Stopping ISIS: Soundbites

From Swami Agnivesh and ​​Julio Ribeiro to Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev and T.J. Joseph​,​ ​Outlook speaks to ​experts on what India need to do​ to stop ISIS​ .

Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev

Sare jahan se accha... This is what we need to do. Make India set out a truly wonderful and beautiful space—so wonderful no one will want to go anywhere else; even the promise of heaven will not take them elsewhere.

Make India a place where every citizen and life will have opportun­ity to find fullest expression, as that is what propels all life. Whether it is an act of love or war, the driving force is human longing or fulfilment. Let us create a nation and a world where there is an inward movement that will allow every human being to blossom to their fullest possibility, without impeding upon any other life. Till we achieve such an ideal, let us look at how to educate, employ and create opportunities for the Muslim youth to be exposed to a larger and more inclusive vision of the world. Let us make it happen.

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(Sadhguru, Isha Foundation.)


B.N. Srikrishna

Our Constitution has granted protection to minority rights. The exercise of these rights by them has been viewed by certain political parties as appeasement of minorities and there is a persistent and strident clamour against it. This has given rise to avoidable acrimony and hatred. The majority and the minorities keep claiming that each is being discriminated against by the State. This has whipped up passions, resulting in misguided youths on both sides seeking extra-constitutional avenues for their perceived grievances and becoming radicalised.

(Former judge of the Supreme Court, Justice B.N. Srikrishna headed the committee which probed the 1992-93 Bombay riots)


 

No Hindutva derision, tabs on petrocash. And value the local Muslim cultures.

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Tabish Khair

First, India has to make sure its Hindutva crowd stops talking of Muslims as ‘outsiders’ and ridiculing Indian personalities, past or present, with Muslim names. Second, India has to be very careful about the influence of petro-money on Muslims, and look at where these funds are going and how they are being spent. Third, there has to be a conscious effort to promote distinctive Indian Muslim heritages, as against the Arabised ‘Islamic’ identities being promoted by many Gulf-fin­anced org­anisations and Gulf-job influenced people. It should be possible for Muslims to be Muslim without being ‘Islamic’, as is the case with Hindus or Christians. Fourth, women’s spaces and opportunities have to enlarge, but not just among Muslims but among all. Fifth, India’s democratic and inclusive character has to be preserved and strengthened. Of course, one can add that lower unemployment rates and a booming economy that act­ually percolates downwards would help, but that is a ­general problem.

(Tabish Khair’s new novel Jihadi Jane ­has just been published in India)

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Swami Agnivesh

The threat is not just in terms of ISIS. When people follow religion dogmatica­lly, we see these kind of responses towards terrorism. Terrorists are also politicians with political int­erests. There is definitely such a thing as Hindu terror and Islamic terror. Hindu terror and Muslim terror feed off each other. We are at a bigger risk of terror now than before. All essential ingredients of deadly weapons, media and internet and money are read­ily available. Also, politics uses religion to mobilise votes. This has been going on for long but is the main game for the current government and theyre doing this very successfully.

(Right Livelihood Award winner Swami Agnivesh spoke to Anoo Bhuyan.)


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Julio Ribeiro

India will be high on the ISIS radar and we have to be vigilant. I would not be surprised if they strike when we least expect. The radicalisation of Muslim youth is an ongoing process being attempted by ISIS. Earlier, it was being done by groups like SIMI and Indian Mujahideen. I can say with some certitude that events like the 2002 Gujarat riots, Akhlaq’s murder in Dadri and the recent activities of gau rakshaks will only hasten the radicalisation process. Utterances of ministers like Giriraj Singh and other Hindutva bigots will also add grist to the mill. A great responsibility is cast on the civil society to befriend Muslims and on our government functionaries, especially the police, to treat Muslims as equal citizens. That will not be easy because of the difficulty in understanding Muslim culture. It will require herculean efforts by all stakeholders—the State, NGOs as well as the Muslim clerical establishment.

(Mumbai cop Julio Ribeiro was the director general of Punjab police at the height of terrorism in the state)

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How about jobs for Kashmiris, justice, unbiased media?

T.V. Mohandas Pai

The immediate issue is the lack of economic activity and jobs in certain areas. For example, there may be up to 5,00,000 young people without jobs in Srinagar and surrounding areas. The government, through its central police, armed forces, banks and PSUs could easily hire 3,00,000 people from there and post them all over the country and reduce the insurgency considerably. Similarly, in all areas hit by radicalisation, there could be specialised programmes to mainstream the youth. Also, we need a concerted action through NGOs, community leaders and the government to talk to parents, teachers and young people about the need to avoid radical movements.

We also need to increase interaction between communities to imp­rove trust. We need to accelerate all cases of terrorism, communal crimes and other acts of injustice so that the court can deliver justice. The government, the media, civil society and the police, all need to do their jobs. They need to be even-handed, enforce the law and deliver justice and good governance. It is important that the media be sensitive in this matter and stop siding with certain interests. The police need to be law enforcers and not arms of political leaders.

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(Mohandas Pai is the chairman of Manipal Global Education)


L. Ravichander

In the course of my inqu­iry into the Lumbini Park and Gokul Chaat blasts in Hyderabad in 2007, I found that the basis of rounding up the youth was that they were staunch followers of Islam. The investigation was minority-prejudiced. It was as if the police had made up their minds and then investigated the matter. Boys and men living on the fringes of soc­iety are easy picking for investigating agencies. The midnight arrests also showed that the reasons were bonafide. Finally, all of them were acquitted, around 25-30 youth. When I met some of them later over the years, I found that they still carry scars from that dark night. To be called anti-national and criminal in the context of the times we live in is disastrous. Socio-politically and economically, none of them have the wherewithal to stand up to this kind of trauma.

(L.Ravichander is a Hyderabad advocate who probed detention and torture of adolescent boys after the 2007 blasts. He spoke to Madhavi Tata.)


 

Mani Shankar

As a society we have to understand that it is no longer just a law and  order problem or even a religious issue. It is about going into the mind of a 19-year-old who watches movies, goes abroad for studies, is on Facebook. We have to step into the mind of this teenager and see how he is being grabbed by radicals.

If 20 people were slaughtered in Dhaka by five radical youngsters, then obviously they are convinced by some logic. We have to discuss the arguments of hate-mongers in open forums. We have to take the debates to universities, colleges and coffee shops. We have to erode the convictions of a 20-year-old through counter-arguments coming from other 20-year-olds. It is very important that people get to hear the arguments of youth who have been arrested in Hyderabad for links with the ISIS. We have to make it a subject of debate and then counter their arguments with our heart. It is a fact that innocent Muslims are being killed across the world. But when all this is joined up to form some sort of warped logic, youngsters get swayed. We have to interact with all those who are in the danger zone. A consistent, personal dialogue is essential.

(Mani Shankar has made films like 16 December and Tango Charlie, dealing with terrorism. He spoke to Madhavi Tata.)


T.J. Joseph

When I was growing up, we were brought up in a soc­ialist environment where we were concerned about others and my concern as a teacher was the well-being of the students in every sense. The Malayalam word ‘kalaashaalakal’ refers to a place where one learns the bhavanas or develops the mind. When one develops the mind, one will understand others and care for them. But today, education is not holistic; it’s just a business. The students only have textbook knowledge; professional colleges turn out mere technicians. Earlier, we couldn’t imagine educated people committing atrocities. With education came maturity and a cosmopolitan outlook.

At present, students have some knowledge but no mental growth. This is why fundamentalists are able to inculcate extremist ideas.

(Malayalam professor T.J. Joseph’s right hand was cut off by an 8-member gang of the Islamic extremist outfit Popular Front of India in 2010. He spoke to Minu Ittyipe.)


Arun Bhagat

You must understand what we are dealing with is false advertisements to young men. Promises made in the name of faith are totally misplaced. The problem is you can’t trace who’s doing it. They can communicate from anywhere in the world via the internet. It’s possible to keep a vigil in smaller countries, but not in India. Teachers and parents have a role to play. There has to be an upsurge from within the community. They have to be given examples. The amount of destruction is for all to see—in Syria, Nigeria, Somalia. It needs to be exposed, this false propaganda. Perhaps the youth must be opened to new ideas—what to do, what to read, what to learn, what to aspire for. New knowledge, new interests, new avenues quell radicalisation. Yes, there are instances of youth being picked up on terror charges and then let off. But what’s the alternative? Should the carnage be allowed? Getting evidence takes a lot of time and luck. What would you prefer—some held on suspicion or 50 people dead?  

