By New Age Islam Edit Desk
26 July 2014
promulgation of the Islamic State and caliphate of Abu Bakr Baghdadi has
divided the Urdu media of India and Pakistan, though until recently they have
been almost equally radical on most issues having any relation to religion. Pakistan's
inhuman blasphemy laws, for instance, are equally admired in large sections of
both Indian and Pakistani Urdu press.
But The militant organisation ISIS is not
being discussed with equal fervour and seriousness in both countries.
of Indian Urdu media have presented the victories of the ISIS, particularly its
announcement of the establishment of the Islamic Caliphate with great fervour
and excitement. They have tried to prove
that it is a true Islamic organisation. But the Pakistani media did not give much
importance and space to ISIS adventures and the so-called Caliphate of Abu Bakr
Baghdadi. The Indian Urdu media published the news concerning announcement of
Baghdadi’s Caliphate on the front pages. Not only that, one Urdu newspaper
devoted its entire Sunday supplement to the Caliphate whereas Pakistani
newspapers did not give much importance to the news on July 1. The widely
circulated Urdu newspaper Jung published the news on its page 3. However, they
published the general news about it with other news of national and
international importance but the news items were presented from an objective
point of view and were devoid of any excitement or fervour.
Pakistan’s Urdu newspapers instead highlighted the portion of the announcement which said that the Islamic State will include Pakistan along with some other Asian countries, thus stressing the fact that ISIS will pose a threat to the sovereignty of Pakistan. Take for example, the daily Jung that published only three or four articles and columns on the ISIS in the last one month. All the articles present the ISIS as a militant organisation posing serious threats to the region and to the Islamic world. A case in point is Dr Furqan Hameed’s article titled “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria at the door of Turkey” on July 18, 2014. It discusses the threat it would pose to Turkey and therefore does not present it as a movement of Islamic renaissance as some sections of Indian Urdu media have been trying to portray. In this article, the ISIS has been presented as an organisation that has come up in resistance to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki’s sectarian policies against the Sunnis and therefore considers ISIS a local problem.
In the 3rd July edition of Jung, columnist Irshad Ahmad Arif discusses various problems in the Islamic world and touches upon the ISIS issue objectively:
“It is difficult to say what shape the war in the region will take in future. It is gradually evolving into a Shia-Sunni conflict. If the Afghan elements also join this war, the US will ignore it. Some John Kerry will nonchalantly say that the US made a mistake by attacking Afghanistan but how will it help the people of the region whom no one asked before imposing the war on Afghanistan and Iraq. However, Israel is happy with this situation because as long as Shia-Sunni, Kurd and non-Kurd, supporters of Caliphate and its opponents are at loggerheads with each other there will be no threat to its security and sovereignty.”
It is evident that the columnist is not excited about the establishment of Caliphate nor does he consider it an identity crisis for the Muslim world.
Earlier on 26 June in the same newspaper, the columnist Ishtiaque Beg writes in his article titled, “The conquests of the ISIS, Iraq’s security under threat”. In this article too, the columnist takes an objective look at the ISIS issue and informs the readers of the fact that the head and the fighters of the ISIS had been associated with the terrorist organisation Al Qaida and has attracted terrorists from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Chechnya. He also sees the emergence of the ISIS as a result of Nouri Al Maliki’s sectarianism. Thus he too takes the ISIS as the product of Iraq's internal crisis.
The Urdu daily of Pakistan, Waqt carries a two-part article by senior Indian journalist Zafar Agha titled “Jihadi politics?” He has discussed the political situation of the Islamic world in the wake of the militant activities of the Jihadi organisations impartially and sees the ISIS also as one of the militant organisations benefiting only Israel. He writes:
“In short, in the last 30 to 40 years, the Islamic world has been striving to establish an Islamic government and Islamic Caliphate but a satanic dance of terrorism is going on in the entire Islamic world behind the veil of the Islamic government. Although all the self-proclaimed Jihadi and Islamic groups consider the West particularly the US and Israel their enemies and vow to eliminate them, the most surprising fact is that they are shedding Muslim blood everywhere. In Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Sudan etc where the flag bearers of Islamic Caliphate reign supreme, Muslims having been killing Muslims.”
He further writes:
“Presently, Iraq is on the verge of being divided into three parts. On the one side, there is Abu Bakr Baghdadi’s Caliphate, on the other there is Al-Maliki’s government and on the third side the Kurds are willing to part ways with Iraq. Israel is ready to establish its army base in Kurdistan. Israel has announced its support to the establishment of independent Kurdistan and the politicians of the both sides have good relations. So at the moment there is every possibility that Israel will establish its army base in Iraq. Therefore, it has to be pondered upon whom the Caliphate of Al Baghdadi benefited the most, the Muslims or Israel?”
Other Pakistani Urdu newspapers like Nawa-e-Waqt and Express daily also published articles discussing the rise of the ISIS but none of them presented it as a true Islamic Caliphate or as a flag bearer of Islamic renaissance. To them ISIS is only a militant organisation like the Taliban and Al Qaeda and has posed threat to other Islamic countries.
Izhar Mehdi’s article in Nawa i Waqt on 25 July suspects the ISIS as a part of the Israeli game plan in the area to sabotage the fight of Palestine. He has questioned the timing of Israel’s aggression against Palestine. He writes:
“Israel and the ISIS have according to a premeditated game plan attacked Iraq and Palestine so that Hezbollah and Hamas could be dragged into war. And if it is possible to do so Arab countries could also be dragged into war and geography of Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Palestine can be changed because the Arab countries and ISIS know it very well that the Palestine issue is the Achilles’ Heel of Hezbollah and it will surely come in its defence. If that happens, Hezbollah’s attention can be diverted from Iraq and Syria and ISIS will be able to continue its advances in its region and strengthen its base in the area.” In short like other Pakistani columnists, Izhar Mehdi too looks at the ISIS as a part of the Zionist and western conspiracy who is playing at the hands of the enemies of Islam to break the Islamic countries into pieces.
In the 12 July edition of another Urdu daily of Pakistan, Express, Zaheer Akhtar Beedari in his article, “Islamic State between Iraq and Syria?” writes:
“Why are the US and its allies who fight against the religious militant organisations in the world silent on the establishment of a militant religious state between Iraq and Syria? This is a question that has to be delved deep into. In this article, the writer thinks that the US is behind the emergence of this so-called Islamic state to suit its purpose.
A couple of other articles and columns have appeared in Pakistani Urdu newspapers in which the ISIS has not been presented as a symbol of Islamic renaissance nor has there been an attempt in these articles to cover Abu Bakr’s previous association with Al Qaeda. In all articles published in Pakistani media, the ISIS has been presented as a militant organisation either playing at the hands of the US and Israel or a result of the sectarian policy of Nouri al Maliki. On the contrary, in the Urdu media of India, the ISIS remained in the news since July 1 with its announcement of Islamic Caliphate. Many columnists and journalists have written articles on the issue that have been published by prominent Urdu dailies. Partisan role of Urdu media on the issue of ISIS has come to the fore. In their edition of July 1, some of the Urdu newspapers carried the news of announcement of Islamic Caliphate on front page and some of them inserted positive remarks about them to portray them as a noble organisation upholding Islamic values. Most of the Urdu newspapers did not like to publish the news of forcible marriage of ISIS fighters to the girls of Mosul and other captured territories in the name of Jihad al Nikah. They also tried to cover up the killing of Shias and Christians of Iraq and destruction of Shia Imambargahs and churches by the ISIS fighters, an un-Islamic act. An Urdu journalist even wrote in his article that he tried very best to find a single reliable source of the news of destruction of Mazars and Shia places of worship but could not find it. Therefore, Urdu media in India by and large remained supportive of ISIS. Only a few articles focused on the terrorist activities of the ISIS.
The supporters of the ISIS among Urdu journalists got an opportunity to prove that the ISIS were indeed a group of noble men fighting for Islamic principles when 46 Indian nurses working in a Tikrit Hospital were released by the ISIS. The statement of some of the nurses who praised the ISIS fighters who took care of them and treated them well served for them to prove their point. One journalist came out with an article titled “Kya Dahshatgard Aise Bhi Hote Hain” (Can there be such (well-behaved) terrorists too?). The entire focus was on the point that if they had been terrorists, they would not have released the nurses without harming them. But the journalist forgets that the same ISIS has abducted 39 male workers of Punjab and other northern states of India and have not released them. The journalist also ignored the fact that they did not respect the Muslim women of their captured territory as they forcibly married their girls. They have now made female circumcision of all the women in the area mandatory. More such un-Islamic edicts will follow.
The release of the nurses was a diplomatic issue and it was a diplomatic and political compulsion of the ISIS fighters because any harm to them would pose serious problems for the ISIS as India is a powerful country and the ISIS could not have antagonised it, especially at this stage.
