LAL MASJID

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LAL MASJID

Profile: Islamabad's Red Mosque
By Syed Shoaib Hasan
BBC News



Militant women students at their seminary
The controversial Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) that is the focus of a bloody confrontation between Pakistani security forces and radical clerics and students is located near the centre of the capital, Islamabad.

A religious school for women, the Jamia Hafsa madrassa, is attached to the mosque. A male madrassa is a few minutes drive away.

Throughout most of its existence, the mosque has long been favoured by the city elite, including prime ministers, army chiefs and presidents.

Pakistan's longest-ruling dictator, General Zia-ul-Haq, was said to be very close to the former head of the Lal Masjid, Maulana Abdullah, who was famous for his speeches on jihad (holy war).

This was during the 1980s when the mujahideen's fight against Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was at its peak, and jihad was seen as an acceptable clarion call in the Muslim world.

The mosque is located near the headquarters of Pakistan's shadowy ISI intelligence service, which helped train and fund the holy warriors, and a number of ISI staff are said to go there for prayers.

'Terror links'


The Lal Masjid has since been a centre of radical Islamic learning and houses several thousand male and female students in adjacent seminaries.


Gen Musharraf is thus understandably perturbed by the mosque and its leaders and has repeatedly ordered action against them


Maulana Abdullah was assassinated in the mosque in late nineties, and since then the entire complex has been run by his sons, Maulana Abdul Aziz and Abdul Rashid Ghazi.

The brothers admit to having had good contacts with many of the wanted leaders of al-Qaeda, including Osama Bin Laden.

This was in the years before the 11 September, 2001 attacks on the US, when jihad was part of Pakistan's state-sanctioned policy.

Since the "war on terror" began, however, both the Lal Masjid and the Jamia Hafsa deny having had any links with organisations now banned for supporting terrorism.


But they have been vehement in their support for the "jihad against America" and have openly condemned President Musharraf.

Tribal areas

In speeches after Gen Musharraf openly announced his support for the war on terror", the mosque has been the centre of calls for his assassination.

One of these speeches was delivered by Maulana Masood Azhar, whose Jaish-e-Mohammad fundamentalist group members were later involved in several failed attempts on the life of the president.

Gen Musharraf is thus understandably perturbed by the mosque and its leaders and has repeatedly ordered action against them.

So far all attempts to rein the mosque and its leaders in have been unsuccessful.

The Lal Masjid and its madrassa also have strong links to the tribal areas of Pakistan, which provide many of their students.

In a recent interview, Abdul Rashid Ghazi said that they had the support of the Waziristan Taleban and any actions against the madrassa would have an "appropriate response".

The Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa were in the news in July 2005 when Pakistani security forces tried to raid the mosque following the suicide bombings that month in London.

The security personnel were met by baton-wielding women who refused to let them enter the mosque or seminary compound.

Authorities said the security forces were investigating a link between the seminary and Shehzad Tanweer, one of the 7 July bombers.

The school has been in the limelight ever since.

'Fight to death'


The madrassa's administration has also been particularly vocal in raising the issue of missing people in Pakistan - hundreds of suspected radical militants and their families who are allegedly in the detention of Pakistan's intelligence agencies.


A large number of Jamia Hafsa students come from the tribal areas

It was also a leading light in the protests in Pakistan against Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad which led to demonstrations all over the Muslim world.

And it was the Jamia Hafsa which British schoolgirl Misbah Rana, also known as Molly Campbell, was reported to have been interested in joining after arriving in Pakistan at the centre of an international custody row.

The latest controversy to feature the school was when it launched a campaign against the demolition of mosques in Islamabad by the capital authority.

After the administration started the demolition of part of the mosque, said to have been constructed illegally, students of the seminaries launched an all-out campaign against them.

They prevented the authorities physically from reaching the site and then occupied the building of a nearby children's library.

Most of this was done by the female students, many of whom were carrying Kalashnikovs during the occupation.

The students then set-up a round the clock vigil and promised to "fight to death" after the government threatened to evict them.

The situation was only defused after the authorities backed down and offered talks.

The government has since reconstructed the demolished part of the mosque compound, but the administration maintains that six other mosques around the capital city which have met similar treatment should also be rebuilt.

In the meantime, students have remained in occupation of the library and have been involved in other "social activities" like the raid on the hostel.
VDOS

[youtube=425,350]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PCIeh1DOnk[/youtube]

[youtube=425,350]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OUqKn24DmLE[/youtube]

LINKZ

LAL MASJID WIKIPEDIA

Lal Masjid ( Abdul Aziz Captured )

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