I remember my father joining Jamate Islami when I was a kid. He used to be quite a moderate and progressive young man who enjoyed light music and movies. I remember going to the theatre with him once to watch a live Stage Drama. In those days, the theatre was for the families and provided decent humor and entertainment. We had a TV at home, a radio and a bookshelf full of Reader’s Digests and English/Urdu novels. I even remember a copy of Satanic Verses that my mother later hid from me when she found out I was reading it. But I would read anything that I found in my home, and nobody had any problem with the content. Until my father joined JI. And then, life started to change.
The library books were replaced with JI’s monthly publications, Maulana Maududi’s Tafheem ul Quran and religious magazines. The TV was removed, music banned and there were no more movie weekends. My mother who used to be very modern and seldom cared about wearing a headscarf was now seen wrapped in veils. Being a good wife, she molded herself slowly according to her husband’s will. My father transformed completely, and we were left with a person completely unknown to us. The change was dramatic, and it hit all of us siblings hard.
Growing up in a family that was moderate in religious views, the sudden change left me feeling out of place. As I entered teenage, JI started to take hold of our lives. I accompanied my parents to the 3-day congregations many times to listen to JI leaders shedding light on the importance of Jihad, a charity in the name of Jihad and politics in the name of religion. As I walked around the venue, I could see young men wearing Gorilla uniforms and weapons, apparently training for their participation in Jihad in Kashmir. Mansoora, their headquarter in Lahore, was the hub of training of Mujahids and radicalizing young minds into believing Jihad was the only way to conquer the world. Jihadi songs were played at the gatherings and donations for Kashmir cause were taken regularly.
Cult following and radicalization doesn’t happen overnight. It takes years of training and brainwashing of young and immature minds. My father once sent me to attend a student summer camp at Jamiat in Mansoora. We were told about the significance of Jihad, parda and prayers day and night. After every prayer, there would be a lecture on why we should send our brothers and sons to Kashmir and how kufaar have occupied our lands. It was brainwashing 24/7. They had cleverly mixed religion and politics. Prayers with the message of Jihad. The purity of the soul with the use of weapons against the enemy of Islam. The importance of sending at least one man from each household to Kashmir while persuading their women to donate their gold in Kashmir’s fund. The evils of coeducation and media. The list was long. I couldn’t stand the camp for more than 2 days and flee.
Jamiat e Talba, which is the student wing of JI, has produced goons out of students and extremist minds. Student unions, which used to be a vital part of educational institutions and have played an important role in not only creation of Pakistan but also stood up against the atrocities of martial regimes, have been badly exploited and politicized by Jamiat and students have been used in destructive activities within and outside of universities. Banning cultural activities, bullying progressive-minded students, inciting violence against liberal young people and harassing them is the trademark of Jamiat.
The same extremist mindset prevails in most Islamic Madrassas and religious outfits encourage and promote radicalization in the name of religion and love of Prophet (PBUH). The sermons after daily prayers contain hate speech against other sects and incite violence against those who differ from them in beliefs. As there are no regulatory bodies that can scrutinize and scan what is being taught and preached in madrassas, we are faced by an army of Extremist Mujahids, led by fundamentalists like TLP.
Such ideologies last as long as the movements do. My father who has been a JI devotee for 30 years finally resigned from the party accepting they have been opportunists. None of his children including myself could agree to the politics of JI ever. But during the process of his brainwashing and cult shaping by Jamaat we lost many parts of our childhood and teenage and the best part of him. Politics that exploit religious sentiments is uglier than vulgarity in the name of liberalism. JI and their leadership are guilty of exploiting young minds and sending them to death dens of Jihad in the name of God. In my opinion, they are no better than TLP or ASWJ when it comes to radicalization and terrorism. Jinnah’s wish of a Secular Progressive State of Pakistan is a distant dream only with these parties in active politics or Parliament.