By Tufail Ahmad
In an article in The Indian Express newspaper of December 31, Al-Jazeera television channel's internationally known pro-Islamism gladiator Mehdi Hasan has summarily described all his critics as "right-wing internet trolls" and also as "bhakts" – a term that means "loyal" and represents those who essentially support Narendra Modi, the former tea-seller who was elected as the prime minister by India's masses in 2014. A search of Twitter does not show that Mehdi Hasan is being criticised for reasons that can be described as attacks on his family, his employer, or his personal life. On the contrary, bhakts have questioned Mehdi Hasan for holding Islamist views against non-Muslims, much like the Islamic State (ISIS) thinks of non-Muslims.
Reading his article, it does appear that Mehdi Hasan, who is loved by Islamists and jihadists across the world for being their advocate in the mainstream media, nurses deep personal animosity against Narendra Modi, the elected leader of the world's largest democracy. Islamism, based on Islamic Sharia, is opposite of democracy and sometimes uses elections to advance the cause of Sharia in public life and governance. Let me remind Mehdi Hasan what David Cameron, the elected leader of the world's oldest democracy the United Kingdom, said about India's elected leader: "[Modi] got more votes than any other politician anywhere in the universe."
However, Islamist minds like Mehdi Hasan cannot grasp the workings of democracy and therefore in his article he fails to see that Modi is the elected leader of the world's most vibrant democracy. Elsewhere, I have argued that Modi is the European Enlightenment's best representative in India. Like Islamists and 'Pakistanis', Mehdi Hasan scorns "Modi-led India" as if he doesn't want such an India to exist. This Islamist's ideological audacity is such that he hosts television programmes titled as: "Is Modi's India flirting with fascism?" Why not start from home by beginning a television series called: Is Qatar flirting with jihadism?
Is Mehdi Hasan Flirting With Latent Jihadism?
"As for the laughable charge of 'Islamism'" – writes Mehdi Hasan, using words like "laughable" to shrug off a serious intellectual charge on his mind. True, Mehdi Hasan's liberal supporters can laugh off Islamism, but the bhakts, who essentially abide by the Constitution of India, will not. The audacity of Mehdi Hasan is that he bends truth to argue that he is being criticised only in India. He writes: "never have I experienced the sort of backlash that I have had to endure online [in India]" – "Not from Nigerians, Israelis, Egyptians, Pakistanis, Palestinians, Americans or Britons." This audacity is totally shameless and false. In the UK, leading columnist Nick Cohen, in a piece dated 5 October 2013 on the website of The Spectator, wrote this about Mehdi Hasan: "leftists should pause before denouncing Hasan as a charlatan and a sell-out. They are the purer hypocrites and greater fools. Hasan is from the Islamist religious right...He is a religious reactionary."
In a piece dated 6 June 2014 and published on the website of The Telegraph newspaper, British author Saif Rahman noted the Islamist rhetoric employed by Mehdi Hasan to the ideological benefit of global Islamism: "Mehdi commonly uses identity politics and accusations of Islamophobia & racism to obfuscate, divert or silence debate." Saif Rahman added: "[Mehdi Hasan] has a tendency to mock and deride moderates and reformers, revealing a more conservative mindset of his own. He asks progressive Muslims like Mona Eltahawy, 'Are you a practising Muslim?' and sneers at the 'crusades' led by Muslim reformists like Irshad Manji. In the UK he labels other modernisers like Maajid Nawaz as 'Islamophobes'."
In India, not many people know that Mehdi Hasan is a globally known Islamist, loved by Islamists and equally by their non-Muslim cousins on the remnants of the Left.
Saif Rehman also reminds: "one of the facts… [Mehdi Hasan] rarely highlights nor writes about is the fact that he's a Shia Muslim, despite it influencing where much of his opinion & politics derives from." Mehdi Hasan's comments about non-Muslims being cattle is not incidental; it emerges from Mehdi Hasan's mind which thinks in terms of Muslims versus the infidels – much like the militants of the ISIS, the Taliban and Al-Qaeda think of non-Muslims as infidels. Rehman notes how Mehdi Hasan talks about Yazid, the sixth caliph of Sunni Islam, in these words:
"All of these Ulema [Islamic scholars] unanimously agree that, at the very minimum, if Yazid was not a kafir then – at the very minimum – he was a fasiq [depraved/sinner], a transgressor, a breaker of Islamic laws, a corrupt individual, a tyrant, a killer, a drunkard, a dog lover, a music-lover… a homosexual, a paedophile, a sexual deviant… someone who slept with his own mother! These are their views, [expressed by] these Ulema, in their books. Not mine, not Imam Hussein's view, not [Shia cleric] Ali Al-Sistani's view! This is their view of Al-Yazid, all there in black and white. Yet Allah should be pleased with him? Allah should be pleased with him? Indeed, the fact is that Yazid was not simply a fasiq, he was an out and out kafir!"
