The West continues to assume that mosques are entirely and in every instance benign institutions that teach peace and brotherhood. This is, at best, an unfounded assumption.
“Here’s how schools of faith, mobiles are radicalising Kashmir,” by Aarti Tikoo Singh, TNN, July 9, 2017 (thanks to Lookmann):
Last month, in a south Kashmir mosque, a fiery cleric in his raucous voice and shrill cries, defended former Hizbul commander Zakir Musa’s call for Islamic jihad. For the first time, a cleric, using his religious pedestal, was exhorting his audience to support Kashmir’s most wanted terrorist who recently aligned ideologically with al Qaeda. The audio recording of Mufti Shabir Ahmad Qasmi’s incendiary speech was widely circulated on instant online messaging platforms in the valley. The Mufti very likely converted many of his ardent followers into Musa cheerleaders.
Kashmir’s mosques have always been used for religio-political ends, and for separatism since 1989 when the militancy broke out. But the character of the mosque has changed dramatically in the last decade.
Hanafi/Barelvi Islam, the traditionally moderate school followed by the majority in Kashmir, is being replaced by the radical Ahl-e-Hadith, the local moniker for Saudi-imported Salafism or Wahhabism. Though many Hanafi clerics like Moulana Abdul Rashid Dawoodi are resisting their Wahhabi competitors, “the attendance in annual fairs of all major Sufi shrines has been decreasing,” said Muzamil, a Sufi practitioner. Of the roughly six million Muslims in the Valley, the once-marginal Ahl-e-Hadith now has over a million followers, claimed its general secretary, Dr Abdul Latif.
The Arab funded Wahhabism finds convergence with other already established conservative strains of Islamic movements, such as Deobandi and Jamat-e-Islami in Kashmir. The mufti who made a plea for Musa is a Deobandi from a Jamati household. Such religious intersections are not limited to fundamentalists. Last year, Sarjan Barkati, a self-proclaimed Sufi, earned epithets like ‘Pied Piper of Kashmir’ and ‘Freedom Chacha’ for mobilising people and glorifying the Hizbul commander Burhan Wani who had wanted to establish an Islamic Caliphate. These mutations from moderate to radical have been happening insidiously and manifested themselves in the mob that lynched deputy SP Ayub Pandith on Shab-e-Qadr.
The coalescing of all the schools of Sunni Islamic thought in Kashmir is result of a “common broad-based platform, Ittehaad-e-Millat, created to resolve differences” not only among the puritanical groups but also with syncretic Barelvi outfits, said Jamat-i-Islami Amir chief Ghulam Mohammad Bhat. Incidentally, IeM was actively involved in organising protest rallies in favour of Wani last year….
Official sources said that there are over 7,500 mosques and seminaries in Kashmir, of which over 6,000 are Hanafi and around 200 are syncretic Sufi shrines. Ahl-e-Hadith, Deoband and Jamat put together have just over 1,000 mosques and charity based seminaries, of which Ahl-e-Hadith has the largest number. “Ahl-e-Hadith mosques are popular for their modern furnishing and facilities,” said Shahnawaz, a Barelvi follower in Anantnag, adding that the organisation also funds several orphanages, clinics and medical diagnostic centres.
Sources said Ahl-e-Hadith mosques and seminaries have doubled in the last 27 years. FCRA annual reports show that top donors to India among the Salafist Islam practising states are the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Although it is not clear who the top donor and recipient in J&K is, the state has received between 10 and 100 crores as foreign funds each year in the last decade.
A lot of Salafist literature was being distributed for free in Kashmir through last 30 years, a Shia Kashmiri said. “There is a sizeable number of Kashmiri diaspora in the Middle East who send remittances, mostly through Hawala to fund not just this radical doctrine but terror too.”…
Cinemas, bars and discotheques were shut in Kashmir in the early 1990s when militant groups issued diktats against all things “un-Islamic”.