By Tufail Ahmad
After the arrests of the Islamic State (ISIS) terror suspects in Hyderabad, an Indian daily wrote in its editorial of July 1: "Though security agencies have provided counselling to deradicalise many such suspects in the past, the internet remains the biggest source of indoctrination for Muslim youth suffering from a feeling of persecution."
While the internet has indeed emerged as the conveyor of jihadist content, it is not the primary source of radicalisation.
Noted social reformer Sultan Shahin has pointed out that nearly a century ago when there was no internet, about 18,000 Muslims left their homes and jobs in India to fight for the Ottoman Caliphate in Turkey.
The feelings of persecution, siege mentality and exclusion from the mainstream among Indian Muslims as well as hospitable intellectual environments that nurture jihadist attitudes are created not by the internet but by Islamic clerics and Urdu publications.
Let's examine how the Urdu dailies are doing this.
On June 23, several Urdu dailies in India celebrated Ghazwa-e-Badr, the first war of Islam against Kufr (unbelief) led by Prophet Muhammad on 17th of Ramzan in the second year of Hijri, corresponding to March 13, 624 CE.
Since 17th of Ramzan fell on June 23, Roznama Sangam, an Urdu daily published from Patna, wrote an editorial praising Ghazwa-e-Badr (the Battle of Badr).
"This is the great memorable day when the first decisive war between Islam and Kufr (unbelief) was fought," it noted and reminded its readers that a "handful of 313 Muslims forced the army of the infidels of Mecca to lick dust in the field of Badr. This first battle is the point of the beginning of the philosophy of jihad."
It observed: "1,400 years have passed since the War of Badr but its memory refreshes the faith and belief of Muslims even today."
Roznama Sahafat - an Urdu newspaper published from Lucknow, Delhi and Mumbai - carried a half-page article in praise of Ghazwa-e-Badr by Allama Pir Muhammad Tabassum Bashir Owaisi.
Of the most objectionable points, the author cited Islamic jurists as arguing that for Muslims the "most legitimate halal" source of income is maal-e-ghanimat (goods seized from non-Muslims), followed by profits from trade, followed by profits from farming, followed by income from work done by one's own hand - the last being the lowest in importance.
While Prophet Muhammad was fighting against the Meccans partially in response to their mistreatment of Muslims, Allama Pir Muhammad Tabassum Bashir Owaisi nevertheless argued that fighting against non-Muslims is mandated by Allah.
He observed: "Otherwise too, the infidels are enemies of Allah and their properties… are halal (permissible as per Shariah) for Allah's friends, in other words, for Muslims."
To radicalise Muslims, he wrote an Urdu couplet: "Create the environment of Badr, because the angels for your aid will come down, in rows after rows even now."
Roznama Inquilab, an Urdu newspaper influential in Maharashtra, also published an article to celebrate Ghazwa-e-Badr. The article, written by Kamran Ghani Saba, preached jihad and suicide attacks.
It justified fighting against family members to advance the cause of Islam. Saba noted that Muslims fought against "extremely close relatives" at the Battle of Badr.
Praising the "spirit of jihad", the writer noted an incident as per which a companion of the Prophet, Umar bin Jam, was eating dates when he heard the Prophet's call to fight and plunged headlong into a suicide mission, saying to himself: "Wow, wow, between me and paradise, the only time (left to elapse is the period before) they kill me."
After the June 12 shooting at the gay club of Orlando, Roznama Sahafat of June 22 published an article which argued the attack was a conspiracy to make Donald Trump the US President and said "the American intelligence agencies carried out the attacks on 9/11".
Delhi-based Urdu weekly Nai Duniya of June 27-July 3 argued that Mir Siddiqui, the father of Omar Mateen, the shooter, is a CIA agent because he ran a YouTube channel.
Ordinary, Indians know that a YouTube channel can be opened by anyone having a smartphone.
In its issue of May 25-31, 2015, Nai Duniya justified the killing of 700-900 Jews of Banu Quraiza despite that they had surrendered, offering to leave behind their properties.
When Hindu groups began ghar wapsi (reconversion) programmes, Mumbai-based Urdu Times of December 26, 2014 wrote that apostates (Muslims leaving Islam) should be beheaded.
It noted: "The first interpreter of the Quran, Prophet Muhammad, has clearly ordered the killing of a person becoming apostate."
While social media can be misused, the time is now to recognise the real problem and stop blaming the internet for radicalisation of Muslims.
(Courtesy of Mail Today.)