By Syed Mazhar Alam, New Age Islam
July 11, 2015
Following the ban on ISIS in India, Urdu media has shown a slight change in its reporting style, though not in its editorial policy, but the Sunni ulema have continued to maintain a mysterious silence over ISIS claim to represent Islam, with Khalifa Baghdadi presenting Islam as a religion of permanent war, continuous violence and strife. Even the Baghdadi claim that Islam has not been a religion peace, even for a day, did not bring out any response from Indian Muslim ulema or Urdu media.
After glorification of the ISIS in India by a section of Urdu media and some ulema and radicalization of youth like those from Kalyan, Maharashtra and Mehdi Biswas, the Bangalore-based self-styled spokesman of the ISIS, to name a few, the government of India banned the ISIS in India. Urdu newspapers have not published articles in praise or in justification of the Al-Qaida offshoot but the Urdu media.
A large section of Sunni clergy and madrasa circles are of the opinion that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s outfit is the befitting reply to Syrian President Bashar al-Asad and Iraqi Prime Minister Noori al-Maliki and now Haider Al-Abadi's tyrannical Shia rule and only ISIS can topple the "sectarian" and "tyrannical" Shia rulers of Iraq and Syria.
This is the view that has given acceptance to the ISIS in India which is predominantly Sunni. It is also a fact that after the ban on ISIS and after one year of ruthless violence, sectarian killings of women and children and fatal attacks on mosques and mazars perpetrated by ISIS, the euphoria over the victory of the ISIS has much died down in India and now common Muslims clearly see the ISIS as a terrorist outfit that is maligning Islam due to its anti-Islam activities and ghastly crimes particularly against women. The ulema who had initially vouched for the ISIS, namely Maulana Salman Hasani Nadvi in his letter of greetings to Abu Bakr Baghdadi in July last year, and Mufti Arshad Farouqui, Secretary Markazi Jamiat Ulema Hind in his interview published in biweekly Dawat in its July 16, 2014 edition, are now running for cover or have simply gone underground.
The main propaganda machinery in favour of the ISIS, the Urdu media, has shown a slight change in its attitude towards the ISIS . They do not publish articles glorifying or mystifying the ISIS any more. In fact, they have started carrying news of its atrocities against non-Muslim minorities, against women and against even Muslims not strictly observing Islamic practices like namaz, roza etc. Earlier they would call the ISIS Khilafat-e-Islamia but now they do not hesitate to call them ‘Daeshi dahshatgard’ (ISIS terrorists). However, they have remained confined to only publishing news about the ISIS as they receive it through news agencies like UNI Urdu or some other Urdu news and feature agencies. They are not condemning it editorially. Therefore, it does not require a change of editorial policy on their part. They just include the news of atrocities sent to them by the news and feature agencies.
The daily Aabshaar of Kolkata deserves a special mention as it published an editorial on the atrocities and un-Islamic nature of the ISIS last week. Perhaps, it is the only Urdu newspaper to have published an editorial to demystify the ISIS. It has also published articles criticizing and condemning the ISIS and other terrorist organizations which have helped to create an anti-ISIS atmosphere in the state. Similarly Mr. Shakil Shamsi of Daily Inqilab, Delhi, was the only Urdu columnist who criticised Baghdadi for saying that "Islam was never a religion of peace, even for a day" and that "Islam has always been a religion of war and strife."
Other newspapers openly criticizing the ISIS and presenting their atrocities and sexual crimes in the name of Islam are from the Shia belt of UP, particularly Lucknow. Waris-e-Awadh, Sada-e-Awadh or Awadhnama that represent the Shia population regularly publish news of ISIS atrocities especially due to their sectarian opposition. Urdu daily Sahafat has also published some news of ISIS atrocities calling them “Daeshi dahshatgard”.
However, they have not published detailed reports of terrible crimes committed by the ISIS. The reason may be that the news agencies or feature agencies do not provided them such content. The bi-weekly Dawat of Jamaat-e-Islami still seems to be confused over what stance it should take on the ISIS. From the writings and analyses published in the bi-weekly, it is evident that it is of the opinion that the ISIS is a product of the US and so instead of criticizing the ISIS, the US should be criticized.
The following editorial is a case in point:
Dawat: 4 July 2015
“Those who think that the attacks perpetrated in Kuwait, Tunis and France on June 28 were carried out by any Muslim group called ISIS, they are free to do so because the new American culture has rendered the world lazy and so it believes what it is told. But what has happened to the true believers who too believe that ISIS does exist.
"In this regard, there are two categories of Muslims. The first group thinks that the Islamic State does exist and is working for the cause of Islam, though this group is very small.
"The second group considers the ISIS a group of wayward and gullible people and gives justification of their acts.
"In fact, both the views are baseless. This is a new game of the US and its allies whose sole purpose is to capture the whole world including the natural resources of the Gulf and prevent the world from going towards the Islamic way of life.
" Initially the Indian government said that there was no sympathizer of the ISIS here in India but now they have decided to exploit the propaganda and tell people that people working for the ISIS do exist in India. We have nothing to say to the emotional, complacent Muslims. However, wise and prudent Muslims should ponder what turn situations like this can take in future."
New Age Islam was the first to demand a ban on the ISIS in India. Subsequently, the government of India imposed a ban on the ISIS. However, to curb the growing influence of the ISIS in India as manifest from the flags of the ISIS hoisted in Kashmir, merely banning it is not enough. The government of India shells out billions of rupees to the agencies fighting terrorism in India. Some money should also be spent in media campaigns against the ISIS. After all, it's an ideological war in essence.
The following steps and initiatives can be taken by the government if it seriously wants to contain the growing sectarian and radical inclination among the Muslim youth.
1. A joint statement of prominent Indian ulema from all Sunni sects should be acquired, condemning the ideology and violent theology of terrorist organisations like ISIS, Taliban, Boko Haram, etc by name. General statements criticising extremism have not worked. Ulema will have to be specific. Such a joint fatwa should be published in all the media, particularly Urdu newspapers and Urdu language TV channels as well as Muslim newspapers in other languages.
2. Ulema should be encouraged to come out with Quran-based research studies highlighting the naked violations of God's commands by the ISIS, Taliban, Boko Haram and other Islamist terrorist organisations. Books and articles on this topic written by such ulema should also be felicitated and honoured.
3. UNI Urdu, catering to the content needs of the Urdu media, should be utilized by the government in the campaign against not only the ISIS but also against the radical ideology that influences gullible Muslim youth. The government news agency, the UNI Urdu should prepare detailed features highlighting the anti-Shariat nature and its atrocities and crimes against humanity regularly. As the UNI Urdu is the main source of news and features, it can play a core role in curbing the influence of the ISIS by fighting it ideologically.
4. Other private Urdu news and feature agencies should be monitored and encouraged to publish content highlighting ISIS atrocities and its sectarian violence.
5. The newspapers and websites that have been fighting the ISIS ideology should be honoured and felicitated by the government.
6. Individual journalists and writers who have been writing against sectarianism and ISIS ideology should also be encouraged and felicitated. Such articles should also be compiled in book form and distributed at low prices.
7. Nationwide essay competition for school and college students on the un-Islamic nature of the ISIS should be held by the government and the winners should be awarded.
8. Small documentaries and ads showing the inhuman face of the ISIS should be telecast on national TV channels.
9. Publishers publishing books exposing and condemning violent theologies should also be awarded and felicitated.
Syed Mazhar Alam is an independent Urdu journalist. He contributed this article to New Age Islam.