After the extremist ideologues of Islamic State have avowedly declared the ongoing Islamic month of Ramzan as “the sacred month of mayhem for the non-believers”, their vicious mission of wanton killing continues unabated.
The recent brutality in Dhaka, Bangladesh's teeming capital, which has left 28 innocent people dead in a restaurant siege and many others injured, came as part of the well-worked-out jihadist design. It should be seen in the spate of terror strikes which were carried out in Paris, Belgium, Florida and Istanbul in a succession. The fact that the self-styled jihadists have killed Hindus, free-thinkers, secularist intellectuals, independent writers and bloggers in the past two years, is substantial evidence. It is not just a speculation. Neither could it be called a knee-jerk action of media outlets that immediately call the Islamist extremist groups to be operating in such attacks.
With 20 foreigners hacked to death, it was not only the worst terrorist attack on the non-combatant Bangladeshi civilians and foreigners. Rather, it was a well-worked-out anti-democratic strike on the growing culture of rationalists, free-thinkers and liberal democrats in the country. One wonders if India, the land of an overwhelming number of rationalists and secularists, will be the next target of this poisonous jihadist tentacle. Clearly, there are substantial reasons behind it.
Among the various reasons is the growing radicalization of the gullible Muslim youth recruited by the so-called Islamic State (IS) from Hyderabad. The recent arrest of IS recruits in this Indian metropolitan city shows that the radical jihadist outfit is gaining foothold in the country. Once the IT capital of India, Hyderabad is slowly becoming a hub for online extremist elements using social media to radicalise the city's techno-savvy Muslims. According to the Indian intelligence sources, nearly 25 young Muslims from India have joined the IS. Now, when five more IS recruits have been arrested from Hyderabad, it is distressing for our pluralistic country that the threat of terror strikes and communal clashes in future is looming large.
Not many know that IS is propagating a virulent and brazenly un-Islamic concept of Ghazwah-tul-Hind, which literally means: military expedition against India. Our political leaders are the most naive and gullible Indian citizens who are still unaware of this pernicious terrorist design to strike on our country in the name of Ghazwah-tul-Hind.
The reason why India is vulnerable to the terrorist designs of IS is not difficult to find. This country constitutes the world's third largest Muslim population at nearly 175 million. Though the religious and political Muslim leaders loudly claim that they will not let the Indian Muslims fall prey to the jihadist indoctrination of ISIL, the recent arrests of IS recruits and experts’ reviews show that the terror outfit is moving ahead towards its nefarious design in India — mobilizing the gullible Muslim youth to retaliate for the communal riots. A counter-terror official of Indian intelligence has clearly stated that "IS modules being set up in India is more dangerous than some youth wanting to travel to Iraq and Syria to join the terrorist group."
While we require an intellectual debate and in-depth analysis of what was the driving force behind the radicalization of young Muslims of Hyderabad, the mainstream Indian Muslims, particularly the Islamic clergy and ulema, as well as the middle class Muslim families must take it as a note of introspection. Regrettably, as the radical Islamists in several parts of the world are perpetrating mindless violence loudly claiming it ‘faith-inspired’, Muslim religious scholars are not doing enough to debunk the extremist ideology behind these nefarious activities. This makes it imperative for us to analyze what wrong is going on in the religious discourses in the community.
Let’s not forget that the self-styled Islamic caliphate of al-Baghdadi is based on a dichotomous and exclusivist religious worldview that was coined in the medieval era. Going by this, the world populace is divided into two jurisprudential categories — “Dar al-Kufr (land of disbelief) and Dar al-Islam (land of belief)”. While this dichotomous worldview of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ is conducive to violent extremism, unfortunately it still goes unchecked in our Muslim community. It is being taught in the large corpus of jurisprudential Islamic literature, not only in the Middle Eastern seminaries, but also in the South Asian Islamic seminaries, particularly in Bangladesh, Pakistan and India.
More deplorable is that the Islamic clergy and imams, who rule the roost, have not yet evolved any progressive, robust and non-conformist interpretation of the seemingly exclusivist religious underpinnings and references that the jihadists often misconstrue to further their nefarious ends. Be it the Islamic doctrine of nahy’ anil munkar (forbidding evil), al-wala wal bara (loyalty with believers and disavowal with non-believers), hakimiyah al-ilah (God’s rule over the earth) or Khilafah Islamiyah (obligation of Islamic caliphate), these medieval jurisprudential concepts are still being sought after in lieu of Islamic shari’ah. According to the radical Islamists, they are not entitled to be called ‘true Muslims’, unless these Islamic laws are enacted by them wherever they exist.
The retrogressive creed of replacing all democratic countries with an ‘Islamic caliphate’ is the plain reason why the extremist Islamists keep playing havoc across much of the democrat and liberal world, resulting into the recent brutal attacks in Paris, Brussels, Orlando, Istanbul and Dhaka. If young and gullible Muslims in India are also being indoctrinated into the same twisted and obsolete religious underpinnings through the Wahhabism-inspired rhetoric, it is no surprise that they are likely to be captivated by the radical recruiters, be they from the outfits affiliated with Al Qaeda's South Asian wing or the Islamic State of Syria and Levant (ISIL). At this juncture, we are amazed at the naivety of our leaders who have rebuffed any suggestion that the IS has a foothold in the country. We wish it could be true!
The author is a scholar of comparative religion and classical Arabic-Islamic sciences, Researcher in Culture & Communication Studies and Commentator on Muslim Affairs in Media. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.