The Usual Suspects

Predicting that Wahhabi money and Deobandi ideology are involved in Sunni terrorism attack is like guessing that the sun will rise tomorrow. You might be wrong, but the probability is fairly low.

Asad Shah was a well-loved shopkeeper in the Shawlands area of Glasgow. After he was brutally murdered in March of this year, hundreds turned out for a vigil in his honor.

Who would have murdered this man and why? According to this BBC report, a member of a formerly moderate Muslim sect is to blame.


When it initially emerged that Asad Shah’s attacker was another Muslim, newspaper reports speculated that he had been killed by an extremist for posting the message “a very happy Easter to my beloved Christian nation” on Facebook just hours before his death.

The real story is perhaps just as shocking.

It links this murder on British streets to the murder of a Pakistani politician five years ago. Both were accused by some Muslims of having committed blasphemy.

The killer of Asad Shah idolised and was in close contact with extremists in Pakistan, and was seemingly inspired by their example to kill Asad Shah – even calling them after the murder to tell them about what he had done…

…Clad in distinctive green turbans, Dawat e Islami describe themselves as a peaceful and non political organisation.

They were founded in Pakistan but are active across countries in the Muslim world – dedicated to spreading their version of Islam.

They’re from a Pakistani sect known as Barelwis – normally associated with a peaceful, spiritual interpretation of Islam.

Barelwis have been attacked by jihadi groups like the Taliban who see them as too liberal.

But some hardline Barelwi groups and preachers have acted violently themselves – particularly when it comes to perceived insults to the Prophet Muhammad.

They pride themselves on being “aashiq-e-rasool” or lovers of the Prophet – who are obliged to defend his honour…

What prompted this formerly peaceful group to turn violent? Apparently Barelwi mosques in Britain are being taken over by the Deobandis and Wahhabis. (The Taliban are mostly Deobandi. Saudi Arabia is Wahhabi)

The older Barelwi leadership may be giving way to dominance by Deobandi adherents. In a most notable instance, the Central Mosque in the northwest London Borough of Harrow has been taken over by a pro-Deobandi/Wahhabi group, Living Masjid. This outcome came after an election to its Executive Committee that was challenged by some mosque attendees for alleged fraudulent voting procedure. A complaint has been lodged with the UK Charity Commission by the dissidents. Members of Living Masjid had disrupted mosque services by shouting, a common Deobandi/Wahhabi practice.

But the incumbent Executive Committee has twice blocked an investigation of the situation, according to the local Harrow Times of 2 February 2015. Several years ago, Harrow Central Mosque adopted a revised constitutional structure. Under its current rules, controversies among members will be resolved by placing control of the Harrow Central Mosque under the notoriously radical Regents Park Mosque in London.

Muslims in Western Europe face great challenges. Concern over radicalisation and terrorist recruitment is growing. The Barelwis in UK mosque leadership should take the initiative in opposing infiltration by Deobandis. But the Barelwis appear paralysed and incapable of effecting measures necessary to protect the moderate majority…

…Money going abroad often seems to play a role in this process. That should reinforce the will of the Charity Commission to investigate conditions in the contested mosques. Well-known Barelwi Sufis are often labelled contemptuously as ‘pir sahibs’, or teachers who conduct themselves in a lordly manner. They have been assailed by the Deobandis on fundamentalist grounds. But ‘pir sahibs’ are also accused by some of their own sect of unregulated fund raising. In the Barelwi mosques commonly money is thrown at Naat Khawans (persons who recite poetry in praise of the Prophet) in a manner similar to throwing money at an entertainer.

They are alleged further to transfer authority dynastically, from pirs to their offspring. Such claims stir discontent in the Barelwi Mosques.

Mainstream Sunni mosques should not be run as family businesses. Their financial accounts should be audited by the UK authorities. Much money is sent in an unmonitored way to Pakistan and India.

How many other mosques have gone from moderate and slightly corrupt to hardline and homicidal after being infiltrated by these tactics?


About marypmadigan

Writer/photographer (profession), foreign policy wonk (hobby).
This entry was posted in Politics/Foreign correspondents. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s