By Sazzad Hussain
28 February, 2013
Rampant communalization and polarization of the society in western Assam, particularly in Dhubri district has been on rise since the continued and renewed violence in BTAD areas creating concerns amongst the people in this multi-cultural, multi-ethnic state. With these disturbing developments there are elements of communalizing the foreigner's issue of Assam, the pan-Indian communalism and the phenomenon called the global Islamist fundamentalism. Among other destructive features, the Islamist fundamentalist has one very distinctive characteristic—the denial of modern nation-state identity of Muslims to form a uniformed ‘Islamic' identity at the cost of local tradition and cultural practices. This so-called ‘Islamic identity' has been harming the Muslims belonging to different cultures and cultural groups across the globe. This uniform identity phenomenon of the Muslims has been a very handy tool for the forces of communalism and divisive forces in India. And this has also been applied in the recent BTAD disturbances and over the foreigner's issue in Assam. This effort by Islamists to form a uniform identity of Muslims is called the Saudi Arabisation of Islam.
Though Islam had its genesis in Arabian Peninsula, it was the Persians, Turks and Kurds—all non-Arabs, that extended its spread and development resulting in a vast political territory stretching from the Iberian peninsula to the Hindukush and Gangetic valley. In India, Islam entered after three hundred years of the demise of the Prophet, after being enriched for two hundred years in the most civilized and culturally sophisticated land called Persia. Therefore Islam in Central Asia and Indian sub-continent was the symbol of modern and cultured sophisticated lifestyle till the nineteenth century when the entire landscape was shaken forever by the onset of the European colonialism. To Assam, Islam came as a finished product from the great Indian tradition of cultural assimilation and pluralism. It was further diversified by the Sufi saints like Ghyasuddin Auliya and Azaan Fakir, who mingled it with Assamese culture, making it completely merged with local customs and traditions. The Indian and Assamese Islam, coming from the culturally rich Persian-Turkic backgrounds, was the symbol of diversity and tolerance. Unfortunately, this twelve century old Islamic tradition has now been denied by a mere six decade old intolerant, orthodox Islamist ideology—the Wahhabism.
Wahhabism or Salafism was introduced by a late nineteenth century Arab dates grower named Abdul Ibn Wahhab who set certain rules consisting of rigid religious practices, dehumanization of women, promoting sectarianism in the name of puritanical Islam. His doctrine was followed by a sectarian Bedouin leader Abdul Aziz al-Saud to consolidate his position and with the British help, formed Saudi Arabia in 1932 by defeating all regional rulers of the Arabian Peninsula. The discovery of oil in 1934 made Saudi Arabia to gain prominence among the western colonial powers and with the British-US oil companies, corporate world and arms producers, it emerged as a powerful country. After taking up of the custody of the holy mosques of Mecca and Medina from the Ottoman appointed local rulers, Saudi king proclaimed to form an absolute monarchy in the name of Allah by misinterpreting some verses of Holy Quran. It is the only country in the world to be named after a royal family (al-Saud) and does not have any constitution, parliament, opposition party, media freedom, women's rights and minority rights. Its exchequer is the personal bank account of the king. The official religion of this oil rich kingdom is Wahhabism or Salafi Islam. When the pan Arab nationalism of Gamal Abdel Nasser swept Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Algeria and Yemen bring socialism and modernism in the 1960s, it was the Saudi regime and other oil rich gulf monarchies which panicked at that public awareness. Since then Saudi Arab has been exporting this Wahhabism to outside world to serve the global dominance of the US. The Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan-al-Muslimeen) in Egypt was the outcome of this Saudi export of Wahhabism. From 1979 onwards, Saudi Arabia began arming and funding Afghan Mujahedeen with Pakistan and US to fight the Soviet troops in Afghanistan. Muslims, homogenized in the ‘uniformed Islamist' indoctrination around the world were called to serve the Jihadi cause in Afghanistan and thus came Osama bin Laden. After the Soviet pullout from Afghanistan in 1989, this Jihad found new territories in Chechnya, Kashmir, Bosnia, Somalia, and the Philippines etc. Presently these forces have created havoc to civilized life in Afghanistan and Pakistan and with the US help threatening the last secular Arab bastions of Libya and Syria.
India has been exposed to Islamist terrorism over the Kashmir issue and since the Babri Masjid destruction. However this terrorism has not yet bears the marks of Saudi Wahhabism. But in the cultural world the damage has already been done in diluting the identity of Indian Muslims. Saudi elements have been penetrating into Indian Muslim society through charitable networks. As a result there are signs of Wahhabism making its presence everywhere in the public space of Indian Muslims. The lifestyle prescribed for Muslims by Wahhabism is nothing but the practices of Bedouins—polygamy, subjugation of women, intolerance, violence etc. In India, this Bedouin customs have been preached to the puritanical form of Islam. This has made the deterioration of the status of Indian Muslim women and the increase of the cosmetic changeover.
In Assam, this phenomenon has been disturbingly gaining the momentum. These days the Muslims of Assam are not identified as Assamese Muslims or Muslim of East Bengali descent. Instead they are merely homogenized as ‘Muslims'—a political generalization, thanks to Wahhabism, catering the divisive agendas of all. The use of Burqa and Hijab are alarmingly rising among the Muslim women in Assam. The ankle length Thaub , a Bedouin male dress and the red and white chequered headgear Kaffaiah are now in fashion for many Mullahs and Maulvis and Madrasa students in Assam . It has reached to such an extent that this red-white or green white chequered Kaffaiah is now replacing the Phoolan Gamocha, the symbol of Assamese culture, as the “Muslim Gamocha” in our public life. Any public representative—the ministers, MLAs, bureaucrats attending any Muslim function, is felicitated by this Kaffaiah in Assam presently. On this year's Idd uz Zoha day also Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi was also felicitated with such a green-white Kaffaiah as he attended the prayers in a mosque in Hatigaon, Guwahati. Last year state Minister Dr. Nazrul Islam, ex-minister Noor Jamal Sarkar and PCCI President Bhubaneswar Kalita were also seen donned with such Kaffaiahs in a public meeting organized to see the Haj pilgrims off. Earlier AGP leaders were also seen in same dresses on similar occasions.
The main objective of the expansionist US designs is to destroy the local and national identity of the exploited people so that much could be sucked up by taking advantage of their collective unconsciousness and ignorance. Saudi Arabia has been partnering the US in spreading this message across the world in the last half a century. As a result Muslims in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Indian Muslims in Mumbai, Hyderabad, and Kolkata have transformed into a homogenized entity, losing their thousand years old cultural identities. The same has been tried in troubled torn Assam to make Muslims further alienated and denationalized.
Sazzad Hussain is a freelancer based in Assam