Accueil arrow Foreign analyzes arrow From regional to global : the influence of pan-Islamism on pakistani islamist violent non-state actors


Dr Farhan Zahid






Dr Farhan Zahid
Counter-Terrorism and Security Analyst (Pakistan).





Pan Islamists adhere to the idea of one global Islamic State, a Caliphate, a Sharia governed society and unification of all Muslim-majority states. Since Pakistan is the birth place of global jihad movement therefore, the influence of pan-Islamism on Pakistani Islamist violent non-state actors is indeed immense. The case of Pakistani Islamist groups may be taken as a case study to assess and analyze the ideology of other Islamist groups, both regional and global, and to better understand the influences behind their deeds and motives.

Perhaps no other country could claim to have as many Islamist militant groups and organizations as Pakistan. A cursory survey could give anyone a good idea about hand and glove relationship between Islamist parties adhering to the same set of ideologies as that of Islamist violent non-state actors. The key converging point is pan-Islamism. It is debatable that whether these parties are as pan-Islamist as Hizb-ut-Tahrir or contain traces of such thoughts.

Pan-Islamist ideas are as old as Islamism itself and could be bracketed with Islamism in a wider sense. Jamal ud Din Afghani (138-1897), his disciple Mohammad Abduh (1849-1905) and Rashid Rida (1865-1935) are regarded as early founders of pan-Islamism ideology. In later period of 20th century Pakistani Abu ala Maududi (1903-1979), Egyptian Syed Qutb (1906-1966), Palestinian Taqi ud Din Nabhani (1909-1977) and Iranian supreme leader Ayat ullah Khomeyni (1902-1989) became principal ideologues.[1]

According to British scholar of Islamist ideology Maajid Nawaz, Islamists with their primary agenda of Pan-Islamism are primarily striving to achieve political goals, by using Islamic religion. As an ex-member of Pan-Islamist Hizb-ut-Tahrir, he revealed, "Islam is a faith; Islamism is an ideology that uses Islam the faith as a justification. Some of you may be reluctant in calling this ideology Islamism. There exists an understandable concern of not wanting to alienate Muslims. It is my contention however that only by using Islamism can one popularise the notion that the ideology is indeed distinct from the faith, and that Islam is innocent from the excesses of Islamism. The presence of Islam in the title should be no more troubling for Muslims than the presence of ‘social' in Socialism is for sociologists.[2]"

Proponents of Pan-Islamism stress for the need of :

- Islamic nationalism which means considering Muslims worldwide as one nation rather than different ethnic groups and nations with Islam as religion,

- Single Islamic government worldwide, Caliphate,

- Rule by Sharia based laws,

- Following only the traditions of Salafs (early Islamic generations) which is why they call themselves Salafists,

- Rebuilding the lost image and glory of the past and to counter western influence,

- Considering Islam not only as religion but Islamic way of life as a distinct civilization and only through unity among Muslim nations worldwide this lost glory could be achieved[3].

Pakistani principal Islamist political parties (by virtue of their popular support) Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam (JUI or party of the scholars of Islam) are pan-Islamist by words and deeds. Steve Coll describes Jamaat's role in Afghan War was more of a Saudi proxy. With Saudi funding, JI played an active role in Afghan War, Islamist insurgency Indian Kashmir ; whereas it provided vocal and moral support for Turkish Islamist party AKP, NIF of Algeria, Palestinian Hamas and financial aid to Bosnian Muslims during Yugoslav Wars of Succession. According to Coll, "In Pakistan, Jamaat-e-Islami proved a natural and enthusiastic ally for the Wahabis. Maududi's writings, while more anti-establishment than Saudi Arabia's self-protecting monarchy might tolerate at home, nonetheless promoted many of the Islamic and social transformations sought by Saudi Arabia[4]."

Coll quoted Ahmed Badeeb, a close childhood friend of Bin Laden and Afghan War comrade that "on Bin Laden's first trip to Pakistan he brought donations to the Lahore offices of Jamaat-e-Islami, Zia's [General Zia-ul-Haq] political shock force[5]."

There are around 6000 mosques in Europe. Many of key multi-million dollars mega-mosques projects in major European cities have been funded by Saudis. JI was given control of expatriate Muslim communities of Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Indian dominated areas' mosques[6].

JUI and its factions are more regional by approach because of its Pashtun dominated leadership and voter support base. JUI's ideology is based upon Deobandi sect of Sunni Islam-a South Asian version of Saudi Wahabism. Unlike JI, the JUI is more regionally Islamist. Islamist JI has membership across Pakistan whereas JUI is Pashtun dominated and has roots in Pashtun areas. Pan-Islamism is mainly found in splinter JUI groups, which have become violent (Harkat ul Jihad e Islami, Harkat ul Mujahedeen, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and groups within Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan). Due to JUI's primary support base amongst Pashtun ethnic group, the party is vocal in support for Afghan Taliban as well as it provides some level of support to Pakistani Taliban groups as far as negotiations with the government are concerned.

Islamist terrorist groups and JUI subscribe to the same Deobandi ideology and JUI enjoys close relations with the Saudi government. Support for Palestinian cause is also part and parcel of JUI's pan-Islamism but that is at minimal level. On the other hand, the JUI splinter-violent non-state actors have remained involved in various indiscriminate acts of terror. Murder of Wall Street Journal's reporter Daniel Pearl by LeJ and HuM activists in 2002 - and murder of Iranian diplomats by the hands of LeJ activists - are some of the glaring examples in this regard.

Much has been written on Pan-Islamism and its role in mainstream Islamist ideology of regional and global jihadism. Pakistani Islamist violent non-state actors were mainly regional in their approach until the beginning of GWOT. These Islamist groups started off with Afghan War (1979-89) and then got involved in Islamist Insurgency in Indian Kashmir and sided with Afghan Taliban during Taliban conquest of Afghanistan; and even participated against wars against the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. Some of Pakistani Islamist groups took part in Yugoslav Wars of Succession in early nineties, a purely pan-Islamist gesture.   

It was after commencement of GWOT that these groups shunned their previous regional agendas and joined on-the-run Al-Qaeda leadership in tribal areas. After shaking hands with Al-Qaeda, there is absolutely no doubt that these groups now aspire to become Al-Qaeda affiliated groups and perhaps now aspiring to become part of Islamic State's broader network after the IS's conquest of Iraq and Syria in 2014; not to mention that many of those received jiahdi trainings together at Al-Qaeda-run training camps in Afghanistan during Taliban regime (1996-2001).

  • [1] Jamal ud Din Afghan lived in the time prior to World War I and had seen the unification of German and Italian states and then becoming great powers. It is one reason he espoused for unity amongst Muslims as he considered it prerequisite for Muslims to regain their lost glories and status as world power.
  • [2] Testimony of Majid Nawaz, The Roots of Violent Islamist Extremism and Efforts to Counter it, Before the US Senate committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, July 2008.
  • [3] Danielle Costa, "Afghani's Vision of a Pan-Islamic Civilization", Tufts University: HIST 194, February 1999,, retrieved on 12/03/12.
  • [4] Steve Coll, Op. Cit., p. 26.
  • [5] Steve Coll, Op. Cit., p. 86.
  • [6] Soeren Kern, "Europe's Mosque Wars", Stoneage Institute, (August 18, 2010),
    , retrieved on 14/03/12.

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