Cover Story: Roots of the Malaise and the Way Forward
Year 2015 is marked by new level of barbarism unleashed by the Islamic State. While world is still trying to find ways to deal with the new State with ideology of violence and intolerance, Bharat is also witnessing incidents of youth getting attracted to the nefarious world view. Only silver lining is that Bharat is witnessing the highest number of protests from within the Muslim community against the IS. What is the nature of this menace? How Bharat is getting affected with it? How world is trying to address it? and Can Muslims of Bharat with roots in culture of assimilation provide answer to this menace? are some of the questions we are trying to address in this edition.
Year 2015 has been very frustrating for a moderate, progressive, pluralistic, inclusivist Bharateeya Muslim. Bharat used to express pride in the fact that not one Muslim from this country joined the multi-national al-Qaeda terrorist group. But the year gone by has shown that we perhaps prematurely celebrated a lack of radicalisation in Bharateeya Islam. We need to stop being complacent and study the reasons behind the ideological attraction that some of our youth are feeling towards radicalisation, so that we can focus on what can be done to stem the silent drift.
This year has seen a spectacular rise of the so-called Islamic State. It now appears that Islamic radical ideology has infected a number of youth from all parts of Bharat, particularly Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Jammu & Kashmir, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Delhi and Kerala. Some have either gone to join what is propagated by IS as the end-time war or worked for its success on social media. Compared with other Muslim majority or Muslim minority countries, the number of Bharateeya Muslim youth is still small. But this is hardly any consolation. In any case, we will be making a huge mistake if we judge the extent of radicalisation with the number of youth having joined the war in Syria and Iraq.
What lies behind radicalisation of Muslims across the world? Over 30,000 Muslims have joined the Islamic State from as many as 100 countries including Europe, United States and Australia. We cannot understand this frightening phenomenon unless we appreciate that while the very word Islam means peace and total submission to God, in Islam roots of radicalisation also go very deep. Not many, including Muslims who are bewildered at the present turn of events, are aware that ideological extremism has been a part of Islamic history almost from the very inception. The fourth caliph Hazrat Ali was assassinated by a Kharjiite (a group excluded from Islam by the mainstream) in 661 AD, that is, barely 29 years after the demise of Prophet Muhammad. This extremist Kharjiite group, also called Khwarij, has been a part of Islam throughout history, sometimes even dominant, but mostly dormant. The present-day terrorists are called neo-Khwarij. This term is also used by mainstream Muslims to describe the Wahhabi-Salafi ideology which has been propagated around the world with the investment of tens of billions of petrodollars in the last four decades. The supremacist, exclusivist and xenophobic teachings of Ibn-e-Taimiya or his disciple Muhammad Ibn-e-Abdul Wahhab are now a part of Islamic education curriculum across the world. Indeed, a large Ibn-e-Taimiya university has come up in the last few years in Champaran, Bihar, educating thousands of students in his radical ideology. Scores of students even in Jawaharlal Nehru University prefer to call themselves Taimi rather than Wahhabi, as Abdul Wahhab is considered not puritan or extremist enough. Kerala is awash with mosques and madrasas and Islamic bookshops proudly proclaiming their Salafi affiliation.
But radicalisation of Bharateeya Muslim youth is also caused by the fact that extremism in Islam does not come only from the Wahhabi-Salafi ideology. Unfortunately nearly all major Muslim theologians of whichever persuasion (including Sufi) who have studied Islam extensively and independently have expounded a supremacist, exclusivist, confrontationist theology that is bound to encourage militancy and violence in one form or another if the youth are brainwashed into this ideology. Muslims should acquaint themselves with the supremacism, exclusivism and intolerance found even in the writings of such universally revered figures in Islamic theology as Imam Ghazali, Sheikh Sirhindi, Shah Waliullah, etc.
The result is that when Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declares his own khilafat, a respected Nadwi scholar Maulama Salman Nadwi of Lucknow writes to the so-called Khalifa addressing him as Ameerul Momineen (leader of all Muslims). He is nether pulled up by Nadwatul Ulema nor by other Muslim institutions or scholars. Similarly when self-declared Khalifa Baghdadi asserts that “Islam has never been a religion of peace, not even for a day,” no Bharateeya ulema refute this statement. There is no expression of outrage or even disagreement even when the self-styled Khalifa says that “Islam has always been a religion of war and strife.”
