BeyondHeadlines Special Correspondent
Muslim society is still being treated like “Masses addicted to Opium”. Mobilizing thousands for Ijtima/Jalsa/Khutba has become more important and also very easy. But we are not able to have a “coffee house” to talk reasonable things within territory of Deen, a university, a centre or any institution to talk with reason. It can be easily understood that Muslim society is not only leaderless but it also lacks culture and institutions to engage with all kind of critical issues and to reach to a consensus through communicative actions. Relationship between Muslim masses and their so called leadership is just one way, ‘Amanna wa saddaqna’ or Same’na wa ata’ana’ (we heard and we followed).
In this relationship, the most important things which matters are impressive speeches, long beards and affiliation to a big religious banner. As a result, any reasonable person, so called upper class, writers, professors, doctors, engineers, have two choices. They accept supremacy of Mollahs and get some benefits or just stay away from religious public sphere. In this culture, any reasonable talk will have to face Fatwas from Mullahs. Mullahs will dictate the society alone, the bigger the Mollah, the higher is his authority and the Saudi Mollah will always remain supreme.
Saudi Arabia has become more important because of the fact that Saudi religious authority has approved overthrow of democratically elected Egyptian leader Mohammad Morsi and subsequents massacres in the name of war on terrorism. Indian Muslims are the largest expatriate group in Gulf countries mainly in Saudi Arabia where three million skilled, semi-skilled and non-skilled Indians are employed by Saudi public and private companies. Also majority of Islamic institutions, Madrasas, mosques and trusts are heavily funded by Indians living in Gulf countries Saudi institutions via proper channels.
In this complex context, it is very difficult to take a clear political position on Egyptian crisis and Saudi-Gulf role there. Interestingly Saudi missionaries have surprisingly increased after their Egyptian military coup apparently in search support from religious leaders of Indian Muslims. An ideal reaction to Egyptian crisis would have been a collective reaction of all religious authorities, institutions and leaders which should have included Deoband, Nadwataul Ulama, Jamiyatul Ulama, Jamiyat Ahle Hadees, Tablighi Jamat and Jamat Islami. Jamat Islami is among the least beneficiaries of Saudi funding because Jamat Islami does not enjoy enough religious acceptances within Muslim society.
This collective failure of Indian Muslims to evolve a common political reaction on Egypt has put much pressure on Jamat Islami to take a public position on Egyptian crises, mainly because of its democratic culture in organizational affairs. Jamat leadership has faced serious criticism from its followers on its allegedly soft stance towards Egyptian crisis, allegedly to avoid witch hunting from Saudi authorities. Those who have taken a public position on Egypt have already faced serious reactions from Saudi Arabia, for example a 30 year ban on Islamic scholar Maulana Salman Hasni Nadwi to enter Saudi Arabia. Those who are aware of internal politics of Deoband, Jamiayt Ulama, Nadwatul Ulama and Ahle Hadees groups, must appreciate that they have enjoyed close contacts with Saudi authorities, Saudi religious establishment and Saudi funding agencies.
Jamat Islami has never been considered a pro Saudi group because of its open support to the Iranian revolution and its intellectual contacts with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. Any public criticism for Saudi Arabia would have put Jamat in difficult position which made Jamat to avoid any direct criticism to Saudi Arabia as much as possible. But then Jamat faced sharp reactions from its younger generation which blamed Jamat of compromising with its principles for the sake of petro dollar.
As of now, Jamat Islami has not played any active role in Egyptian crisis. It was only Egypt Solidarity Forum which was formed in 2011 by some JNU students of West Asian Studies to support popular protests against Hosni Mubarak. Egypt Solidarity Forum reactivated itself to condemn military coup and subsequent massacres in Egypt. Many of Jamat groups have simply joined Egypt Solidarity Forum which did not support Muslim Brotherhood or any specific political party in this crisis. It is known that Saudi authorities have conveyed their displeasure to many Islamic institutions where any anti-military coup activity has been organized or any statement condemning Egyptian military coup and massacres are issued.
In recent months, Nadwatul Ulama of Lucknow had refused to welcome a Saudi delegation fearing students’ agitation against the Saudi delegation. Nadwatul Ulama’s former rector Maulana Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi was internationally acclaimed scholar and has enjoyed great respect among all Arab countries. He had endorsed Muslim Brotherhood and its intellectual interpretations at the time when Saudi Arabia was also extremely generous to Muslim Brotherhood. It was no surprise that Saudi institutions have published many of key books of Muslim Brotherhood in that period. But travel ban on one of its leading Islamic scholar Maulana Salman Hasni Nadwi has damaged this cordial relationship.
Another victim of Saudi pressure politics is Dr. Inayatullah Subhani of Al Jamia Islamiya Shantapuram in Kerala where he was professor of Tafseer. Dr. Subhani has completed his doctoral degree from a Saudi university where he was taught by many scholars of Muslim Brotherhood. Dr. Subhani’s reaction to Egyptian crisis was more emotional and coated in religious underpinnings. A member of Jamat Islami, Dr. Inayatullah Subhani was asked to leave Al Jamia Al islamiya in second week of April because of his some disturbing statements about Egyptian military coup.
Jamat Islami has been isolated by other religious groups mainly Jamiyatul Ulama which has not echoed any condemnation against killing and arrest of members of Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and in Gulf countries. It seems that Saudi authorities will exert more pressure on Indian Muslims to keep silence on Egyptian politics particularly on Saudi decision to declare Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization. Most of European countries and many international organizations have called Egyptian and Saudi decision to declare Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, a politically motivated decision. The real threat Saudi Arabia is facing is that many Islamic scholars and institutions have been respected by Arabs for a long time. Their contribution in Islamic studies is widely accepted. Hence their support to Muslim Brotherhood and their criticism of Egyptian and Saudi authorities will affect their own public opinion and will contribute in gradual loss of legitimacy of their undemocratic and dictatorial regimes.