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As an Indian Muslim, I Hate ISIS, But Mere Condemnation is Not Enough – News18

As an Indian Muslim, I Hate ISIS, But Mere Condemnation is Not Enough – News18

As I scrolled through the news updates from my beloved home state of Assam, nestled in its bustling capital Guwahati, I was utterly shaken. The headlines screamed of a chilling revelation: a privileged young man, a student at the prestigious IIT Guwahati, had pledged his allegiance to none other than the ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), a terrorist organisation that emerged as an offshoot of Al-Qaeda. In an open letter penned on LinkedIn, he articulated his allegiance, sending shockwaves through the nation. He wrote:

So, my message to the Kuffar (infidels): Repent to Allah with a sincere repentance. Say, there is no ilah (God) except Allah (The God) and Muhammad is His messenger (may peace be upon him). Establish Salat amongst your people and give Zakat to the Zakat-Collectors appointed by the Khalifah, Abu Hafs Al-Hashimi Al-Qurashi. And if you turn away, then I give you glad tidings of a painful punishment.

My final call: There is no ilah (God) except Allah and Muhammad is his Rasool (Messenger), may peace be upon him. And Alhamulillahi RabbilAalamin.”

This shocking development comes hot on the heels of the arrest of ISIS India head Haris Farooqi, raising grave concerns about the infiltration of radical extremism into the very heart of India. With its brutal tactics and uncompromising ideology, ISIS carved out a formidable stronghold across vast swathes of Iraq and Syria, proclaiming the establishment of a caliphate under the leadership of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. However, this audacious bid for power was met with widespread condemnation from numerous Muslim nations, rejecting ISIS’s claim to represent Islam.

Central to ISIS’s modus operandi is its unyielding commitment to an extreme interpretation of Islam, viewing violence as a means to enforce its vision of Islamic rule rooted in Sharia law. The group’s indiscriminate targeting knows no bounds, branding anyone who fails to pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as an enemy—be they Westerners, Christians, Jews, or even fellow Muslims. Armed with a highly trained militia well-versed in guerrilla warfare tactics, ISIS poses a formidable threat, capable of wreaking havoc on a global scale.

Beneath the surface of ISIS lies not just flesh and blood, but a powerful ideology—a truth encapsulated in the famous quote from ‘V for Vendetta’. Despite being an American pop-culture reference, its resonance extends to the core of the discussion surrounding ISIS’s future. The group’s theological underpinnings, often overlooked in public discourse, serve as a driving force behind its resilience and influence.

India’s position in the global landscape of ISIS influence is often deemed anomalous. Despite boasting the world’s third-largest Muslim population, the country has seen relatively low numbers of ISIS-related cases. Investigative agencies have probed just over 100 cases, with estimates reaching 200 to 300 individuals. These figures pale in comparison to European nations, where foreign fighter migration to Iraq and Syria has been more pronounced. Approximately 10 to 15 Indians responded to ISIS’s call to action between 2014 and 2016.

The latest US State Department report on terrorism highlights 66 known Indian-origin fighters affiliated with ISIS, commending India’s counterterrorism efforts, particularly the work of agencies like the NIA. Despite these successes, concerns persist regarding the role of the Internet in recruitment, radicalisation, and the exacerbation of interreligious tensions. As India grapples with these challenges, the importance of proactive measures to counter extremism cannot be overstated.

The entry point, as explained by Jesse Morton, a former online recruiter of Al-Qaeda, who went by the name Yonus Abdullah Mohamed, explained the three-point agenda that is used to pull potential recruits towards their ideology—is personal grievance, a dent in a person’s psyche that can be nurtured in a negative manner and used to contribute to a broader cause.

The first pillar, Tawheed al-Haakimiyyah, champions the supremacy of Allah and Sharia law—an undisputed belief used to indoctrinate followers into a rigid worldview. Next comes Kufr bin Takhud, which demands the complete rejection of “false gods” like idols, democracy, and even one’s own parents if they obstruct the path to jihadist extremism. Lastly, Al-wallah-al-Burrah mandates unwavering loyalty to Muslims above all else—a doctrine that fosters an insular mindset and division.

The target individual must possess more than just a sense of disillusionment; recruiters exploit feelings of purposelessness and boredom, offering a twisted sense of purpose and belonging. In this dangerous game of manipulation and exploitation, the lines between truth and propaganda blur, leaving unsuspecting individuals vulnerable to the siren call of extremism.

As we navigate this treacherous landscape, it becomes imperative to recognise the insidious tactics employed by recruiters and to remain vigilant against their seductive promises of purpose and belonging.

Between 2014 and 2018, a wave of radicalisation swept across states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Uttar Pradesh, leading young men and women on a perilous journey towards the allure of ISIS. From May 25, 2014, individuals from Rajasthan, Gujarat, Bihar, and Madhya Pradesh succumbed to the siren call of extremist ideology, venturing to Iraq and Syria to join the ranks of the notorious terrorist organisation. However, not all returned unscathed—some met tragic ends on the battlefield, while others languished in foreign prisons, awaiting repatriation.

