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Date: 09/02/2015

“The Quran is our Constitution. Jihad is our way. Martyrdom is our desire.”

Islamists can’t be fought with guns alone

Kanchan Gupta

25 January 2015

[If the ideology that lies at the core of Islamism is unacceptable to an open, plural and secular world, we have to come up with a robust counter-ideology shorn of mumbo-jumbo and polite niceties]

Now that the loud and excited chatter over the grim massacre in the editorial offices of Charlie Hebdo is over, and supporters of free speech are done with lighting candles in Paris and other cities around the world in memory of the slain cartoonists who dared Islamists to do their worst (which they did with remarkable ease), perhaps it would be in order to ask:

Where do we go from here? Do we still persist with our politically correct waffle that terrorism has no religion, Islamists are not Islamic, and but for Israel’s existence there would have been no global jihad laying to waste thousands of lives, more often than not of Muslims?

Or do we finally, and collectively, acknowledge (acceptance can come later) that violent Islamism, rooted in a purist’s interpretation of the Quran and related Islamic texts, needs to be confronted with a multi-pronged strategy that would necessitate rethinking the war on terror?

Shall we then agree that Islamists need to be confronted not only with guns but also a counter-ideology?

Turning our faces away, pretending all is fine except the odd killing here and the odd massacre there, will no longer do. Disengagement is no more an option. The continuing surge in Islamist fervour cannot, indeed must not, be ignored.

The barbarians may not be at our gate as yet, but the unstoppable march of Islamic zealots, whom George W Bush famously described as ‘Islamofascists’, as the civilised world retreats, conceding ground with each passing day, should not go unnoticed.

To turn a blind eye, to be indifferent, or worse, to be politically correct and tolerate the intolerable would be to our peril. For let there be no mistake, the taunting tone of those who believe in the inevitability of a homogenous ummah replacing the diverse world we know is already discernible over the babble of ill-informed and vacuous Left-liberal discourse.

For evidence, witness the raucous voices in support of the Charlie Hebdo killers.

Soon after the ghastly London bombings when Islamists blew themselves up with deadly effect, Ed Husain’s book The Islamist was published, recording his disillusionment with radicals who use faith as a cover for their murderous deeds.

A particular passage in that book remains indelibly printed on my mind:

“Teacher, I want to go London next month. I want bomb, big bomb in London, again. I want make jihad!” “What?” I exclaimed. Another student raised both hands and shouted: “Me too! Me too!” Other students applauded those who had just articulated what many of them were thinking...”

That’s how Ed Husain records his experience in the Saudi Arabian school where he had taken up a teaching assignment after embracing radical Islam.

It was the day after the 7/7 suicide bombings in London that killed 52 commuters. Ed Husain, his faith in radical Islam by then dwindling rapidly after experiencing life in Saudi Arabia, was hoping to hear his students denounce the senseless killings. Instead, he heard a ringing endorsement of jihad and senseless slaughter in the name of Islam.

Ed Husain returned to London and penned his revealing account in The Islamist — Why I joined radical Islam in Britain, what I saw inside and why I left.

Debunking the Left-liberal intelligentsia’s explanation that deprivation, frustration and alienation among immigrant Muslims in Britain are responsible for the surge in jihadi fervour, Ed Husain wrote:

“Many Muslims enjoyed a better lifestyle in non-Muslim Britain than they did in Muslim Saudi Arabia... All my talk of ummah seemed so juvenile now. It was only in the comfort of Britain that Islamists could come out with such radical utopian slogans as one Government, one ever expanding country, for one Muslim nation. The racist reality of the Arab psyche would never accept black and white people as equal... I was appalled by the imposition of Wahhabism in the public realm, something I had implicitly sought as an Islamist...”

So, what does an Islamist seek?

The reams of rubbish churned out by bogus activists and windbag columnists desperately seeking to rationalise crimes committed in the name of Islam, ranging from the ethnic cleansing of the Kashmir Valley to the Mumbai massacre, from the attack on Parliament House in New Delhi to the destruction of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York, from the horrific assault on human dignity by the Taliban in Afghanistan to the nauseating anti-Semitism of the regime in Iran, from the beheading of ‘foes’ and enslavement of women by the Islamic State to the unspeakable horrors of the Boko Haram, cannot explain either the core idea of Islamism or what motivates Islamists.