Jihadi modules making space in Assam
The world wide threat of IS has begun to lurk around Assam as well. Though the Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and Director General of Police of Assam, Mukesh Sahay, have denied any presence of the Islamic State, jihadi modules have been in making in the sensitive districts of the State. These modules under the guise of some or the other outfit grow surreptitiously and ultimately play second fiddle to extraneous forces. In the early part of this month, as a part of its drive, state police nabbed 6 jihadis with arms and ammunitions from three districts of Chirang, Baksa and Kokrajhar under Bodo Territorial Autonomous District (BTAD).
—Jyoti Lal Chowdhury, Silchar
This, of course, is too small a sample to be even considered the tip of the iceberg containing the vast corpus of juristic rulings, volumes of Ahadees, Sharia, Tafasir of Quran, Sira books and so on.
What must also be propelling Muslim youth towards radicalisation is the duplicity of Bharateeya ulema in rightly claiming that Islam is a religion of peace but not refuting at all the contrarian view. For instance, ulema never tire of repeating a verse of Qur’an (5:32) saying that killing one innocent person amounts to genocide of the entire humanity and saving one person amounts to saving the entire humanity. But the same ulema never utter a word when one alim (singular of ulema) from among them, a Hyderabad scholar Maulana Abdul Aleem Islahi justifies indiscriminate violence in his fatwa on the concept of power in Islam.
It would not matter so much if it were an isolated Maulana with incendiary opinions like the above opposed by every other Maulana. What must confuse our youth and then clear in their mind the path to so-called Jihad is the fact that there is no opposition to or even debate in the community over these radical views. It must be clarified that Jihad in Islam is primarily a spiritual struggle against one’s own nafs (negative ego) but is wrongly used by ulema in the sense of qital, defensive warfare, which has very strict rules in Islam.
So clearly what the Muslim community needs to do is to ask the Maulanas to renounce such extremist views in no uncertain terms and weed out pronouncements like the above from Islamic theology curriculum.
The most important thing, however, is that a debate starts in the community over the radical, intolerant, xenophobic theology being propagated by radical Islamists. The reason, terrorist ideologues are succeeding, is that their theology of violence, evolved over centuries, is very coherent and has deep roots in commonly accepted theology among Muslims. The earlier Bharateeya Muslim ulema realise this the better for both the Muslim community and the larger Bharateeya society. It’s time for moderate, progressive intellectuals to reach the mainstream Muslim society and sensitise it to the need for confronting the ideology of violence and also evolving and promoting an ideology of peace and pluralism.
(The writer is founder-editor of NewAgeIslam.com)
As expected, the Saudi-led Islamic coalition excludes a major Islamic Shia country Iran and the next neighbor Oman and war torn states of Iraq and Syria. Boycott of the Shia states implies that the Sunni coalition does not count them as Islamic countries, implying these to be kafirs.
Recently Saudi Arabia announced formation of Islamic Coalition of 34 Sunni Muslim countries from Asia and the African continents coming together to fight the Islamic terrorism that has taken root in both Asia and Africa (The Times of India, December 16). As expected, the coalition excludes a major Islamic Shia country Iran and other minor entity and the next neighbor Oman and war torn states of Iraq and Syria. Boycott of the Shia states and the possible Shia dominating states of Iraq and Syria implies that although these two states are fighting tooth and nail against the greatest foe ISIS, the Sunni coalition does not count them as Islamic countries, implying these to be kafirs. There are two major considerations in excluding Shia countries. First is the arch rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, both of whom are vying for the prime position among the Muslim dominated states. Second is the internal struggle in Saudi Arabia where the Deputy-crown Prince and Defence Minister Mohammad bin Salman is interested in asserting the current King’s position after the recent ascension and at the same time consolidating his own position for the future rise in the royal hierarchy. Proclamation from Riyadh did not come soon after it entered in war with Houti rebels in Yemen. It has come only after the carnage in America where a Muslim couple, Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik went on killing spree, killing 14 innocents and wounding many others. They carried guns and three thousand rounds of ammunition. As the investigations revealed, Syed Farook although was born and brought up in Chicago, a second generation Muslim, his wife Tashfeen was of the Pakistani origin, brought up in Saudi Arabia and went for higher studies back to Pakistan. She was radicalised there. After marriage, she appears to have radicalised her spouse. They together plotted for internally grown strife in US, which remained free from the terrorist attacks since 9/11 incident. In fact compared to many other countries, US remained an example for implementing the preventive measures. That position remains shattered. US too is no more invincible to the home grown terrorist attacks.