As recently as November 28, 2014, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) uncovered the insidious spread of ISIS influence within India, arresting individuals who succumbed to the seductive rhetoric of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. This journey into extremism was facilitated by the systematic exploitation of the Internet, with sympathisers utilising online platforms for radicalisation, recruitment, and planning of terror activities. Shockingly, investigations revealed a disturbing trend—many were influenced by speeches and videos of Islamic preachers, including the infamous Zakir Naik, founder of the Islamic Research Foundation. Despite facing allegations of money laundering and inciting extremism, Naik’s teachings continued to resonate with vulnerable individuals, leading them down the path of radicalisation.

As authorities grapple with the multifaceted challenges posed by radicalisation, the nexus between online propaganda and real-world violence becomes increasingly apparent. The fight against terrorism transcends physical borders, requiring concerted efforts to combat the spread of extremist ideologies and safeguard the future of vulnerable youth.

In the backdrop of a global clash of civilisations, a war of ideas continues to permeate every facet of life in the 21st century. On one front stand constructive forces striving to maintain societal order, uphold constitutional values, and foster cooperation among diverse individuals. Conversely, disruptive elements sow seeds of radicalisation, leading to chaos and the recruitment of young minds into terror outfits.

While education is often touted as a bulwark against extremism, recent links between engineering graduates and PhD students from across India to terror outfit ISIS highlight a more sinister reality. The penetration of ISIS in India traces back to the group’s inception, with numerous young minds swayed by promises of rewards in the afterlife. Despite the relatively low percentage of terror recruits from India’s Muslim population, the presence of even one ISIS terrorist on Indian soil is one too many.

The NIA remains vigilant, orchestrating raids, apprehending suspects, and implementing de-radicalisation programs. Notably, on December 9, 2023, the NIA conducted pre-dawn raids in Maharashtra and Karnataka, resulting in the arrest of 15 operatives affiliated with ISIS, including a PhD scholar and former lecturer.

However, the battle against radicalisation extends beyond law enforcement agencies. Family and community play pivotal roles in identifying and addressing signs of radicalisation, working in tandem with organisations like the NIA. Notable successes by the NIA, such as the arrest of Dr Adnan Syed and other high-profile operatives, underscore the relentless pursuit of justice and security. Nevertheless, incidents of radicalisation contribute to feelings of “Islamophobia” among other communities, necessitating a concerted effort to address the root causes of extremism.

Moderate Muslims must actively disown and distance themselves from individuals espousing extremist ideologies. Post 26/11, groups like the Indian Muslim Council set commendable examples by publicly denouncing radical elements. By standing united against extremism and advocating for peace and moderation, the Indian Muslim community can combat radicalisation and foster a safer, more inclusive society for all.

In the battle against radicalisation, families and communities play a pivotal role in detecting signs of extremism and partnering with agencies like the NIA to mitigate threats. These cases underscore a concerning fanaticism detached from personal oppression, emphasising the urgency of confronting extremist ideologies. However, vigilance is crucial against propaganda spread by certain quarters, including communists and Islamist influencers. Their narratives, alleging a genocide of Muslims in India, not only exacerbate tensions but also validate extremist rhetoric. By rejecting divisive narratives and fostering unity, communities can collectively combat extremism and uphold values of peace and tolerance.

The ISIS emerged as a significant threat, spreading its venomous ideology across the globe. However, India’s resilience against this menace remains commendable. With only a fraction of a percentage of the population succumbing to ISIS propaganda, India has stood firm against radicalisation. Among its 20 crore Muslim population, the number of recruits to ISIS remains negligible. This resilience is a testament to the unity and resolve of the Indian people.

But the battle against extremism is ongoing, requiring constant vigilance and cooperation between communities and security agencies. The NIA and other security forces have been at the forefront, tirelessly working to thwart terrorist plots and dismantle extremist networks. However, the stakes are high. While security agencies must succeed every time, terrorists need only succeed once to wreak havoc.

As a nation, we must move beyond mere condemnation and actively challenge the twisted theological worldview propagated by groups like ISIS. Families, communities, and religious leaders must denounce extremist ideologies unequivocally. By standing united and rejecting divisive narratives, we can safeguard our incredible Bharat from the clutches of these monstrous ideologies.

As an Indian Muslim, I hate ISIS with every fibre of my being, but I understand that mere condemnation is not enough. Some fear that as a Muslim is primarily loyal to his faith, a Muslim may sacrifice the best interests of his country for Islam. But His Holiness noted that, in fact, sincere patriotism is a tenet of Islam. Prophet Muhammad stated, “Love of one’s country is a part of faith (Sakhawi)”. There is no conflict between one’s pledge to religion and their Pledge of Allegiance because exhibiting loyalty to one’s country of residence itself becomes a religious practice.

There is a saying of Prophet Muhammad PBUH, which goes like this,

حُبُّ الْوَطَنِ مِنَ الإِيمَانِ

“Ḥubb al-Waṭan min al-Īmān”

“Love of one’s country is part of one’s Iman (faith).”

In this clash of civilisations, the future of our nation hangs in the balance. Let us remain vigilant, resolute, and unwavering in our commitment to preserving the fabric of our diverse society. Together, let us build a future where peace, tolerance, and harmony prevail, leaving no room for the darkness of extremism to take root.

The author is a practising advocate. She writes articles on women’s rights, politics and law. Views expressed in the above piece are personal and solely that of the author. They do not necessarily reflect News18’s views.

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