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“India’s Islamist Groups” – Extracts

10 March 2007 137 views 6 Comments

A very well researched piece on “India’s Islamist Groups” by Husain Haqqani (Published on Thursday, February 16, 2006)

Source: http://www.futureofmuslimworld.com/research/pubID.38/pub_detail.asp 

Extracts:

“Contemporary India is a Hindu-majority country, governed under a secular democratic constitution since 1947, when it achieved independence from British rule. At first glance India’s pluralism appears to protect it from falling under the spell of extremist ideologies, including Islamism…

.…But India has been home to some significant thinkers of political Islam, and militant Islamist groups continue to operate in, and even target, India today.…Decolonization resulted in the partition of India along religious lines, but the birth of Pakistan in 1947 did not sever India’s linkages with Islam. At least one-third of pre-partition India’s Muslims stayed in India.

Today almost 12 percent of modern India’s population is Muslim, and with an estimated Muslim population of 170 million, India has one of the largest concentrations of Islamic believers.

Islam in India has historically been represented by both its esoteric form of Sufism as well as its various exoteric, traditional forms. Even after ruling large parts of India for eight centuries, Muslims overall remained a minority on the subcontinent.

…the decline in Muslim political power in India from the late eighteenth century onward changed Muslim attitudes significantly. After the demise of the Mughal Empire, Islamic fundamentalism increased. Muslim elites, seeing a decline in their power, prestige and influence, focused on ways to revive their ascendancy.

This generated in India’s Muslim elites a preoccupation with the “revival of Islam’s lost glory,” which has been an important factor in the rise and spread of Islamist ideology the world over.

(In the early 19th century)…Muslims were also influenced by the Mujahidin Movement initiated by Sayyid Ahmed Bareili in northwest India (discussed in “The Ideologies of South Asian Jihadi Groups,” Current Trends in Islamist Ideology, Volume 1) and the Faraizi Movement in Bengal.

…Sayyid Ahmed Bareili designated regions of India under British or Sikh (i.e., non-Muslim) rule as a Land of War (Dar al-Harb) and declared that it was the duty of every Muslim to leave these regions and migrate to the Land of Islam, or Dar al-Islam.

..Sayyid Ahmed set up cells throughout India that supplied men and money to his base in the northwestern region and continued his jihad until his death in 1831.…Each of India’s radical Islamist groups, whether in Kashmir or elsewhere, traces its ideological origins to one or more of three principal sources.

The first source is the Darul Uloom Deoband, a conservative madrasa established in 1867 to train Muslim reformers and to combat Western influences. The second is the Jamaat-e-Islami (Islamic Society), which was founded by Abul Ala Maulana in 1941 to serve as the vanguard of global Islamic revolution.

And the third is the Wahhabi movement originating in Saudi Arabia.

…A radical offshoot of this (Jamaate-Islami) movement is the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), which was banned by the Indian government in 2001 for having links with terrorism. Founded at Aligarh in 1977 by students tied to Jamaate-Islami Hind, SIMI is a radical Islamist organization dedicated to converting India to an Islamic land.

…SIMI’s expressed goal is to convert India into Dar al-Islam by converting everyone there to Islam, and the group has declared jihad against the secular Indian state.

SIMI seeks inspiration from the views of Maududi and Jamaate-Islami: According to SIMI, Islam is not just a religion but an ideology, the Quran is the only basis for governing human life, and it is the duty of every Muslim to propagate Islam and wage jihad to establish an Islamic state. SIMI is against not only the Western culture and modernization that Maududi critiqued at length, but also the prevalent Hindu Brahmanical culture and idol worship.

In other words, the mere existence of other faiths and beliefs is unacceptable, and religious tolerance amounts to diluting Islam’s purity. Jihad, the Umma, and the Caliphate are core concepts in the ideology of SIMI, which stridently asserts pan-Islamic ideals.

…SIMI targets Muslim youth between the ages of fifteen and thirty for membership, and demands that members retire after the age of thirty. Several former members of SIMI have moved to different parts of India and set up such local radical Islamist groups as the National Democratic Front and the Islamic Youth Center (IYC), based in the southern state of Kerala; Darsgah Jihado-Shahadat (School for Jihad and Martyrdom), based in Andhra Pradesh; and the Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam (Muslim National Movement—TMMK) in Tamil Nadu.

