Talk on Abdul Ghaffar Khan informative and enlightening
Over 50 people turned out to hear Mr. Ali Gohar of Just Peace International present an illustrated talk on the life and work of Abdul Ghaffar Khan (Bacha Khan) entitled “The Noviolent Solider of Islam” on 20 January, at Manningham Mills Community Centre in Bradford. The talk was organised and supported by The Peace Museum. Ali Gohar began the presentation with a recitation from the Koran and then gave a brief introduction of the Pukhtoon community before moving on to the main focus of his presentation, the life and work of Adul Ghaffar Khan. Abdul Ghaffar Khan (1890-1988) fought nonviolently for independence from the British and was especially active between 1910-1940 in the Khyber Pukhoonkhawa province of what was to be Pakistan. He was a Pukhtoon political and spiritual leader, an educationalist, a lifelong pacifist, and a devout Muslim. He was a champion of women’s rights and never lost faith in the compatibility of Islam and nonviolence. Significant among Ghaffar Khan’s work, and a main focus of Ali’s presentation, was his leadership of the world’s first nonviolent army, a force of around 100,000 Pukhtoons who took a solemn oath in joining the “Servants of God” movement to serve humanity in the name of God, to refrain from violence and from taking revenge, to forgive those who oppress or treat with cruelty, and to devote at least two hours a day to social work. Initially members of the movement set to work organising village projects and opening schools, but they soon became part of the broader Indian Independence movement, accepting without retaliation some of the most fierce British repression—mass firings on unarmed crowds, torture, personal humiliation, setting homes and fields on fire, and even the destruction of entire villages. The movement has become a benchmark for contemporary Muslims organising nonviolent resistance rooted in the Islamic tradition. The presentation provoked considerable feedback and commentary from the audience with questions about: the wider political issues on the partition of India and Pakistan; the leadership Abdul Ghaffar Khan gave to his people; the need for nonviolence to be tackled as a human issue, not only as a Pukhtoon issue; and the idea of starting a Hujra (meeting/discussion place) in the local area. Some further individual comments included: – “Now we know about Bacha Khan’s and Servants of God’s sacrifices and achievements”. (Pukhtoon Jirga members) – “We were not aware about the nonviolence philosophy of Islam.” (student from Bradford University, UK, Peace Studies Department) – “Such efforts should be made in schools and colleges in the UK to make youth aware of the great religion and great people.” (local Interfaith leader) The programme can be arranged in other cities and towns. If interested, please contact The Peace Museum. About the presenter Ali Gohar is Founder and Advisor of Just Peace International and a resident of Bradford. Ali Gohar previously spent 13 years as an Additional Commissioner for Refugees in Peshawar, Pakistan. The miseries of the people he was helping motivated him to further work for nonviolence and conflict transformation and in 2001 he went to study as a Fulbright scholar. Ali Gohar works for Just Peace International, which is a non-political, non-religious, non-profit, civil society initiative working for peace and justice, also based in Peshawar. They assist and empower grassroots communities and organisations.