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Islam and Politics ( 14 Sept 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Jamaat-e-Islami Hind’s Last Sigh!


By Fahad Hashmi, New Age Islam

September 15, 2013

May I tell the truth O Brahmin! if it does not displease you

The idols of your temple have become anachronistic

You have learnt grudge with your own people from the idols

God also has taught fighting to Muslim preachers

Becoming tired, I finally abandoned the temple and the harem

I abandoned the preacher’s sermons as well as your stories

(Allama Iqbal’s New Temple)


The dissection of state and church by the scalpel of human ingenuity has been one of the most important landmarks of human history. However, there has also been relentless endeavour for the reversal of this phenomenon by politico-religious parties. Such parties often enter political arena under the guise of a secular name. In 2011, Jamaat-e-Islami of India called Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH) came up with its political party titled Welfare Party of India (WPI). Of late, the Parliamentary Board of WPI has declared that it would contest parliamentary election of 2014 in ten Indian States. This has sent a ripple of apprehension as well as excitement across the community as participation in elections by JIH was taboo until very recently. There are some few questions making the round in the community’s grapevine. How come it is going to embrace Taghoot (Muslim version of Antichrist) all of a sudden? By Jamaat’s definition of this term, parliament is the throne of Taghoot, and constitution is the binary opposite of the Quran. How is it the party as it claims to be, with a difference now? Could this move be read as the last nail in JIH’s coffin?

These questions are not out of place if one takes into account the ideology on which the whole edifice of Jamaat’s is based. There are two axes—Islam and jahiliyya around which the entire discourse of Jamaat revolves, and the binary opposites are at loggerheads with each other also. The latter connotes everything that stand in opposition to Jamaat’s understanding of Islam. To Maududi—the architect of Jamaat, sovereignty rests with God that ought not to be shared by human beings. That implies that the principle on which today’s modern nation state is based is ‘people’s dominion over people’, which is patently against the sovereignty of God. Therefore, nation state quintessentially epitomises jahiliyya, the fountainhead of all evils and usurper of God’s sovereignty. Following from this, Muslims should believe in God not only in metaphysical realm but in political realm too, in Maududi’s imagination. Armed with this ideology, Jamaat has been working for the establishment of an Islamic state since its inception. The notion of jahiliyya which is vague and amorphous, at Islamism’s disposal makes Jamaat’s ideology single, exclusive and highly dangerous in any political arena where multiplicity of ideologies is contesting. For demonising one’s opponent anything could be labelled jahiliyya, viz. democracy, secularism, modernity, ideologies, and so forth. This helps us in understanding Jamaat in terms of a totalitarian party. If one reads some of the booklets penned by Maududi, and particularly his reductionist reading of jihad, one realises in no time that totalitarianism is written into the very fabric of his ideology.

One of the objectives entailed in article 2 of the constitution of the WPI is ‘promotion of ethical values and high moral standards in the political system and other realms of public life’. This objective reeks of ushering in a morally upright and a puritan society based on Jamaat’s particular understanding of Islam. In an interview to Tehelka’s Karuna John, Dr Qasim Rasool Ilyas, a member of central advisory council of JIH, and also one of the general secretaries of WPI has talked about bringing blasphemy law in India; has tacitly justified forced exile of M F Hussian, and also has argued about banning internet for stopping western obscenity. One finds Student Islamic Organisation (SIO), JIH’s student wing, and Hindu right wingers on the same page on 14 February every year. The latter takes recourse to physical violence while the former resorts to moral persuasion fused with intimidation of ‘other-worldly’ punishments, in targeting couples in parks, on college campuses and other such places. There have always been possibilities of aligning with Right by parties engaged in value-based politics. And scholars have written about JIH’s closed door meetings with Hindu Mahasabha in Gujarat in 1960s. The aim was to devise ways for coming together of the two on a common platform for countering secular, progressive and socialist ‘menace’ of the country. Morning shows the day!

Being a student of political Islam it becomes easy to infer the choice of resorting, on Jamaat’s part, to the very institutions and the procedures of a democracy of which it has been a harsh critic. A string of reasons abound. JIH was banned along with its country counterpart RSS during the emergency of 1970s, and again in 1992; rise of Hindutva juggernaut since 1990; JIH’s own failure in getting its ideology accepted in the country and a host of other factors have forced it to change its course of action. The formation of WPI is only a practical detour of Jamaat from its original objective of establishing Khilafah. Given the country’s political context where the only alternative to democracy is Hindutva, it now wants to follow the procedures of democracy to have a say in country’s politics. In other words, the adoption of all these is meant for putting up a secular and liberal face. For a good deal of time JIH has regularly been searching ways and means of ‘going public’, and to this end, it is forging intra as well as inter-religious alliances at local and national levels, and has been engaged in a good deal of welfare programmes for widening its social base and getting social legitimacy.

The question needs asking: is coming up of WPI an effort, on JIH’s part, to capture the power of the state through ballot box in the long run? It is too early to answer such questions. Since Jamaat-e-Islami of India along with its counterparts in Pakistan and Bangladesh are species of the same genus, therefore, the least one could say about it in India is that it holds the same aspiration of altering the political landscape of this country. Against the country’s political, economic and social circumstances, coming to power is remotely impossible for the party even in distant future either at national or regional level. However, it would try getting political clout, and having its say in politics after having widened its base in Muslim dominated constituencies over the course of time. Fundamentalist organisations of all hues are out to undermine both democracy and the very essence of faith, that is, compassion. Jamaat has done serious damage to warp and weft of the community's fabric by inventing categories like ‘pure Muslim’, ‘impure Muslim’, ‘census Muslim’ and ‘born Muslim’, and hence pitting even Muslims against Muslims.

To add to this, it has done serious irreparable damage to faith by putting a political spin on it. Such parties have a vested interest in making us believe that every contested issue is between faith and atheism. Contrary to it, sanctified politics and sound faith are poles apart. The whole edifice on which Jamaat's ideology is based is flawed and preposterous. It is a fantastic figment of Maududi's imagination which lacks historicity to it. The traditional religious establishment has regularly been at odds with the understanding as well as interpretation of Islam that Jamaat has been busy in propagating.

In the Indian context, there is no denying the fact that there have been many aberrations in the practises of secularism. And these aberrations have left a permanent scar on the psyche of the community. However, that does not call for getting carried away by rhetoric and demagoguery of such religio-political parties who are always ready to cash in on such sentiments. They are masters of alluring people by employing lofty ideas and tall claims which are out of touch with time as well as reality. Coming up of WPI and such political parties will only harm Left and Liberal constituencies, where ever Jamaat would field its candidates, by wooing Muslim voters in the name of ‘values’, community and Islam. That would certainly strengthen the parties on the right of political spectrum. It would only be making a fool of us giving acceptance to such budding political parties. It is high time we used our own discretion seeing the miasmic pall of communal uncertainties which always hang on our head and whose threat is always thick in air. Jumping on this latest bandwagon would only be an exercise in futility. Let us work hard and hope that we do not see Narendra Modi or any other of that ilk becoming prime minister of the country.

Fahad Hashmi is pursuing MPhil from Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi