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Radical Islamism, In Any Form or Fashion, Is Not Compatible With the Pluralistic and Democratic Indian Ethos

By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi, New Age Islam

21 September 2016

“Muslims must not attend the festivals of non-Muslims”, said Shamsudheen Fareed, a Salafist Islamist preacher in Malappuram, who has now been charged with hate speech. Last week, the Kasaragod police registered a case against Shamsudheen Fareed, also called Palath, a Salafist preacher associated with a mosque at Pallipram, The Hindu reported.

The 48-year-old influential Salafist cleric allegedly urged Muslims to stay away from non-Muslims and migrate to the Islamic countries. He also declared that Onam and Christmas are Haram (strongly forbidden in Islam). He used to deliver sermons (Khutbas) in a Salafi-oriented mosque at Pallipram, Kannur. A few months ago, Fareed said, “there is nothing wrong for a true Muslim to feel comfortable in a Muslim ambience than in the company of non-believers." According to this report, Shamsudheen also serves as the unofficial spokesperson of the fanatic outfit which calls itself “The extreme Salafis”. The outfit is suspected to have played a major role in radicalising Muslims in Kerala. Though Shamsudheen denies his outfit has anything to do with the Islamist radicalisation in Kerala, he admits that the missing youth of Malabar may have been ‘ideologically influenced’ by teachings similar to his.

Fareed has delivered various speeches – all of them filled with the extremist, xenophobic religio-fascism that is the hallmark of Salafism – that have been circulated on social media. He has been charged under Section 153 (A) of the Indian Penal Code for religious hate-mongering because his speeches have been seen as a deliberate attempt to undermine the prevailing peace in society.

A government pleader and public prosecutor, Shukkur lodged the complaint to Kasargod Police Chief Thomson Jose, District President of the Indian Union Muslim League-affiliated Kerala Lawyers’ Forum C. He submitted to the police CDs of Fareed’s two speeches, in which the hate preacher called upon Muslims not to keep relations with non-Muslims and avoid coming into any type of contact with them.

Notice any resemblance between Fareed and star Salafist preacher in India, Dr Zakir Naik? Through his Peace TV and in other so-called Islamic Da’wah programs, he’s done exactly what Fareed has. Just as Fareed misled ordinary Muslims of Kerala, the controversial televangelist Naik has misguided common Indian Muslims who are either gullible or oblivious to the threat he poses to the tolerant Indian Islam.

Naik recently wrote a four-page open letter to Indian Muslims, entitled “Five Questions and an Appeal”, in which he said that “action against him would mean action against 20 Crore Muslims”.  In this letter, released through his public relations officer, he lamented about being targeted and labelled a “terror preacher” in India. Naik asked as to what he did to earn the tags of “Dr Terror” or “Hate Monger”. “Of 150 countries where I’m respected and my talks are welcomed, I’m being called a terrorist influencer in my own country. What an irony. Why now, when I’ve been doing the same thing for over 25 years?” he asked.

That last part is actually a valid question. Why now indeed? Of course, he should have been taken to task for preaching the medieval Salafist theology of suicide bombing, sex slavery, child marriage, xenophobia, intolerance and exclusivism since January 21, 2006 when Peace TV was launched. Since then, Naik has been on record preaching this virulent medieval ideology which is not compatible with our progressive and pluralistic ethos in the 21st century, particularly on the Indian soil.

Naik could have been booked when the Indian Mujahideen safe houses were raided in October, 2008 and the Indian police found pro-Taliban videos and speeches by Naik defending Al Qaida and its chief leader, Osama bin-Laden. Naik has said on record that, “since Islam is the only true religion, the people of other religions have no right to preach, and they can only practice from their homes as they will not be allowed to build their temples and churches”. With statements like these, Naik has violated Article 25 of our Constitution, which directly challenges all ideological infringement on a universal right —  that to profess and practice one’s religion and build places of worship. While the Indian Constitution equally confers it upon all the citizens, Naik and his ilk are antithetical to this constitutional right.

Consequently, Naik’s amazement at this delayed action of the Indian government against his anti-pluralism and communalisation is indeed logical and understandable. Emboldened, he has remarked in his latest letter that the action is not just against him but on "Indian Muslims" in general who, Naik believes are adherents of his strain of Islam. He also calls the action on his movement ‘an attack against peace, democracy and justice’.

The question arises: do the hardcore Islamist preachers like Naik and Palath speak for the crores of Indian Muslims? Is their exclusivist and supremacist theology not antithetical to the syncretic Muslim culture which flourished in India with an inclusive Islam for ages?

Indeed, it is deplorable to see many self-styled Sufi-Sunni scholars and even those who claim to be liberals come all out to advocate for Naik. They endorsed the legality of what Islamic Research Foundation conceived by Zakir Naik has done. Even a noted Sunni cleric, Maulana Yaseen Akhtar Misbahi debunked the serious charges against Naik, tagging them as ‘political ploy to book all the Islamic preachers’. His premise is that if, today Zakir Naik is taken to the task, tomorrow any Islamic cleric or preacher including those who subscribe to the Sunni-Sufi denomination might land in trouble. To buttress his point, he took pains to write a lengthy opinion piece in the latest issue of a popular Sunni Islamic magazine in India, the Urdu monthly Kanzul Iman. Notably, Maulana Misbahi was in the news for having been picked up by the Delhi police for questioning in the pre-Obama-visit security sweep of Delhi. See More at:

Islam Is a Religion of Peace and Security, Says Sufi Scholar Maulana Misbahi Who Was Recently In the News for Being Questioned By the Delhi Police,-says-sufi-scholar-maulana-misbahi-who-was-recently-in-the-news-for-being-questioned-by-the-delhi-police/d/101305

When such leading Sunni scholars in India speak for Zakir Naik, while at the same time disassociating themselves with his radical Salafist views, it is pointless to protest. A few Sufi Dargahs like the Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia did take out a procession against Naik’s hate speech and the freedom accorded to his ilk. But it will have no effect in the community, given the fact that top Sunni clergy deny the impact of radical venom spewed by the extremist preachers.

No wonder then, the largest Sunni conference in Chechnya has not received the media attention it deserved. The world’s 100 top Sunni Ulema and scholars unanimously excluded the Takfirists and Salafists, who claim to belong to 'Sunni' Islam, from among the Ahlus Sunnah (the Islamic terminology for the Sunni Muslims in the world). It was indeed one of the most underlying news emanating from the Muslim world. But many experts on the contemporary Islamic world, including the global media, took it just as another anti-terror Islamic conference that doesn't confront radical “ISLAMISM" per se.

This is a tough time for introspection on part of the Indian Ulema and Islamic scholars. Merely organising large anti-terrorism conferences will do no service to the community. Time they combat the exclusivist, xenophobic, misogynistic and anti-plural religious underpinnings, be they embedded in Salafism, the Saudi state religion, or any other strain of Islam. Radical Islamism, in any form or fashion, is not compatible with the secular, pluralistic and democratic Indian ethos.

Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi is a scholar of Comparative Religion, Classical Arabic and Islamic sciences, cultural analyst and researcher in Media and Communication Studies..


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