Violence and Islam not the same: Islamophobia will not solve the problem of terrorism
The biggest victim of terrorism are Muslims themselves, it is they who are being targeted by this menace of Islamic State.
The recent spate of terror attacks in various parts of the world, with one being in neighbouring Bangladesh, has once again alerted Indian security agencies. Analysts have started pointing out the looming threat of Islamic State hovering over India. This is especially in the light of India sharing a porous border with Bangladesh.
However, above all, there has been an unequivocal demand coming from all sections of the society that Muslims should come out and condemn this killing. This was my biggest fear while I witnessed terrorists taking hostages of customers at the upscale café in Dhaka on television sets, apart from the safety of those inside the café. I knew that this attack would once again give a strong edge to Hindutva elements in propagating Islamophobia, this will once again make it easy for them to pursue their politics and mobilise the masses in India against the dangers of Islamic radicalisation. Within no time after the Dhaka hostage crisis, it was visible on social media, even the liberals who are otherwise champions of minority rights in India, took to writing about how Islam is not a religion of peace, as if violence and Islam are inseparable entities.
It reminded me of Sam Harris, the loudest voice of new atheism in the world and his claim that ‘most Muslims are utterly dangerous.’ Little that these people know that today, the biggest victim of terrorism are Muslims themselves, it is they who are being targeted by this menace of Islamic State and it is they who are there at the forefront of the battle against it, be that in Syria or Iraq. It would not be difficult to point out the forces responsible for the creation of Islamic State and the rise of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi for their strategic interest in the entire West Asian region. But that will be a different debate altogether.
Indian Muslims have already started feeling the heat of all this. There has been news every day about intelligence agencies busting an “ISIS module” in the country, the discourse of terror in the country has shifted to Islamic state from Indian Mujahideen. There have been subsequent arrests of alleged members of the so-called Islamic State from different parts of the country, all on charges of having allegiance to the most well-armed terror outfit or being its sympathisers. Amidst this, IM, which was responsible for every blast in the country in the past and hatching conspiracies for the same, has ceased to exist. It has vanished from the scene. But now since there is Islamic State, there are also debates around radicalisation and de-radicalisation of Muslims, especially Muslim youths in the country. Skeptics have started pointing out the need to make Indian Muslims go through the process of de-radicalisation to avoid its adverse effects on the security apparatus of the country.
However, what is missing from the debate is what could actually be the factors leading to extremism among Indian Muslims. Why is nobody talking about the terror unleashed by the fringe Hindutva elements and feebleness of the state to protect its minorities against them as a dangerous trend, something which carries the potential of breeding extremism among Indian Muslims? It seems we as a society, as well as a nation, have collectively lost the ability to comprehend the basic proposition of cause and effect relationship.
If we are really concerned about the growth of religious extremism among Indian Muslims, the Indian state should make sure that it deals with majority extremism with an iron fist and acts according to the principles of justice, essential for the survival of a modern nation state.
Above all, unwanted witch hunting of Muslim youths in the name of terrorism should immediately come to a halt, and so should the politics around it. We have seen in the past how people like Mohammad Amir Khan and many unknown individuals have spent more than ten years in jail for no crime of theirs. In most of the terror cases, the court has acquitted Muslim youths after they spent years in jail. But most importantly, what is imperative is that we head towards a more inclusive state, where minorities, essentially Muslims too can reap the fruits of development and are not left confined to their ghettos.
(Asad Ashraf is a journalist based in Delhi and has worked for organizations like Centre for Equity Studies, DNA, and Tehelka.)
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