Tracing terrorism to Saudis and Pakistan
Other two US citizens involved incognito in terrorist activities were David Headley of 20/11 attack in Bharat and Times Square bomber Faizal Shahzad. Investigations confirmed that their radicalisation can be traced back to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Americans have put both these countries under scrutiny as a result of the latest carnage. It is expected that US must have put tremendous pressure on both of these terrorism source countries to take drastic steps to control the terrorist activities. Looking at the reluctance of American public to deploy troops on ground to fight ISIS and realisation that only the ground forces will ultimately help decimating the ISIS menace, the coalition countries will be forced to deploy their troops. There are countries like Egypt, Turkey with sizable armies in this coalition. Saudi Arabia appears to have unilaterally declared the formation of coalition to fight radicalisation wherever it is getting rooted (The Hindu, December 16).
Although Saudi Arabia included name of Pakistan, quick came the denial on the very next day. Aizaz Chaudhry, Foreign secretary of Pakistan expressed surprise about his country name being included in the coalition without any sounding from Saudi Arabia. Another senior official too confirmed that Pakistan was not consulted. It is not only Saudi Arabia but US too faced denial twice from Pakistan for deployment of troops to fight ISIS. Pakistan’s intransigence stems from the fact that Pakistan is emboldened by the support China is extending keep pressure on Bharat. It appears as through ISI agency in Pakistan has reached understanding with China to prevent sneaking of radicals from Pakistan into disturbed provinces of China. How long Pakistan can hold back these disruptive forces from entering China? In a recent interaction with an expert from China in a delegation to Goa, this author discussed about Islamic radicals from Pakistan infiltrating in China. The expert agreed that Pakistan is a very unreliable and undependable ally. The Gwadar-Tibet road will further ease the infiltration bids to which he agreed and that China is aware of it. Since the first priority of China appears to be containing India by the garland of bases in the Indian Ocean, China is prepared to take that risk and estimates that it will be able to contain the radicalisation menace from Pakistan.
No Shias included, Pakistan looking the other way, cold response from Malaysia and Indonesia, the Islamic coalition led by Saudi Arabia remains truncated fighting force. Tremendous pressure from US has forced Saudi Arabia and the underling states to bark to the tune of their master's voice. It is irony of the fate that the Islamic countries have to come together to fight the Islamic terror they groomed. The situation is on the either side the kafirs are dying.
Tackling terrorism by 2047
Islamic terrorism is a worldwide phenomenon initiated by Americans to fight the invading Soviet armies in 1990s. It propped up Talibans in Pakistan, transforming into al-Quada. US too is to be blamed for the growth of terrorist outfits. At one stage Pakistan was a prime source for training and grooming terrorists to the chagrin of its most valued mentor USA. In spite of that, Americans continue to support Pakistan with arms and fighter planes etc. as if being held at ransom by the rogue state.
Terrorism cannot be fought by arms alone, certainly not by the Sunni Islamic States conglomerate. It is not certain if ever this coalition lasts for a few months. As the history of the Islamic states and the culture shows, the umma—the so-called Islamic brotherhood could never be realised. Participating members in any such activities have always remained divided. As the recent history attests, brute force of US has not achieved success or victory in any wars it waged since the World War II.
