The Indian government’s five-year ban on the supremacist Islamist preacher, Dr Zakir Naik seems to have gratified many people — Muslims and non-Muslims alike — who concern themselves with the pluralistic ethos of the country. But is the story over? How could this eventual ban bring an end to the process of fanatic indoctrination ushering in the age of Internet?
“The story isn’t quite over yet,” says a Firstpost article. “Banning Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) will not undo the messages he has preached to youth all these years... There is a need to keep a continuous vigil. Naik might be planning his next moves sitting in Dubai, where he is currently believed to be,” it adds.
The above remark is not difficult to understand, bearing in mind that many Muslim youth from Maharashtra left their home to join the Islamic State (IS) earlier this year, some of them allegedly inspired by Naik.
Only recently, an alleged operative of IS was arrested in Sikar district of Rajasthan. This IS sympathiser was involved in raising funds from India, Bangladesh and UAE, and transferring to the IS for the last two years through hawala, PTI had reported.
Here, it is quite pertinent to note that the alleged IS operative was in contact with other sympathisers of the global jihadist organisation via social networking sites. An MBA graduate, who was previously working as an assistant financial manager at a reputed firm in Dubai, he has a wife and children in Mumbai. But instead of caring for his family and earning a livelihood — the most essential duty in Islam — he joined “those who are fighting for a cause”, and is “completely remorseless” in supporting the IS!
There are two crucial points that emerge from this instance of fanatic indoctrination:
First, at a time when extremist preachers like Naik and his organisation, IRF are banned in India, it is equally important to unravel “the cause” which attracts Muslim youth to such indoctrination and join the IS.
Second, as it is clear from the above incident, Muslim youth in India are being indoctrinated through online and digital channels a lot more as compared to the offline activities of the extremist Islamist outfits. Thus, countering online fanaticism is more urgent a challenge before India than banning a radical organisation and a preacher for a few years. Though the latter too is a gigantic task to accomplish, it is no less lethal than the violent spade of terror that attacks through bomb blasts from Mumbai to Kolkata and Kashmir to Kanyakumari.
Coming back to the first point, the major “cause” which lures the youths to quit their education and career and join a global jihadist outfit like IS is the apocalyptic theory being misconstrued by the Islamist preachers today.
The apocalyptic worldview or millenarian thesis of the radical Islamist preachers is a large part of the attraction for Muslim youth even in India. As propagated by the IS ideologues, we are living in "end-time" (an era close to the doomsday). Therefore, the IS exhorts the Muslim youth to engage in the end-times battle, al-malhama, an Islamic synonym of the Christian theory of Armageddon which refers to the final war between human governments and God.
Though nearly all world religions have prophesies on the end-time, much of the violent political abuse of this concept is seen across the Muslim world. The very apocalyptic theory was an inspiration behind the ideologues of al-Qaeda as well. Much before Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Jordanian radical Islamist ideologue Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Osama bin Laden and other radical Islamist mentors also talked about it but they did not give it primacy.
But for IS, the apocalyptic theory or millenarian thesis is central to its violent ideology. It believes itself to be one of the earliest armies to fight the end-time battle to defeat the governments of kuffar (infidels) and establish the puritanical Shari’ah in its global Islamic state. In order to achieve this long-term goal, the IS has actively engaged in the fulfillment of the pre-requisites of its self-imposed caliphate, such as the revival of pre-Islamic slavery in Arabia. The IS mouthpiece in English Dabiq has published an article which concludes that the revival of slavery before the Hour (doomsday) is imperative. The third article in this issue of Dabiq, entitled “The Revival of Slavery Before the Hour” clearly says: “Enslaving the families of the kuffar (infidels) and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of the Shari'ah that if one were to deny or mock, he would be denying or mocking the verses of the Koran and the narrations of the Prophet... and thereby apostatising from Islam”.
