Indian Muslims’ Concern & Terrorism

What should be said about Indian Muslims displaying concern about their stand against terrorism? This is naturally linked with the increasing trend to label Muslims as members or sympathisers of the so-called “Islamic State”, a definition of terrorism largely promoted by West. The recent voices raised by various representatives of the Indian Muslim community in different parts of the country clearly signal the need felt by them to clarify their stand towards what is being presented as Islamic terrorism. This naturally reflects their concern about bracketing Islam with terrorism, their own religious identity as well as misperceptions feared by Muslims about being linked with terrorism.

Not surprisingly, Indian Muslims have tried asserting their stand against terror by denouncing it. They have stressed that Islam propagates and promotes peace and harmony.  They have also criticized brutal killings committed by terrorists in the name of Islam. They have asserted, Islam is against every kind of terrorism, which can never be supported by any Muslim. The Muslim leaders have laid emphasis on condemnation of all kinds of terrorism by Muslims. The stand taken by Indian Muslims against terrorism has apparently primarily been motivated by their decision to clarify their stand and that of Islam regarding terrorism. Clearly, they are apprehensive about false notions being spread by excessive noise made about Islamic terrorism.

It may be noted that  there has prevailed a tendency in certain local authorities to label Indian Muslims immediately as terrorists, without any allegation being backed by substantial investigation. A similar trend prevails in West too, where not much time is wasted in assuming Muslims to be key terror suspects for terrorist activities having taken place there. The new importance being accorded to Islamic terrorism has apparently raised concerns of Muslims in many parts of the world, including India, about their being falsely victimized as terrorists. Thus, the assertion being made by Muslims against linking of Islam with terrorism and their criticism of terrorist activities is not confined to India alone.  

With respect to India, though there prevail various terrorist organizations, to date, those including Muslims, have not been labelled as Islamic. Rather, regional or ethnic label has been used quite frequently. For instance, among the terror groups known to be active in Jammu and Kashmir are Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hizbul Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Harkat-e-Mujahideen and Al Badr, etc. In North-east India, at least 34 terror groups are active in Manipur, 11 in Assam, four in Meghalaya, four in Nagaland and two in Tripura. These include two factions of National Socialist Council of Nagaland, National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Assam) and United Liberation Front of Asom. Terror groups active in Manipur are People’s Liberation Army of Manipur, United National Liberation Front, People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak, Kuki Revolutionary Army and United National Liberation Front, among several others. These names have been specifically mentioned here to highlight the point that numerous terror groups are fairly known in India for their indulgence in violence. Most of these have not been linked with any religious group.  

Just as Christianity and Judaism are not linked with terrorism despite there being cases of some followers of these religions indulging in terrorism, no other religion, including Islam should be linked with it. Paradoxically, despite their being no universally accepted definition of terrorism, there prevails the western trend to label Muslim terrorists as members of the so-called “Islamic State”. In this context, greater importance needs to be given to Prime Minister Narendra Modi having recently asserted that, “We have to delink religion from terror.” Describing terrorism as the biggest threat to the world, he stated that it falsely uses religion to attract people.  

Even a percentage of total Muslim population of the world has not taken to terrorism. Similarly, hardly a percentage of Indian Muslims can be linked with terrorism. From this angle, the Indian Muslims concern about usage of the Islamic label is justified. It amounts to adding some credibility and legitimacy to brutal activities of certain militants, which Islam does not promote or approve. At the same time, this inappropriate “legitimacy” has the potential to increase attraction of young people towards militancy along “religious” lines.

Besides, when a terror group is labeled as “religious” and is thus accorded a “religious” identity, indirectly this leads to it gaining at least some religious credibility in its own perception and also among those not too familiar with its actual designs and agenda. Tragically, this is the mistake that is being committed by raising a lot of hype about terror group identified as “Islamic State.” Labeling a terror group as “Islamic State,” when in essence terrorism pursued by its members is not confined to any specific geographical area may be viewed as a grave diplomatic and political error. This bears the risk of those with little knowledge of Islam to link Muslims with terrorism in general. Perhaps, this bears tension for Indian Muslims, because of which they have chosen in the recent past to voice their stand regarding Islam and terrorism.      

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 December 2015 on page no. 11

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