The latest issue of Outlook magazine – one of only a tiny handful of Indian media outlets worth reading – has as its cover story this week, How To Stop ISIS In India. While, of course, a magazine cover story isn’t exactly going to change anything, it’s at least a beginning that someone is willing to discuss the fact that India is at risk from ISIS and that something should be done about it.
Here is the response I wrote on the lead article:
I have been warning since 2014 that India is inevitably going to be infiltrated and attacked by ISIS. This owes nothing to clairvoyance and everything to common sense – the subcontinent is a perfect recruitment ground for the headchoppers of the Islamic State. Let’s go over the reasons once more:
First is the fact that India contains a huge number of underemployed, poor, disaffected Muslims with few avenues open to them for education or career advancement. Let’s not kid ourselves with tales of “minority appeasement” - the likes of Hajj subsidies are pure tokenism and have nothing to do with the plight of poor Muslims in the ghettoes, who are systematically discriminated against. Everywhere in the world, radicalism originates in the upper and middle class but takes root among the poor and underprivileged.
Secondly, ever since the late 1980s India has been ruled by a succession of governments whose agenda has been a thinly veiled pandering to the interests of the Hindu right. Be the government of the Congress, with its hypocritical “soft Hindutva*”, or the BJP which is openly anti-minority, the average Muslim has been squeezed into a corner and daily is being squeezed even further into a corner. The proliferation of jingioistic right-wing commentators on such sites as Outlook, as well as rabid rabble-rousers like the Bollywood singer Abhijeet, can only further increase the feeling among Muslims that they have no future in this country as things are now.
These rabble-rousers are particularly dangerous because they are exactly the best allies ISIS could possibly want. In the ISIS magazine Dabiq, every issue of which by the way is freely available to read online (I did, and I’m not a would-be jihadi terrorist), ISIS openly says that it’s out to “eliminate the greyzone”. This “greyzone” is the space occupied by what most people think to be civil society; people who try and coexist and cooperate, the moderates of all shades of religious and political opinion. ISIS hates these people, and wants the choice to be between two extremes. That is exactly the same thing as the Hindutva trolls want, with their ranting against everyone with even a smidgen of moderation.
Then, also from Dabiq, is a fascinating view of ISIS’ opinion of the non-ISIS world. It’s separated into three sections apart from the “kaffirun” (infidels). The first of course are the True Believers, that is, those who follow the ISIS brand (and only the ISIS brand) of Wahhabi Salafism. The second are “munafiqs”, that is, hypocrites – those who avow (ISIS style) Islam but behave otherwise. The third are “murtaddin” – apostates – and include Shia, Sufi, and non-Wahhabi Sunni. Everyone from Hizbollah to Assad to the Taliban (yes, even the Taliban) are “murtaddin”. By attacking all Muslims, everywhere, the Hindutvavadis** merely risk pushing all these divergent Islamic streams into the ISIS camp, and don’t for a moment imagine ISIS doesn’t know that too.
ISIS, with its trans-national, religion-based ideology, its undoubted military prowess, and its aggressive use of social media, gives a “hope” of being able to hit back. Al Qaeda never succeeded in the subcontinent because Indian Muslims never bought into its ideology of focussing on the “far enemy” – the imperialist powers of the West. ISIS, on the other hand, is a totally different animal and far more intelligent, not to speak of far more powerful. This is why al Qaeda has belatedly set up an Indian franchise and is urging “lone wolf” attacks – because it’s losing out in competition with ISIS.
The third main reason is Bangladesh. I’ve been predicting for many months that Bangladesh is a sitting duck for ISIS and ISIS-style Islamic jihadism. Its government is utterly incompetent and only interested in perpetuating its own rule, to the extent that it will do anything at all to deny that ISIS even exists in the country. Its civil society is broken. There are a huge number of Bangladeshis abroad, ripe for picking up jihadist thought. There is a huge and totally porous border, routinely crossed by migrants and criminals, guarded in places by a “fence” manned by (Indian) Border Security Force troopers who look the other way for a fee.
Bangladesh probably cannot be prevented from becoming a jihadi state, with the government retaining limited control over some of the bigger cities. At that point, India might be tempted to intervene, which will only make the situation worse. Bangladeshis are already primed to reflexively hate India and blame Indians for all their problems. One op-ed on a Bangladeshi website even blamed India for the recent Dhaka attack (it was allegedly a false flag designed to ruin the Bangladeshi textile industry by attacking foreign buyers). Under no circumstances can India “help” Bangladesh without making things worse for this country, so India shouldn’t even try.
Obviously - at least obviously to anyone who isn’t self-blinded by ideology or hate – there are no easy answers to this problem. It has to start, though, by treating Muslims as human beings, and that is not going to happen under the current thought-system. So we’d better buckle down and wait for the inevitable massive attacks.
I have a suspicion, by the way, that if the current Modi regime continues to lose state elections, it would welcome a series of ISIS attacks. That would allow it to crack down on dissent and political opponents in the name of “fighting ISIS”. If France could declare an emergency after an ISIS attack, and then use that emergency to crush trade unions and free speech, why can’t India?
[*Literally, Hinduness. A concept akin to the Nazi Volk.
The comment section of Outlook crawls with rabid Hindunazis, whose typical response to reasoned argument is either vitriolic abuse – which I find amusing – or, when they can’t find anything to say, thumbs-downing comments. This is even more amusing, especially given that these Hindunazis also almost never use their real names.
Note: I will be spending a fair portion of my time over the next couple of weeks getting my next book ready for publication, so I will not in the near future be as regular in updating this blog as I have been in the past. I will, however, try and put up a story or two a week for you.