Islamism’s long-term endgame

| Updated: 26 March, 2024 5:51 pm IST
TNI Illustration by Eknath Narale

A few days ago, Ruwa Shah granddaughter of the Jamaat-e-Islami ideologue, the late Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the hardliner separatist Hurriyat leader advertised her dissociation from her family’s ideology. The same week Sama Shabir, the elder daughter of the jailed Democratic Freedom Party founder and separatist leader Shabir Shah made a similar announcement through an advertisement in a local daily, not only dissociating herself from her father’s ideology but going a few steps further by declaring herself a loyal Indian citizen and threatening legal action if anyone linked her to the separatist outfit of her father’s.

This comes almost a year after the U-turns in the rhetoric of vocal critics of the Indian state’s policies in Kashmir, the oscillating IAS topper, Shah Faisal, and the firebrand Shehla Rashid, were seen on social media counting the positives of the abrogation of Article 370 and the LG’s administrative capabilities and successes. in the now Union Territory.

The ecosystem of the Intifada, or rather the factory that churned out batch after batch of Islamists, Sharia advocates, communal separatists, and disinformation soldiers is getting dismantled. There was a time starting from the 1990s when these families, their relatives, and extended network, their armed wings of the terror groups, and their academician cover fire and media foot soldiers controlled the separatist jihadi narrative. Anyone expressing dissent with their Azadi (read merger with Pakistan) would find unidentified gunmen knocking on doors in the dead of the night. These same ‘namaloom afraad’ would pay visits to employers coercing them to fire the dissenters from their jobs, ostracising them in a tribal society like Kashmir’s which could prove fatal, kidnapping, torturing, and even executing them as the separatist factions became deadlier; more dependent on ISIS-like ideology, of the later mushrooming terror groups (tanzeems).

We, who believed Kashmir’s future lay with India, were directly affected by the ideology and dominance of these families on the politics of the Valley along with the six decades of dynastic politics, lost our childhood, our batch mates to the communal jihad; two generations of Kashmiri youth lie buried in numerous graves scattered across the Valley floor. We lost neighbours, the social fabric was torn forever due to these Islamist families, our education was disrupted, our youth, a saga of missed opportunities and failed careers in the struggle for survival.

Thousands of our children were orphaned, and we had scores and scores of widows and half-widows, who were fodder for the ‘Muslim persecution – Hindu occupation’ rhetoric in seminars, and photo ops of conflict entrepreneurs in North American and European campuses. It took all our youth to understand how much these families benefited from the Kashmir jihad until 5 August 2019. It became common lore to recognise the upcoming shopping complexes, malls, business districts, industries, factories, and the corrupt J&K Bank with their black money, illegal assets, and properties of these Azadi families.

But the knife stab to our nationalism was rendered deeper when these same families were sought by peace interlocutors, inter-faith mediators, conflict researchers, the Indian media, and of course the left-liberal jamaat, going as far as to shake hands with terrorists, on national TV, who had boasted about killing innocents on tape. The message to us nationalists was clear, to the ones who had believed not only that Kashmir’s future lay with India but also that the Islamic State of Pakistan created solely based on religion, next door was a failed state and a deception of the Islamist agenda of conquering Hind.

The message was clear to nationalist Muslims who had also maintained Kashmir’s ties with India since ancient times, with an unbroken history, and unchanged geography, the borders drawn by the Western colonial powers notwithstanding. The message was that sedition, treason, betrayal, spying for foreign powers, and waging war against the Indian state would be rewarded. The message to secular, rational Kashmiri Muslims and the displaced Pandits is still the same.

By propping up the oscillating influencers, former pro-India icons, and opportunist “voices”, the Indian state seems to be playing out a long-term strategy, of statecraft. Those of us who have tasted life under Islamism, the armed jihad in Kashmir, are familiar with the repressive and fascist Islamic supremacy and bigotry, coloured up as a political struggle for three decades by academicians intellectualising terror and media providing a smokescreen to violence. We can smell racism and communalism beneath the veneer of hospitality, bhaichaara and Kashmiriyat rhetoric against not just non-Muslims but secular, agnostic, and rational Muslims understand the goals, objectives, and endgame of Islamism.

Islamism never dies away, once the supremacist tendencies of Islamism are caught through the Wahabbi or Salafi virus, an individual is rarely able to de-condition himself or herself from the conditioning of a tribal society and unlearn the twisted interpretations of scriptures that are violent. The case of the Muslim Brotherhood’s genesis, evolution, containment, eventual migration, and ultimate success is there for the Indian state to learn from.

Born as a Sunni Islamist and political movement in Egypt in 1928, founded by Hassan al-Banna, it went through its ups and downs. The video of Gamal Abdel Nasser’s speech mocking the Muslim Brotherhood’s demands of veiling Egyptian women is viral content on social media, the guffaws of the Egyptian people at this absurd demand, are unmistakable. Dictators in the Middle East, whether West-propped or homegrown have always kept radical extremists in Islam in check. Hence, despite the role of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 2011 Arab Spring, the military coup in 2013 in Egypt saw the Muslim Brotherhood getting banned as a terrorist organization, followed by a severe crackdown on its members.

But true to its nature, the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood adapted to the changing circumstances and adopted the devious rhetoric of democracy, secularism, liberalism, equality, and inclusiveness, fooling the liberal population of the West, embedding itself in the Western political, academic, and media and other institutions. Today, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Talib, Linda Sarsour, and Dalia Mogahed, popularly dubbed as ‘the Squad’ are the faces of the Muslim Brotherhood in the US Senate.

The Indian state, as well as the Indian civilian population, could do well to learn from the story of the Muslim Brotherhood and understand how Islamism bides its time, adapts, adopts, changes colours like a chameleon, and eventually becomes normalised in the social, political and religious discourse. The advertisements in the newspapers are a part of this endgame of Islamism.

Arshia Malik is a widely published columnist who focuses on Indian Muslim issues, the geopolitics of the Great Game and reform in Islam.

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