Islamabad, Asharq Al-Awsat- Asharq Al-Awsat interview’s radical Pakistani cleric Maulana Abdulaziz, the leader of a fundamentalist mosque campaigning for Islamic Shariaa law to be enforced in Pakistan.
This interview was conducted just before Maulana Abdulaziz’s dramatic arrest at the hands of security forces while trying to escape the Red Mosque amid a crowd of women.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) Do you realize that the majority of religious scholars in Pakistan oppose what you are doing?
(Abdulaziz) Only a handful of scholars are opposed to our activities. If you go to the northwestern border region neighboring Afghanistan, you will find that there is wide support for our activities. You will be surprised to know that a large number of people wrote to us backing our activities, including prominent clerics. There are five or six clerical scholars who criticize, but do not oppose, our activities. There is a difference of opinion. They say that the government and the [national] assembly are elected bodies. But I maintain that this government and these institutions have done nothing. We are gradually falling into the pit of adultery and vulgarity.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) Many believe that your actions are similar to those of the Taliban in Afghanistan?
(Abdulaziz) As a matter of fact, our movement is led by the youths of the country. Similar activities are taking place in other parts of the Muslim world. In Indonesia, for instance, the youths have imposed implementation of the Islamic Shariaa on 53 provinces, where they have banned music and dancing. This is why the world is saying that this movement is similar to Taliban.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) Do you have relations with Taliban?
(Abdulaziz) We love the Taliban; it launched its movement to achieve a noble goal and brought about peace and harmony to Afghan society.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) Do you have any relations with Al-Qaeda?
(Abdulaziz) We are not in contact with Al-Qaeda, but it is an organization that is propagating the message of jihad, and it is a positive thing to have links to Jihad.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) Civil society organizations accuse you of stirring up instability within society and following a chaotic path?
(Abdulaziz) Fears of instability continue to exist. For instance, when the police take a step to address a crime, there is a possibility for instability and chaos. However, such acts take place in the national interest. We too are doing something that is in the national interest. We are striving to apply the Islamic law to society. We say that the state of Pakistan follows the word of God, and Al-Hakimiyah [rule, particularly Islamic rule] is for God.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) But who empowered you to apply the Islamic Shariaa in the country?
(Abdulaziz) When we see that the government is doing nothing in this respect; when the 170 million population of the country become hostages in the hands of several hundred thousand people; and when we see that the Pakistani people want to see the Islamic Shariaa implemented, we then believe that we are duty bound to do something.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) What in your view are the reasons for the government’s failure to take any measures against you? There is an impression that you enjoy the support of a wing within the ruling group, including intelligences agencies?
(Abdulaziz) We receive no support from anyone, but many members of the police force and administration tell us that our activities are sound. When we launched our movement against the demolition of mosques in Islamabad, a great many policemen contacted us to convey their support. We also receive secret messages of support from others. Given this situation, the government feels concerned. It is not prepared to take any measures against us because many officials threatened to resign. No one is using us. We have examples from history, for instance, Moses first appeared in the land of the pharaohs. So I believe that God employs religious science students for a good purpose.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) You do not deny relations linking you to major figures in the government?
(Abdulaziz) We have no relationships with influential figures in the government. But the relatives of some of our students are themselves influential figures in the government, and they conveyed messages saying that our activities are good.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) Where do most of your students come from?
(Abdulaziz) More than 70 percent of our students come from the tribal areas and from the northwestern province where we have wide support. The people there say that they will launch a military campaign if the [religious] schools come under attack by the government.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) Is there a possibility for some sort of dialogue with the government?
(Abdulaziz) We are ready for dialogue with the government but are not prepared to recant[our beliefs]. We are ready to enter a dialogue with the government on ways of implementing the Islamic Shariaa and to discuss procedures for the application of Shariaa. However, if the government wants to use the dialogue to change our position, there will be no dialogue.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) Is it true that you do not allow anyone to take your photo?
(Abdulaziz) Taking photos is not allowed in Islam, so I do not allow anyone to take a photo of me.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) Are you going to launch a campaign against photography too?
(Abdulaziz) We will discuss this issue when we fully implement the Islamic Shariaa in the country. For the time being, we focus on issues that are deemed to be clear sins and are definitely proscribed in Islam.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) How would you react should the police act against you? You recently said that you would retaliate with suicidal attacks?
(Abdulaziz) I advised our students against using violence for fear that the police may launch an operation against the school and use clubs against the students. However, if violence is used against us, we will consider carrying out suicidal attacks. We seek a quick change in society though I know that revolutions are always characterized by violence.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) It is reported that you use female students as human shields to continue your activities?
(Abdulaziz) This is not true. The students cooperate with us in this movement to apply the Islamic Shariaa in the country.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) The government says that female students know how to use automatic weapons, and that you train them in the use of such weapons?
(Abdulaziz) Islam orders every man and woman to be ready for jihad. We believe in the need for our women to know how to use automatic weapons, such as Kalashnikov. Our women can use chemical weapons. We have trained them in this in a secret site.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) Do you understand that the consequences of your activities may create instability for President Pervez Musharraf’s government?
(Abdulaziz) It is not our goal to create stability for the government [as published],but to put the country on the path to Islam.