SIMI and its associated groups publish several magazines in various Indian languages, including Vivekam in Malayalam, Sedhi Madal in Tamil, Rupantar in Bengali, Iqraa in Gujarati, Tahreek in Hindi, Al Harkah in Urdu and the Shaheen Times in English and Urdu.

…The global spread of Wahhabi Islam, backed by modern Saudi Arabia’s petro-dollars, has not spared India, however. India’s small Ahle Hadith and Wahhabi communities have expanded with the construction of new madrasas and mosques funded by Gulf Arab governments and individuals. The Afghan jihad of the 1980s and the Kashmir jihad of the 1990s served as opportunities for militant training for radical Muslims, and India’s Wahhabis have won converts from existing Muslim sects, as well as among non-Muslims. 

The most prominent Ahle Hadith or Wahhabi-jihadi group operating in India is the Lashkar-e–Taiba (“Army of the Pure.”) It is the armed wing of the Pakistan-based religious organization Markaz Dawa-wal-Irshad (Center for the Call to Righteousness,) which was set up in 1989 by Hazrat Muhammad Sayeed (and subsequently renamed Jamaat-ud-Dawa (Party for the Call to Righteousness). * (please also see: “A Tragedy that will continue to claim lives“)

…Lashkar-e-Taiba is closely linked to the Saudi religious establishment, as well as to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, and its ambitions lie beyond Kashmir (discussed in “The Ideologies of South Asian Jihadi Groups,” Current Trends in Islamist Ideology, Volume 1).A smaller and not yet well-known organization with Wahhabi roots is the Lashkar-e-Jabbar (LJ—Army of the Compelling God).

LJ activists reportedly threw acid on two women in Srinagar on August 7, 2000, on the grounds that their dress did not conform to the Islamic code. Furthermore, several other jihadi organizations with obscure ideological orientations have surfaced in other parts of India. The Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam (MULTA) was reportedly founded in 1996 and, along with the Muslim United Liberation Front of Assam (MULFA), is part of the All Muslim United Liberation Forum of Assam (AMULFA).

These groups have engaged in random acts of violence in the northeast region of India, claiming that their ultimate aim is to set up a “greater independent Islamistan” for the Muslims of Assam.ConclusionsIndia’s secular democratic constitution empowers the country’s Muslims more than their co-religionists in Muslim majority states.

Indian Muslims are able to elect and replace their rulers, in addition to influencing public policy. …But has democratic India “solved” the problem of radical Islam? Despite India’s clear successes in this regard, Islamist radicals continue to organize and operate outside the political mainstream.

While an overwhelming majority of Indian Muslims have stayed away from radical Islamist groups, extremist Islamists remain a threat to India’s stability much in the same way that they threaten democratic societies in the West.

*****

Note: Please refer to PDF document for source information. 

6 Comments »

  • 1. Indian said:

    Hi Shantanu I am pasting this news from http://www.thetelegraphindia.com, which I read today, April 23, 2007. Shantanu: I always wanted to ask you; Is it ok if sometime I paste the related news from the newspaper here in comment section.? May be because of the reason of space or ..Please let me know?

    Science seal on Muslim history
    G.S. MUDUR
    New Delhi, April 22: Scientists have confirmed what historians have known.

    Genetic studies have suggested that Muslims in northern India are mostly descendants of local people who embraced Islam rather than repositories of foreign DNA deposited by waves of invaders.

    …But overall, the Shias and the Sunnis in Uttar Pradesh display higher genetic affinity to northern Indian caste populations than to western or central Asian populations.

    “Our results point to conversions in both groups, but greater foreign ancestry in the Shias,” said Suraksha Agrawal, a team member and head of medical genetics at the Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Lucknow.

    Rene J. Herrera, a biologist at Florida International University in the US and one of the collaborators, said. “…both are, for the most part, descendants from local caste groups,”

  • 2. B Shantanu said:

    Indian: Yes, of course. Please do paste relevant news items/ links/ or excerpts as long as they are not more than a few sentences long.

    If they are longer than that (or it is a more detailed article), pl. send me the link so that I can edit and paste the relevant portions (e.g. I edited some parts of the news item above).

