Charismatic cleric Dr Allama Tahirul Qadri enjoys strong support of British Pakistanis and also commands respect amongst other faiths who regard him as an honest, educated, moderate and well-meaning theologian who can articulate his views in an enlightened manner.
After the September 11 attacks and the July 07 bombings in London, Dr Qadri, who has jolted the political mainstream in Pakistan through his sudden appearance on the national scene, became the rare voice of moderation and reason and tried his best to tell the western world that those carrying out extremist acts didn’t represent majority Muslims and that the religion of Islam didn’t endorse acts of violence. His views have never been liked by western-based hard-line clerics and several Muslim denominations who preach a harsher version of Islam, discourage integration and have caused problems to Muslims through poisonous rhetoric.
As Dr Qadri brings Pakistan to a paralysis and articulates the view of many Pakistanis who are fed up with the rising level of corruption and the failure of the government to provide relief to the masses, the British media and the political class here has been as much shocked as pundits and media outlets in Pakistan who had until recently only treated Qadri as a cleric of minor importance. But those who know Qadri, including his detractors, are aware that he has worked through discipline and systematically over several years to build a strong base for his work – religious and social welfare projects.
The former law professor and one-time prayer leader at the Sharif family’s local mosque has a strong base in London. His Minhaj-ul-Quran centre on Romford Road, East London, and centres in all major UK cities where Pakistani communities are based, are known for good educational grades as these centres are used to disseminate education class after the school for Muslim children. Dr Qadri has the support of thousands of British Pakistanis and arguably his support base here in second only to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf leader Imran Khan.
A show of Dr Qadri’s support came when in September 2011, more than 15,000 people came together in Wembley Arena to hear him condemn extremism and terrorism in the presence of faith leaders from all major religions.
He won praise in media and amongst Muslim community here when in early 2010, he issued his 600-page fatwa against terrorism and suicide bombing. He said he was issuing the fatwa to “completely dismantles al-Qaeda’s violent ideology”. In the fatwa, Dr Qadri described al-Qaeda as an “old evil with a new name” that has not been sufficiently challenged and called on Muslim scholars and others to stop the politics of “ifs and buts” when confronting the issue of terrorism.
In last Ramadan, Dr Qadri’s Minhaj Welfare Foundation launched a massive campaign called “Educate a Child this Ramadan” through on buses and tube stations across London to raise awareness and funds for its education programmes across the world. Tens of thousands of Pounds were spent on the campaign which saw posters and billboards carrying the message with a picture of the cleric in his famous headgear.
Qadri supporters volunteer their times for the welfare work and every member is bound to raise funds through his own earning and through community initiatives. The money raised is sent to Pakistan for the projects run by Mihaj-ul-Quran in areas of education and health.
A spokesman at the Minhaj-ul-Quran centre told The News that between 150-200-youth have gone to Pakistan with Dr Qadri and are present with him at the Islamabad sit-in.