Anand K Verma headed the Research & Analysis Wing, (R&AW), India’s external intelligence agency from 1986-1989. He is an expert on the region, particularly Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
The time has arrived for the unspoken to be spoken: Radical Islam is at war with India.
The objectives of the war are to destroy India as a nation with a composite culture and multi-ethnic society, and replace it with a phenomenon which began as an enclave in Saudi Arabia in the 7th century and has already enveloped a good part of the globe.
Its spread so far is a proof of its inherent strength. In its historical march to its present expanse, it has destroyed empires, countries, religions, culture and people. It is continuously making inroads into territories where it was earlier unknown. Those who fail to comprehend its dynamics, do so at their own peril.
Radical Islam is what Prophet Mohammed is believed to have given to the citizens of Medina after his flight from Mecca. He outlined an ideology, couched in religious terms, from which an escape was next to impossible.
The ideology offered no accommodation except on its terms, ruled out all compromises, and demanded an allegiance with any violation of what was declared blasphemous, inviting instantaneous annihilation.
As radical Islam spread far and wide beyond Mecca and Medina, often in the shadow of the sword, it did encounter powerful ideas which after mellowed it and sometimes led to the emergence of new sprouts.
Sufi Islam was one such product which toned down the hard features of the original concepts and introduced new ones. It conditioned the Islamic mindset to the acceptance of co-existence with other cultures and religions. Although principally it was radical Islam which made its first forays into India in the middle and early mid centuries, the one that settled down was not so radical. Its core was impacted by Hindu philosophy, Bhakti movements and new strains within it such as Akbar’s Deen-e-Ilahi. The result was a broad based coexistence of Islam with all other religions in India.
But the purists were not amused by what they saw as contamination of Islam. Their brigade was led by the contemporary Ulemas. The one who struck an abiding blow to radical Islam was Shah Waliullah (1703-62), celebrated in history as a Muslim reformer or a hardliner.
Waliullah held that the essence of the scriptures i.e. Koran, Sunnah and Hadith could not be diluted and the purpose of Islam must remain synchronous with the Prophet’s vision. Two generations later, Waliullah’s followers founded the Deoband seminary of theology. The seminary was not just a Madrassa for religious teachings but its instructions were inspired by a larger purpose of avenging the1857 defeat by the British of the Muslim empire.
The seminary was the first Mujahid enterprise in the country. Its theme remained the same throughout the later history, camouflaged cleverly through theological dissertations, disseminated through a network of Madrassas which quickly sprang into existence, primarily in Muslim heartlands of India. Unrestrained and uninterrupted supply of Wahabi funds from foreign sources has provided oxygen to their activities and to their take on Islam.
This school and its indoctrinations have had a legendary influence over the Muslim world. The Taliban of Afghanistan is the product of Deoband thinking as it evolved in Pakistan after partition. The Wahabis and the Salaifis of Saudi Arabia can be counted as clones of the Talibanised mindset.
Osama bin Laden given another push to radical Islam by crafting the International Islamic Front in 1998. Student Islamic Movement of India(simi) and Indian Mujahaideen(IM) are the present day practitioners of Waliullah’s mantra.
Al Qaeda and five extremist organizations from Pakistan like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Harkat-ul-Mujahiddeen and Hizbul-e-Jihad-e-Islami, among others from other Islamic countries, became the founding members of the Front, with Christian and Jews as its targets. Its ideology spawned a Pan Islamic thrust. It emphasized that a Muslim’s first loyalty was to his creed, not his nation; any means of violence could be employed including weapons of mass destruction to achieve political and other aims; and belonging to one Ummah a Muslim could participate in any struggle worldwide where Islam or its believers were being victimized.
With this ideology, drawn from scriptures, a Muslim was freed from the need of having any further organizational guidance from the Front. The result was that many Muslim groups in many parts of the world, started thinking and acting on identical lines. There was an upsurge in fundamentalism and terror worldwide. Later the list of enemies was expanded to India to include Hindus.
