Fugitive preacher Abdul Rashid Abdulla, sought by the National Investigation Agency for leading 23 Kerala residents to join the Islamic State in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, says he is telling would-be jihadists to travel to the country instead of plotting attacks inside India. “Today, it is impossible to wage offensive jihad in India”, he said in an exclusive interview to the The Indian Express. “First, we have to consolidate the Caliphate, and then expand its frontiers”.
“Perhaps we can carry out one or two lone wolf attacks, or a strike here or there, but not true offensive jihad”, Abdulla said. “We have lots of people in India, and we tell them: wait, we are coming. The Islamic State is growing far faster than you can imagine. The aim is for the whole world to be ruled by the law of Allah, so he alone is worshipped, not false gods”.
The interview gives new insight into the thinking driving recruitment into the ranks of organisations like the Islamic State, which, though small, has swelled in recent years. “In India, the Modi government is a blessing in disguise for us”, he says. “This is because while, in some parts of India, Muslims face visible oppression, in many others, they really do not recognise the reality of their oppression. The hypocrite scholars misguide them. The Modi government is planning to change the Constitution and once that happens, the real oppression will begin”. “That is when Muslims will start searching for the solution”, Abdullah says. “People only remember God when a loved one is dying in hospital. Jihad is like that, too”.
Abdulla lashed out at mainstream Indian Muslim leaders who, he argued, were misleading their flock by condemning the Islamic State as illegitimate. “Muslim leaders in India claim that it is possible for Muslims to practise their faith 100% in India: we can pray, fast, go for hajj, and so on”, he said. “But the hypocrite Islamic scholars stay silent on the Quranic commandment for Muslims to engage in offensive jihad. They know that the Prophet went with weapons and conquered the whole of the Arabian peninsula. The Islamic State follows the example of the Prophet Muhammad in Medina, yet these so-called scholars criticise it”.
“Islam spread by the sword — not by peace”, Abdulla said. “The critics of Islam, ironically, speak the truth, while the so-called Islamic scholars do not. The Prophet Muhammad, the Caliph Abu Bakr Siddiq, and those that followed them, conquered the world by the sword, not by doing dawah [proselytisation]”.
Abdulla also insists other key religious obligations cannot be met in India, either. “To give but one example: forbidding evil is a critical part of Islam. Allah asks Muslims to prevent evil with their hand. In India, Hindus worship false gods everywhere. Is there any Muslim who can use his hand to stop this? There will be a riot. Alcoholism. Prostitution. Homosexuality. Interest. I can go on and on”.
Abdulla was also dismissive of arguments made by Muslim leaders that campaigning to improve the conditions of Muslims in India was more important than global jihad. “For a Muslim, the biggest objective should be a world ruled by the law of objective. Education, jobs-these are pseudo-achievements. Education in India teaches you to respect the nation-state, and other religions. These are anti-Islamic. And jobs? A job helps a secular-democratic nation. Is it Islamic to build a country where people can worship false gods all the better?”
“Indian Muslim leaders fall into three categories”, he alleged, “those who do not know the truth, those who deliberately obscure the truth, and those who realise the truth, but only wish to work for it indirectly, fearful of the consequences of speaking out”. Abdulla’s entry into the Islamic State appears to have been part of a long journey. “Following the September 11 attacks, any Muslim was delighted. I was in Muscat, preparing for my class 10 exams, it gave me a wonderful feeling. Later, the hypocrites of Islam, the so-called scholars in the pay of the United States, branded this to be terrorism”. He describes the Caliphate in Afghanistan as a kind of utopia: “There are a great many people from India migrating and coming here from almost every state, far more than you can imagine”.
Abdulla rejects claims that the Islamic State is hated by local tribes. “Here in Khorasan, we have Pakistanis, Tajiks, Uzbeks, Arabs, Russians, Indians — and all of us live like brothers, along with the Afghans from local tribes. The Islamic State was only resisted by some with nationalistic goals, or with secular ideology, who revolted against Islam and the Caliphate. They were executed. That news is true”. The Taliban, with whom the Islamic State has battled, he casts as misguided. “They implement sharia, but not 100% — they only want to capture Afghanistan, implement sharia in it, not in the whole world, as Allah commands us to do. This is anti-Islamic”. Ever greater numbers of Indian Muslims, Abdulla believes, will be drawn to jihad in the future.
“Thanks to western education, young people have come to realise the drawbacks of the western system. The youth have realised that western philosophy, and the western way of life, rests on shaky foundations. Some turn to atheism, and find themselves stuck in a spiritual vacuum. Thanks to the internet, though, and to their knowledge of English, a new world has opened up to the youth.”