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Anti-Soviet Islamic Fundamentalists

Islamic fundamentalists were ideologically and organizationally the most coherent groups in the resistance, and they most resembled modern revolutionary parties in other parts of the world. Influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood (Al Ikhwan al Muslimun) in Egypt and to a lesser extent by modern Muslim thinkers on the Indian subcontinent, the movement originated on the campus of Kabul University in the late 1950s. Principal figures were professors of the Faculty of Theology, such as Burhannudin Rabbani (in late 1985 the leader of a major emigre fundamentalist party, the Jamiat i Islami). Many of these scholars had studied at the venerable A1 Azhar University in Cairo, a center of Islamic political thought. In the early years, the Jamiat i Islami, the predecessor of the resistance group established by these professors, was concerned primarily with encouraging cultural activities among students. Because of their critical views of the monarchy, however, many Jamiat iIslami members were arrested, and their activities were conducted in a semiclandestine manner.

During the 1965 72 period, when Kabul University was wracked with political turmoil, students formed the Sazman e Jawanan a Musalman (Organization of Muslim Youth). More militant than their teachers, they held demonstrations against Zionism, United States involvement in Vietnam, and most controversially against the creation of Pashtunistan. Given the importance of this issue to the government, they suffered severe repression. Muslim students also had violent confrontations with leftist students: The organization gained recruits not only at the university but also at teachers' training colleges and the polytechnic and engineering schools in Kabul. Among the most important were engineering student Gulbuddin Hikmatyar (leader in late 1985 of the Hezb a Islarni, or Islamic Party, the largest fundamentalist émigré party) and polytechnic student Mahsud, the Panjsher Valley commander. Islamic fundamentalist students came from diverse regions of Afghanistan; but significantly, the movement gained only a few adherents from Pashtun tribal areas.

In his 1984 article Roy argues that the fundamentalists were distinct both from Afghanistan's traditional religious authorities (the ulama, or scholars, and the pirs, or Sufi holy men) and from conservative Muslims (sometimes also known as "fundamentalists"), who advocated restoration of sharia (Islamic law) as the basis of the state but opposed the creation of a modern state. Unlike these groups, they were not inimical to Western ideas. Roy notes that "Islamism [his term for fundamentalism" attempts to think of Islam in terms of a political ideology which is fit to compete with the great ideologies of the West (liberalism, Marxism,, nationalism): It borrows the conceptual framework of western political philosophy (the sense of history, the State, the search for a definition. of politics) and endeavours to fill it with the traditional concepts of Muslim thought." Their political activism and self awareness as modern intellectuals rather than traditional scholars gave them a perspective that was deeply at odds with Afghan tradition. In many ways, they were as remote from the society in which they lived as the more radical members of the PDPA. This was particularly true of Hikmatyar; who sought to build a highly disciplined, Leninist style "vanguard" party.

As revolutionaries, the fundamentalists were committed to establishing a just society based on Islamic principles. On this issue they were at odds with the often corrupt religious authorities who were concerned with tradition and hairsplitting interpretations of sharia. These divergent viewpoints engendered much suspicion and hostility.

Fundamentalists were opposed to Daoud's regime after he came to power in July 1973 because of his collaboration with Parcham, his initially friendly relations with the Soviet Union, and his Pashtun nationalism. Their opposition to the Pashtunistan issue gained them the active support of Pakistan. The Pakistani armed forces trained Afghan units in the early 1970s, and around 5,000 guerrillas were based at camps near the border at Peshawar. In July 1975 they launched an,insurrection. Although the Jamiat i Islami, like the PDPA, had established cells in the armed forces, army sympathizers did nothing to aid the revolt. Insurgents attacked government installations in the Panjsher Valley,. Badakhshan., and other parts of the country. The uprising was brutally crushed; and the survivors fled hack across the border to Peshawar. There, the foundations were laid for the later mujahidiin movement.

The history of the Jamiat i Islami parallels, in a striking fashion, that of the PDPA. As in the leftist party, there were radical and moderate wings. Hikmatyar, the youthful "Leninist," bitterly opposed the more moderate and accomodating united front strategy of Rabbani. In 1970 or 1977 the two leaders went separate ways. Hikmatyar formed the Hezb e Islami, while Rabbani retained control over the original Jamiati Islami. In 1979 a second split occurred. Yunis Khales, one of the few traditional ulama to become involved in the fundamentalist movement, broke with Hikmatyar and formed his own Hezb a Islami. This group was more moderate than Hikmatyar's and in the mid 1980s enjoyed good relations with Rabbani's party.

Four major Islamic fundamentalist émigré parties were prominent in the mid 1980s: Hikmatyar's Hezb a Islami; Rabbani's Jamiat i Islami; Khales' Hezb a Islami; and Abdul Rasool Sayyaf s Ittehad e Islami (Islamic Alliance) (see Resistance Forces, ch. 5). Hikmatyar's party had widespread support in the Pashtun areas of the north and east, especially Konduz, Baghlan, Konarha, and Nangarhar provinces. Though Hikmatyar led the best organized, best led, and numerically strongest party (it had between 20,000 and 30,000 adherents in the mid 1980s), he was often accused of greater zealousness in attacking resistance rivals than the Soviet or Afghan armed forces. The 1979 rumors of a plot between him and HaFzullah Amin also tainted him with the stigma of a collaborator. Chaliand calls him "the most intelligent, ambitious and ruthless resistance leader in Peshawar."

Rabbani's Jamiat i Islami derived most of its popular support from the Dari and Turkic speaking national minorities in the northern part of the country. One of his most supportive guerrilla commanders was Mahsud, who, like Rabbani himself, was a Tajik. Khales' Hezb a Islami maintained its power base in the southeastern part of the country, particularly Paktia Province. Sayyaf's group was well armed and well equipped, but it was regarded as having little support outside his native area, Paghman, near Kabul.

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Page last modified: 15-08-2012 15:08:52 ZULU