By Grace Mubashir, New Age Islam
7 April 2022
Ayman Al-Zawahiri Message Is Like A Savage Murderer Crying Out Sermons On The Value Of Human Life
1. We Indian Muslims are never looking for external support to defend our rights guaranteed under the Indian constitution.
2. India is the largest temple of democracy and pluralism.
3. Al-Qaeda’s supreme commander Ayman al-Zawahiri has released a standalone statement on the Hijab controversy in India.
4. Islam, like any religion, embraces changes in terms of laws and cultural evolutions.
Let me at the outset categorically junk the rubbish allegations raised by Al-Qaeda head Ayman al-Zawahiri. We Indian Muslims are never looking for external support to defend our rights guaranteed under the Indian constitution. This is like a savage murderer crying out sermons on the value of human life.
Ayman al-Zawahiri, the chief of the terror group Al Qaeda
Unlike the theocratic dictatorial regimes you want to establish where space of individual liberties would be smothered to death invoking misconstrued religious dictates, India is the largest temple of democracy and pluralism. My country has the adequate fluidity to absorb and mitigate her inner contradictions.
Belying the news of his natural death, the Al-Qaeda’s supreme commander Ayman al-Zawahiri has released a standalone statement on the Hijab controversy in India. This comes from the head of a dispensation who has supported clipping the freedom of women by banishing them from schools, as in Afghanistan today or African states where Al-Qaeda has influence. After initial progressive signs of moderation, the Al-Qaeda-supported Taliban regime that emboldened after the bungled withdrawal of American boots in Afghanistan has blatantly succumbed to pressures from hardliners. It has demonstrated again that still it clings to outdated tribal Islam with crass regard for civil liberties and multiple religiosities.
Although India has already found fleeting references in his speeches earlier, his broadcasted messages solely on an Indian issue demand critical attention. This shows the designs the Al-Qaeda has entertained in the region manipulating the occasional discontent innate to a democracy. In their pipedream of establishing an Islamic Caliphate, India with its large Muslim population has been a vital cog. Community leaders and security experts should proactively engage to distil the incipient trends of radicalism, especially based in the cyber world.
Al-Qaeda’s Version Of Islam
Understanding of blinkered understanding of the Al-Qaeda’s religious views will help better read the messages in context. Al-Qaeda believes in ethnic tribal Islamic traditions nurtured by hard-core Salafism exported from the Middle East. It is antithetical to divergent religious interpretations and follows contrived rigidity of Islamic Sharia totally expunging the spirit of religion, Sufism. Following tribal traditions of patriarchy and sustenance through war spoils, they believe in the harsh interpretations of Islam.
Islam, like any religion, embraces changes in terms of laws and cultural evolutions. Al-Qaeda refutes timely accretions to the religion discrediting them as profane innovations as they believe in a puritanical form of religious version. In their scheme of polity Pashtun and other African ethnicities are endowed with hegemony. They follow a highly illiberal patriarchal social system and thus women are chastised from the public.
They resort to violence to destroy and tarnish anything they deem as ‘Shirk’ (idol-worship or polytheism) as per scriptural strictures in the Al-Qaeda’s interpretation of Islam. They conveniently dump into oblivion the plural and multi-cultural teachings of Islam. To establish a Pan-Islamic Khilafat to prop up their radical ideologies is central to their political idea. According to the Al-Qaeda, also identical to political Salafism, Islam cannot survive without political establishment.
Indian Muslims Reject Al-Qaeda’s Dogma
Al-Qaeda has no moral vindication to guide Indian Muslims. Al-Qaeda is at a loss without the rudimentary understanding of Indian democracy. Indian democracy is celebrated not for the absence of inner contradictions; but for the pragmatic forte to accommodate and diffuse differences.
