Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) in Pakistan and Bangladesh
Maulana Abul Ala Maududi (1903-1979), an Indian-born madrassah-educated journalist, author and political thinker was the founder of the Jamaat-e-Islami or Party of Islam. It came into being in 1941 in British India. Maududi started the organisation with a view to promoting Islamic values and practices in the light of his way of interpreting the Quran and hadis. He was a maverick. His ideas were quite radical and different from the mainstream Sunni ulama or clerics in the Indian Subcontinent. Interestingly, like most leading Muslim clerics in British India, he was opposed to the concept of Pakistan, as he did not believe that Mohamed Ali Jinnah, a secular Shiite Muslim, along with his “Anglo-Mohamedan” associates, would establish an “Islamic State.” He knew it well that Jinnah and his associates strove for a “Muslim” not “Islamic” Pakistan in Muslim-majority territories to be carved out of British India. Although he decided to stay back in India after the Partition of 1947, with no signs of abatement in the Great Punjab Killing (which started immediately before the Partition), as a Muslim he no longer felt safe in the Indian Punjab and migrated to Pakistan. Afterwards, till his death in 1979, he worked for establishing an “Islamic State” in Pakistan. In early1950s Pakistan went through mass agitations and anti-Ahmadiyya rioting in the Punjab, especially in Lahore. Maududi incited Pakistani Muslims to demand that the Ahmadiyya Muslim community (also known as Qadianis) be declared a “non-Muslim” minority because of their alleged disbelief in Prophet Muhammad as the last prophet of God. The 1953 rioting in Lahore was followed by mass arrests of agent provocateurs; leading among them was the JI chief, Maududi. The court found him guilty and condemned him to death for inciting anti-Ahmadiyya rioting, but soon he got clemency.
We find ideological similarities between the MB and JI. Like Qutb, Maududi also strove for God's sovereignty. Maududi, however, came up with a new theory of democracy. It was “theo-democracy” or a theocracy run in a democratic manner. He also wanted to establish a caliphate to run the “Islamic system of governance.” In his “theo-democratic” caliphate, minority non-Muslims would remain as zimmis or protected people with inferior rights. Interestingly, he was willing to accept inferior rights or zimmi status for minority Muslims in Hindu-majority India. He also believed that Islam was not just another religion about faith and rituals, but a movement, a comprehensive code of ethics, a government manual and guidance about running our life from cradle to grave. He was quite ambivalent about the concept of jihad. On the one hand, he did not consider jihad to be a holy war, and on the other, he considered the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war a jihad per excellence. Like the MB, JI also believes that Muslims and Islam transcend national boundaries. Considering jihad to be “the best of all prayers” Maududi believed that his “theo-democratic” transnational caliphate was only attainable through “global jihad”. His “theo-democratic” caliphate would be capitalistic with welfare and social justice.i Interestingly, according to Maududi's son Sayyid Farooq Haider Maududi, his father established a transnational fascist party in the name of Islam.ii However, despite being influenced by the MB, the FIS in Algeria is not transnational; it has been primarily an Algerian nationalist movement for “Islamo-nationalism”.iii
Despite their democratic rhetoric and apparent transformation into democratic organisations, the MB and JI believe in millennial Islamic movement to establish their cherished global caliphate or God's Kingdom, where women and minorities would not enjoy equal rights and opportunities. Their lip service to democracy and apparent acquiescence to secular law reflect their pragmatism, not their transformation into liberal democratic organisations. One finds JI's fascist blue print in some of its founder Maududi's writings. His totalitarian “Islamic State” would eventually devour the sovereignty of all neighbouring states run by non-Muslims or not in accordance with Shariah: Muslim groups will not be content with the establishment of an Islamic state in one area alone. Depending on their resources, they should try to expand in all directions…. If their Islamic state has power and resources it will fight and destroy non-Islamic governments and establish Islamic states in their place.iv
He also believed that: Jews and Christians ...should be forced to pay jizya [poll tax] in order to put an end to their independence and supremacy…. These powers should be wrested from them by the followers of the true Faith…. the Islamic state offers them protection, if they agree to live as zimmis by paying jizya, but it cannot allow that they should remain supreme rulers in any place and establish wrong ways and establish them on others…. it is the duty of the true Muslims… to bring an end to their wicked rule and bring them under a righteous order.v
