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Interview (04 Jul 2016 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Inclusive India Stopping IS – But Hindutva Can Change This … Arab Petro-Colonisation Fuels Jihad … Internet Adds Romance, says Tabish Khair

By Srijana Mitra Das

July 4, 2016


Author and academic Tabish Khair

Author and academic Tabish Khair has written Jihadi Jane. Speaking with Srijana Mitra Das, Khair discussed complex pulls and pushes around jihad, sudden spikes of women Jihadis – and India versus IS:

Has the idea of India staved off the idea of IS?

Yes, the idea of an inclusive India and our democracy have definitely staved off the threat of IS and its ilk – but this may change in a few years, if more Hindutva voices keep complaining about Akbar, Kabir, etc., and talking of Muslims as ‘outsiders’, if democratic institutions are hobbled, and if the insidious influence of petro-dollars on Muslims is not faced up to.  Let us not be complacent.  India is many ideas – not all of them are peaceful or cohesive.

Has IS become a ‘brand’ – if so, what does it signify?

I guess, to its three percent supporters, it probably signifies ‘pure Islam’ or ‘anti-Western politics’ – both of which have an appeal that can extend beyond the three percent.

IS does not worry me too much, just as the lunatic Hindutva fringe and far-right neo-Nazi groups do not worry me too much – what worries me is the ‘respectable’ base they build on. With Muslims, this is a narrowing interpretation of religious and cultural heritages and an intolerance of women’s rights – the latter easily translates into other kinds of intolerance.

We’re seeing many more women Jihadis now – how did this happen? Was the West’s stress over the Hijab involved?

Sooner or later, any large movement – no matter how anti-woman – will have to use the female half to further its cause.

I find the Hijab issue simplified. Yes, the Hijab should be a personal choice – but it can be so only when it is not a political compulsion. At the moment, it is a political compulsion in many Muslim states and societies.

So, if religious Muslims want women to have the personal choice of wearing the Hijab internationally, they have to first make sure it is not a political compulsion in any Muslim state or society.

How was the experience of writing as women characters in Jihadi Jane?

Exhilarating. I was advised against it, for all the usual reasons. But fiction is not just facts; it is a kind of truth – and for truth to be more than facts it has to be accessed across differences.

Speaking of differences, why do Muslim migrant communities stick with certain religious practices – why not just adapt to the country they’ve chosen to join?

There’s always a tendency among recent immigrants – not just Muslims – to stick to older forms of what they consider their traditions or ‘identity’.

In the case of Muslims in the West, this is compounded by the fact that they’re seen in terms of religion. Because the West allows so little space for Muslim cultures – much of Western history is based on a denial of their Muslim links, which go back to the early Enlightenment – and because Muslims are dominated by ‘Islamic’ spokespeople internally, there is greater ‘religious conservatism’ in many immigrant Muslim communities in the West.

But even here, there are differences. For instance, Kurdish Muslims for political reasons and Bosnian Muslims for ‘racial’ reasons (because they look North European at times) might find it easier to adapt.

Your writing describes the poverty Muslim migrants’ face – why does this push some to militancy, not aspiration? And how does this explain IS, etc., growing in more comfortable ‘native’ contexts like Bangladesh?

People react in different ways to the same stimuli – some get apathetic, some are pushed to aspiration, some to militancy.

In ‘native’ contexts like Bangladesh, Gulf jobs and petro-money play a huge role – one cannot imagine something like IS without religious doctrines like Wahhabism. Such doctrines would have remained confined to tribal Arab circles without petro-money and Gulf jobs.

A kind of Arabised petro-colonisation of diverse Muslim societies in the subcontinent has been taking place over the past five or six decades.

How does a social medium use love, sex and romance in attracting people to jihad?

Internet – social media – is a strange phenomenon. You speak to others as if you’re speaking to yourself in a mirror on the wall. It is not like speaking to people in a room or on the street. You cannot switch people off in real life – you always take some account of what you are saying because you face them in the body.

There is no such social accountability on internet, – yet, it’s a wider world that you can ever encounter bodily.

You connect to any kind of person in any country instantaneously – this greatly increases the scope for love, romance, hatred, and makes it easier to experience all of these almost in the abstract.

Obviously, you’re also not really breaking Islamic rules by communicating across gender on internet, are you?

You can imagine the attractions – and the dangers.

You also discuss the cultural confusion Muslim youth face between Quran and computers – what is the cultural gap that makes some fall towards suicidal ideas?

A very small percentage is attracted to these suicidal ideas – even high estimates put it at under three percent.

One can argue that three percent of white men will be attracted to militant white supremacist ideas too and three percent of Hindus might go for the Hindutva ‘lunatic fringe.’ That has to be put on record, in all fairness.

I think what is particularly worrying in the case of Muslims is a certain apocalyptic interpretation of history and the future – which is held not only by militant and suicidal extremists but also by most of the peacefully religious.

Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Palestine – why do some young Muslims in the West feel entranced by distant wars?

I know the term ‘Middle East’ was a half-ignorant Western designation, but it is an apt term.

Meddle East + Muddle East = Middle East. That is part of the answer.

The other part is the fact, whether one likes it or not, that religious Muslims do have a strong sense of community that refuses to recognise national and cultural barriers. European Christians had something similar well into the 19th century but largely from the 18th century onwards, perhaps as a (positive) consequence of empire; it slowly expanded to include ‘humanity.’

The current Pope is a good example of that inclusion, even in the narrow confines of the Vatican.

Though obviously, as the recent so-called refugee crisis in Europe also highlights, belief in a common humanity is not totally pervasive even in Europe.

It seems, sadly, even less pervasive among many Muslims.

Its religious ideas aside, is jihad seen sometimes as an answer to class inequalities and disparities in power – a clash aggravated by the collapse of Communist ideology or credible Left movements?

The first time i heard the term was in secondary school, when a family elder asked me to ‘keep waging your jihad’ – he meant my effort to be a good student.

So, jihad also means a struggle for the betterment of society and self. It has been used to mean ‘battle’ too, sadly, but the options of a struggle to make a better society are hard-wired into it.

This explains some of its appeal to Muslim youth. Of course the failure of coherent socialist alternatives has played a role, especially in and around the Meddle-Muddle-Middle East, where the socialist alternative was jailed and executed, and autocratic governments, undergirded by forms of religiosity, were often sustained by the ‘free world’.

Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia are two very different examples of this.

In the ‘free world’, do you think the Prophet cartoons have been a provocation, sparking a lot of the violence you describe?

Yes, of course. You always need a spark to start a fire. This spark suited many of the most inimical and manipulative political actors on ‘both’ sides.

Of course, different kinds of violence were involved – symbolic and abstract violence on the one side and physical violence on the other.

In today’s world, the former is usually the prerogative of dominant sections – and the latter the recourse of marginalised ones.

Source: blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/the-interviews-blog/inclusive-india-stopping-is-but-hindutva-can-change-this-arab-petro-colonisation-fuels-jihad-internet-adds-romance/

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/interview/srijana-mitra-das/inclusive-india-stopping-is-–-but-hindutva-can-change-this-…-arab-petro-colonisation-fuels-jihad-…-internet-adds-romance,-says-tabish-khair/d/107849


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