Kerala is one of the most beautiful places in India. A land of lush green forests, hills, streams and amazing diversity. The southern coastal state is considered as one of the best places to live in India on account of its excellent record in human and social development indices which are comparable to Western Europe. But, there is a soft underbelly for Kerala- the rising tide of Islamic extremism fuelled by the spread of Salafi ideology imported from Saudi Arabia.
With many a Keralite working in the Middle East and a huge inflow of funds from countries like Saudi, liberal tenets of the indigenous Islamic ideology tempered by Sufism is being fast replaced by highly orthodox, puritan, Islamic supremacist ideologies like Salafism or Wahhabism. The social impact can be measured by the development of an exclusivist culture among a significant proportion of the Muslim youth and a disturbing trend of marginalising women in the society. Regressive dress codes are being forced upon the women folk in an attempt to ape the Islamic puritan societies in the countries like Saudi. As a result, you can see women struggling in all black outfits with just a net for eyes even in the peak summer- A far cry from the comparatively liberal Islamic society it was a couple of decades ago.
Genuine apprehensions about the Muslim youth segregating themselves into small exclusivist groups or the ultra-orthodox dress codes were dismissed as a sign of Islamophobia and even the machinations of the “fascist” elements inspired by Sangh Parivar who cannot stand the idea of “secularism”. Even eminent liberal voices from within the Muslim community were branded as anti-Islamic and virtually ostracised for taking a stand against the growing radicalization in thought and lifestyle. This was aided and abetted by the leftist “liberal-secular” ecosystem [these guys are anything but liberal or secular, but, you know how it is] which will go to any extreme in appeasing the radical elements and rationalizing bigotry in their quixotic tilt against windmills aka nationalism or even the consolidation of the majority Hindus disillusioned by the hypocrisy and virtual murder of the lofty ideal of secularism, depending on the context.
Kerala has been long under the scanner of our intelligence agencies for being a safe-haven and launch pad for Islamist terror groups. Many prominent national political leaders and security experts had warned about Kerala fast becoming a nursery of terror. But, these concerns were fast dismissed as an attempt to malign the image of a secular Kerala society by the political leadership and intelligentsia of Kerala who had a vested interest in nurturing radical groups for political gains even after the busting of a LeT module way back in 2009.
But, all hell broke loose when solid reports emerged of 19 Keralites joining the dreaded global terror group, ISIS. Most of them were highly educated, doctors and engineers at that, shattering the illusions of only disadvantaged sections being attracted by the ideology of terror, a weak defence put out by many in trying to rationalise Islamist terrorism.
The chilling fact that the group included a pregnant woman, couples who took toddlers along and at least four persons converted from Christianity/Hinduism points to the sinister reach and brainwashing capability of the extremist ideology of the Islamic State. Two educational institutions, namely, Century dental college in Kasaragod district and Peace educational foundation, an organization which claims on its website to be “a Muslim initiative standing for a paradigm shift in the field of education that is built on a philosophy to help others based on the Quran and Sunnah” are in the eye of a storm as most of the suspected ISIS recruits are connected to these institutions.
The alleged kingpin who radicalised the others in the group was Abdul Rashid Abdulla, who left a high-paying job in Qatar to work for Peace foundation.
A glance through what the relatives of the youth told various media houses like “The Hindu” and “The News Minute” seems to affirm that Abdul Rashid Abdulla was indeed a hardened radical and Kerala faces an existential crisis if Kerala continues to behave like an ostrich. Sample the below statements made by the relatives.
“We do not believe they have joined any terrorist group. They are all educated and modern in their outlook. But only recently we noticed their changed dress code and lifestyle, including the overgrown beard of the brothers. We thought they would return like they used to when visiting other places,” said a relative of Iyaz and his brother Shihas, an IT engineer, who, they believe, left with their wives to join the Islamic State. They said that Rashid, an administrator of Peace School, and his wife, Sonia, who had recently converted to Islam, had brainwashed their young men into believing that the Caliphate was their world. It could be an extreme Salafi group which indoctrinated and recruited them to the IS. If there is a growing radicalisation of youths in Kerala, it should be rooted out. [ Source: The Hindu]
The families of Ijaz and Hafeesuddhin confirmed that 29-year-old Abdul Rashid Abdulla, their neighbour and a teacher at the Peace International School, was the man who motivated them to leave the country. Rashid seems to have been the sharp evangelist, who lured people from other religions into Islam, and radicalised other Muslims. His wife Ayesha, was a Christian before marriage and completed her Engineering degree from Ernakulum and MBA from Bangalore.
