New Age Islam
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Radical Islamism and Jihad ( 5 Nov 2008, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Jamaat-E-Islami Is Welcome in Politics, But It Should Jettison Its Dangerous Ideological Baggage First


By Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam

Watching top Jamaat-e-Islami leaders a couple of days ago sitting next to top communist, socialist, casteist leaders and declaring their intention to involve themselves in the national politics in some way, one could not help being besieged by mixed emotions. On the one hand, it is a welcome development. It shows that the debate that has been going on within the Jamaat since 1947 has finally ended in favour of pragmatists who believed it could not possibly have any activist role in multi-cultural, secular, democratic India other than that of a lobby or normal political  party seeking to serve the Muslim community in sorting out their  worldly affairs, much in the mould of Indian Union Muslim League or Muslim Majlis, either by directly participating in elections or supporting other political parties having entered into some sort of deal with them. It could not retain the veneer of following Maulana Maudoodi’s ideology of establishing the sovereignty of God on earth. The late Maulana had himself been able to do that in Pakistan as the religious parties who had opposed the creation of Pakistan were able to blackmail the secular founders of Pakistan into passing an Objectives Resolution effectively making Pakistan an Islamic nation and vesting the sovereignty in God.  Adopted on 12 March 1949 by the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan this Resolution proclaimed the following principles among other things.

Sovereignty belongs to Allah alone but He has delegated it to the State of Pakistan through its people for being exercised within the limits prescribed by Him as a sacred trust.

The State shall exercise its powers and authority through the chosen representatives of the people.

The principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance and social justice, as enunciated by Islam, shall be fully observed.

Muslims shall be enabled to order their lives in the individual and collective spheres in accordance with the teachings of Islam as set out in the Qur'an and Sunnah.

Apparently as the Indian constitution was not going to make such provisions, it was not possible for the Jamaat to participate in Indian national politics and retain its ideological purity. So the debate within the Jamaat continued. The ideologues refused to allow the Jamaat members to participate in the electoral process even in their individual capacity, though they were allowed to vote. They were unable to join politics as their ideological cousins in the neighbouring Pakistan and Bangladesh were doing, though the party had allowed the Kashmir chapter of Jamaat-e-Islami to secede without waiting for the country to pronounce its judgment on the question of Kashmir’s secessionism. So they fiddled with running secular democratic forums and engaging in similar activities on the margins of politics. Clearly the hardliners have now been marginalised and the pragmatists have won. This is a welcome development as far as it goes.

But would this mean the opening of a new chapter in exclusivist or communal politics? The fact that Jamaat leadership surrounded itself with mainstream politicians of several hues seems to indicate that it is aware of the dangers of separatist politics for the Muslims in particular. One would have probably expected a religious party hobnobbing with politics to reach out to religious leaders from the majority community. But we find them surrounded by communists. How come? One reason could be that both ideological groups have seen their hopes of bringing about ideological transformation dashed to the ground. Communists, of course, came to power and sought to force change for decades in several countries around the world for decades and failed. Now they are saddled with the same problem as the radical Islamists of the Jamaat-e-Islami: how to change their politics, switch over to democratic and capitalist politics without admitting that their philosophy was wrong. Their camaraderie is thus understandable at a deeper level.

The embarrassment, of course, is greater for radical Islamists of the Jamaat-e-Islami. Even their ideological cousins in Pakistan, despite the leadership of Maulana Maudoodi himself, could not go beyond a few seats in the National Assembly and state assemblies. The Jamaat-e-Islami in Bangladesh too gets only a few seats, that too thanks to its alliance with a mainstream political party. Even in countries like Egypt, Lebanon and Palestine where Islamic radicals appear to be successful in gaining popular support, that is not so much because of their ideology but more because of their social, charitable, non-political activities like providing relief to the needy, running good educational institutions, etc. and because of their personal integrity that contrasts favourably with the corrupt administrations and self-serving politicians in the mainstream.

