Fifth column: A war that must be won

In India, jihadi violence has a longer history than almost anywhere else because of the Islamic Republic next door.

Written by Tavleen Singh | Published:March 27, 2016 12:10 am
Belgian troops and police control a road leading to Zaventem airport following Tuesday's airport bombings in Brussels, Belgium, March 24, 2016.   REUTERS/Charles Platiau Whenever we speak of the jihadist threat in India, my more ‘liberal’ comrades in the media like pointing out that no more than a handful of Indian Muslims have gone to join IS.

While we were fully absorbed in debating if it was against the Islamic faith to say ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’, Brussels airport was attacked by jihadists. Navel-gazing is a national pastime in India, so while we have spent the past two years pondering over such things as ‘growing intolerance’, beef and Hindutva, the rest of the world has concentrated on trying to defeat and destroy the Islamic State. India has played no part in this war because the majority of our political leaders believe that Hindu ‘fascism’ is the biggest threat to India.

Is this political correctness or plain stupidity? It is both, mixed up with a large dose of electoral cynicism, as we can see from the campaigns in Assam and West Bengal. Before going further, may I say that every time I write about jihadi terrorism in this column, I get attacked by ‘ Islamic scholars’ who tell me that I know nothing about Islam and so should shut up. To them I say that I would like very much not to discuss religion ever, but find it hard not to when violence in the name of Allah occurs almost every day in some country or other. Go to Google and you will find that not only have jihadist attacks become routine but they happen in places as far away from each other as San Bernardino and Mogadishu.

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In India, jihadi violence has a longer history than almost anywhere else because of the Islamic Republic next door. So dear Islamic scholars, I have no choice but to keep writing about jihad even if you believe I tread on hallowed ground by linking the barbarous acts of jihadists to a book ‘written by God’. It is not I who make this link but the leaders of the new Caliphate who justify their sickening deeds in the name of Islam’s Prophet. They repeat ad nauseam that whether it is the enslavement of infidel women or the beheading of infidel journalists, these things are done in the name of Allah. By the time you read this, an Indian priest called Father Tom Uzhannalil may have been crucified because the Quran specifies crucifixion as an appropriate punishment for the enemies of Islam. And in the Islamic State there is now a religious jizya (tax).

Whenever we speak of the jihadist threat in India, my more ‘liberal’ comrades in the media like pointing out that no more than a handful of Indian Muslims have gone to join IS. What they appear not to have noticed is that signs of radical Islam can be found from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. These can be seen not just in changed attire and Islamic beards but in the creation of a sense of grievance among Muslims. Sadly, this has been encouraged by Muslim icons like Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan, who have very publicly complained about ‘growing intolerance’.

It has been encouraged even more by Leftist politicians who manifest themselves these days on university campuses and inadvertently lend support to slogans like ‘Bharat tere tukde honge, Inshallah, Inshallah’. Incidentally nobody has denied that this slogan was raised in JNU on February 9, only that it was not Kanhaiya Kumar and his comrades who raised it but ‘masked outsiders’. Who were they? Should we not be worried about jihadism creeping into the fabric of campuses that already have Marxism as their main ideology?

These are things we should at least be talking about, but judging from past history, we will only talk about them when there is another jihadist attack on Indian soil. The discussion will not continue for more than a few days and then those in charge of national security will exploit public amnesia to do nothing to strengthen our defences against a threat that is existential. Not only does India have the largest Muslim population in the world after Indonesia, we also have far too many Hindus who believe that the way to defend the nation is by killing innocent Muslims. Can we at least hope that the Prime Minister will do something at last to curb those in his party, men and ministers, who incite violence against Muslims? In doing this, they help the jihadists and not those who would like to save India from them, but they seem not to know this.

It would also be reassuring if the Prime Minister could order his Home Minister to draw up a coherent and comprehensive strategy to deal with jihadist terrorism. This should have happened already since 26/11 was eight years ago, but the truth is that India remains as vulnerable today as it was then. We can see from the attacks in Paris and Brussels that jihadist terrorists can strike at will, whenever and wherever they want. It is an ugly war but it has to be fought and won.

@ tavleen_singh