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January 16, 2015 Special Dispatch No. 5936

Article By MEMRI South Asia Studies Project Director Tufail Ahmad: 'How To Combat Global Islamism'

January 16, 2015
Special Dispatch No. 5936

The following is an article by MEMRI South Asia Studies Project (SASP) director Tufail Ahmad titled "How To Combat Global Islamism," which was published by the New Indian Express on January 14, 2015: 

"The Longer The West Takes It To Tackle This Cancer, The Bigger It Will Become"

"The continuing series of jihadi attacks by 'lone wolves' - some call them stray dogs but both terms are insults to animals - in London, Boston, Sydney, and Paris illustrates the fact that modern democracies cannot take their freedom for granted. After World War II, democracies faced threats from armed Communism.

"Seven decades on, democratic nations and their liberties are still threatened, this time by radical Islamism. It is a matter of time before Indian democracy too will come face to face with such threats, especially since the signs of radicalization are emerging in many parts of India.

"The January 7 attack on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo illustrates two points: First, democratic nations must put in place a counter-radicalization strategy that integrates Muslim communities and counters radicalization. Second, big powers must join hands and evolve a global strategy against the jihadi threat currently wracking Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and others. As of now, the Western powers are not engaging in developing a global strategy against Islamism, due to the fear that they will be seen as anti-Islam.

"However, the longer the West takes it to tackle this cancer, the bigger it will become. It was indeed this realization which forced the leaders of 40 countries, including the UK, Israel, Germany, Palestine, Jordan, Poland and Spain, to march hand in hand with the French president in Paris on January 11 to denounce the attackers of Charlie Hebdo." 

"A Global Strategy Must Take Into Account The Suppression By Nation-States Of People Within Their Own Borders - As Well As The State Support From Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iran And Pakistan To Jihadi Groups"

"Let's explain the second point to understand how the international system of states has become problematic. The modern nation-states - with sovereignty and non-interference in each other's affairs being their defining characteristics - emerged after the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, an agreement which ended the Thirty Years War during which conflicts between the Protestant and the Catholic states had transformed into a war between the great powers.

"While the newly emerging nation states ended the war to the benefit of their peoples, they are now doing exactly the opposite. For example, the Pakistani nation-state crushes its people in Balochistan. The Sunni nation-state of Bahrain tramples upon its Shia majority. The Chinese nation-state suppresses its Muslim population in Xinjiang. Iraq suppresses the Kurds and Sunnis, while Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan allow persecution of their Shia minorities. (Kashmir is not good example because the people elect their government, can openly challenge the power of the Indian nation state, and are about to overcome a jihadi insurgency commissioned from outside.)

"The argument here is this: the international state system anchored to the United Nations since World War II is failing to address emerging problems caused by its member-states, notably the rise of global jihadism. The UN is paralyzed. There are two urgent needs: dismantle the UN and seed a new international state system; and evolve an international strategy to undermine global jihadism from within and without.

"A global strategy must take into account the suppression by nation-states of people within their own borders, as well as the state support from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iran and Pakistan to jihadi groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Hizbullah, Hamas, Al-Qaeda, and the Taliban. Canadian-Pakistani writer Tarek Fatah has suggested that global extremism can be undermined from within by addressing the issues of Balochistan, Kurdistan, and Turkey's support of Muslim Brotherhood, among others.

"If some Western countries are willing to recognize Palestine as a state despite the jihadi ideology of Hamas, there is no reason why the Kurds who have abided by the norms of civilized behavior should not get Kurdistan." 

"The Democratic States Must Evolve Their Own Domestic Policies To Challenge Radicalization"

"To return to the first point - the need for a counter-radicalization strategy - the democratic states must evolve their own domestic policies to challenge radicalization. Over the past year, India has witnessed worrying symptoms of radicalization: Muslim youths posed for a group photograph in ISIS T-Shirts in Tamil Nadu. In Kerala, pro-ISIS stickers have been seen on cars. In Kashmir, masked youths waved ISIS flags. In the bathroom of a Mumbai airport, a passenger wrote ISIS threats. In Jharkhand, someone deemed it fit to print "ISIS Pakistan" on T-Shirts. Muslim youths from Mumbai went to Iraq, and some were detained in Kolkata, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Hyderabad over ISIS links.

"Maharashtra police director-general Sanjeev Dayal has proposed a counter-radicalization strategy which argues for inclusive housing for Muslims, mainstreaming of madrassa education, and dealing with perceived grievances, among others. Dayal took inspiration from a Singaporean law that mandates mixed ownership in housing societies for the Malays, Indians and the Chinese. He also warned against online propaganda that radicalizes Muslim youths.

"All the suggestions are practical, but there is no short-cut solution to integrating Muslim communities, whether in France or in India. This is because Islam does not allow Muslims to fully integrate with local communities; as a system of ideas, Islam is designed to essentially separate Muslims from the practices of non-Muslims.

"In Dayal's state, this writer asked a non-college educated Muslim man: What do Urdu religious channels like televangelist Zakir Naik's Peace TV teach? His response: They teach us about Islam. Probed further as to what he and his family learn from these channels, he explained: 'Wo hamein Islam ke saanchey mein dhalte hain' ('They shape us into the mold of Islam')." 

"Attempts For Reform Must Be Made On An Urgent Basis"

"Muslims everywhere will continue to separate themselves from the rest of society. Islam doesn't permit integration, despite which some Muslims do integrate.

"Nevertheless, attempts for reform must be made on an urgent basis. India needs to think long term and evolve a 100-year strategy, seriously. Such a strategy must do the following: All madrassas and mosques should be registered, and their finances audited by local officials, a task unachievable if the same is not done for temples and churches. Madrassa syllabi should be reformed to include - in addition to the teachings of the Koran, Hadiths and Islamic studies - English and material sciences as well as a primer on need-blind subjects like liberal arts..."

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