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Saad Aziz’s Road to Radicalization

It is now emerging, according to the account of senior Karachi police officials who have interrogated Saad Aziz, that he targeted social activist and entrepreneuer Sabeen Mahmud because of her liberal views and because, according to him, she campaigned against Lal Masjid cleric Maulvi Abdul Aziz.

In fact, one report also suggests that she was targeted because she had “led a campaign to promote Valentine’s Day” and that this had become very controversial. In fact, this controversy happened in February 2013 and Ms Mahmud went off Twitter for sometime (deactivated her account @sabeen for some time) after she received death threats on social media.

 

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Sabeen Mahmud

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Lal Masjid cleric Maulvi Abdul Aziz

 

You could say someone like Saad Aziz, who studied at Beaconhouse, and then The Lyceum for his A levels, before going on to one of the country’s top business schools, IBA, for his bachelor’s degree had everything. He came from a financially well-off family and by all accounts had a comfortable living, working in a restaurant that his father had bought and owned. Hence, it cannot be said — at least in his case — that financial and/or economic deprivation was a factor in his radicalization.

Friends of Saad Aziz who were with him at IBA have said that his views began to change slowly, especially in his last two years at the Institute. They said that he seemed like a “normal” person who had friends from both genders and did things that most college students would do by way of extracurricular activities. This, they said, began to change and one sign, they said, was that he stopped talking to girls completely.  They said that he joined the Iqra Society — one of dozens of IBA’s student-run societies, with a member of faculty as the patron — and would hang out increasingly with some of its members. A visit to the website of the society showed that among various discussions, seminars and events related to religion and its worth in contemporary life, there was  a separate section “designed especially for young women” and titled “Scattered Pearls”.

 

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A screenshot of IBA’s Iqra Society page ‘Scattered Pearls’ section

 

The main page of the website showed that its Annual Islamic Conference had been held at the university’s Main Campus on April  5, 2015, at IBA’s Main Campus.

 

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A screenshot of IBA’s Iqra Society’s main page

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A flyer for a workshop conducted at IBA’s Iqra Society

 

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An event at IBA’s Iqra Society — taken from the Society’s website

 

Along with several of his former classmates at IBA, Saad began publishing an online magazine “Al Rashideen” (means The Rightly Guided in English) and it is still available at http://alrashideen.weebly.com/index.html

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A screenshot of the website of the online magazine taken out by Saad Aziz and his friends

 

The Twitter account of the magazine @AlRashideen (with 14 followers) — which hasn’t tweeted since February 25 — says “We are the Only Anti-Shia English Magazine in the World” and gave its geographical location as “Syria”. The third edition of the magazine is available at http://www.scribd.com/doc/133768094/Alrashideen-3rd-Shumara and has over 1,300 views . It has several articles that can be interpreted as sharply critical of Iran. There is one on the ]amia ul ulum ul Islamiyya Binori in Karachi — usually known as the Binoria Town Madrassha — and it showers praise on it and says that “no Islamic revolution can come without madaris”.

 

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A screengrab of an article in the 3rd edition of the magazine that Saad Aziz and his friends took out online

 

Another article in the magazine was sharply critical of former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. Another article was about a suicide attack on a Tablighi Markaz in Swat in January 2013 in which several people died and lamented that the media did not give it enough coverage. It also said that “only” a PTI activist condemned the incident and quoted her as saying that while the media gave a lot of coverage to Malala Yousafzai’s attack, it gave far less to this particular one. The same article also mentions the sect of several Pakistanis in important leadership positions — in the past. It also quoted former Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah when he argued that an ASWJ candidate for a provincial assembly seat in Jhang got over 50,000 votes and hence his candidacy couldn’t just be wished away or dismissed.

The third edition of the magazine that Saad Aziz and his friends took out — all written in reasonably good English — also reproduced a speech Maulana Haq Nawaz Jhangvi, who founded the Anjuman-e-Sipah Sahaba, and in whose memory the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi was formed. Several other articles contained content that would be deemed as being heavily critical of Shias.

The first edition of the magazine reproduced an English translation of an article by Jaish-e-Muhammad leader Maulana Masood Azhar on the value of Jihad titled “Jihad: A Cause of Mercy or Anarchy?”

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A screengrab of an English translation of an article by Jaish-e-Muhammad’s Maulana Masood Azhar in the first edition of the online magazine that Saad Aziz and his friends took out

 

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