Last week, UNewsTV released an undated audio alleged to be of Maulana Abdul Aziz, the head cleric of the Lal Masjid. An interviewer questions him about his mission in inviting people to dawah/dawats (a gathering called to appeal to non-Muslims to convert to Islam). Writes Ashlyn Davis
Islamabad’s Lal Masjid is again in the news, and for all the wrong reasons, as has been the case on other occasions. The mosque, prominently situated in Pakistani capital, is the oldest and second-largest mosque in the national capital. It made headlines in 2007 when hundreds of jihadists were killed there in a military raid by the Parvez Musharraf government.
Last week, UNewsTV released an undated audio alleged to be of Maulana Abdul Aziz, the head cleric of the Lal Masjid. An interviewer questions him about his mission in inviting people to dawah/dawats (a gathering called to appeal to non-Muslims to convert to Islam).
“Our goal is that in this world…we want Islamic rule to be established in Pakistan, Islamic rule to be established in Bangladesh, Islamic rule to be established in Hindustan (India), and eradication of Christianity in the world, eradication of Judaism, eradication of the Hindus, and eradication of the Sikhs, and apart from this, eradication of the Shias and the rawakhis, and the Qadianis [a demeaning word used to refer to Ahmadiyya]. In the whole wide world, as Prophet Muhammad had professed, by the end of times, the sound of kalma will be emanating from every mud house as well as concrete house, and the entire world will become Muslim,” says the Maulana. Kalma is the Islamic oath of allegiance that proclaims that Islam is the only true religion. Non-Muslims are made to recite the kalma for their conversion to Islam.
He adds, “We want to make the entire world embrace Islam. He (Prophet Muhammad) had affirmed that the entire world will have to embrace Islam. Those who are men of honor will gracefully accept Islam, and those who are bereft of honor will be disgraced until they accept Islam. Our goal is to compel the whole world to embrace Islam, be it America, be it India, whether they are Hindus, Sikhs or any other community, they will have to convert to Islam. And that time is approaching, inshallah [Allah willing]. It is about time and there will be no other religion in the world except Islam, and in this land of Allah, the law of Allah only shall prevail, others will be finished. That is our mission.”
The one-minute-40-second-long soliloquy may appear to be the irrational rant of a deranged Pakistani extremist, but it would be foolish to dismiss Maulana Abdul Aziz’s ambitions as the fantasies of an old Islamic cleric.
A passionate supporter of terror organizations such as the Taliban and al-Qaeda, Maulana Abdul Aziz was expelled from the Lal Masjid in 2007, but he managed to gain control over the mosque in 2009.
In 2014, a leaked video from his madrassa showed his students declaring their support for the Islamic State. The same year, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan carried out a bomb blast in Peshawar’s Army Public school, killing 148 students and leaving over 110 children severely injured. Aziz defended the blast, for which he was banned from the mosque again.
However, he stormed into the establishment again in 2020 and took complete control of the mosque. He also forced the Imran Khan government to grant him two large plots of land for building madrassas. He also demanded his reinstatement as the Lal Masjid chief, and his demands were duly honored.
Aziz wields immense influence over Pakistan’s government, and this has been so for generations. His father, Muhammad Abdullah Ghazi, was allegedly a close associate of the dictator Zia ul Haq. During the 1970-80s, he had sent thousands of his madrassa students to fight as mujahiddin (warriors of Jihad) in Afghanistan. After Ghazi’s assassination in 1998, Aziz’s brother Abdul Rashid Ghazi, another hardliner, began training mujahiddin, while Aziz succeeded his father as the cleric of the mosque.
During his reign as the mosque chief, he shot to prominence for promoting jihad activities against the West, delivering inflammatory sermons, and promoting Islamic jihadist beliefs among thousands of his students. His foot soldiers took his message to the streets of Islamabad by abducting Chinese masseuses and vandalizing “un-Islamic” CD and DVD shops, which resulted in murderous clashes in the capital. This is what called for the siege of Lal Masjid by Pakistan’s military in 2007.
The cleric’s brother, Abdul Rashid Gazi, was killed during this military raid. Interestingly, Maulana Abdul Aziz was apprehended by the Army while he attempted to run away hiding in a burqa and was given the mock name, Mullah Burqa. On the other hand, the attack on the religious establishment led to an uprising in Pakistan’s Waziristan that could be crushed only after the slaughter of hundreds of Pakistani soldiers.
The influential Maulana hoisted the flag of the Taliban in Pakistan’s capital city last month, and the authorities stood there as mere spectators. Aziz maintains amicable relations with both the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani Taliban, though these entities often conflict with each other.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, who leads the reigning Islamic government in Pakistan, bows down to Aziz, as he is aware of the immense authority he commands over the people of Pakistan. His power and position have been emboldened after the occupation of neighboring Afghanistan by the Taliban jihadis. An advocate of Islamic jihad across the world, Aziz is looking forward to the global caliphate, not sparing his home country of Pakistan, either, and he is backed by a generation of home-grown jihadis who are ready to go to any extent to establish the rule of Islam worldwide.
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