For that, we have to go through the teachings of Hasan al-Banna, the original Islamist and progenitor of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the land of the birth of radical Islam.

Hasan al-Banna’s articulation of Islamism in the 1930s, distilled from complex theological interpretations of Islam, was at once simple enough for even illiterate Muslims to understand and sinister in its implications when seen in the context of what we are witnessing today:

“The Quran is our Constitution. Jihad is our way. Martyrdom is our desire.”

Imagined grievances and manufactured rage came decades later, as faux justification for adopting this three-sentence injunction that erases the line separating the spiritual from the temporal and giving Islam a political dimension in the modern world, thus expanding the theatre of conflict beyond the sterile sands of Arabia.

Hasan al-Banna died a nasty death when he was murdered in 1949, apparently in retaliation of the assassination of Egypt’s then Prime Minister, Mahmud Fahmi Naqrashi, but the seed he had planted in his lifetime was to grow into a giant poison tree, watered and nourished by Sayyid Qutub (whose tract, Ma’alim fi-l-Tariq was interpreted as treasonous, fetching him the death sentence in 1966) which over the years has spread its roots and branches, first across Arabia and then to Muslim majority countries; so potent is that tree’s life force, its seeds, carried by the blistering desert wind that blows from the Mashreq, have now begun to sprout in countries as disparate as Denmark and India, Turkey and Malaysia, changing demographic profiles and unsettling societies.

The world chose to ignore subsequent events and, like those who clamour for a gentler, accommodative approach to Islamism today by pushing for compromise over conflict, ‘enlightened’ scholars and public affairs commentators rationalised Anwar Sadat’s assassination by Islamists on October 6, 1981. Even Egypt erred in setting free scores of conspirators, including a certain Ayman Al-Zawahiri.

Similarly, the ‘Islamic Revolution’ in Iran with its blood-soaked consequences was hailed as a “people’s victory” over Shah Reza Pehalvi’s dictatorial regime.

For Europe, long dubbed Eurabia, it was business as usual — Iran’s oil swamped out rational analyses. If any country had the foresight to sense the danger signals, it was, and ironically so, Egypt under President Hosni Mubarak who remained wary of Iran, not least because of its export of rabid Islamism. Tragically, those who came to power after toppling the Mubarak regime were not riled by Tehran naming a street after Sadat’s assassin, Khalid Islambouli.

It was in the immediate aftermath of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan that Islamism acquired a new dimension and a vicious edge when it was coupled with Wahhabism, Saudi Arabia’s severely austere version of Sunni Islam. Arab nationalism, which was unencumbered by Islamism till then, became an expression of faith in radical Islamism.

To neutralise the three-sentence injunction of Hasan al-Banna, we need more than a ‘War on Terror’.

We need to launch an assault on the idea that motivates radical Islamists. There is no scope for accommodation, nor is there any reason to capitulate or strike a compromise.

We still have time to mount a counter-assault.

The writer is a current affairs analyst based in NCR

ISIS volunteers in India cross a thousand


24 January 2015

New Delhi

After months of soft-pedalling, intelligence agencies have finally accepted that ISIS is spreading across most of India, especially in Uttar Pradesh, Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Seemandhra, Telangana and Maharashtra. In such a delay between fact and acceptance, they are following the same trajectory as their counterparts in the US, UK and France, who till late last year refused to take seriously reports that several hundred of their citizens were battling on behalf of the group in Iraq and Syria. Although an official estimate of Indian nationals who have joined ISIS is exactly a dozen (five from Mumbai and seven from Hyderabad), officials now admit that this number has crossed into the four-figure range. "Families are reluctant to admit that their sons have gone abroad to join ISIS, for fear of police harassment and/or ostracism," a senior official warned. He added that in several cases, such individuals may have returned after thorough indoctrination, so as to set up cells within the country.

A Mumbai-based police officer pointed out that Arif Majeed, who was among the four youths from that metropolis who left as a group to join ISIS, made up a cover story of disenchantment with the group, which quickly fell apart under questioning, thereby leading to his incarceration on suspicion of having been sent back to organise attacks against targets chosen by the terror organisation.