Friday, September 5, 2014

Mohd Asim - Threat of Home-Grown Jihadis

It's seen politically incorrect in India to talk about the threat of radicalisation of a section of Muslim youths. External agencies have for long exploited a perceived sense of injustice in a section of the community to turn them against the state and fellow citizens. They used images of the demolition of the Babri Mosque, communal riots in different states, and the activities of some right-wing Hindu organisations to brainwash and misguide educated and well-to-do youths to convert to violence. 
The groups that these young men form have largely remained localized though they have committed some heinous acts, but not as part of some global terror syndicate. They have, so far, by and large remained pawns in the war being waged from across the border on India. 
Experts often say that indigenous 'jihadis' are motivated only by local factors and are out to avenge what they perceived as the "injustices" of the state. "Indian Muslims were not, and will never be, a part of any global terror outfit or the larger 'jihad' conglomerate," it is said. And I must admit that I also shared that thought and assessment. 
The recent disturbing reports of some Indian Muslim men joining ISIS in Iraq and fighting alongside the most brutal and barbarian forces have come as a shock.  Now comes Al-Qaeda's Indian franchise.  Qaeda chief Ayman al Zawahiri has declared that his new group 'Qaedat al Jihad' will take the fight right into India and will recruit locally. And it cannot be a coincidence that India also found a mention in an audio tape of the self-styled Caliph Abu Bakr al Baghdadi of the Islamic State.
There is, as of now, no evidence that Indian Muslims are attracted to the global call for jihad. Though 4-5 men from near Mumbai have been reported to have joined ISIS, but their motivation or how they got into the jihadi network still remain subjects of speculation. But does that mean that we can ignore Al Zawahiri's call as the rant of a crazy old man? 
The answer is no. The influence of wahabism, the most violent, political and radical Islamic school of thought, on Muslim population and especially on ulemas and mullahs is simply too significant to be ignored. The tabligh jamaat, that claims to be a group of purists devoted to the cause of Islam, has spread its reach far and wide in the community. I am not suggesting, for a moment, that our local ulemas or the tabligh jamaat chaps are some sort of jihadi-making machines. But what they prescribe is certain to make some guys vulnerable to the lure of the global jihad. 
Let me explain this a bit. The tablighis or the wahabi mullahs present a very skewed and parochial version of Islam to the community, especially to young impressionable minds. They inculcate a certain disdain for this world and worldly pleasures, painting this life only as a test, which decides Muslims' fate in the everlasting after-life. And these groups today have a stranglehold over madarsas, local mosques and a large section of the community. These mullahs, who are themselves semi-literate in the matters of religion, make people believe in such nonsense as the reward of 70 virgins in the afterlife if one spends this life in accordance of what they sell as tenets of Islam. They insist on the outdated and political concept of the 'ummah' or the concept of universal Muslim brotherhood. They inculcate a sense of Us and Them, painting non-Muslims as somewhat lesser humans by virtue of not being born as Muslims. They see their patriarchal and distorted version of shariah as a panacea for all evils. They still revel in the belief that the Islamic caliphate will return to rule the world one day. 
A young person who grows up believing this distorted form of religion, is very likely to fall prey to the idea of global 'jihad'.  Today technology has made it possible for people and ideas from all part of the world to connect. And ideas are not always not good ideas.
Today Muslims need a community-wide uprising against the outdated and parochial ideas that are being sold as Islam to young and impressionable minds by a section of the clergy. It is heartening to hear many sensible and religious voices speaking loudly and clearly against the ISIS and terrorism. Community leaders have come out openly condemning the so-called Islamic Caliphate of Baghdadi. But we also had Maulana Salman Nadwi of Lucknow congratulating Abu Bakr al Baghdadi and accepting him as the Caliph of Muslims. He needs to be taken to task. Such voices are essentially in a minority.  The majority of Muslims are peace-loving and too bogged down by the challenges of daily life to think of some Caliph or Caliphate.
Indian Muslims have an enviable advantage over the rest of the community all over the world. Muslims in India have seen the benefits of democracy, multi-culturalism, modern education and opportunities in life more than Muslims in any part of the world. Indian Muslims can lead by example in defeating the divisive and violent forces that bring bad name to the religion of Islam by their misinterpretations. Radicalization is a real threat. And it's time to name the elephant in the room.