SHAFAQNA – Back in May 2017, Mawlana Syed Sibtain Kazmi, 57, who lives in Bradford, was held by Pakistani police as he was about to fly home from Benazir Bhutto International Airport in Islamabad.
The cleric, who has been a strong advocate for religious freedom, and tolerance has since been accused of the murder of Azam Tariq, the chief of the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba group, in 2003.
Azam Tariq was the leader of the politico-religious organisation Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, a Deobandi organization, which was officially banned by the government of Pakistan in August 2001 for its violence against Shia Muslims, and those Sunni Muslims who objected to his radical views.
A practitioner of takfir – a controversial concept in Islamist discourse, denoting excommunication, as one Muslim declaring another Muslim as a non-believers, Azam Tariq was arrested and jailed on charges of terrorism back in August 2001. His arrest led to the killing of several Shia clerics – a move that was very much understood as retaliatory.
Long accused of toeing the sectarian line on account of its sympathies and ties to Deobandi militants, as well as countries such as Saudi Arabia that have had no qualms in expressing their antipathy towards Shia Islam, the Pakistani authorities have been accused of persecution under the convenient cover of judicial due process.
As well as his work in the Anjuman e Haideria mosque, Mawlana Kazmi has spoken across the UK and internationally against sectarian-based violence and religious indoctrination.
He was also one of the faith leaders who attended a vigil in City Park in March this year as a response to the Westminster terror attack which cost the lives of five innocent people, including a police officer.