Media and mysticism: The Curious Case of Tahir-ul-Qadri
Tahir-ul-Qadri (Source: World Economic Forum CC-by-2.0)
by Jonas Atlas
“The Pakistani Tahir-ul-Qadri (who resides in Canada these days) gladly presents himself as a great Sufi scholar. In that capacity, his hundreds of books are eagerly read by his thousands of followers from the (higher) middle classes of Pakistan. In 2010 he was abundantly praised by the international community when he published a more than six hundred page fatwa that denounced Islamic terrorism as inconsistent with the teachings of Islam. He was elaborately interviewed by news channels such as CNN, magazines such Foreign Policy Magazine and programs such as Al Jazeera’s ‘Frost over the World’. In my own language region (i.e. Flanders) an interview of several pages was published in the Knack, one of the more intellectual weekly’s. In 2015 similar news items surfaced when ul-Qadri launched an ‘anti-extremism’ syllabus for clerics, imams and teachers. He was planning to use it for courses in the UK and, soon afterwards, in other countries. This as well received very positive coverage from international media channels such as Reuters and the BBC.
It certainly fits the image. A mystic that strongly opposes violence and tries to counterbalance radicalization and terrorism with his moderate spirituality, is quickly applauded. Strangely enough, however, it seems very difficult for editorial offices to link up certain news items about this particular man, which might breach the image somewhat. Yet, in 2013 and 2014 Tahir-ul-Qadri was one of the protagonists in several long periods of political and social unrest in Pakistan. In an orchestrated attempt to ignite some sort of Arabic Spring in Pakistan, he twice called for massive revolution and together with tens of thousands of protesters (though far less than the one million he had hoped for) he marched towards the capital. He denounced political corruption and demanded the resignation of the prime minister — every time with little results and much shadowy politics.
Those who are the slightest bit familiar with the religious groups of Pakistan thus know that behind the social, religious, educational and political Minhaj-ul-Quran movement hides a very well structured organization. It isn’t always clear where the organization gets its funds but it’s public knowledge that it maintains good relationships with both the military and certain parts of the political establishment in Pakistan. In this respect it shouldn’t surprise that he had founded his own political party before (the Pakistan Awami Tehreek) and that during his attempts of starting a revolution in 2013 and 2014, he joined forces with other political protagonists and well known party leaders”
Mother of all the dream of Tahirul Qadri