The Pakistani members of the Front, guided by ISI of Pakistan, had narrower aim i.e., India, though they were also used by ISI to support Pan Islamist ambitions of Pakistan. Their imprints were found in all major regions of Islamic upheaval such as Bosnia, Chechnya, Xingjian, Philippines etc.
Today, the heightened profile of radical Islam all over the world is giving sleepless nights to many governments including some in the Islamic world. Many of these governments believe that the Islamists will sooner or later be able to lay their hands on a nuclear device, causing mass destruction or disorder somewhere.
The rise of Radical Islam has placed Muslims in a deep predicament in the western countries. While he cannot give up his Islamic identity, he does not quite understand how to manage his other multiple identities created by his citizenship, education and existence in multi-cultural societies.
Secularism and alternate systems of governance are theologically unacceptable in the Muslim scriptures. A reformist Muslim thus, becomes an anathema to Islam. Without reforms, the hard dogmas will continue to rule the Muslim mind and feed the hatred and animosity on which Radical Islam thrives. This amounts to a no-win situation leaving thereafter a class of people with no respect for the laws and the others.
This has caused some to leave the pale of Islam and come out publicly against the contradictions of Islam and its outright rejection of values which are now universal in vast parts of the world.
Two such individuals, Wafa Sultana of Los Angeles, California, and Irshad Manjhi of Canada, have almost become either a hate figure or an example of revolutionary bold articulation. They are deeply reviled in Muslim circles.
Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss Muslim who teaches religion at Oxford, constitutes a different category. While retaining the Muslim identity, he is struggling for a balance between this identity and of the integrated society in which he and many like him, reside.
Such people are looking for internal peace but are continually being tormented by the world they have been eager to leave. Their efforts to fashion new avenues of discourses appear quite unwelcome to the people whom they want to address.
This is a problem which India is well aware of. The Scriptures lay down that Islam and the Prophet are not open to discussion. The Prophet also remains as the most admired individual for a large number of his followers. For such people, no debate can be ever opened up on whether Islam should be more inclusive. Essentially, this leads to an uneasy co-existence, though at the surface, a certain smoothness based on a superficial give and take may be prevailed.
As radical Islam aided by incentives from across the border and fueled by like minded activities elsewhere races further, the Indian State seems to lack decisiveness, with contrary voices in the Government. Division of powers between the Centre and the States are adding to the difficulties by preventing firm policy and action.
But time and tide wait for none. There is a perception in some quarters that the nation is sliding towards anarchy. On good authority it can be said that one responsible Muslim voice within the portals of governance holds the view that India is on its way to a civil war, which will be fought on every street including every village and the town.
Today, we are going through hard times. Day by day increasing level of awareness, expectations and education are making this hardship even more confounded. Solutions cannot be found by putting the problems under the carpet. The problems need to be identified sincerely and dealt with squarely but with prudence, compassion and understanding.
Further polarizations must be prevented as the levels are touching the danger mark. It is unusual to see a Vice Chancellor coming ahead for assisting two of his students legally, who are not charged with a campus or institution related crime but with terror causing deaths. How many times has the VC come forward in the past when his students got the wrong side of the law? He is not the alone in distrusting the facts of the terror incident of September 13th at New Delhi.
Large segments of population living in the area and some leaders of the community expressed distrust of the police motivation and investigation.
A more stringent anti-terror law or creation of federal investigation agency is not an adequate antidote to the deeply growing depths of mistrust and despair. Terrorism must be combated at the ideological level and the battle must be against hatred and the sustained belief system. The real enemy exists not only physically but is in the metaphysical realm of dogmas that in turn are subjected to misinterpretations. Radical Islam and terror will continue to feed on each other unless the leaders of the society get down to the business of unraveling the conditions which make educated minds irrational.
There is no moment to be lost if we are to abort the imminent advent of the suicide bomber or the truck bomb.
Article courtesy Indian Defence Review