The way out will be to question the very basics propagated by the terrorist groups and the new found tenets of Islam. The moderates in Muslim societies have remained unsuccessful in remolding Islam in the context of modern society that evolved in the post WW-II era. Christian countries of Europe have left behind the religious dogmas and the heathen hate based on the religious logic. They evolved the humanitarian ethics. Hindus too have left far behind the old discriminatory smriti texts; they imbibed new constitution formulated by modern Manu Dr B R alias Babasaheb Ambedkar. Muslims too will have to undertake introspection. The mayhem and the carnage that has been occurring in the Islamic countries after advent of the Arab summer (spring no more), doesn’t seem to be leading to self introspection. It is now for the non-Islamic society at a global level to challenge some basic tenets, religious dogmas and practices of Islam. The very first will do away with eye for eye tenet that is deeply rooted in Islamic psyche; although it is borrowed from the Biblical teachings. As Mahatma Gandhi used to say, eye for eye will make the whole world blind. It is no civilised behaviour in the modern times to impart the capital punishments promulgated in Sharia, such as amputating limbs of thieves, flogging of human beings or the worst, stoning of an adulteress. The tradition to witness these being implemented in open has to be discontinued. Islam of the modern day will have to agree upon the coexistence of other faiths and that holding other religious traditions with due honor. It will have to do away with the discriminatory practices towards female folk, kafirophobia and followed by jihad. The last two have been the root causes of the strife worldwide. These changes will not come too soon. One full generation will have to pass before the kafirophibia is wiped out from the Islamic world, be it Sunni or Shia.
A generation these days accounts for three decades. Just as at the recent Paris meet, the countries all over the globe have come together to restrict the global temperature to less than 2 degrees, let a global strategy be drawn to do away with kafirophobia from the Islamic world by 2047. There is urgent need to declare that “nobody can be labeled as kafir” by the Islamic world, to which we Hindus would adhere with “none to be treated as untouchable” and the Christian world would agree to “do away with labeling of human being as heathens”.
(The writer is a Goa based Scholar)
Growing Islamophobia and Bharat
Some organisations have started making its youth aware of the perils of ISIS ideology in madarsas and in Friday prayers. It is a step in the right direction but getting the poison out of the society of anti-Islam will need to see more step towards improving their economic lot by way of skill development, vocational training like the one started by Ministry of Minority affairs.
The latest attacks by the Islamic militants in Paris and later in California by a radicalised Islamic couple have pushed the western society on the edge of its belief about what really are the Islamics upto and whether the Islam in its neighbourhood is safe enough for them to coexist. The debate that is fuelling in the western world is should we be tolerant to innocent Islamic refugees who could be potentially harmful to our society. The elite world is also talking about how far has the radicalised Islamic world vitiated the youth in various countries to take up the cause of radical Islam and what really will be future of Islam vis-a-vis Christianity.
As if the social unnerving is not enough the political world is seeing the manifestations of what really is being thought of by citizens in the western world. Most attendees to Republican candidate Donald Trump who said after the Paris attack—that US should not allow islamic refugees in the country unless it has a clarity on its way forward—agree with his view strongly and infact are very supportive of his idea. Polls show a rising popularity of his candidature after this statement. As in the US, the French too have seen the rise of right wing politics in the recent election with rightist Nicholas Sarkozy making strides in the regional elections. France is not alone the Germans too are now bickering and showing greater concern to open door policy of Muslim refugees that are entering its country even though they open the refugee gates in fall. Time Person of the Year Angela Merkel made it clear in a speech recently that multiculturism does not work and that it leads to parallel societies and it is a sham. Russian President Putin has always been harshly vocal about his views on islamic refugees that they speak Russian and adopt Russian way of life quickly if they enter the shores of his country. Needless to say Russia is seeing a rise of Orthodox Christianity in recent times.
As if the world of politics is not enough the world of internet has also seen a rising islamophobic sentiment in the recent time. Google has released its data that states that most of its searches in the US were related to Islam, some of the top searches were—‘Are all muslims terrorists?’, Muslim refugee crisis, What do Muslims believe ? What does the Quran say? Who is Mohammed? It is estimated that the US will see the highest number of hate crimes against Muslims in the year 2015 when FBI finally releases its formal data on crimes against religions.
But this is not to say that the Islamic world is just sitting by watching the events unfold the creation of Saudi-led Islamic front to fight terror are a step in the direction to stem the terrorists attacks and to contain the fast growing footprint of ISIS and other such fundamentalist organisations. Interestingly the coalitions of nearly 43 Islamic countries form this front and one of the countries that participates in this is Bharat’s neighbour Pakistan.
