The Four Elements of Ideological Recruitment

Maajid Nawaz describes the four elements of ideological recruitment as grievance narrative, identity crisis, charismatic recruitment and ideological dogma

| Updated: 08 January, 2023 9:22 pm IST
Indian Muslims have a choice in the 21st century (TNI photo by Sumit Kumar)

The story of the Partition of India and the subsequent trajectory that Indian Muslims took uncannily resemble the four elements existing in ideological recruitment that Maajid Nawaz describes in his dialogue with Sam Harris in ‘Islam and the Future of Tolerance’.

Maajid is a former Hizbut Tahrir member who propagated the group’s views for 12 years in Britain and exported radicalism to Denmark and Pakistan. In the Dialogue, he spells out the four elements of ideological recruitment as grievance narrative, identity crisis, charismatic recruitment and ideological dogma.

One can’t help but see parallels with these elements in the Oppression Olympics of victimhood (grievance narrative), the feeling of defeat by Muslims on the abolishing of the Ottoman Caliphate by Kemal Ataturk plus the decline of the Mughal Rule in India as nation states started developing (identity crisis) and articulate leaders with oratorial skills like Maududi and Jinnah propounding the Two-Nation theory (charismatic recruiters).

The Indian Muslims eventually stagnated in the events of the Partition, a self-inflicted injury thereby by giving power to the regressive, ossified, outdated and obsolete ulema – be it the AIMPLB or Deoband, Barelvi, Tablighi Jamaat groups and the playing it safe (obscurantist) Muslim elite, the Ashrafs. The latter have manipulated ideological dogma, using the grievance narrative as propaganda, to stop Muslims from integrating into the liberal, secular democracy of India since 1947.

A grievance narrative is a story or explanation that describes a feeling of unfairness, dissatisfaction, or injustice. It can be a personal account of an individual’s experience or a collective narrative shared by a group of people who feel that they have been wronged in some way.

Grievance narratives often involve a sense of injustice or mistreatment, and they may be used to highlight problems or to advocate for change. In some cases, grievance narratives may be part of a broader social or political movement, and they may be used to bring attention to issues of social justice or inequality.

The grievance narrative of Indian Muslims, however, always involves blaming the majority for its ills, and causes, never reflecting inwards or upholding their community to higher standards.

A community or group identity crisis can occur when there is a significant shift in the values, beliefs, or goals that define the group or when there is a loss of cohesiveness or a sense of purpose within the group.

For example, a community may experience an identity crisis if there is a major change in the economic or political landscape that affects the group’s way of life. A group may also experience an identity crisis if there are internal conflicts or divisions within the group that cause it to lose its sense of unity or shared purpose.

In some cases, a group identity crisis can be a catalyst for positive change and growth, as it can lead the group to reassess its values and goals and find new ways of defining itself. However, it can also be a difficult and unsettling experience that can lead to conflict and dissension within the group.

The Muslim world periodically witnessed the defeat of their empires, and that added to the grievance narrative that led to the current identity crisis – the sacking of Baghdad in 1258 by the Mongols; Napoleon’s defeat of the Egyptian Mamelukes, a powerful military caste that had ruled Egypt for centuries, even though his campaign was unsuccessful in retaining it; the defeat of the Ottoman navy in 1571 by the Holy League, a coalition of European powers, at the Battle of Lepanto and the eventual collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I.

Then there are always charismatic leaders in the Muslim world who can inspire and influence others through the strength of their personalities and the power of their words.

Charismatic leaders are basically recruiters who often have a strong presence and can draw large crowds of people to their events or rallies. They may be able to inspire strong feelings of loyalty and devotion in their followers, and they may be able to persuade people to follow their vision or ideology, however twisted it may be, mesmerising large crowds and leading them to engage in cult-like behaviour.

This can happen when the leader is able to tap into the deep-seated emotional or psychological needs of their followers and provide a sense of belonging or purpose (the idea of Pakistan).

Charismatic leaders may also use techniques such as repetition, emotional appeals, and the use of symbols and slogans to create a sense of shared identity and solidarity among their followers, which can make them particularly vulnerable to manipulation and abuse of power. The ones that fit this bill in the Indian subcontinent’s tragic history are Maududi and Mohammed Ali Jinnah, ideologues of the Two-Nation Theory.

The Two-Nation Theory started in Shah Waliullah’s time, an ideological dogma with a set of rigid and inflexible beliefs that are held as absolute truths and that are not open to discussion or debate.

It is often associated with ideologies, which are systems of thought that attempt to explain and interpret the world in a particular way.

Ideologies often involve a set of core beliefs and values that are used to shape an individual’s worldview and guide their actions and decisions. However, it can also be harmful when it leads people to become closed-minded and unwilling to consider alternative viewpoints or to engage in critical thinking and self-reflection.

Ideological dogma can also lead to conflicts and divisions between people who hold different ideologies, as each side may view their ideology as the only correct one and may be unwilling to compromise or consider the perspective of others.

Indian Muslims have a choice in the 21st century as the digital age provides connections, communications, and tools to understand propaganda, disinformation and grievance narratives set by the grievance narrative generators to recruit more into the endless cycle of victimhood and unaccountability for an individual’s and community’s actions. They can come out of the charisma of oratorial cult leaders and lead their families towards progress and humanism.

Arshia Malik is a Delhi-based writer, blogger and social commentator
Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author’s own

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