The disturbing footage of people running helter-skelter in the streets of Paris trying to evade the bullets of the savage gunmen, the photograph of a dead child on a beach — a refugee, who succumbed to the difficulties of a treacherous journey before he could make it to Europe — are all pointers to the fact that we are living in very violent times.
The barbaric attacks in Turkey, Beirut, Nigeria and the one in Paris are not an attack on a particular geography or a state but an assault on entire humanity. The world needs to be unanimous on this and must condemn it as strongly as possible. There can be no possible justification of this bloodlust and bloodshed.
It is appalling the way Islam is being used by terrorist organisations like the Islamic State (IS) or al-Qaeda, when their actions are contrary to the teachings of the Holy Quran and the Prophet. Islam doesn’t justify violence or targeting of innocent lives in the manner in which it was done in Paris. The Prophet was a messenger of peace. Islam teaches equality, it doesn’t propagate hatred. Individuals and organisations engaging in such criminal acts have no place in any religion. This was also the message at the countrywide anti-IS protests organised by members of the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind in 75 cities after the Paris attack.
We should be wary of attempts to project this violence as a clash between religions. Or to see it from the standpoint of Samuel Huntington’s trashy theory of a clash of civilisations. There is no contest between the Muslim and the Christian world. There are no such worlds to begin with. There is just one world, where most people from all religions strive to coexist peacefully. For example, Syria is not just Muslims. There are Christians, Jews, Druze and other religious groups who are suffering alongside their Muslim brethren. To reiterate, any violent attack targeting innocents is an assault on humanity and that is how it should be looked at. This is what even the Holy Quran says — that killing one innocent person is like killing all humanity.
This is not the time to dissect the violence by applying Newton’s theory of an equal reaction to every action, or to say that the attackers, whether in Paris or in Beirut, were merely retaliating.
Likewise, world leaders, including President Francois Hollande of France, should have been careful when he called the Paris attack an act of war. Because such a description and its consequence are fraught with the danger of throwing the world into greater chaos.
Retaliation and retribution on such a massive scale, as we are seeing in the air strikes in Syria and Iraq, or even in Afghanistan, have already resulted in the deaths of millions of innocent people. Millions of others have been rendered homeless. Most terrorist outfits they claim to attack have been surviving on their largesse, being used from time to time to fulfil their strategic and economic objectives. There is enough evidence of the culpability of Western powers, including the US and even France, in giving rise to what is now being referred to as the IS. Till the time these powers do not stop their patronage to such groups, innocents will continue to be targeted. No amount of aerial bombing, conferences on violent extremism or deradicalisation programmes will lead to anything substantial till the time the root cause is addressed. This will require some serious rethinking by world leaders on their myopic perspective of this problem.
Meanwhile, the politics being played out globally points to an attempt to take the world back to the days of bipolar politics that one saw during the Cold War. India, which has historically been the champion of non-alignment with any power centre, needs to see through these attempts. Even in New Delhi, there has been a lot of unease in the security establishment about the rise of the IS and how the spread of this ideology could lead to similar attacks in the subcontinent.
While these concerns may be valid, there is an urgent need to look at the history of Muslims in India before any conclusions are drawn. Unlike in other countries, where there are reports of largescale radicalisation by outfits like the IS, or earlier by al-Qaeda, in the name of Islam and jihad, Indian Muslims have been immune from any such influence. On the contrary, there have been cases where Muslims have been framed by the security agencies in fabricated cases. From the days of the freedom struggle, when Indian Muslims fought alongside others, they have been equal partners in nation-building. This was also because of the nationalist character of major Muslim organisations, including the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, which took upon the task of taking the country forward on a path of progress once it got its freedom from the British.
While they continue to seek equal opportunities and affirmative action to uplift their economic status, Indian Muslims have not succumbed to any violent ideology and have faith in the institutions of the country. India hasn’t also seen any sectarian divide among the different sects of Muslims.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi should have kept this in mind when he recently called the Indian tradition of Sufi Islam a message of peace. Not just Sufis, but all Muslim sects have been strong believers in peaceful coexistence.
Such a statement by the PM was not just exclusionist but it also showed the way he was trying to evade the genuine concerns of Muslims who feel cornered especially since the BJP came to power last year. Radicalisation, no matter how much the government or the home ministry would want to believe, is not a concern among Indian Muslims. Their problems are far more serious. They are concerned about their safety and livelihood opportunities. It is high time this government addressed these rather than just focusing its energies on a deradicalisation programme targeted specifically at Muslims.