Thursday, February 26, 2009

More than one kind of Islamic radical -- 1970s

There is a lot of room for confusion in the tale of the growth of Islamic radicalism in Afghanistan. People with difficult names feud with each other and set up different political factions in opposition to each other. There are a few passages on pages 249 and 250 which may give you a clue as to some of the issues that divided people who all thought of themselves as fighting for an Islamic Afghanistan.

Here is a passage based on Edwards's interview with a man named Maulavi Yunus Khales, who was prominent in the refugee community forming on the Pakistan border in the late 1970s:
Khales had long been known for his independence and idiosyncrasies, but apparently the principal factor in this decision to establish his own Hizb-i Islami [there was another one dominated by his opponents, the former university students] was his resentment at being subordinate to younger and less experienced men. Although he did not want to discuss the reasons for his split with Hizb in my interview with him, he did comment on Hekmatyar's lack of understanding of religious matters, a subject on which he had previously written a polemical pamphlet:
The Muslim Youth [the initial campus-based group] wanted to do demonstrations and talk about the government, but we wanted to work deeply and bring about the theological revolution. Our work was ripe, but the work of the Muslim Youth was unripe, like young people themselves. The Muslim Youth would make up slogans just like the communists. [They would chant,] "death to Zahir Shah," but they didn't know who would come after him if Zahir Shah was kicked out.
To Khales, Hekmatyar and his followers were "unripe", and he questioned how Hekmatyar could claim to lead an Islamic jihad when he had only rudimentary understanding of Islamic scripture. The term most commonly applied to Hekmatyar and the other erstwhile student revolutionaries by Khales and other older clerics was..."schoolboys" which reflects the fact that most of them were young and had gone to state schools rather than madrasas. Some clerics were willing to forgive [them] their lack of training because their hearts at least were with Islam, but increasingly that sympathy was strained as the political environment in Peshawar became more polarized.
The former university students had their own complaints including these (250):
The Hizbis also condemned the backwardness of the ulama who, in the words of reform, "just kept us busy with old philosophy."
If our brothers talked with the mullas about the scientific issues in the mosque, they would issue a fitwa of infidelity... against us... They were severely antiscience. Even when they traveled in cars and planes, they would say that these were magic and they would be destroyed once people hit them with swords. If we told them that America, the Soviet Union, and France had atomic bombs and could destroy the world, they would say that we were mad and told lies. If we told them there was poverty and illiteract in Afghanistan urged them to learn about contemporary affairs, they would say that we had turned away from Islam.
By contrast, Muslim Youth leaders were familiar with Western science and society, and, in the pamphlets they wrote and the speeches they delivered, interest scientific and social issues from an informed Islamic perspective that neither ignored or condemned the intellectual and technological advances of the West. They were aware of the way leftists made fun of the "backwardness" of Islamic scholars and were intent on showing the compatibility of religion and science.
You don't have to take either characterization as literal truth. See the book for more issues that divided the two groups.

Image: The only picture I could find of Mohammad Yunus Khales (Khalis).

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