As with fascism, Islamist extremist parties mostly flourish in countries under autocracy and corruption with mass unemployment and poverty. These parties strive for the “Islamist secularisation of society” by raising socio-economic rather than Islamic issues as the biggest problems confronting the Muslim World. Interestingly, unlike the MB, Wahhabis and their ilk, Islamist parties in Turkey seem to be more secular than Islamic. Under secular-educated leadership, they are quite comfortable with traditional Turkish culture, music, food and festivals.vi Again, Islamist parties do not necessarily flourish under poverty. Some of them grow in affluent societies drawing well-to-do people within their folds. Al-Qaeda is a glaring example in this regard. However, it is difficult to draw a line between Islamist parties that are “designed” and those who have emerged by “default,” due to bad governance and poverty. While al-Qaeda and its ilk are in the “designed” category, ideologically motivated to oppose democracy, human rights and equal rights for women and minorities; pragmatic Islamists like the MB and JI fall in the latter category with ideological orientation as well. They apparently call for democracy and some rights for women and minorities, but oppose the freedom of expression and secular law and institutions. It is noteworthy that America has been trying to make friends with the MB and Jamaat, because they take part in elections and condemn terrorism.vii
America also has the friendliest tie with Saudi Arabia, where Wahhabism prevails as the state ideology. Despite their anti-Western rhetoric, the MB and JI are inherently pro-Western but pre-modern and anti-modern at the same time. Many of them are no longer the Islamist parties in the strict sense of the expression. The Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, no longer the Jamaat-e-Islami of Bangladesh, is a good example in this regard. Although it favours establishing “Allah's Law,” it no longer supports establishing “Allah's Sovereignty” but Islamic social justice and public welfare only through constitutional means, not violence. The party wants to “enforce God-fearing, honest and efficient leadership” through democratic methods, instead of the inefficient and dishonest ones.viii It is, however, noteworthy that the JI in Bangladesh are involved in the operation of twelve different Islamist parties, including the Islami Oikko Jote, Khilafat Majlis and Khilafat Andolon.ix Thus proscribing the JI would not end its political influence in Bangladesh. As it has happened in Egypt, the MB since the overthrow of Mubarak in 2011, by adopting a new name, Freedom and Justice Party, is promise-bound to implement the same old Islamist ideology of the MB; the JI in Bangladesh would be doing the same thing in the event of its proscription.
Apprehending silent Western dominance of Arab countries that went through the “Arab Spring,” Samir Amin believes that the right wing Islamist parties like Ennahda in Tunisia and the MB in Egypt will be close allies of the West. He is right that America and dictators like Sadat and Mubarak nurtured Islamist groups in Egypt as last resorts to preserve the status quo. “This is why I argued that political Islam did not belong to the opposition block, as claimed by the Muslim Brotherhood, but was an organic part of the power structure”, asserts Amin.x Portraying the MB not as an Islamic but primarily as a “reactionary party,” he believes that it “will represent the best security for the imperialist system;” and that the post-Revolutionary Arab countries under political Islam will stagnate for another fifty years or so as what has happened to Islamic Iran. Since Salafism, the fulcrum of the MB, rejects the idea of “liberty” and glorifies fatalist Islam, democracy will remain elusive under Islamist rule. Islamist regimes' promotion of science, computer and business management does not amount to their promotion of modern education either. Last but not least: “The Muslim Brotherhood and imperialism operate in conjunction, and with a division of tasks. The Muslim Brotherhood needed a 'certificate' of democracy, which Obama gave them, and to that end they had to distance themselves from the 'extremists,' the Salafis.”xi Thus, not Islamist MB or JI but Salafist extremists are the biggest threats to liberal democracy and Western interests in the Muslim World.
i Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr, The Vanguard of the Islamic Revolution: The Jamaat-I Islami of Pakistan, University of California Press, Berkeley 1994, pp.3-27, 47-80, 103-47, uploaded July 23, 2011 (accessed December 12, 2012)
iii Oliver Roy, The Failure of Political Islam, I.B. Tauris Publishers, London 1994, pp. 129-30
iv Abul A'la Maududi, Haqiqat-i-Jihad [The Reality of Jihad], Taj Company Ltd, Lahore 1964, p.64
v Abul A'la Maududi, The Meaning of the Qur'an, Islamic Publications Ltd., Lahore 1993, vol 2, pp 183 & 186
vi Graham E. Fuller, The Future of Political Islam, Palgrave-Macmillan, New York 2004, pp.33-6
vii John Mintz and Douglas Farah, “In Search of Friends Among The Foes: US hopes to Work With Diverse Group”, Washington Post, September 11, 2004
viii http://www.jamaat-e-islami.org/en/aboutus.php (accessed February 24, 2013)
ix Kaler Kantho (Bengali daily), February 24, 2013
x Samir Amin, “Political Islam in the Service of Imperialism”, Monthly Review, Vol. 59, Issue 07, December 2000
The writer teaches security studies at Austin Peay State University at Clarksville, Tennessee. Sage has recently published his latest book, Global Jihad and America: The Hundred-Year War Beyond Iraq and Afghanistan.