I do not know how India's Sunni clerics will react if they hear that Mehdi Hasan spoke these words: Yazid slept with his own mother. It will be really interesting to know what critical stuff Mehdi Hasan, the Indian-British Shia Muslim, has written as a journalist about Shia Islam, Imam Khomeini or other Iranian theocrats.
Mehdi Hasan: Non-Muslims Are Cattle
Saif Rahman produces another passage from the mind of Mehdi Hasan explaining how this Indian-British Shia Muslim defines kafirs: "In Islam to believe is to know; to disbelieve is not to know. That is what it fundamentally comes down to. It (to disbelieve) is to remain ignorant, to cover up knowledge. After all, what is 'Kaffar'? Kaffar comes from the root word which means to cover up, to conceal. A Kaffar is one who covers up that knowledge is clear. The French Orientalist scholar Lamens (?), he once wrote that the 'Quran is not far from considering unbelief, disbelief as an infirmity, as an illness, as a disease of the human mind.' Subhanallah, non-Muslims [e.g. the French Orientalist scholar] point this out to us."
This statement coming from the mind of Al-Jazeera's television host makes it absolutely clear that Mehdi Hasan considers non-Muslims not merely as cattle but as a disease. Saif Rahman's article is available on the website of The Telegraph of London and can be read by anyone interested there. With such a mind, there is absolutely no difference between Mehdi Hasan and Abu Bakr Al-Baghadi of the Islamic State. It will be very relevant that India's liberal-left keeps distance from him, for the sake of their own legitimacy. Simply because Mehdi Hasan is appointed as a host on Al-Jazeera or as the UK Political Director of The Huffington Post does not mean that he is not a true representative of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi in our mainstream, and therefore a long-term ideological threat to the modern democratic civilisation.
Not only that. Mehdi Hasan has held homophobic views against gays and lesbians. In 2013, he wrote an article in the leftist magazine of London, The New Statesman, in which he tried to pretend that he was wrong during his youth for holding homophobic views, but in the same article he resisted any message for the reform of Islam. In fact, it seems that his only purpose in writing the article was to polish off his persona while defending homophobic agenda of Islamists. He argued against any change in Islamic viewpoint on this subject by stating: "I am willing to accept same-sex weddings in a state-sanctioned register office, on grounds of equity. As a believer in Islam, however, I insist that no mosque be forced to hold one against its wishes."
In the Islamic world, each mosque is an autonomous institution, usually controlled by a cleric who is backed by a committee of local Muslims. No one is forcing any mosque to hold any same-sex marriage, but the point remains that Mehdi Hasan doesn't see space for gays and lesbians within Islam, and therefore he is anti-reformist, pro-Islamist, comfortable with Islam's anti-equality.
It is clear that much like jihadists, Mehdi Hasan thinks of non-Muslims as a cattle and their faith as a disease, as an infirmity. But in his column in The Indian Express, he gives a passing reference to this within brackets to brush it off as a side issue. The fact is that his comment about non-Muslims being cattle and their thought being an infirmity is central to his ideological thinking and only a fraction of what goes on behind his public face. In one audio statement available on the internet, like the jihadists he observes: "We [the Muslims] know that keeping the moral high-ground is key. Once we lose the moral high-ground, we are no different from the rest, of the non-Muslims; from those of human beings who live their lives as animals…"
In the article, Mehdi Hasan notes the point that non-Muslims are a cattle is from the Quran, but like a true Islamist goes on to defend the Quran arguing that it is merely metaphorical. His arguments are not meant to criticise Islamism. He states: "I gave a speech in which I regrettably… quoted a verse from the Quran that refers, metaphorically, to unthinking non-Muslims as 'cattle' but…" But, and yes there exists a But Gang of journalists and intellectuals nowadays that seeks to use this three letter word "but" to justify Islamism, to rationalise jihadism and, like Mehdi Hasan, to make way into our social mainstream. Islamists like Mehdi Hasan are doing in the legitimate mainstream what ISIS chief Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi does in the illegitimate mainstream of our era.
Mehdi Hasan's Intellectual Roots In Hyderabad
Mehdi Hasan seeks to garner Indian sympathies by using his past identity: "I am, you might say, a child of India: Born and raised in the UK but to parents born and raised in India.I spent most of my summer holidays as a child in Hyderabad and even got married there."