(Former IB chief Bhagat spoke to Mihir Srivastava)


Tanvir Jaffri

The obsessive pre-occ­upation of the young with mobile phones is leaving them open to a slew of misinformation, even disinformation, on the internet and the social media. Forces outside the country are prone to put it to use to further their own nefarious designs. We, at our end, should ensure that we do not play into the hands of such forces by widening the cracks in our national societal fabric to suit political ends.

 If we genuinely take everyone along, the chances of outsiders fishing in our waters is minimised. Additionally, the digital media as well as radio and television should be utilised by the government to increase interaction between accomplished leading lights from the minority communities. Their words leave an indelible mark and their achievements egg others to emulate them.

(Tanvir Jafri is son of former Congress MP Ehsan Jaffri, who was among the 69 people killed in the communal violence at Gulberg Society in Ahmedabad during the 2002 Gujarat riots. He spoke to R.K. Misra.)


Noorjehan Safia Niaz

We need to give our youth an alternative vision. As civil society groups, we are not talking to them about political issues. What happens across the globe is no longer far away. So we need to talk to our youth about how capitalism affects society, how western imperialism has made a mess in West Asia and how it is all linked.

Parents do not include the political in the upbringing of children. If we have a vision of peaceful existence, it needs to be transferred to the next generation. Earlier, socialist groups would have study circles where youth could thrash out ideas. Today, only RSS is doing that.

With regard to Muslim youth, the insecurity and alienation, which has increased in the past two years, adds to the problem. It existed earlier too but now the state is no longer shy of discriminating. Brainwashing by fundamentalists like Zakir Naik is also a challenge for Muslim youth. Many years of insecurity has created an inward-looking mindset.

In a way what is happening is tragic. But I believe that a new voice is emerging. Muslims are increasingly disassociating from fanaticism. We need to reclaim our religion and reassert the basic principles of peace and justice in Islam.

We are lucky to have been born in India, where our founding fathers gave us the Constitution, and the principles of secularism, liberty and democracy. We have to guard these values very, very carefully.

(Niaz is co-founder, Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan. She spoke to Prachi Pinglay-Plumber.)


In Cold Blood

The injured lie around soon after the terror attack on Istanbul’s Ataturk airport on June 28

Photograph by AFP

Humiliate, And Strengthen the Online Fringe

Zafar Sareshwala

Despite the various schools of thought in Islam, moderation has been at its core in India. Extremism has been generally shunned. I think of the 20 crore Muslims in India, those impressed by this radical core may not be more than a thousand.

In loose comparison, in the mid-’90s, I was shocked to find the presence of radicalised ele­­ments from the world over in the UK. I just could not believe the extreme views that were being spouted about. It den­oted an element of complicity (mili-bhagat).

One must understand the genesis of the problem. It goes back to the Russian invasion of Afganistan and America’s push to create an Islamic resistance movement in Afghanistan. Seminaries came up in the Afghan-Pakistan border. The Americans left, but the radicals remained and are fanning out the world over.

Make no mistake, it is an ideological battle and needs to be combated at that level. We need to work to ‘deradicalise’. The process has already begun within the community and considerable success has been achieved in India. There is dangerous traffic on the internet and parents have to be alert. Efforts are also afoot to ensure that Friday sermons are used to warn people of the pitfalls. The government must sensitise its administration, particularly the police, to guard against discrimination and humiliation. The more you do that, the more you play into the hands of fringe elements. As the Dhaka violence brings out, it is not the madrassas where radicalisation is taking place, but elsewhere. The young from elite institutions are falling into the trap. The need is to assimilate, not discriminate.

(Sareshwala is chancellor, Maulana Azad National Urdu University. He spoke to R.K. Misra)


ISIS And The Employment Exchange: How To Filter Out Mind Pollution

Wajahat Habibullah

I don’t think ISIS is knocking at India’s doors. So far, they have been successful only in tapping Western youth. But warning bells are ringing—the time is ripe for everyone to act.