The sermon of Zawahiri, although focused on Hijab issue, was a sinister ploy to discredit the democracy and send innuendoes of subverting the system. It has in fact tried to preach misogynistic and theocratic political messages. The allegations of Indian democracy supporting pagan Hinduism is plainly misleading and a rigid theocracy like the Al-Qaeda cannot digest the notion of mutual coexistence.
Whether Hijab is essential to religion is contentious within the religion. But, for a muscular patriarchal Al-Qaeda Hijab is indispensable to limit the visibility of Muslim women. The Karnataka High Court’s verdict banning Hijab from schools with compulsory uniforms itself shows the diversity of the Indian system to accommodate diverse opinions in a rainbow polity. Indian judicial system has ample space for grievance redressal through peaceful means. The issue is already in Supreme Court.
The militant ascendancy of Right Wing Hindutva poses existential threats to the idea of the nation, but the country has enough checks and brakes to prevent such aberrations from being the norm. While the recent shift to majoritarian nationalism spawns doubt, the nation has the consciousness to implement the constitution which guarantees equal justice irrespective of religious affiliations. But the exhortations of Al-Qaeda’s supremo to disparage Indian nationhood based on this fickle aberration are like blaming the eclipse on the sun. This has actually hurt the cause of the Muslim community, evident from the statement of the Karnataka home minister who attributed the Hijab protests to ‘outsider influences’.
Indian Islam is one among the multiple interpretations of Islam. It is fundamentally different from puritanical bare dogmas of the Al-Qaeda in its inclusiveness, localism and syncretic moorings. Indian Islam is malleable and adaptive to timely evolutions as a religion is supposed to be. It reposes faith in multicultural society and plural cultural ethos. Indian Muslims are not hapless lots to seek guidance from the rugged terrains of uncertainties.
Muskan and her father during an interview
Al-Zawahiri’s call to arms should not be taken in light vain as wails of a self-styled evangelist. It is part of a larger plot to promote radical insurrections in multi-religious societies. Indian Muslims have earlier repudiated the call to join ISIS to fight the infidel state. The Muslim community has to maintain extra vigilance from radical overtures from ‘outsider forces’. Along with this, governments have the constitutional onus to assuage the grievances of the minority communities to assure safety to all.
It is noteworthy that soon after a video emerged in which Ayman Al-Zawahiri, al-Qaida chief, purportedly praises Bibi Muskan Khan for defending her right to wear the hijab, the Mandya student’s father gave him a fitting reply. In his video Zawahiri praises Muskan through a poem that he allegedly penned. Mohammad Hussain Khan, Muskan’s father, told reporters yesterday that they don’t want any appreciation from the leader of a terror outfit. “We don’t know anything about it [video], we don’t know who he (Al-Zawahiri) is,” Khan said. “I saw him today for the first time. He says something in Arabic...In India, we all live peacefully like brothers with love and trust. His (Zawahiri's) statement appears to be aimed at sowing discord and creating division among us Indians,” Mohammad Hussain Khan said. Muskan's father said the row has disturbed the peace in his family and he plans to enrol Muskan in a college that allows students to wear the hijab.
Muskan's Allah o Akbar moment
It may be recalled that at the peak of the hijab row in February, Muskan, a second-year BCom student enrolled in a college in Mandya, was heckled by a group of saffron shawl-clad students while she was entering the college wearing Hijab. Muskan had responded to shouts of “Jai Shri Ram” with a cry of “Allah-hu-Akbar.” This has made her a mascot of Islamist fundamentalist elements across the world, particularly in Pakistan. Last month ISIS magazine Voice of Hind had also referred to the Hijab row in India in its cover story. So had AQIS in its magazine Nawa e Ghazwa e Hind. All these terrorist groups see an opening in India with the current events. They want to instigate peaceful Muslims to join them. It's like an attempt to fish in troubled waters. But Muskan’s father's categorical response has shown that Indian Muslims will brook no foreign interference in their country's internal affairs. India has vigorous judicial institutions that can redress any grievances Muslims may have.
Mubashir is a journalism student at Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Delhi
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