At the deeper ideological level the Jamaat-e-Islami leaders are not even prepared to accept Muslims as Muslims. They look at most Muslims as Kafirs and Mushriks and Munafiqs, worthy of being stoned and lashed and beheaded as non-believers and deviants and hypocrites. But their pragmatism tells them that they can do no better than fight for the rights and security of Muslims, if they are to remain at all relevant. They find their ideology lying ion the trash heap of history, worthy of being picked up only by criminals who want to use Islam – a synonym for peace – as a smokescreen for terror. Maulana Maudoodi’s books and ideas are being used by terrorists around the world to justify terrorism and claim it to be a passport to heaven. This is possible largely because of Maulana Maudoodi’s misguided claim a la the historical enemies of Islam that Islam spread with the power of the sword that the Prophet (PBUH) wielded after his migration to Medina.

 Profiting from the sale of Maulana Maudoodi’s books, preaching the sovereignty of God on earth, spreading the poison of khilafat politics, brainwashing our educated youth with dreams of establishing Islamic Sharia rule in India and the world and at the same time seeking to help establish the rule of godless communists through Muslim vote-bank politics does not behove the biggest repositories of the highest truth. A little honesty might help re-establish Jamaat-e-Islami’s credibility in politics as it once had in the now-discredited ideological field. It must disown the heavy baggage of its past and openly recognise that the late Maulana Maudoodi’s ideology has no raison d'être in this country or indeed anywhere in the world. It is this ideology that has created the now dreaded organisations like SIMI and its offshoot Indian Mujahdeen. As I have said before, a little honesty might help even the biggest repositories of the highest truth.

I could not help being inspired by Ameer-e-Jamaat Maulana Syed Jalaluddin Umri’s rousing words addressing the Muslim gathering: “Stand up to fight for the right of other sections of humanity, not just to beg for justice for yourself.  Stand up to establish justice for all humanity. That is the raison d'être of Islam and you as a Muslim. That is what Allah asks of you in the Holy Quran. Stand up to fight for Justice for All, just to please Allah and not for any personal gain.”

May I suggest the Jamaat make a beginning by asking the Jamaat-e-Islamis in Pakistan and Bangladesh to fight for the rights of religious minorities in their countries? That would be a great beginning for the initiation of Jamaat-e-Islami in politics. Can I dare hope the next time Taslima Nasreen, the lone Bangladeshi woman, a true Mujahid engaged in fighting for Justice for religious minorities in her country comes to Delhi, Maulana Umri will organise a public meeting to felicitate her? Or when Pakistan’s great fighters for Justice for All Asma Jehangir and her sister Hina Jilani visit us next, the Jamaat-e-Islami would contrive to learn a lesson or two from them in how this fight has to be conducted? Or that the Jamaat would at least pass a resolution demanding that all Muslim countries including the birth-pace of Islam Saudi Arabia respect the right of minority religions to exist and their worship places to be built and safeguarded before mentioning the word “shahadat of Babri masjid” again, for the holy Quran does indeed ask us to fight in order to defend the religious rights of people belonging to all religions? Can I at least expect that in next meetings of the Jamaat-e-Islami oppressed Muslim women too would be invited: they are the greatest sufferers of injustice in our society {Not a single woman was present in the audience of this meeting organised by several Muslim organisations, barring a couple from TV channels, though, mercifully, the organisers had invited one woman activist and journalist Seema Mustafa to speak on the misdeeds of the media].

Tall orders? Shouldn’t be. These are just starting points. After all fight for justice like charity should begin from home. Let us, Maulana Umri, set our houses in order. This will give us the moral strength and moral stature required to fight for justice for all the oppressed of humanity, that indeed, as you very rightly said, is the objective of Islam. If there is one word that defines Islam, it is justice. If there is one phrase that describes a Muslim, it is fighter against injustice and exploitation. But let this fight begin from our own homes. Let us stop exploiting our women and children. Let us fight for the human rights of minorities and weaker sections in Islamic societies. Let us strengthen the Muslim Ummah. The rest of humanity will itself seek our leadership; we will not need to go to them either to ask them for justice for ourselves or others. 

6 November 2008