UK muslims condemn Taliban Sikh ‘tax’
The United Kingdom Council of Indian Muslims has spoken out against the alleged imposition by the Taliban of a religious tax on the Sikh community in Pakistan’s Aurakzai tribal region.
It has also criticised the reported Taliban demolition of a number of Sikh properties, describing both actions as “un-Islamic and shameful”.
In India, muslim leaders have condemned the jazya tax as extracting “protection money” and say the move is against the spirit of Islam and will harm the interests of Muslims in India and around the world.
Under Taliban pressure, Sikh families are reported to be moving to a safe haven in the Punjab in their hundreds, although some have said they left their homes to escape the military operation in the area and not the Taliban.
Mohammad Munaf Zeena, chairman of the UK Council of Indian Muslims (CIM), said the Taliban demand – claimed by the militants to follow shariah law – was “tantamount to ethnic cleansing”.
He questioned by what canon of Islam and by which interpretation of Qur’an and hadith they were committing such “inhuman, evil and revolting actions”. He pointed out that the Prophet Mohammad’s hadith warned that one cannot be a true Muslim if one’s neighbour is not safe from one’s actions.
He criticised the Pakistani government for its helplessness in controlling the Taliban. “By keeping silent and not using their influence upon them, the ulema in Pakistan are doing a great disservice to Islam, Muslims and especially Pakistan itself.”
A number of Indian Muslim leaders and clerics, including members of Jamiat Ulama-e Hind, the All India Jamiat Ahl-e Hadees and All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat, issued a joint statement condemned the treatment of the Sikhs at the hands of the Taliban, who, they said, did not constitute “a sovereign government or state”.
Abdul Hameed Nomani, the secretary of Jamiat Ulama-e Hind, Maulana, said jazya was historically a tax for protection levied after a war by the victor on the vanquished, the amount of which was to be decided by both parties on mutual agreement.
“But Pakistani Sikhs have not been a party in any war and have lived in the land for as long as the Taliban elements themselves. So levying the same on Pakistani Sikhs is absurd. Even in the light of Islam, the action is wrong,” he is reported as saying by the Times of India.
He added: “We do not know which shariah they are trying to impose in the tribal regions. Moreover, Pakistan is a democratic country and all communities have an equal say and equal duties.”
The secretary general of the All India Organisations of Imams of Mosques, Umer Ahmed Ilyasi, said the Taliban’s actions would harm the interests of Muslims in India and the entire world.
The Middle East Transparent website reported that more than 300 Sikhs forced from their homes by Taliban militants in the Buner district of the Orakzai Agency had taken shelter at the Gurdwara Punja Sahib holy site in Hassanabdal, in the Pakistani Pujab.
Agency sources said Taliban militants had forcibly occupied dozens of houses and shops when money was not forthcoming. Some properties had been destroyed. The Taliban claimed that the Sikhs are a minority and liable for the jazya tax under shariah laws.
The families, described as “impoverished”, which failed to pay the ‘tax’ had moved out for fear or of Taliban action against them, said the sources.
The Pakistani government rejected Indian protests saying the Sikhs involved were Pakistani citizens and of “no concern” to India. It said Indian representations were “tantamount to interfering in Pakistan’s internal affairs”.
However, a former Pakistani minister, Sherry Rehman, said the Talibans were extorting money and this was a criminal act and should be halted at all costs.
“Sikh, Christian, Hindu communities and other citizens belonging to any religious denomination have full rights to live in Pakistan as per our constitution,” she said.
Rehman was a close aide of slain former Premier Benazir Bhutto and is a senior figure in the ruling Pakistan People’s Party. She resigned from government after falling out with the party’s top leadership.
She said the displaced families needed maximum assistance from the government.
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