scholars or others, and the Taliban understand that."
Mohammad Moheq, Afghan scholar of religion

"The reason these ulema are getting targeted is because they tell the truth -- and the truth is that the ongoing fighting is just for power."
Mawlawi Khudai Nazar Mohammedi, head, Ulema Council of Helmand

"These are not new enemies."
"The Prophet Muhammad predicted that once the sword bleeds innocent blood, this blood will run until the day of judgment."
Mawlawi Abdul Hafiz Mowahed, seminary instructor

"When I come to work [at the seminary], the first thing I do is recite a verse of the Quran at his grave."
"Then I weep, and then I go to my office."
Jan Agha, headmaster, Parwan Province seminary
A book that was in front of Mawlawi Hanafi when he was killed was ripped and covered in blood. Credit Jim Huylebroek for The New York Times

The seminary in Parwan was founded by Mawlawi Hanafi who happened to be a critic of the Taliban their methods went against the grain of the Islam he himself practised. His outspoken rejection of the Taliban had resulted in Mr. Mawlawi having to flee his home village of Togh Bairdi, where he had earlier established a different seminary. When he settled in the provincial capital in northern Afghanistan, he established a larger seminary.  As he settled himself with three dozen students to begin a class on May 9, a bomb exploded and killed him.

It was, according to his brother Mawlawi Jawed Hanafi, a student from the class who had planted the bomb. On his death, Mawlawi Hanafi became one of many Islamic religious scholars viewed as 'casualties' of the Afghan war. When they stated their objections to the Salafist Taliban they sealed their own death warrants. The Taliban expect religious scholars to support them. Those who do not are scheduled to die.
Abdul Ghafoor Pairoz, a prominent scholar in Kandahar, with his children. The Taliban said his death this month was a signal to others that they were being watched.

It was in Kandahar Province that the Taliban originally rose to power, and there some 300 preachers were killed since 2004, according to the head of the provincial Ulema Council in the province, Mawlawi Obaidullah Faizani. Abdul Wali Arshad, director of the provincial department of religious affairs counts 20 who were killed in the past year, while in Logar Province the deputy head of the Ulema Council was shot to death on his way home from the seminary.

The influence of the Taliban's new leader, Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada, himself an ulema and madrasa leader, is said to be the source of the increased killing of religious scholars. Under Mawlawi Haibatullah's orders, straying from Taliban interpretations of Shariah law guarantees punishment and those who do so can count on being punished "as harshly as possible", according to a senior Taliban figure who spoke on condition of anonymity. Following death what other harsh penalty could be conceived of?

The Taliban cited the reason for killing Abdul Ghafoor Pairoz, a Kandahar scholar, was his unacceptable consideration of "the current holy war in Afghanistan as illegitimate". "Removing such a vicious element" was a natural outcome of the disagreement between them, a signal to any others who might do likewise, that they will be watched, and their actions and words will be judged, and they will be punished accordingly, should they fail to support the Taliban view.

A guard and students sat in front of the seminary’s entrance, where attendees are now searched. Credit Jim Huylebroek for The New York Times

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