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Do Indian Muslim Religious Scholars Support Islamic State? Their Absence from Joint Statement of 'Indian Muslims' Condemning ISIS Atrocities in Iraq Raises Serious Questions


By New Age Islam Edit Desk

23 August 2014

On 19th of August, more than 80 Muslim activists, intellectuals, poets and writers held a joint press conference simultaneously in Delhi and Mumbai and condemned in strongest possible terms the atrocities perpetrated by the ISIS in Iraq and Syria against religious and sectarian minorities like Shias, Kurds, Christians, Yazidis and other ethnic groups living in the region for centuries and denounced persecution and violence being carried out in the name of Islam.

The Press Release claimed and the unsuspecting media covered the event as statement of “Indian Muslims.” But if we look at the statement and the name of signatories, we doubt if it can be said to represent the views of the Muslim community of India.

In Delhi, Shabnam Hashmi, Navaid Hamid, Safdar Khan and John Dayal spoke to the media while in Mumbai Javed Anand, Fr Frazer Mascarenhas, Irfan Engineer, Dr Zeenat Shaukat Ali, Nurjahan Safia Naz and Dolphy D’Souza addressed the press.

Later they issued a joint statement signed by more than 80 prominent Indian Muslims condemning and denouncing the atrocities perpetrated by the ISIS.

The statement said: “Indian Muslims are shocked and pained by the brutality and atrocities being perpetrated by the ISIS (Islamic State of Syria and Iraq) against Christians, Shias, Kurds, Yazidis and other minorities in the regions now under their control,” they said, adding, “We strongly condemn such barbarism which is against the teachings of Islam.

“Alongside the ongoing tormenting of common citizens and persecution of religious and ethnic minorities in areas under their control, the ISIS has been enforcing its own intolerant, extremist, violent, distorted interpretation of Islam on Muslims who are also Sunnis. This too deserves to be condemned in the strongest possible words. We call upon Muslim religious leaders in India and elsewhere to add their voice to that of Muslim organisations and individuals who have already denounced al-Baghdadi and his ISIS for distorting Islam’s message for peace and for their barbaric conduct,” it further said.

The signatories were also critical of the role of the US, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait and other Gulf states in fuelling the flames of the sectarian war in the region.

The statement should be praised as apparently it was issued for a noble cause and expressing the concern of the civil society over the humanitarian crisis going on in Iraq and Syria. However, it clearly represented the views of only the miniscule progressive, secular, liberal section of Indian Muslims. The propaganda ran by the Urdu media in favour of the caliphate of Abu Bakr Baghdadi and ISIS and a letter of greeting and appreciation by a prominent cleric Maulana Salman Nadvi addressed to Abu Bakr Baghdadi had already caused damage. Some Muslim youth, possibly influenced by the Urdu media hype and the lack of any denunciation from the Ulema, left for Iraq to join the ISIS. Another news report said that some Muslim youth in Tamil Nadu were seen posing with ISIS shirts. They were clearly influenced by the propaganda in ISIS' favour.

Among the 83 prominent Muslim personalities, no religious leader of Muslims was present. Among participants were cinematographers, photographers, university and college professors, and filmmakers, representatives of NGOs and human rights activists who do not have much of a following among the Muslim masses. But religious leaders who wield the most influence were not part of the campaign. No mainstream religious leader like Maulana Bukhari, Maulana Arshad Madani or Maulana Mahmood Madani have made their stance clear on the issue of ISIS, leave aside condemning and rejecting the ISIS.

This was apparently felt by the organisers of the conference and so there is a paragraph in the statements that says:

“We call upon Muslim religious leaders in India and elsewhere to add their voice to that of Muslim organisations and individuals who have already denounced al Baghdadi and his ISIS for distorting Islam’s message for peace and for their barbaric conduct”

The statement also says, ”We welcome the fact that most religious leaders and Islamic scholars from across the world including India, have debunked al Baghdadi’s claim of being a Caliph.”

This statement is only partly true. Though some Arab leaders have denounced Al Baghdadi’s actions and claims, Indian religious scholars have been maintaining a mysterious silence over the issue. In fact, a prominent cleric of Darul Uloom Nadawat ul Ulema, Maulana Salman Nadvi not only expressed his happiness over Abu Bakr Baghdadi’s caliphate but shot off a letter of greetings to him over WhatsApp.

Most perplexing is the name of Mujtaba Farooque among the signatories. He is the President of Welfare Party of India; the political wing of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind. Jamaat-e-Islami has been openly and vociferously supporting not only the ISIS but also other terrorist organisations like Boko Haram which has been involved in abductions of Muslim girls and killings of innocent people in Nigeria. Recently Boko Haram abducted more than sixty schoolgirls from schools who have not been traced yet. Dawat, Jamat-e-Islami’s mouthpiece has been publishing articles and news expressing the organisation’s support to ISIS and Boko Haram. By joining the press conference and endorsing the statement he has either violated the party line or has tried to hoodwink the Indian society on behalf of the Jamaat. If the latter, it is Jamaat-e-Islami's hypocrisy of highest order.

 We present the English translation of a short commentary on ISIS and Boko Haram from the 8th August edition of Dawat:


 Where is Boko Haram?

“This (Western propaganda against ISIS) is only a sample of the views and analyses that have swamped the western media, and through it, the India media. ISIS has been declared a threat to the entire world and the whole world has been set against it. Two months back, the same international atmosphere had been created against Boko Haram. But suddenly it stopped in such a way that no one now discusses it. Instead, ISIS has been made the topic of discussion. News of its military conquests and sensational military advances started pouring in. When at the pretext of the disappearance (Jamaat-e-Islami does not accept it as abduction) of sixty girls, Boko Haram was put in the dock, hints were clear that the US wanted to launch another operation in the Muslim world under the War on Terrorism and for this purpose, it was looking for excuses. Perhaps, the drama involving Boko Haram was insufficient to justify the launch of a big operation, so the Islamic State has been brought to the front.”

This is an example of the real stand of Jamaat-e-Islami. Mr Mujtaba Farooque is the President Welfare Party of India, the political wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami. Obviously, his presence in the press conference condemning the ISIS was an eyewash. He does not believe in the statement he signed, otherwise he would have resigned from the Jamaat and Welfare Party first.

Secondly, the statement does not criticise the negative role of the Urdu media, glorifying the ISIS and presenting Abu Bakr Baghdadi as the caliphate of Muslims in the initial days of its conquests. Though later after the investigative agencies started probing the disappearance of Muslim youths, they realised their mistake and toned down their propaganda a bit. However, articles on the religious justification of ISIS caliphate kept appearing in Urdu media.

The statement does not also condemn Maulana Salman Nadvi’s letter written to Abu Bakr Baghdadi, addressing him as the leader of Muslims.

Since, the press conference was attended by a select group of Muslims from different walks of life without a mass base and prominent religious leaders representing common Muslims of the country were not part of the conference, saying that “Indian Muslims condemn the ISIS atrocities” sounds misleading. However, one cannot help appreciating the fact that Muslim professionals from various walks of life joined a campaign condemning the atrocities and violence perpetrated in the name of Islam in Iraq and Syria.