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Pakistan Islamist Sees Anti-Islam

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    Pakistan Islamist Sees Anti-Islam

    Monday April 9 8:21 PM ET

    Pakistan Islamist Sees Anti-Islam 'Aggression'

    By Tahir Ikram

    TARO JABBA (Reuters) - The leader of a Pakistani fundamentalist Islamic party told a huge public rally Monday Islam was facing aggression from world powers and that Muslims had a right to defend themselves.

    ``We want to give a message to world powers to desist from their infamous conspiracies against Islam,'' Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI) party chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who is a strong backer of Afghanistan (news - web sites)'s ruling Taliban, said in a speech outside the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar.

    ``Stop the process of aggression,'' he said, directing his warning at unspecified world powers that he blamed for oppression in the Middle East, Chechnya (news - web sites), Kosovo, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Kashmir (news - web sites).

    ``If the aggressive trend persists, then we have the full right to defend ourselves against your aggression,'' he told a crowd of tens of thousands of people, one of the largest since the military seized power in a bloodless coup in October 1999.

    Rehman's religious seminary in Pakistan has produced several senior members of the ruling Taliban movement, which sent a 30-member delegation to attend the religious conference.

    A conference organizer told Reuters the JUI had invited Taliban supreme leader Mullah Muhammad Omar but he had declined to come. But the organizer said he was expected to make a speech via telephone Tuesday or at the concluding session on Wednesday.''

    The Taliban and Fazlur Rehman's party are followers of Deoband school, maintaining a strict interpretation of Sunni Islam.

    The all-male rally at Taro Jabba, seven miles west of Peshawar, capital of North West Frontier province, was held to open a three-day conference to mark the 150th anniversary of the famous Deoband Islamic seminary in neighboring India.

    Deoband produced some of the renowned Islamic scholars -- such as Rehman's late father, Mufti Mahmood -- known for their opposition to British rule over India, which ended with independence and partition of the subcontinent into India and Pakistan in 1947.

    General Pervez Musharraf's military government has banned public rallies since March 2000 but has not stopped some religious groups from staging them, drawing the charge of bias against main liberal opposition parties.

    The Taro Jabba rally follows the government's biggest crackdown against political parties when it detained hundreds of activists and the entire leadership of the main opposition Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy to block a rally planned for March 23.

    ``By holding such a large gathering, we have proven to the world that the torch lit by (Deoband) darul uloom (house of knowledge) was still burning,'' Rehman told the rally.

    ``Darul Uloom Deoband is the breeding ground for mujahideen (Islamic fighters),'' said another Islamic scholar, Maulana Syed Abdul Majeed.

    ``Besides teaching, it has imbibed the spirit of jihad (holy war),'' said Majeed as the huge crowd cheered him with cries of ''Allahu Akbar'' (God is greatest).

    __________________________________________________ ________

    Like I said, its not the government, its the people that counts!

    *We are the Taleban-Resistance is Futile*
    Sin: Osama Bin Junior