Muslim youth is broadly divided into two sections—one which believes that they are discriminated against in India and that government jobs are denied to them. The other section feels that they were unable to secure such jobs because of poor education. It is in this section that I see the urge to acquire education. In particular, Muslim girls can play a more significant role in preventing the youth from getting carried away. This change is also reflected in the rising number of Muslim youth appearing for competitive examinations for different services. When I joined the IAS in 1968 I was the only Muslim to get selected. I realised that when a journalist came for an interview. Today, with greater awareness, there has been a substantial rise in the number of Muslim aspirants for government jobs.

What we need to urgently address is the polluted minds of the first section of the Muslim youth, which may otherwise remain highly vulnerable to false propaganda by organisations like ISIS. There is increasing need for civil society to rise to the occasion. Unfortunately, Muslim civil society has not evolved as much to take the initiative to educate their vulnerable youth. Therefore, there is need for an inclusive approach.

(Former chief information commissioner Habibullah was also chairman of the National Commission for Minorities)


Terrorism Is A Pretext To Justify The Rise Of Right-Wing Figures

Shehla Rashid

The violent attacks taking place across the world point to an urgent need for acting against religious fundamentalism and arms networks. The shocking loss of lives is dehumanising this planet. The Muslim community could begin by speaking up against such acts and against the fundamentalist tendencies in Islam. But, wherever Muslims are, in fact, speaking up against ISIS, even where they are holding large gatherings and rallies against ISIS, they are being ignored by the mainstream media. Then how do we expect the “Muslim voice against ISIS” to be heard at all? However, condemning the attacks is not enough by any means.

There needs to be a proper plan to tackle this kind of violent spate of attacks, and here, one sees the complete failure of bodies like the UN. The state sanction given by US allies such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to Islamic extremism is a cause of alarm. The pattern of US military intervention shows tremendous hypocrisy, in that the orthodox theological states (including Israel and Saudi Arabia) are never actually attacked by the US, but are their favourite allies. The US's expansionist intervention in resource-rich countries and the hate-filled Islamophobic propaganda by Republicans in the US against ordinary Muslims further confirms the fears of the Muslims that the US is fighting a religious war against them. This fuels extremist tendencies among Muslims and has created a fine recipe for disaster within the world.

There are many revelations of arms support given by the US to ISIS. This is a very serious aspect that is not being investigated. The US first arms such groups and when they go out of control, cries foul about 'terrorism'. The collusion of White supremacists, Zionist extremists and Islamist terrorists with the arms lobbies needs to be curbed. The UN might be best suited to do so. More people in the US die because of domestic gun violence rather than in terror attacks. However, there is no plan for gun control, even as more and more racist and homophobic elements sport violence using guns. Also, the White supremacist racist attackers are never called 'terrorists', but just 'shooters'. Drone attacks on innocent people by US war machinery are never called as terrorism.

Similarly, the attacks in India in which Hindutva elements are involved are just called 'blasts' (Samjhauta Express and Malegaon, for example), but never 'terror' attacks. This has convinced Muslims that there is an overall hypocrisy, with the term 'terrorist' reserved only for Muslims. Often, some Muslim youth are branded terrorists, only to be acquitted decades later. But, if they are acquitted, then who is actually involved in the attacks? Why is there no investigation into that?

Terrorism is a serious problem, and must be investigated properly. Unfortunately, it is often only used as a pretext for justifying the rise of right-wing figures (like Modi and Trump). As an example, just before Modi's 'Hunkaar' rally in Patna during the previous general election, there was a low-intensity blast near the stage which didn't harm anyone because the rally was yet to start. Why is there no investigation into the Hunkaar blast? Was it only a plan to polarise people ahead of elections and establish that Modi is under attack from Muslims?

In another such case, the Akshardham temple attack, a bunch of innocent Muslim men was incarcerated for decades, to be acquitted only after the Lok Sabha election was over! Now that elections are over, no efforts are being made to investigate the Akshardham attack afresh, let alone compensate the wrongly framed men? We have to start dealing with terror as terror. Neither Islamophobic rhetoric, nor apologist defences by Muslim enthusiasts will solve the problem.

(Shehla Rashid is Vice-President, Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union)

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