So the question is what does such a front have for a country like Bharat? Pakistan cannot fight the war against ISIS by letting loose those on its soil to create terror in Bharat. For one the intent and design of Pakistan to fight such terror will come to the fore sooner if not later. If it has joined such a front it will have to clean its own stables which means those blazing guns at Kashmir and calling it jihad to win it will have to be brought to book as violence and terrorism have no scope and justification for those who have joined this front. In Bharat there have been backlash on Islamics and there is definitely a more edgy society today as it learns of young recruits making it to Syria and Iraq for the Holy war from Bharat. Though the Bharateeya society is not as pronounced in its thoughts over how to deal with Islamic menace of fundamentalism there is enough thought in society accompanied by various other fear of growing Muslim fundamentalism.
Bharateeya Muslims hold demos in 75 cities
On November 18, 2015 various Muslim organisations in Bharat held demonstrations at 75 places in the country denouncing terrorism of ISIS in view of the recent attack on Paris where hundreds of innocents were killed in terrorist attack. Maulana Mehmood Madani, head of the organisation said that they would raise their voice against such terrorism and would not allow the youths of the country to be swayed away with its ideology.
‘Ulema’ meet vows to expel terrorism from Bharat
Kul-Hind Ulema Ijlas i.e. All India Ulema Confrence, organised for the first time at Ravindralaya in Lucknow on August 8, 2015 under the auspices of Muslim Rashtriya Manch (MRM). Writing a new script for peaceful co-existence, progress, brotherhood, harmony and non-violence the 1500 Mulsim clerics drawn from 25 states on the eve of the 74th anniversary of “Quit India” movement, gave a clarion call to the countrymen to expel terrorism from the country forever.
Madrasas issue fatwa against IS in Bareilly
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, two influential Islamic seminaries in Bareilly, Darul Uloom Deoband and the Dargah-e-Aala-Hazrat, which have a substantial following in the Bharateeya subcontinent, condemned the terror attack as “murder of humanity” and have decided to mobilise Islamic scholars across the country, to issue a joint Fatwa against IS, and also run a signature campaign among the general Muslims.
Islamic clerics issue fatwa against ISIS
For the first time in Bharat, over 1,000 Islamic clerics had issued the biggest ever fatwa against the dreaded ISIS. The Fatwa that runs into 15 volumes was issued by Muftis, Moulvis, Imams and Ulemas of Bharat against the leader, fighters and followers of the ISIS.
The futures of countries like the US and Bharat which is multi religious, having Muslims as essential part of the social fabric lies in adopting a new way of co-opting them rather than confronting them. The Donald Trump types speeches about wither throwing the Muslims out or barring their entry becomes tricky in practical politics. What Trump can say about Muslims or fundamentalism, President Obama cannot. In fact, his state of union address has been about the realities of America's multicultural society in which many hero's in the US -soldiers, sports personalities- who the Americans emulate are Muslims. So is the position of Narendra Modi while rightly asking for assimilation rather than isolation. Modi and most of the Hindus also know very well what the result of such division along religious lines did to the society in 1947. Keeping in mind the history of bloodshed and violence Modi has choosen to fight jointly against poverty, rather than fighting against each other.
The future for cultural nationalism is ripe the world as more fundamentalism gets fueled in times to come but it cannot be constructed only on negativism, as Trump is trying to do. In Bharatiya context, a far off war between Islam and Christianity will not be beneficial to anyone. Still, we have to be concerned. Will encouraging the mullahs and imams to preach Muslim youths to stay away from radical ISIS ideas do the trick? Mumbai based Muslim organisation have started with this process of making its youth aware of the perils of ISIS ideology in Madarsas and in Friday prayers. It definitely is a step in the right direction but getting the poison out of the society of anti-Islam will need to see more step towards improving their economic lot by way of skill development , vocational training like the one started by Ministry of Minority affairs. This needs to be more aggressive and far reaching so as to make the Muslims feel that the government is well meaning as far as making the lot of the Muslims better. Besides economic empowerment passing a law like Uniform Civil Code will also have a far reaching effect in the longer term though it will see a lot of heated debates and will be unwelcome initially. Modi comes from Gujarat where Bohri Muslims are progressive forward looking and well heeled. His experience of dealing with them can come in handy for dealing with economic upliftment of Muslims in the rest of Bharat. Otherwise also, the Muslims of Bharat has the potential to show the path of acceptance and assimilation to the world. Modi government’s actions, with concerned but constructive approach, based on Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas can surely facilitate the process.
(The writer is a freelance journalist)