Wahhabism Has Created A Crater In The Heart Of Kashmir
The recent video which went viral, in which Mufti Nauman of Srinagar slapped a person for asking a question about Islam, is highly telling of our current times of Kashmir.
I am increasingly thoughtful of where we are headed as a society if a man holding a position of respect chooses to slap another man for engaging in an intellectual conversation.
Is this what we believe Kashmir to be, in our minds and hearts? Is this the Kashmir that we identify with?
I can say with certainty that this is not the Kashmiri values which I have imbibed from my father, from my grandfather, from my paternal and maternal clan. My generations upon generations have lived and died on this land. From the glory of my generations here, I have known that we Kashmiris are people of reason and intellect. We are people of peace and harmony.
To Analyze, To Reason
We have passed through tough and terrible times over the last few decades. But that does not mean that the fire of our intellect has dimmed. We continue to inspire our children to have the ability to think, to analyze, to reason.
Then why does Mufti Nauman of Srinagar choose to slap a man for asking a question? Where is our glorious tradition of Islam which teaches us not to hurt anyone?
We have jeopardized the safety of our Kashmir by giving space to violent thought processes. When the thought is violent, it leads to violent action. Violent thought and action have injured and damaged Kashmiris for decades.
We also have to contemplate on what has us made us prone to violent thought and action. It is important for us to understand and resolve this for our own safety and security, and also for the safety and security of our children and grandchildren.
Shift In Our Belief System
We Kashmiris know that we are peace-loving, harmonious people. Then what has led to this violent shift in the way we think and act? The reason is the shift in our belief system.
For the last three decades, Kashmiris have been swinging in the boats of diverse sects of Islam. The first sect was that of Wahhabism or Salafis. This sect was preached and followed by hardliners in Saudi Arabia, and was pumped to Kashmir. The impact of Wahhabi thinking has been far more insidious than we imagine.
Many observers of Kashmir have noted that Wahhabism is responsible for the violence and unrest in Kashmir. In 2019, astute political observer Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain (retd) said that the current unrest in Jammu and Kashmir is caused by Wahhabism imported from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.
Gen Hasnain said, “Wahabbism has not been understood by the Indian nation, nor by the armed forces. The manner in which Wahabbiyat was introduced in Kashmir… the manner in which mosques changed hands in 10-15 years (referring to the early 90s when militancy was at its height) from the local Sufi maulvis to the ones who came from central India — Bihar, UP and Madhya Pradesh,” said Gen Hasnain.
Herein lies our pain. We allowed radicalization imported by Pakistan to corrupt us. We allowed vested interests in Saudi to plant and deepen Wahhabism here. We ignored and sidelined our own Sufi maulvis. We allowed hardline Maulvis from Bihar, UP and Madhya Pradesh to embed hate and exclusivist thought processes.
Declining Number Of Devotees At Hazararbal Shrine
The spread and influence of this sect in Kashmir is clearly seen in the declining number of devotees seen at the Hazararbal shrine and other popular shrines of the Valley.
I am reminded of 1999, when I had gone with my grandfather to Hazratbal Shrine to offer Friday prayers. The shrine was crowded by devotees. It was difficult to find a place to even stand inside the premises of the shrine. People in thousands from far off places in the region had come there to offer prayers. Their faith and the belief were like fragrance in the air.
Some days ago, I visited the same shrine. I was surprised to see that the number of devotees at Hazratbal Shrine had declined considerably as compared to the numbers earlier.
Wahhabism has created a crater in the heart of Kashmir. Our astonishing and beautiful Kashmiriyat is seen nowhere.
Pakistan Decimated Kashmir’s Indigenous Culture
On the one hand, the militants took up arms against the state forces for the so-called Kashmir cause. Pakistan aided and abetted them in an organized manner. An important aspect of the Kashmir conflict was the introduction of radicalism to create linkages between the Kashmiri population and the Pakistani population.
Pakistan systematically decimated the indigenous Kashmiri culture and imposed a harsh, exclusivist culture upon us. The important thing to note is that we allowed Pakistan to do it. Over 40 years, our youth have been falling prey to Pakistan’s machinations. Generation after generation, Pakistan has used our youth for keeping our pot boiling.
At the local level, I observe that people in general are not really bothered about the Kashmir cause. What they are really bothered about is the supremacy of their sect. So many times, I have seen people fighting in mosques, in the market, in public transport or in any assembly for the supremacy of their sects.
As a Kashmiri, sometimes I weep to watch this. Where are we heading? This recent example is before us. The follower of one sect was slapped by the follower of another sect just for asking him a question. The man who was slapped was from Barelvi sect. The maulvi who slapped him was from the Deobandi sect. The incident took place in a mosque.
These people continue to disrespect the place where they are seated – the pious mosque. They continue to disrespect their position in society. In the face of such incidents, other communities don’t believe us when we say that our religion is a peaceful religion, it spreads love and it focuses on the welfare of the people, irrespective of caste and religious differences.
The maulvis should lead us, our children and grandchildren towards steadfast faith in the Almighty, with love and understanding. They should not fuel the disputes. We have to revive Kashmiriyat. We have to re-establish the Kashmiri brotherhood, for which Kashmir was famous. We have to wake up and work collectively for the betterment of Kashmir.