Social justice activism and the cottage industry of hate

| Updated: 22 November, 2023 11:52 am IST

Social justice movements are collective, organized efforts by groups of people seeking to address and rectify various forms of social injustice, inequality, and systemic discrimination. These movements aim to create a fairer and fairer society by advocating for the rights and well-being of marginalized or oppressed individuals and communities. Social justice movements can encompass a wide range of issues, including civil rights, environmental justice, gender equality, racial equality, economic equity, LGBTQ+ rights, and more.

The notion of human rights advocacy becoming a “cottage industry” is a growing notion in the 21st century. Islamists spearhead human rights advocacy, often with Islamic symbolism, Islamic sloganeering, and Muslim religious motifs, making it a small-scale, self-serving, and less effective endeavour. We should reject these social justice movements or the so-called ‘woke politics’ because they advocate for an Islamic State. Activists of Muslim heritage are trying to impose Sharia laws, which will subjugate women, free speech, and critical thinking due to the concept of blasphemy. This leads to a violation of an individual’s right to think, read, and act for himself or herself and ends up marginalising said individual. The activists from other heritages who due to good intentions get involved and adopt the method, strategy, symbolism, motifs, and slogans do not realise the Islamists, whether closeted or open, want the total annihilation of non-Muslims.

Take the example of the Independence struggle of India against imperial Britain, which developed into calls for an Islamic State – materialising in West and East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). The Palestinian cause, too according to scholars of West Asian geopolitics, started as a secular struggle for the recognition of the rights of Palestinians to a state but what it became in the hands of the Islamist Hamas is for all to see post-October 7th. Tarek Fatah in his book, ‘Chasing the Mirage’ describes the admiration of his peers and himself for Leila Khalid, the Palestinian woman who in 1969 hijacked a TWA plane to Damascus. The boyish admiration for a hijacker turned to disgust when he learned about the Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood, for whom secular Palestinians were more of a threat than the Israelis.

Tarek writes: “One could never have imagined then that the most secular, educated and enlightened people of the Arab world would fall victim to the allure of radical Muslims like Syed Qutb and Hassan al-Banna…forty years would transform the Palestinian cause to an international cause of Islam. The Islamists turned it into a war to wipe out the Jews.” Tarek attests that there was never even a hint of antisemitism among the progressive and secular Palestinians. The exchange students on the university campus in Pakistan would feel horrified when they saw the “strength of the Pakistani Islamist groups” and observed how the Jamaat-e-Islami hoodlums employed strong-arm tactics and bullying methods. They would also express surprise because in their home country, the Muslim Brotherhood was a fringe element in the West Bank and Jordan.

It is similar to what happened in Kashmir in the last century. The silk factory workers in Srinagar went on strike in 1924 to demand better working conditions. These protests were part of a larger wave of discontent and resistance against the Maharaja’s government during that time which were not limited to the silk factory workers. There was also mobilization against the autocratic rule of Maharaja Hari Singh in 1931, which saw widespread agitation throughout the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, which developed into a communal riot with the homes, shops of Kashmiri Pandits targeted and their existence threatened in the Valley. The protests took on the now familiar Islamist hues and spilt over into the growing political consciousness of Kashmiri Islamist or Muslim nationalism.

Various Muslim politicians would exploit this from time to time, confounding the Kashmiri identity and ethnicity, and sowing doubts about the connection with mainland India, leading to a full-blown armed insurgency in the 1990s. This resulted in the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits and secular Muslims from the Valley due to a terror pogrom by Islamists, supported by the left-leaning liberals from Hindu heritage in the national capital region and India’s largest Communist Party cadres. The radicalisation of the Valley in 1989 started with the diktat to close off beauty parlours, shutting of cinema halls, prohibiting wine shops and imposition of mandatory veiling (hijab/niqab/burqa) over the female population. The Islamist terrorists even went as far as requesting non-Muslims to wear distinguishable marks of their religious identity, such as the bindi, kada for Sikhs, etc, in order to distinguish themselves from their compatriots.

This hijacking of social justice movements for the betterment of the marginalised and the discriminated against is not new. The much documented, written about, filmed, and cinematically portrayed Iranian Revolution of 1979, too started with the Left-leaning liberals of Iran disillusioned with the Shah, and denouncing him as a stooge of the West, inviting the hardliner Khomeini to establish an Islamic regime. Marjane Satrapi described this in her best-selling graphic novel, now a movie, Persepolis. Hijacking of any struggle or resistance with Islamic motifs, slogans or symbols should raise red flags, even if the theme of the march rally or protest is for human rights, self-determination or a “humanitarian truce”.

A few weeks ago, Khaled Mashal, a leader of the Hamas terrorist group, participated virtually in a rally in Kerala’s Malappuram, sparking controversy. The Solidarity Youth Movement, a youth wing of Jamaat-e-Islami, had organized the rally. People accused the IUML rally in Kozhikode of being “pro-Hamas” and claimed that participants raised anti-national slogans during the event. Several politicians expressed concerns about the Hamas leader’s virtual participation in a pro-Palestine rally in Kerala. The BJP, particularly, expressed concern that the conflict was being used to fuel communal tensions in Kerala condemned Mashal’s virtual address at the rally and questioned the Kerala Police’s inaction.

Journalist, author, and Muslim reformer Asra Nomani calls the partnership between the world’s growing awareness of liberal corruption towards illiberalism, the influence of Marxist ideology in academia, media, the judiciary, and institutions, and Islamists the Red-Green Alliance, which necessitates a study. Both the Left-Liberals and Islamists must separate their nihilistic, totalitarian aim from the people’s struggle and aspirations of a peaceful, rational people. Average Palestinians, Arabs, Syrians, Yemenis, Iranians, Turks, Pakistanis, Afghans, and Kashmiris want to live peaceful, stable lives, with upward social mobility, educate their children and have good ties with their neighbours, be it in their towns and cities or between countries. It is almost always the Salafis, the Wahhabis, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Hizbul Mujahideen, the Boko Haram, the IRGC, the Al-Qaeda, and the Hamas who hijack their aspirations and colour them up into another movement for an Islamic Caliphate. The world could do well to remember that.

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