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The Dawat-e-Islami, one of Pakistan's largest Sunni-Barelvi Muslim organisations, which has been in the news after the brutal killing of a tailor in India, on Friday rejected links to "any acts of terrorism," saying it is purely an educational, missionary and charity institution which preaches peace.
The organisation, with its headquarters in Pakistan's commercial capital Karachi, has been under the spotlight after it emerged that one of the two men who carried out a deadly attack in Udaipur, Rajasthan, was inspired by the Dawat-e-Islami and visited Karachi in 2014.
Two men, identified as Riaz Akhtari and Ghouse Mohammad, allegedly hacked tailor Kanhaiya Lal to death with a cleaver at his shop in Udaipur on Tuesday and posted videos online saying they are avenging an insult to Islam.
Distancing the Dawat-e-Islami from the gruesome murder in Udaipur, Maulana Mahmood Qadri, a senior figure in the organisation's headquarters (Faizan-e-Madina) in Karachi's Gulshan-e-Iqbal area rejected his organisation's links to any act of terrorism.
"Dawat-e-Islami has nothing to do with any act of terrorism. We are purely an educational, missionary and charity institution and globally preach peace in our lives," Mahmood told PTI in an interview.
He said that thousands of students from all over the world visit the organisation's headquarters for Islamic studies that does not preach or promote extremism or radicalism.
"We are also apolitical," he emphasised.
One can easily spot the followers of Dawat-e-Islami in Karachi as they wear green turbans and go about their work.
Dawat-e-Islami has branches across the world, Mahmood said, adding that the organisation operates a television channel Madni channel - and has a proper website with all details of the group.
"Since the Dawat-e-Islami was founded in 1981, there has not been a single incident where any of our students, followers or teachers has been named or been involved in any violent activities, he said.
Mahmood expressed surprise at the Indian media reports linking the organisation with the Udaipur murder, insisting that their teachings would never inspire a student to take someone's life.
Unlike other religious organisations in Pakistan, the Dawat-e-Islami has never been associated with any violence or violent act, he said.
Mahmood said that one must always respect each other as human beings and also respect each other's religions.
"Any Muslim, no matter which sect he belongs to, would never tolerate any blasphemous comments about the Prophet Mohammad. What happened was bad and it caused hurt, pain to every Muslim where-ever he lives, he said, referring to the remarks by a now-expelled BJP leader.
Mahmood said one just had to listen to the preachings of their leader, Maulana Muhammad Ilyas Attar Qadri, to understand the philosophy behind the movement which is to reform oneself and the world through character building and charitable work.
"He only talks about purifying and reforming society from what we view as moral decay."
Every week he holds a gathering and it is live on our channel and he talks only about peace, Mahmood said, citing it as a reason for increasing numbers of the followers of his organisation all over the world.
"Even if I am assassinated, my followers need not take law into their hands and seek registration of an FIR (against the assailants). I don't want a Fitna (mischief) among Muslims. I want peace being alive and I want the same after death," Dawat-e-Islami chief Ilyas Attar Qadri says in a video message.
Qadri openly condemns killing(s) to avenge insults to Prophet Mohammad. "We spread the message of peace. Those who insult the Prophet should be handed over to police for legal action," he says.
Talking to PTI, the Dawat-e-Islami leaders refused to own those involved in killings in the name of religion.
"Ours is an organisation that is totally non-violent one. Name any of our religious gatherings here and abroad (and) you find one message from our leaders and that is peace," Ali Ahmad Malik Attari, a Lahore leader of Dawat-e-Islami, told PTI.
He also emphasised that Dawat-e-Islami was in no way related to Sunni Tehreek or Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), a far-right Islamic extremist political party in Pakistan, and his organisation should not be confused with any such radical group.
"Listen to any of our leadership's video on YouTube or in our Madni Channel, it is found spreading Sunnah (life style) of the Prophet and message of peace and forgiving each other," Attari said as he challenged to produce a single clip of its leaders that is promoting violence.
Currently there are some 4,000 seminaries called Madrassat-ul Madina the group is running across Pakistan. It has 700 higher education institutions called Jamiaat-e-Madina.
Another Dawat-e-Islami leader from Rawalpindi Arsalan Qadri, who is associated with its higher education institution, says none of its students is involved in any violent activity.
"We have zero tolerance against religious extremism. Any one found involved in promoting violence is shown the door," he said.
When asked about the visit of one of the accused in the Udaipur killing to Dawat-e-Islami headquarters in Karachi in 2014, Qadri said: "Many link Mumtaz Qadri, assassin of Punjab province governor Salman Taseer, with Dawat-e-Islami but that doesn't establish that we promote violence."
He said that usually Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) raises a slogan of "sending a blasphemer to hell".
"So both (Ghouse Mohammad and Mumtaz Qadri) can be inspired by the ideology of TLP but not Dawat-e-Islami," he said and cited the statement of the All India Ulema and Mashaikh Board in which it strongly condemned the killing of the tailor.
"Killing one person amounts to killing the whole of humanity," he said, citing a verse from the Quran.
The Dawat-e-Islami website lists that it has more than 500,000 male and female volunteers, over 32,000 employees and their European headquarters is Faizan-e-Madina in Bradford from where they run three seminaries.
They also run affiliated seminaries and institutions in other parts of Europe and in Chicago, Texas and California in the US.
"We have affiliations with leading religious institutions in India also but they are all renowned for producing Islamic scholars and their publications. We are producing thousands of Huffaz, Qaris, Imams, preachers, teachers, scholars and Muftis from our seminaries for men and women and none of them is preaching about extremism," Mahmood said.
The root of the Dawat-e-Islami can be traced to Islamic scholars, Allama Arshadul Qadri and Shah Ahmed Noorani who headed the once powerful political religious Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan (JUP).
Ilyas Attar Qadri, who founded Dawat-e-Islami in 1981, has reduced his public appearance. He prefers addressing his followers through its own TV channel "Madni TV."
Unlike TLP or Sunni Tehreek which have followers of Sunni and Barelvi sects, Dawat-e-Islami is not on the radar of the law enforcement agencies.
(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
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First Published: Fri, July 01 2022. 21:41 IST