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Radical Islamism and Jihad ( 2 Aug 2008, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Home-grown Armies Of God

By Ranjan Roy

2 Aug 2008


The case of Kafeel Ahmed, the man who drove a burning jeep in a bid to crash into the main foyer of the Glasgow international airport, may not have a direct relation with the Jaipur, Bangalore and Ahmedabad bombings. But it points to one key departure from the way terrorism is traditionally viewed — only through the prism of a war launched from

foreign soil.


If the new armies of God have found cheap and innovative ways to launch jihad on Indian soil, it should force analysts to look for these perpetrators — both designers and executors of terror — in the folds and crevices of that soil itself. The theatre of this asymmetric war isn't Kashmir alone and nor are all strings being held in Dubai and Pakistan, although these might still be the places from where the Wahhabi virus of hatred has been imported from only to be injected in several pockets across India.


It's tempting to see the terror attacks in Ahmedabad and the botched ones in Surat as a reprisal for the Gujarat riots, which were essentially an organised pogrom against the Muslims of the state. But that prism projects a format, which although easier to comprehend, is only part of the larger picture which involves a complex global net of terror. And dismissing the larger picture now will lead to huge prescriptive errors.


As the world came to terms with 9/11, India had taken some solace in the fact that there were no serious jihadis being manufactured on its soil. Gunslinging foot soldiers came from across the border, had clearly identifiable Pakistani tags and their minds had been transformed in camps across the border, our official analysts had maintained.


That's not the case anymore. While it is clear that the recent attacks have fingerprints of culprits we have long blamed, there are many more of local jihadis as well. One has to look at Bangalore for evidence. Terrorism was unheard of in the city and in Karnataka and cases of communal hatred had not left any discernable scars. Yet, we find thickets of radicals emanating from city mosques to innocuous youth meetings. And even a full-fledged arms training camp nestled in the Karnataka forests.


Take the family of Maqbool and Zakia Ahmed for instance. They lived in a fairly upscale Bangalore neighbourhood, where they had settled after earning fat wages as doctors in Saudi Arabia. Two young boys were following the middle-class dream — one an engineer and the other a doctor. Kafeel, the elder one, earned a degree in mechanical engineering in 2000 and went on to do a master's in aeronautical engineering in Belfast. The younger one went for higher medical studies in England. But somewhere down the line, it was discovered last year that Kafeel had turned into a suicide bomber even as he studied for a PhD in computational fluid dynamics. There isn't a clear roadmap available for Kafeel's conversion to a jihadi, but the fact that the two brothers reportedly got involved with the Tablighi Jamaat is consequential.


Several scholars have pointed to high unemployment, social frustrations and even communal alienation as being necessary conditions for communities, in part or whole, getting radicalised. Cultural alienation and language barriers were until recently seen as factors which led to young men from diasporas in UK and France turning jihadi and ready to take up arms for the cause of restoring Islam to its pristine glory. But these theories can only partly explain the phenomenon. In Bangalore, the Ahmed family would have faced no persecution and a victim syndrome would have to be injected in them. In Gujarat, on the other hand, it is easy to see why Muslims would have become very insecure and alienated.


Yet, in both these places, there are large swathes where young Muslim minds are being fed an ideological diet of hatred. Authors like Ed Husain chart graphically the radicalisation of inner city mosques in South Asian neighbourhoods of Britain. In ‘The Islamist', he explains how people from the Middle East and Pakistan and ex-mujahideen from Afghanistan gained control of mosques and madrassas, influencing young minds like his. Clearly, such processes are happening not only in the more visible Muslim areas of Uttar Pradesh but in central and southern India as well. No wonder, security officials, almost a week after the latest serial bombings, have found no links with the known groups which operate from UP.


We know that since the 9/11 attacks, ISI has moved to using local radicals, who have a below-the-radar existence, as operatives. What we failed to realise is the fertile recruitment ground created by the infiltration of the ideology of hatred in the form of Wahhabism dished out by groups such as Ahle Hadees and the Tablighi Jamaat. What is this Wahhabism?


John Esposito of Georgetown University says, “Wahhabism breaks one of the cardinal rules of warfare in Islam — that Muslim should not fight other Muslims. The Wahhabis or the Salafis divide the world strictly into believers and non-believers who must be fought.” It is this ideology that drives the Taliban and leaves no room for negotiation.


Indian security policymakers have for decades been apathetic to the notion that Islamic terrorism can spring from the ideological radicalisation happening in our own cities and towns. Groups preaching this variant were left to operate freely. That has to stop. Fighting the war against ISI alone won't help. The local crucibles where minds are being reshaped have to be crushed as well.


Source: The Times of India, New Delhi