A powerful religious Islamic organisation of India, Jamaat-e-Islami’s mouthpiece, Dawat also took the ISIS seriously and favourably. The Dawat has devoted its 16th July edition to the ISIS and Iraq crisis. One of the articles included in this edition is titled, “ISIS wants to free Iraq from US hegemony.” This is written by the Secretary of Jamiat-ul- Ulema Hind, Mufti Arshad Faruqi. An excerpt from the article sums up his position on the ISIS issue:
“ISIS is the group which has been subjected to the oppression at the hands of Maliki government and wants to save Iraq from western dominance. They are Islamists. Some other groups have joined them and they want an end to oppression in Iraq. This is the reason only three thousand people chased away a large number of the soldiers of the Maliki army. They are now only fifty kilometres away from Baghdad. On the one hand the US and its allies have been hurt by the advances of the ISIS and on the other; the Saudi rulers are also afraid of them and have put a ban on them immediately.”
In the same article, he comments on Yousuf Al Qaradhawi’s fatwa against the ISIS Caliphate in the following words:
“The fatwa issued by Yousuf al Qaradhawi is worth consideration. He has invalidated the method of establishment of Caliphate but not their Islamism.”
The Jamiat leader Mufti Arshad Faruqi further writes:
“One group has always held the view that Al Qaeda and Taliban are the products of the US who were prepared to fight the Soviet Russia but since they had become free from US influence, the US destroyed them whereas the truth is that those who are associated with the Taliban are pious people.”
The Jamiat leader gives more surprising information:
“There are also reports that suggest that Iranian planes are attacking the hideouts of the ISIS. Many Sunni fighters are being killed. The most unfortunate part of this whole affair is that Saudi Arabia is strengthening its ties with Iran.”
Obviously, Jamaat-e-Islami agrees with the views of Jamiat-ul-Ulema. That’s why it has published the views of the Jamaat leader Mufti Arshad Faruqi. Therefore, despite professed ideological differences between the two organisations, namely on secularism and democracy, the stance of the two is the same on the ISIS.
Dawat has published Parwaz Rahmani’ article titled “Iraq crisis—recent phase of America’s war on Islam”. He suspects that ISIS Caliphate might be a part of America’s war on Islam. Nevertheless, he could not conceal his support for the ISIS. He writes:
“The armed campaign of the ISIS against the US control on Iraq is being termed as Sunni terrorism and to prove this, attacks on Shia sacred places and population are being orchestrated.”
This pro-ISIS stance of Urdu media of India was taken notice of by the national media and criticised. Hasan Suroor’s article in the Hindu and Firstpost called this unhealthy approach of the Urdu media a threat to secularism and country because the ISIS has included India too in its map. He also appreciated the progressive Islamic website of India, New Age Islam in fighting the Takfiri and terrorist ideas in the name of Islam.
The attempt of sections of the Urdu media to prove the ISIS a noble Islamic organisation fighting to establish Caliphate misled not only the common Muslims of the country but a section of the religious circle. The most surprising and at the same time shocking affair was the letter written by a senior cleric and a teacher at Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulema, Lucknow, India to Abu Bakr Baghdadi. In his letter he addressed Abu Bakr Baghdadi as AMEER UL MOMINEEN and the leader of the Islamic world and praised him for defeating the tyrant Al Maliki and establishing a Islamic Caliphate. He uploaded the letter on WhatsApp since he said he did not have the addresses of the offices of Abu Bakr Baghdadi. This speaks of his excitement about the conquests of the militant and Takfiri ISIS and admiration for Abu Bakr and his organisation ISIS.
Romanticising a militant outfit like ISIS by the Indian Urdu media had its negative impact on the Muslim youth of India. Some 18 Muslim youth are said to have gone to Iraq to fight along with the ISIS to expand the Islamic Caliphate. The security agencies have become alert and are on the lookout for the youth as they are worried that after their return from Iraq they may be involved in militant activities and may be the cause of a growth of terrorist activities in the country. The Muslim youth going to the Gulf States are on the radar of the security agencies, thanks to the overzealous sections of Urdu media. These Urdu papers are romanticising the so-called new Khilafat after the late Khilafat-e-Usmania's end in 1924 for whose survival even Mahatma Gandhi had fought fervently. Near total silence of the religious organisations of India that issue Fatwas on petty issues is meaningful and smacks of support to the ISIS.
On the one hand the Indian Urdu media and a section of Ulema has declared the ISIS a noble Sunni organisation fighting to establish Islamic Caliphate after 90 years of abolition of Ottoman Caliphate and terming it as a renaissance of Islam, thereby driving the Muslim youth towards extremism and terrorism, and on the other, the Pakistani media and a major section of Ulema in Pakistan have declared the ISIS a Takfiri and terrorist outfit which is out of the fold of Islam.