Mehdi Hasan should also tell his audiences that it is not incidental that he is Islamist because Hyderabad where he spent his childhoodis indeed the vortex of Islamist politics led by Asaduddin Owaisi and Akbaruddin Owaisi. It is from here that dozens of Islamist youths have attempted to leave for Syria and Iraq to join the Islamic State over the past year and more. Mehdi Hasan is indeed Hyderabad's global Islamist problem, which is an old problem but births new forces like the ISIS, the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Hyderabad has always been a centre of global Islamism.
The Islamist Nizam of Hyderabad supported the idea of Pakistan as the second Islamic state after Medina, where Prophet Muhammad established the first Islamic state. Also, the Nizam had earlier financially bank rolled Sultan Abdul Majeed II, the fallen caliph of the Ottoman caliphate. Mehdi Hasan, you truly have a historical Islamist lineage. With deep intellectual roots in Hyderabad, it must not surprise that you are indeed an Islamist, the unarmed version of jihadists.
Mehdi Hasan's Identity: Indian versus Pakistani
Mehdi Hasan takes offence that he was dubbed as a "Pakistani" by Indian youths on Twitter but it is indeed an accurate description for his class of individuals. You do not need to be born in Pakistan to be a Pakistani for the simple reason that we are not debating the meat and bone you are but the body of ideas that your mind contains and teaches others. Mehdi Hasan should know that he is truly a 'Pakistani', which is seen in South Asia nowadays as a state of mind. If he can't understand, let me give a reverse example. Malala Yousafzai, though born in Pakistan, is an Indian. She is loved by Indian youths who stand for everything she stands for and Islamists like Mehdi Hasan do not stand for. And there are many in Pakistan of Mehdi Hasan's type who do not like Malala Yousafzai. She is the opposite of what Islamists like Mehdi Hasan stand for.
Mehdi Hasan, you are not even an ounce of an Indian that Tarek Fateh is, though he was born in present-day Pakistan, past-day India. In your piece, you note that you are being "defamed" as a "closet Islamist" but the fact is that you are very much an open Islamist, not hiding in a closet.
Mehdi Hasan flaunts the fact that his parents were born and raised in India. So, it should also be known to him that in this country, 'secularism' – the joint intellectual collaboration practised by Indian leftists, liberals and Islamists – has come to mean the practice of Islamism and Muslimism, as well as the ideology of negative communalism that divides Indians on a daily basis. And therefore, this secularism is dubbed as sickularism. Shekhar Gupta, veteran journalist and a liberal, admitted in a column in The Business Standard newspaper of November 6: "The Left intellectual domination of modern Indian thought, and its embrace by the Gandhi dynasty, resulted in lazy, static politics where the word 'secular' became synonymous with Muslim."
So, it serves Mehdi Hasan's Islamism to court the scorn of those who stand on the opposite of Islamism. It serves his Islamism that he is the new darling of India's sickular writers and journalists who never speak in favour of Muslim women's liberty, notably on the Shah Bano case.
Mehdi Hasan writes: "Yet in today's Narendra Modi-led India, those Muslims who dare speak out are told to go to Pakistan." On the contrary, Muslims who dare to speak out are elected by the people of India. Google some names: Azam Khan, Asaduddin Owaisi, Akbaruddin Owaisi, and others. Mehdi Hasan should also know that India's liberal-sickularists, unlike the constitutional bhakts who stand for equality of all citizens irrespective of caste and religions, long to find Islamist Muslims to give them ideological succour. Bhakts are truly the Indian Constitution's children. It is the overwhelming desire of liberal-leftist-sickularist journalists in India that propelsthem to seek views of extremist Hindus (whose number is essentially in single digit in this nation of 1.26 billion Indians). It does not automatically follow that Muslims are being sent to Pakistan.
On the contrary, in this country, Indian Muslims have risen to become the president, the vice president, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, the chief of the Intelligence Bureau, chief ministers, ambassadors; I urge you to Google.
Conversely, India's liberal politicians – for example, Nitish Kumar – long to and indeed do visit Pakistan intentionally to convey a political message to their Indian Muslim voters that they are indeed Pakistanis. Sickularist writers and activists such as Sudheendra Kulkarni are out to prove similar points. It is not Indian liberals who long to invite Malala Yousafzai to India; try to Google and you will find such a suggestion for inviting Malala Yousafzai to India has come not from the sickular groups but from Shiv Sena, a Hindu-interest political party. This is because India's Kulkarnis and Kumars grasp intuitively that inviting Malala Yousafzai to India will not serve their interests because in India sickularism survives in the womb of Islamism. India's sickular Hindus are routinely engaged in mobilizing Muslim orthodoxies to their electoral benefit.
The Islamist Hiding Under Rushdie Umbrella?
