Kabul, 14 Safar 1436/7 December 2014 (MINA) – Afghani Muslim scholars have praised plans by the Saudi Kingdom to build the country’s largest Islamic Center in Kabul, a project that has raised both hopes and fears in this landlocked country.
“We hope that establishment of the centre by Saudi Arabia will not amplify all those madrassas in Afghanistan, Pakistan and some other countries that are known for spreading extremism, terrorism and fundamentalism,” Afghan religious scholar Hedaytullah Hedayat, Onislam quoted by Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA) as reporting.
Hedayat stressed that the new centre should dedicate its efforts to spread the true Islamic teachings that are meant to spread harmony, peace and tolerance.
With an estimated cost of $100 million, the center on a hilltop in central Kabul will house up to 5,000 students in this massive Islamic center, complete with a university and a mosque which will be named after Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz.
The mosque, similar to the Faisal Mosque in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, also built by oil-rich Saudi Arabia in 1980s, will host 15,000 worshippers at a time.
Announcing plans for constructing the country’s largest Islamic center, the Saudi ambassador to Afghanistan, Mesfer bin Abdul Rahman Al-Ghaseb, assured Saudi’s commitment to working with both Afghanistan and Pakistan to build peace in the region.
“Our position is strong on restoring peace in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia enjoys close and frank ties with Afghanistan and Pakistan and we are trying to improve security in Afghanistan,” Mesfer bin Abdul Rahman Al-Ghaseb said on the occasion last November.
On behalf of his government, the ambassador has also signed a contract with a construction company to build the biggest Islamic center in Afghanistan to promote Islamic education.
He has said lessons geared toward countering the extremist message will be emphasized at the center.
The Afghan government has been long been anxious about the role of some religious seminaries that preach militancy in Pakistan.
Kabul government officials, however, have assured that the centre’s education programs will be overseen by the Ministry of Hajj and Islamic Affairs to assure that no individual or group exploits the devotee Afghans for their political objectives.
“Education curricula for the centre will be monitored by the Ministry of Hajj and Islamic Affairs and this will help all those who want to get an Islamic education inside the country,” acting Minister of Hajj and Islamic Affairs YousafNiazi told journalists while addressing joint press conference with the Saudi ambassador.
Muslim scholars hope that after the completion of the grand Islamic Centre in two years, Afghani students would no longer need to travel abroad to seek religious knowledge.
Shams-u-Rahman Frotan, a religious scholar in the Afghan capital Kabul, has also highlighted the importance of Saudi’s role in bringing peace to Afghanistan.
“The Saudis can build up pressure on all the warring factions to resolve their differences through mutual understanding,” he added.
Unlike neighboring Pakistan, Afghanistan has been enjoying a relatively calm atmosphere regarding the inter-sect ties between the majority Sunni Muslims and the Shiite minority.
Yet, the 2011 Ashura bombing in Kabul was a major setback to this harmony.
Security and spy agencies, however, blamed Pakistani extremists for this attack that claimed more than 70 lives, mostly women and children.
Afghan journalist Haseen Serat, fears for a proxy war between Saudi and Iran in Afghanistan.
Expressing his thoughts over the matter, he said Iran was already busy consolidating its support base before this Saudi-sponsored project.
“Ayatollah Mohsini, an Iran supported scholar had built a huge complex with funds from Tehran to educate the new generation of Iranian supporters in Afghanistan”, he said.
Serat added that the Afghan government must ensure that no one exploits the situation for their political gains.
With an estimated population of around 30 million, Afghanistan has witnessed arguably the longest armed conflict in the modern history that has devastated all sections of the society, including educational institutes.
Though, the relative peace of the past decade has brought some relief to the Afghans who have been plunged into violence ever since the Soviet invasion in the late 1970s.
Only time would tell what future holds for this country lying in the heart of Asia.(T/P008/R03)