    By God’s grace, I am not worried about having to pay for the extra space that may be needed…this is the least I can do at this stage.

    Thanks for the link.

  • 3. B Shantanu said:

    A bit of history in these extracts from
    The virulent Wahabi virus
    by Murad Ali Baig, writing in HT (Apr 10 ’09)

    Mumbai. Afghanistan. Pakistan. The ‘Islamist’ terror attacks in South Asia all had the hallmarks of Wahabi ideology. Its followers are blinded by faith to believe that they have the mandate of Allah to rid the world of ‘infidels’ and ‘heretics’. Combating terrorism may thus be impossible until this Wahabi cult is thoroughly discredited.

    Mohammed Abd Al Wahab, (1703-1794), redefined Islam in a narrow and intolerant way and injected into it such a virulent cult of hatred that, though repeatedly put down, it has risen to become the single greatest threat to world peace today.

    …The Islam of the Quran suffered in the hands of many revisionists who changed its direction over time. The holy book was supplemented with the Hadith written 200 years later with further interpretations. In the Quran, Muhammad had defined jihad after the battle of Badr … “We are now finished with the lesser jihad (struggle against oppression) and are beginning the greater jihad (struggle against our own weaknesses),” but jihad is mentioned 199 times in the Hadith in stronger terms. Wahab seems to have understood the tremendous power of hatred to unite and inflame its followers in an intense ‘holy war’. He urged followers to mercilessly exterminate ‘infidels’, ‘blasphemers’, ‘idol worshippers’, Christians and even ‘Muslim apostates’ like the Shias and Sufis.

    …Wahab’s vision enshrined in his book ‘Kitab al-Tawhid’ (book of unity) encountered strong opposition when it was first preached around 1744. Religious teachers including his father and uncle were horrified but he was fortunate to find a patron in Muhammad Al-Saud who used this vitriolic new creed as a powerful weapon to propel his tribe forward. Al-Saud went on to win his descendents the kingdom of Arabia that they rule to this day. Then the discovery of oil in 1938 gave them the power to finance the spread of their creed.

    With Indian Muslims making pilgrimages to Makkah, Wahabism spread to India by the 19th century. Wahabi, also called Salafi, centres were established in our country.

    The ‘chhota (small) godown’ at Patna supplied funds, manpower weapons and materials to the ‘barra (big) godown’ at Sittana near Swat where the turbulent border tribes were drawn to this violent creed. The ‘Hindustani fanatics’ were rooted out several times by the British.

    These fanatics had great influence in the Indian madrasas where most Muslim children were educated. In 1866, two mullahs set up a madrasa at Deoband, north of Delhi, that was initially known as the Arab Madrasa, to preserve Islam from British oppression. Though Wahabism never had mass support, as it was too violent and intolerant, few Muslims dared to speak up against them though some mainstream mullahs declared ‘fatwas’ against this heresy.

    …In Pakistan however, the fanaticism was kept aflame on the issue of Muslims being oppressed in Kashmir. They were greatly encouraged when the USSR occupied Afghanistan in 1979 and the CIA collaborated with Pakistan to fund and train the Taliban to fight them. Madrasas preaching Wahabism then infected the children of some three million Afghan refugees.

    …Muslims need to make the fanatics understand that Wahabis are not heroes but heretics against the words of Muhammad. Indian Muslims were too intimidated by Wahabism to speak out fearlessly against this creed. It is time they did.

  • 4. Hemant said:

    Three men including ATS man (Sitaram Yadav – ATS) killed by suspected Simi activist in MP
    http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report_three-men-including-ats-man-killed-by-suspected-simi-activist-in-mp_1317713
    Nice term this, ‘activist’! Also no prefix for SIMI (something like hard-wing?)

  • 5. Hemant said:

    No prizes for guessing that even Google News won’t be able to find more than 3 news items on this! http://news.google.co.in/news/search?aq=f&um=1&cf=all&ned=in&hl=en&q=mp+simi+ats+constable

    Just wonder if Late Mr. Yadav had done something similar to Mr Karkare he would hav been in news all over!

  • 6. B Shantanu said:

    Well spotted Hemant. Thanks for the links.

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