“He is the main guy. He was working at Peace International and made them all join the same school. Ijaz, Shihaz and even Ashfaq’s wife have all worked with Rashid at Peace International School,” confirmed Mujeeb, a relative. [Source: The News Minute]
With the jihadist threat becoming a terrifying reality in the wake of an onslaught of hard-core Salafi ideology, the big question is whether Kerala government is willing to wake up and smell the coffee. Signs are not very encouraging given the fact that both the ruling Left front and the Congress-led coalition have a cosy relationship with radical Islamic groups due to their game of one-upmanship in a state where even a swing of 1-2% votes will seal the electoral fate. CPM has had political alliances with the likes of PDP, a radical Islamic outfit led by Abdul Nasar Madani, who is an accused in multiple terror cases including Coimbatore and Bangalore blasts. His clout is evident from the fact that the State assembly passed a unanimous resolution calling for his release from a Karnataka prison a few years back. The present CM, Pinaray Vijayan had stood up and publicly embraced Madani in an election rally in the past to seal the alliance with PDP- the same function in which Pinaray chose to snub the party veteran VS Achuthanandan. Both the fronts also have a history of understanding with organisations like Jamaat-e-Islami Hind.
The most important ally of Congress in Kerala, Indian Union Muslim League is considered to be comparatively moderate, but, has its fair share of controversies, including alleged involvement in the Maradu carnage, the deadliest communal violence in the recent history of Kerala. It also has a history of supporting radical preachers and regressive social measures on the concept of Islamic solidarity. The most recent being declaring support for Zakir Naik, a preacher known for his bigotry and influencing terrorists across the globe and banned in some form or another in many countries including Muslim nations.
Coming to the social situation, the outpouring of support for Zakir Naik among the youth of Kerala, including in the highly educated circles is deeply disturbing. Many of them who dons a “secular” hat while directing smear campaigns against the PM and his party hurling wild accusations of being communal do not battle an eyelid in rationalizing outright hate speeches by Zakir even when he labels all other religions as bogus and declares that Churches and Temples cannot be allowed in an Islamic society.
An even more worrying trend is the lack of guts from the left-liberal ecosystem and people claiming to be intellectuals to out rightly condemn even the vilest abominations perpetrated by Islamic terror groups both in India and abroad. To quote “The Hindu” journalist Uddhav Naig, “The Liberal-Left’s denunciation of such attacks has been mostly ambiguous, raising doubts over its commitment to the values that it claims to defend.” Under the guise of respecting differences and Islamic cultural ethos, the left-liberal ecosystem is always bending over backwards to appease religious zealots without any regard for the interest of liberals within the Islamic fold or the regression forced upon Muslim women by the orthodoxy.
While it is a worldwide phenomenon where leftists gang up to smear anyone who questions this hypocrisy and moral turpitude as an Islamophobe, racist, Xenophobe or in the Desi parlance ‘Sanghi’, leftists within the country are a different breed altogether as most of them cannot condemn Islamic terrorism without adding a caveat that RSS or even the BJP is just the same!! Whether it is the abominations of ISIS or venom spewed by bigots like Zakir Naik, there is no scope for unequivocal condemnation.
When forced to speak up against Islamic terror, they drag in RSS/Modi/BJP and make a fantasy comparison in a frivolous attempt to massage minority egos and live up to their cracked up version of liberal, politically correct image. This baseless comparison will only serve to help Islamic radicals who keeps on rationalising bigotry by using the bogey of Saffron fundamentalism. The left-liberal cabal and the self-proclaimed intelligentsia are advertently or inadvertently granting legitimacy to the likes of Zakir Naik or even the ISIS by indulging in such antics. Further, it will only serve to polarize the majority community when even a short circuit or stone pelted by some drunkard at a Church/Mosque is trumpeted as Saffron/Hindu terror by the “left-secular” ecosystem while claiming that terror has no religion even when thousands are slaughtered in the name of a faith or when people try to rationalize bigotry of Zakir Naik.
The future looks gloomy for Kerala and by an extension the whole country unless everyone wakes up and smells the coffee. After the ISIS episode, it is time we condemn terrorism and religious bigotry unequivocally. Adding qualifiers, being sympathetic to a certain kind of bigotry and demonizing even trivial incidents when politically convenient to do so should stop.
It is hilarious to see that people branded as communal by “liberals” unequivocally condemn motor mouths like a Sadhvi Prachi while the default “secular” folks continue to rationalise even Charlie Hebdo attacks or outright bigotry by the likes of Zakir Naik, all in the name of “peace and secularism”.
Liberals within the Islamic fold should be given every bit of support by the governments and by the larger society rather than allowing their voices to be muffled by the radicals and orthodoxy. Left-liberals and minority groups who use the RSS/BJP and by extension even the majority community as the bogeyman should remember the story the shepherd who cried wolf. If we continue to appease Islamic radicalism in the name of the much-maligned ideal of secularism, it won’t end well for us. And, by “us”, I mean every Indian irrespective of his religion, caste, or creed. Remember what happened to Europe after repeatedly appeasing Hitler.