To gain legitimacy in India and its pro-Islamist Marxist-liberal intelligentsia, Mehdi Hasan quotes Mahatma Gandhi: "Anger and intolerance… are the enemies of correct understanding." We know that Mehdi Hasan has his correct understanding – of Islamism. We know for sure that Islamists like Mehdi Hasan are loved by the leftists in Britain and America. In fact, in modern era, Islamism has emerged as the soutan (second wife, sometimes concubine) of liberalism without which the liberal-leftists in many countries find it hard to thrive. Mehdi Hasan uses Mahatma Gandhi's name because it serves his ideological purpose, as Gandhi supported the Khilafat Movement, whose violent version is currently being administered by Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.
Mr. Mehdi Hasan, do you really think that you have become a true follower of Gandhi from today? If not, why to quote him, to just serve your ideological purpose and gain legitimacy?
Mehdi Hasan conveniently quotes Salman Rushdie, who is nowadays on the side of anti-liberty Indian groups led by sickularists and counterfeit intellectuals who never speak for Muslim women's rights, to describe as "Modi toadies." Why not to use this word "toadies" directly, why to hide behind Salman Rushdie? Mehdi Hasan, your own toadies, hiding behind anonymous internet IDs, are out creating online impression management for you. We, those of us who are on the opposite side of everyday Islamism of your kind, are aware that you write lots of stuff to cover up your Islamism and therefore it is incumbent that we bring out into the open what you try to hide.
You conveniently quote Gandhi and Rushdie to obfuscate and divert attention from your Islamist intellectual enterprise. You even present your interview of Richard Dawkins as a certificate to hide your latent jihadism in our public mainstream. Yes, as a journalist you write many things which are not relevant here; what is relevant here is what you write to cover up.
The Islamist's Unease At Akhand Bharat
Before appearing on Mehdi Hasan's programme, Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ram Madhav did not do research about his background or on the role of Al-Jazeera in promoting jihadism in post-9/11 years; and being a Hindu he cannot be expected to be intellectually equipped to deal with questions on jihadism, certainly not on its soft version called Islamism. But I challenge you to get Tarek Fateh on your television programme and we will see you in your true ideological colours.
In your article, you go on to play a victim in order to get the sympathy of Indians by observing that you are "on the receiving end of their relentless hate and bile" but the fact is that the modern democratic civilization that respects gays and lesbians as well as Muslim women's liberties is at the receiving end of your hate and bile, as testified from portions of Islamist speeches that have emerged from your mind and your mouth. It is known that Islamists like you – the early versions of cancers that jihadists are – thrive in the politically correct environments of British society from where many jihadist terrorists have emerged. Slightly suave, you are not different.
You describe your television programme as "gladiatorial" – this is how Islamists view themselves and were described as Mard-e-Momin(Islamic Superman) by the Islamist national poet of Pakistan, Muhammad Iqbal. In your column, you took offence that Ram Madhav spoke politically of Akhand Bharat (United India), arguing that Pakistan, India and Bangladesh could one day unite not by an act of war but through the force of public opinion. The fact is that India's secular journalists and activists in the past few decades, supported by liberal Pakistanis, indeed burnt midnight candles at the India-Pakistan border to make the border meaningless. In this endeavour of India-Pakistan friendship, it is not Pakistani liberals and Indian rightists who are at unease, but it is the jihadists in Pakistan and Islamists like you who feel lost at sea.
The fact is that the bhakts will hug Pakistanis if Pakistani army's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) – which births and nurtures jihadist terrorists and was classified by U.S. officials as a terrorist organisation – were to cease sponsoring jihadist terrorism in India. You write: "The bhakt army continues to hound me on social media." The fact is that your ideas are being questioned which your intolerance cannot tolerate. No one has launched an attack of personal nature on you.
It is very interesting for Indians that you write such a negative sentence: "For the record, I have no ties to Pakistan whatsoever." Did you really think that having ties to Pakistan is a problem? A true democratic Pakistani will never write that sentence. There are a number of Pakistanis who are at the receiving end of Islamism propagated by your kind but they are very much proud Pakistanis and India's people stand by them; and you might not know that such Pakistanis are truly welcomed by the bhakts into their homes. It is not incidental that the best moves for peace with Pakistan in recent memory have been initiated by those who you describe as bhakts, namely Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Narendra Modi.
The fact is this: Mr. Mehdi Hasan, your mind is consumed by Islamism, and you will neither understand India nor democracy, and certainly not its people. Is your hatred reserved only for the advocates of Akhand Bharat, or have you also ever felt any unease at the jihadists who speak of uniting all Muslims under one global roof: Ummah?
Tufail Ahmad is Director of South Asia Studies Project at the Middle East Media Research Institute, Washington DC. He tweets @tufailelif