Thursday, December 2, 2010

Towards Understanding Islam in the Postcolonial World Order 3/5


by Taj Hashmi

Although India is not a Muslim-Majority country, it has the second or third largest concentration of Muslims after Indonesia and Pakistan; some 150 million or more.

Although perennial communal conflicts between more advanced Hindu majority and less advanced Muslim minority eventually led to the communal partition in 1947; and occasional rioting and even mass killing of Muslims in postcolonial India has been quite common, yet Indian Muslims in general do not believe in carving out another “Muslim Homeland” out of India. However, the situation in Indian-occupied Kashmir since 1947 is anything but normal. Denying the Kashmiris’ right of self-determination by violating  UN resolutions since 1948, India has kept more than one-third of its regular army and thousands of paramilitary troops in this Muslim-majority state where violations of human rights has been endemic since long. Since long leading human rights activists, including Arundhati Roy, have been publicly asking India to stop what they call the genocide of Kashmiri Muslims and to concede to the majority Kashmiris’ demand for independence.[11] 

The marginalization of Muslims in India and the frequent incidents of large-scale attacks on them by Hindu mobs – mainly instigated by proto-fascist Hindu extremist groups such as the Shiv Sena and RSS in collusion with communal Hindu law-enforcers – have been breeding Islamist militancy in northern and western India. The Muslim pogroms in the wake of the demolition of the Babri Mosque in 1992 and the Gujarat killings of 2002 may be mentioned in this regard. One finds vivid accounts of discriminations and marginalization of Indian Muslims in the (Justice Rajinder) Sachar Committee Report, appointed by the Government of India. [12] 

Despite their “second class treatment” and discriminations by the Indian government, Muslim masses in general and clerics in particular have been opposed to terrorism in the name of Islam. In 2008, 6,000 Muslim clerics from around the country gathered in Hyderabad to register their disapproval for terrorism in the name of Islam.[13] In a personal correspondence with the author, Professor Harbans Mukhia wrote (February 28, 2009): “I think in the Indian milieu of being surrounded by a vast majority of Hindus, who have no notion of the ultimate truth, the Day of Judgment and therefore no notion of proselytisation, the Indian Muslims have been far less prone to fundamentalist manifestations than others, especially as among the Arabs.”  

 Islamism in Southeast Asia has differences and similarities with the syndrome elsewhere in the world, having its unique intra- and inter-state variations. However, prior to the recent Islamist terrorist attacks in Bali, southern Philippines and southern Thailand, scholars, political leaders and security practitioners had been complacent about any impending threat of Islamism in the entire region. They considered Indonesian and Malay Muslims’ syncretism as the main antidote to religious extremism, which is often a by-product of puritanism. Sukarno, so far the most charismatic leader of Indonesia, also played an important role in retaining its syncretistic heritage and keeping the largest Muslim-majority country relatively secular. However, Suharto’s ascendancy changed things almost overnight. He used Islamist fanatics in the mass killing of actual or so-called communists to strengthen his position; and thus legitimized Islamism and promoted political Islam for the sake of legitimacy, taking full advantage of Western “soft corner” for Islam during the prime of the Cold War. Later the emboldened and crest-fallen Islamists turned into his adversaries, turning the Jemaah Islamiyah into the most powerful Islamist organization in Southeast Asia. An al-Qaeda affiliate, JI believes in global jihad and wants to establish an Islamist state in the region, encompassing Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei southern Philippines and southern Thailand. [14] Ethno-nationalist separatist movements of Malay Muslims in Southern Philippines and Thailand during the last two decades have metamorphosed into Islamist movements, thanks to the growing resurgence of Global Islam.  


The so-called Globalized Islam possibly exists among the Muslim Diaspora, refugees and marginalized people having no stable identity or sense of belonging to a nation or community besides the elusive transnational Ummah[15] These “nowhere men” do not represent any civilization to fight for it; they are just angry people who have fled the “burning grounds of Islam”, carrying the fire with them and angry at the world around them.[16] There are, however, conflicting views as to why Islamists among the Diaspora resort to terrorism and even suicide attacks. As one analyst explains the British suicide attacks in July 2005:  

For an earlier generation of Muslims their religion was not so strong that it prevented them from identifying with Britain. Today many young British Muslims identify more with Islam than Britain primarily because there no longer seems much that is compelling about being British. Of course, there is little to romanticise about in old-style Britishness with its often racist vision of belonging.[17]  

If we accept the above as the right explanation of terrorism by members of the Muslim Diaspora, one wonders as to how about twenty Somali-American young men from Minnesota “vanished” in 2008; went to Somalia to fight for al-Qaeda and one of them, Shirwa Ahmed, last October blew himself up killing dozens of Somali opponents of their “jihad”. These young Somali-Americans came to the US in their early childhood.[18] And the US does not promote multiculturalism. It is difficult to explain the “home-grown” Islamist terrorism; Major Nidal Hasan’s killing thirteen fellow American soldiers for example, in terms of some cultural or economic explanations. American and its allies support for Israel in general; and their invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan in particular have been the last straws.

Muslims resort to terrorism not necessarily due to religious factors. As Rami Khouri has explained the Pakistani American Feisal Shehzad’s justifications for the attempted bombing of Times Square in New York, Muslims’ sense of collective humiliation at local, national or global level by their rulers or foreign occupation forces may turn them into terrorists.[19] One cannot agree more with Evelin Lindner, renowned psychologist and founder of the Center for Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies, that:

Basically all human beings yearn for recognition and respect; their denial or withdrawal is experienced as humiliation. Humiliation is the strongest force that creates rifts and breaks down relationship among people….Men such as Osama bin Laden would never have followers if there were no victims of humiliation in many parts of the world….The rich and powerful West has long been blind to the fact that its superiority may have humiliating effects on those who are less privileged.[20] 

Next: Page 4 Islam and the west
Source:  Wichaar
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