The anonymous author of this article who seems to be well-versed in the classical Islamic jurisprudence, further writes: “This large-scale enslavement of mushrik families is probably the first since the abandonment of this Shari'ah law. The only other known case – albeit much smaller – is that of the enslavement of Christian women and children in the Philippines and Nigeria by the mujāhidīn there. The enslaved Yazidi families are now sold by the Islamic State soldiers... .”
This IS author justifies the enslavement of not only the kuffar and mushrikin (non-Muslims) but also the Muslim sects other than the Salafis who follow the 12th century puritanical Islamic scholar, Imam Ibn Taimiya. Addressing the question whether Yazidis (the members of an ancient Kurdish sect that borrows elements of Islam) are entitled to enslavement, as they are "deviant" and "apostate" Muslims, the author avers: “Yazidi women and children (are to be) divided according to the Shari'ah amongst the fighters of the Islamic State who participated in the Sinjar operations (in northern Iraq).”
In a foot-note, the author also takes up the question of whether the enslavement would be meted out to the different groups of the Shiites. The answer is as follows: “The enslavement of the apostate women belonging to apostate groups such as the rāfidah, nusayriyyah, durūz, and ismā’īliyyah is one that the fuqahā’ (Islamic jurists) differ over. The majority of the scholars say that their women are not to be enslaved and only ordered to repent because of the hadīth, 'Kill whoever changes his religion,'" it says referring to Sahīh al-Bukhārī, one of the six hadith collections of Sunni Islam. "But some of the scholars including Shaykhul-Islām Ibn Taymiyyah and the Ahnāf (Hanafis) say they may be enslaved,” the author adds.
Notice the resemblance between the above remark of the IS ideologue in Dabiq and that of the star Salafist preacher in India, Naik answering a similar question in one of his public talks. Naik justified rather more heinous crime of slavery, "sex slavery" with his masterful misuse of the religious texts of Islam. In the same tone and tenor as that of the IS author, Naik justified sex slavery in 2010 in his public speech (check this video) on the question, “Is sex allowed with slave women in Islam.”
Similarly, Naik’s views on death penalty for those who are declared "apostates" have no conflict with what the IS author has pointed out. According to him, if somebody wanted to convert to any faith other than Islam, the capital punishment would be the most "humane punishment" for such a person. This video of his talk on "capital punishment for apostates" leaves no doubt in the complete replication of Naik’s theology to the inhuman ideology of IS and Taliban.
Thus, through his TV channel and in other so-called Islamic Da’wah programmes, Naik has preached precisely what IS ideologues have. Several articles in Firstpost have candidly exposed Naik as an Islamist supremacist who speaks of sex slaves, wanton killing of apostates and justifies the terror crimes as heinous as suicide bombing. At a time when the world’s progressive Islamic scholars are outraged at the pre-Islamic practice of keeping sex slaves that the IS has now revived, Naik has justified the vile custom.
Just as Dabiq misleads the ordinary English-speaking Muslims of the Middle East, the first Salafist television in India, Peace TV founded and conceived by Naik has misguided scores of English-speaking Indian Muslims who are either gullible or oblivious to the grave threat posed to the tolerant Indian Islam.
At a time when the IS is flogging the fiction of its pre-conceived apocalypse in its bid to revive the vile pre-Islamic custom of slavery and establish its own caliphate, Naik and many other self-styled preachers of Islam have helped the extremist cult expand in the Muslim community the world over. But merely banning the extremist indoctrinators is not sufficient enough to stem the tide. As clearly evidenced above, this extremist tribe is growing more rapidly in the virtual world. The online media is being increasingly used to spread the Islamist radicalism. Therefore, the government needs to provide digital literacy to the Indian youth and civil society organisations, religious scholars and media experts to counter the online indoctrination of the Muslim youth and rescue them from the extremist ideologies.
The author is a scholar of comparative religion, classical Arabic and Islamic sciences, cultural analyst and researcher in Media and Communication Studies. Views are personal. Write to him at: email@example.com