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(27): I am Afraid for India

Muhammad Muhsin Ibrahim
@muhsin234 (Twitter)

A few days ago, Aiman Al-Zawahiri, the leader of the terror group, Al-Qaeda released a video in which he unveiled plans to open a new branch in the Indian subcontinent with a particular interest in India and then Bangladesh and Myanmar. He further explained that the franchise would break the borders of these and other countries until it establishes what he calls “Islamic Caliphate”. This can be a sham or for real. I have got two substantive observations.

First, it is possible, as many analysts and security experts suggested that, Al-Zawahiri was simply seeking for relevance because his group has been largely neglected by the mainstream media. Al-Qaeda has apparently been eclipsed by the more daring, more powerful and least conscientious terror group of Islamic State (formerly the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria [ISIS]). The main character is now Al-Baghdadi, not him. The ISIS charter and modus operandi, though earlier like the Al-Qaeda’s, have now surpassed that and have gone beyond all logic. Their atrocities against the Iraqi minorities and journalists are no longer sexy.

Second: Al-Zawahiri might possibly be for real as India is a fertile country for radicalization. Nonetheless, almost all countries now are, a fortiori, India is becoming more. Confessedly speaking, the so-called ‘radical Islam’ is now a global threat; though, I entirely believe in the theory that says nothing happens without a reason. On this note, Ruthven (2012) explains that “people who accuse Islam of being a violent religion misunderstand its essentially pacific nature” (see: Islam: A Very Short Introduction; Oxford Uni. Press). I can’t agree more. I recently wrote an article on the same topic: "Being Muslim and the Danger of a Single Story". Radicalization among Muslims gains momentum due, largely, to their marginalization, mischief of some non-Muslim elements and the egotism of some Muslims.

Yes, India. I have been here for more than a year. I am an eyewitness to so many incidents where people are treated as ‘third class’ citizens for no reason other than their being Muslim. Are we not, first and above all, human beings? Many people think twice about this irrefutable fact. It’s not much surprising to those familiar with how segregated a society is India’s. The age-old Caste System that classifies people according to ranking strata is still in place. Brahmin is the highest and de jure superior in everything, while Shudras/Dalits are the lowest, and, as a consequence, considered disgusting and untouchable. Therefore, the Muslims’ condition is somewhat better than those pariahs’. But still, I find it so hard to put up with the downgrading situation. I have observed at least three things.

One: during and after the election of the current Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, millions of his stalwart supporters openly and loudly expressed, mostly on the cyberspaces, that they liked him for his alleged role in the murder of more than 2000 Muslims in the Gujarat Pogrom. However, the PM, though never backs down on his Hindu nationalism, has always denied such an allegation. Perhaps unknown to him, a throng of his narrow-minded voters proudly say otherwise. Mr Modi just celebrated his first 100 days in office this week. Thus, it’s too early to judge how he handles the fate of the more than 200 million Muslims under his care.

Second: suggestively speaking, the content of the history taught to Indian school children paints Muslims dark. I had a long chat with my lecturer’s son. The young boy assuredly told me that Muslims (referring to Mughals) murdered hundreds of thousands of Hindus and Sikhs for their refusal to convert to Islam. He went further to say that even during the 1947 partition of India, many people were slain by the same Muslims, and concluded that Muslims were not good people. He was manifestly thunderstruck when I asked him whether or not I was a good guy as I was also Muslim.

Third and latest is what happened to me this week (Friday). I and another man were in a “chicken shop”. I was evidently dressed as a Muslim with a caftan and a cap. The owner of the shop knew I slaughter my chicken myself, and so I did; while for the other man’s, he simply cut its head as usual and threw both into a drum to pass on. I was standing right beside the man when he instructed the butcher not to use the knife I touched to sever his chicken. Not only that, he also didn’t like the neck of his chicken as it mingled with the blood of mine. Although he spoke in Hindi, the message was so plain and the butcher was visibly embarrassed. He apologized to me after the ignorant man had left. I shrugged.

Those incidents are just tidbits, for much worse are happening. It was discovered that some Muslims have to daily masquerade as Hindus to sustain their business in many places. To my personal investigation, some go to the extent of ‘renouncing’ their faith to keep their businesses. There’s also an appalling apartheid in housing where Muslims are ghettoized, or denied rent and many other rights. Therefore, imagine how susceptible a target these people could be for the so-called Jihadists’ recruitment? In addition to their billion of dollars, they tell all sorts of rosy gains for engaging in ‘Jihad’, ignoring the fact that the greater Jihad, according to the Prophet Muhammad, is the war against the evil within oneself. It’s the lesser Jihad that calls for fighting the polytheists, however under warranted conditions that are barely obtained today.

I must be afraid for India, for I have interacted with so many Indians in different walks of life. As humans and as individuals as we all are, there are the good, the bad and the ugly ones among them. I am Muslim, a proud one for this matter, but I don’t, and will never, in sha Allah, subscribe to terrorism. I know it is a contravention of true Islam, and I have seen its danger. The ‘Islamist’ group of Boko Haram has been waging war against the people and the government of my country, Nigeria for years. The Indian government in harness with forward-looking NGOs and even individuals should stand up against the spread of anti-Muslim sentiments among the people of India. The country has already had terror attacks on its land; Kashmir and 2008 Mumbai attack are clear examples. Muslims are also Indians; they deserve to be treated as such. The Past is past; the deeds of some erstwhile supremacist Muslim emperors, or that of a few undesirable elements among them, or whatever, should not be a yardstick to judge all others. We are not one; we can’t be. We are plural. Don’t expect us to be and do the same, as this thought is, at best, shallow, and at worse, silly.


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