Islam Times and some other newspapers of Pakistan published a report on 13 July which said that a number of Ulema and religious and educational organisations of Pakistan issued a press statement condemning the actions and activities of the ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The Ulema said that the ISIS fighters are Kharijites (seceders) and they had nothing to do with Islam. They also urged Muslims to keep their youth away from such Takfiri and Khariji groups. They also said that those who kill innocent lives and do not consider anyone other than themselves as Muslim cannot be Muslims. The Ulema also said that if the ISIS was really a well wisher of Muslims why is it not fighting against Israel which is killing innocent Palestinians. “This is because the Kharijite group will never go against Israel because it is being promoted and supported by Israel.” They said.
On 27th June, well-known pro-Jihadi journalist and activist of Pakistan, Zaid Hamid’s published an article titled, “America and Mossad are supporting the Takfiri terrorists of ISIS.”
Unlike Jamaat-e-Islami Hind that has expressed its sympathies for the ISIS, the Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan has not made its stance on the ISIS known but from the official Facebook account of Jamaat, it can be construed that the ISIS or the Iraq situation does not have any importance for the organisation. The Facebook page of Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan has hundreds of posts on Palestine, Waziristan and Kashmir but Iraq does not find a mention in the political or religious discourse of Jamaat, Pakistan. The killings, destruction and infighting among the Muslims on sectarian lines does not evoke any kind of emotion or response from the leadership of Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan though all eyes are on Iraq today.
The result of this maturity of the Pakistani Urdu media was that in Pakistan where Shia-Sunni divide is severe; it did not further intensify, sparing the country of a new crisis. The Pakistani media ignored the ISIS and even some articles written on the topic were written from a very objective and analytical point of view. They did not portray them as heroes of Islam as sections of Indian Urdu media unfortunately did. No Pakistani religious scholar congratulated Abu Bakr and called him as AMEERUL MOMINEEN. No Shia organisation of Pakistan ran registration campaign for Shia youth willing to fight for the protection of sacred places in Iraq. No Sunni Muslims were encouraged to go to Iraq and fight for the ISIS which is the state of affairs in India. This is all the more perplexing as Indian Muslims are believed to be religiously more mature and tolerant and Pakistanis are said to be religiously vulnerable and sensitive. The credit for this should go to the Pakistani media that has shown maturity while handling the ISIS issue. It is also unfortunate that the India Ulema became divided on sectarian lines due to the issue.
There are two possibilities for what appears to be a maturity in Pakistan's Urdu media. One, the supporters of the idea of Caliphate in Pakistan supports the Tehreek-e-Taliban, Pakistan to establish its Caliphate after conquering Islamabad. While Pakistani Taliban are now in trouble with the Pakistan Army attacking its strongholds, Pakistanis, particularly in Punjab realise that ISIS can only spell danger to them, as their plans include conquering Pakistan too eventually.
Another possibility is that Pakistanis, even in Punjab, are now fed up with the Taliban and the whole idea of establishment of a Caliphate. [Of course, much more information will be required to come to this conclusion.] The concept of Caliphate and Islamic government is not new to the people of Pakistan. Taliban and other extremist organisations have been ideologically and physically fighting for it. Earlier, their Afghan counterparts even established Caliphate in their neighbourhood Afghanistan. Pakistani people have seen how the Caliphate of the Taliban functioned. In other parts of the world too, Caliphate was established for brief periods of time before being driven out by state forces.
In Pakistan, people had been suffering at the hands of Taliban, the so called flag bearers of Islamic Caliphate. The Taliban carried out suicide bombings in markets, residential complexes and military installations killing innocent people. They also killed children, women and the old on sectarian lines. Thus the people of Pakistan may have got disillusioned with any idea of the Caliphate and so may now be fully supportive of the Pakistani army and the government that is carrying out Operation Zarb-e-Azb apparently to wipe out the flag bearers of so called Islamic Caliphate.
One would imagine that no one can understand the pain of the so-called Caliphate better than the Pakistanis. In India, the Jamiat-e-Ulema Hind leader Mufti Arshad Faruqi may believe that Taliban are pious people and Islamists, but the people of Pakistan may have learnt by now from experience that they are Takfiri terrorists, Kharijites and out of the fold of Islam. This maybe the reason, the Pakistani media and the common people of Pakistan are not enthusiastic about the conquests of the ISIS. However, we do not know exactly what is going on in Pakistan and so can just speculate. In any case, we have to worry about the romanticising of the Khilafat by the Indian Urdu media, its implications, reasons and impact on the community.