Jamaat-e-Islami And Brainwashing: A Personal Tragedy
Maria Ali recalls how she and siblings lost their childhoods, their teenage and the best part of their father to Jamaat-e-Islami’s brainwashing.
I remember my father joining Jamaat-e-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 stage drama. In those days, theatre was for the families and provided decent humour and entertainment. We had a TV at home, a radio and a book shelf 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. That is, 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-Qur’an 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. She moulded 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 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 importance of Jihad, 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. Jihadi songs were played at the gatherings and donations for Kashmir cause were taken regularly.
Cult following and radicalisation 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 of Jamiat in Mansoora. We were told about the significance of Jihad, observing 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 kuffaar have occupied our lands. It was brainwashing 24/7. They had cleverly mixed religion and politics. Prayers with the message of Jihad; purity of soul with 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 fund; the evils of co-education and media; the list was long. I couldn’t stand the camp for more than 2 days and fled.
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 politicised 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 are trademarks of Jamiat.
The same extremist mind-set prevails in most Islamic madrassas and religious outfits encourage and promote radicalisation 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 scrutinise and scan what is being taught and preached in madrassas, we are faced by an army of extremists, led by fundamentalists like Jamiat or Khadim Hussain Rizvi.
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 much of our childhood and teenage and the best part of him.
Politics that exploits 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 radicalisation 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.
The author identifies as a Socialist and a feminist. A mother of three, she is also a political activist and an avid writer. She tweets @Mariya_lhr