By Tufail Ahmad, New Age Islam
28 Nov 2016
The current threat to India's security is
typical of the threat faced by modern democracies. Jihadist attacks – whether
they are carried out by the Islamic State (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda or by lone-wolf
jihadists acting on their behalf – threaten to overturn the civilisational
order. The attacks in Florida, Boston, Toronto, London, Paris, Kabul, Peshawar,
Mumbai, Dhaka or Sydney illustrate the fact that modern democracies cannot take
their freedoms and security for granted.
On July 9, it emerged that 15 Muslim youths
from Kerala had gone missing, feared to have left the country for Afghanistan
and Iran on way to join the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria. Later reports put
the number of the missing youths varyingly at 17, 19 and 25. The youths
belonged to mainly the Kasaragod and Palakkad districts. This development has
raised alarm that radicalisation of Muslims is underway in many parts of India,
especially in regions around Hyderabad and Mumbai.
After the Second World War, democracies
faced threats from armed communism. Seven decades later, democratic nations are
still threatened, this time by global jihadism. It is a matter of time before
Indian democracy too will come face to face with such threats. The jihadist
attacks underline two points. First, democratic countries must put in place a
counter-radicalisation strategy that integrates Muslim communities and counters
radicalisation. Second, such a strategy must also be coordinated
internationally because the nature of the threat is global in its character.
Let's take the second point first. The
jihadist threat has acquired an international character because the
international system of states has become problematic. The modern nation-states
– with sovereignty and non-interference in each other's affairs being their
defining characteristics – emerged after the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, an
agreement which ended the Thirty Years War during which conflicts between the
Protestant and the Catholic states had transformed into a war between the great
powers of the day.
As a result of the 1648 agreement, while
the newly emerging nation-states ended the war to the benefit of their peoples,
they are now suppressing their own peoples. For example, the Pakistani
nation-state crushes its people in Balochistan. The Sunni nation-state of
Bahrain tramples upon its Shia majority. The Chinese nation-state oppresses its
Muslim population in Xinjiang. Iraq suppresses the Kurds and Sunnis while
Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Indonesia and Pakistan allow persecution of
their minorities such as Shias and Ahmadi Muslims.
(Kashmir is not a good example because the
Kashmiri people elect their government regularly, can openly challenge the
power of the Indian nation state and are about to overcome jihadist insurgency
commissioned by Pakistan.)The argument is this: the international state system
anchored to the UN since the World War II is failing to address emerging
problems caused by its member-states, notably the rise of global jihadism.
There are two urgent needs: one, dismantle the UN and seed a new international
state system; and two, evolve a global strategy to counter the global jihadism.
An international strategy must take into
account the suppression by nation-states of people within their own borders as
well as the state support from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan
to jihadist groups like the Islamic State, Hezbollah, Hamas, Al-Qaeda and the
Taliban. Canadian-Pakistani writer Tarek Fatah has suggested that global
extremism can be undermined from within by addressing the issues of
Balochistan, Kurdistan and Turkey's support of Muslim Brotherhood.
Of the big countries, only the U.S.,
Britain and Russia have inclination as well as diplomatic and military
resources to counter this threat. As of now, the Western powers are not engaged
in collectively developing a strategy against global jihadism due to the fear
that they will be seen as anti-Islam. The longer the West takes it to tackle
this cancer, the bigger it will become. It was this realisation which forced
the leaders of forty nations including the UK, Israel, Germany, Palestine,
Jordan, Poland and Spain to march hand in hand with the French president in
Paris on January 11 last year to denounce the jihadists who shot dead the editors
of Charlie Hebdo magazine.
To return to the first point, the need for
counter-radicalisation strategy, the democratic nations must evolve their own
domestic policies to challenge radicalisation. Over the past few years, India
has witnessed worrying symptoms of radicalisation: Muslim youths posed for a
group photograph in ISIS T-Shirts in Tamil Nadu. In Kerala, stickers in favour
of ISIS were seen on cars. In Kashmir, masked youths waved ISIS flags. In the
toilet of a Mumbai airport, a passenger wrote ISIS threats. In Jharkhand,
someone deemed it fit to print 'ISIS Pakistan' on T-Shirts.
Muslim youths from Mumbai went to Iraq and
some were detained in Kolkata, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Hyderabad over ISIS links.
At least one Mumbai youth wanted to carry out a suicide attack on the American
School in Bandra. In July 2016, security officials arrested a number of
radicalised Muslim youths, especially from Aurangabad, Parbhani and greater
Mumbai. In 2014, Sanjeev Dayal, the then director general of Maharashtra police,
had proposed a counter-radicalisation strategy, which argued for inclusive
housing for Muslims, mainstreaming of madrasa education and dealing with
perceived grievances, among others.
Sanjeev Dayal took inspiration from a
Singaporean law that mandates mixed ownership in housing societies for the
Malays, Indians and the Chinese. The then police chief also warned against
online propaganda that radicalises Muslim youths. All the suggestions are
practical, but there is no short-cut solution to integrating Muslim
communities, whether in Europe or in India. This is because Islam does not
allow Muslims to fully integrate with local communities. As a system of ideas,
Islam is designed to separate Muslims from the practices of non-Muslims.
In Maharashtra state, this writer asked a
Muslim man, who has not gone to college, a question: what do Urdu religious
channels like the Peace TV of televangelist Zakir Naik teach? His response:
they teach us about Islam. Probed further as to what he and his family learn
from these channels, he explained: Wo Hamein Islam Ke Saanchey Mein Dhaalte
Hain (they shape us into the mould of Islam).Muslims everywhere will
continue to separate themselves from the rest of society. Islam doesn't permit
integration, despite which some Muslims do integrate in some spheres of
Nevertheless, attempts for reform must be
made on an urgent basis. India needs to think long term and evolve a 100-year
strategy, seriously. Such a strategy must do the following: all madrasas and
mosques should be registered and their finances audited by local officials, a
task unachievable if the same is not done for churches; madrasa syllabi should
be reformed to include – in addition to the teachings of the Quran, Hadiths and
Islamic Studies – English and material sciences as well as a primer on
need-blind subjects like liberal arts from the primary standards. Reform must
begin among children below 18 years of age and in the field of education. If
Lord Macaulay could do it, Indian democracy can do it much better.
* Former BBC journalist Tufail Ahmad is Executive Director of the Open
Source Institute, New Delhi. He is the author of "Jihadist Threat to India
– The Case for Islamic Reformation by an Indian Muslim."A version of this
article appeared in the Onam special issue 2016, published by
Malayalam-language daily Janmabhoomi.
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