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January 8, 2016 Special Dispatch No. 6254

MEMRI Scholar Tufail Ahmad In Article In 'New Age Islam': Pro-ISIS Radicalization In India

January 8, 2016 | By Tufail Ahmad
Special Dispatch No. 6254

In a piece published January 2, 2016 on the New Age Islam website, titled "The Stabbing Of A Policeman In Yavatmal Reveals Pro-ISIS Radicalization," MEMRI South Asia Studies Project director Tufail Ahmad examined the case of the stabbing of a policeman in the Yavatmal district of Maharashtra state, India, of which Mumbai is the state capital. While the stabbing was depicted in the Indian media as a young Muslim's anger against the state government's ban on the slaughter of cows, it has turned out to be a case of pro-ISIS radicalization. The attacker, Abdul Malik, was found to have been radicalized by an Islamic cleric.[1]  

The following is the article in full:


Image courtesy: Deccan Chronicle

"Your Government Bans Beef, So Take That!"
"On September 25, 2015, soon after offering the annual Eid Al-Azha (Feast of the Sacrifice) prayer, a Muslim youth stabbed a policeman in the town of Pusad in the Yavatmal district of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the state capital. Two policemen who rushed to save their colleague were also wounded, but Abdul Malik, the 20-year-old youth, was ultimately overpowered and arrested. While attacking the cop, Malik, a pharmacist by profession, shouted: 'Tumhari government beef ban karti hai, toh tum yeh lo' - 'Your government bans beef, so take that!'

"At the time of the incident, the government of Maharashtra, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was embroiled in controversy for bringing in legislation to ban the slaughter of cows, although the legislation itself had been enacted by the predecessor government under the Congress, a center-left secular party. Cows are not sacrificed by Muslims across the Islamic world, but in South Asia, because the majority Hindus revere cows, Islamic clerics have, over the course of the past 1,000 years, made it a common practice to sacrifice cows in order to undermine the Hindu cultural ethos.

"As a result, the Indian Constitution, which came into force in 1950, directs the government to enact legislation to ban cow slaughter. Therefore, in various Indian states, governments led mostly by the secular Congress party have banned cow slaughter over the past six decades and more. Cow slaughter was also banned during the reign of the 16th century Mughal Emperor Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar, a ruler known for his respect of all religions. For his ban on cow slaughter, Akbar was severely criticized by Sheikh Ahmad Sirhindi, a leading Islamic scholar of the time.

"Abdul Malik's statement at the time of the stabbing regarding the cow slaughter ban was presented in the Indian media as legitimate criticism of the government's interference in the food habits of Indians. The governments indeed must not interfere in food habits of citizens, but it appears now that the cow slaughter ban was merely an issue used by a local cleric to radicalize Malik. Over the past few months, the stabbing case was investigated by the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of the Maharashtra government. The results indicate that Abdul Malik was part of a radicalization plot.

"The Radicalization of Abdul Malik
"On November 2, the ATS arrested Maulana Hafiz Mujib Rehman, a 26-year-old local Islamic cleric, who was involved in the radicalization of Abdul Malik. During his interrogation, Malik had revealed that the cleric had been 'filling his ears against the government on various subjects, including how the beef ban was infringing on their rights.' Niket Kaushik, the ATS's Inspector General of Police, told journalist Jayprakash S. Naidu of The Asian Age: 'The maulana [cleric] is part of a bigger group. We have learned that he was indoctrinating Malik.' 

"The journalist Naidu wrote in his report: 'The work of indoctrination was gradual and went on for over a period of two to three years. Malik... told the police that Mujib [the cleric] asked him whether his parents would find something amiss if he went missing for a couple of weeks. The police strongly suspect that Mujib wanted to send Malik to Afghanistan via Bangladesh to get Al-Qaeda-level arms training.' Further reports indicate a larger terror plot involving at least six Muslim youths wanting to connect with the Islamic State (ISIS). 

"On October 21, Rashmi Rajput, a journalist with The Indian Express, wrote: 'The ATS suspects that Malik was trained along the lines of a lone-wolf attack.' Rajput quoted an unidentified ATS official as saying: 'During his interrogation, Malik told us that a local maulana radicalized him, and therefore he stabbed the constable. The maulana allegedly told Malik that Muslims in India were under threat and that they should do something about it.'

"Pro-ISIS Cell of Six Youths
"On December 8, Mateen Hafeez, a journalist with The Times of India, reported that the ATS probe into the stabbing case had revealed a terror plot involving six Muslim youths who were radicalized in favor of ISIS; of them, three have been arrested. Hafeez wrote: 'Six youths in the cell in Yavatmal district had been brainwashed to join the Islamic State... At least three arrests in the state have broken its back, believe the ATS, which is looking at it as a breakthrough.' Abdul Malik's interrogation led to a second man involved in the cell: Shoaib Khan. As per the report, 'though both are from Pusad, Malik and Khan met in a radical chatroom online and discovered they are from the same place.' 

"It's not clear who the six persons in the cell are, but the three arrests include Abdul Malik, Shoaib Khan, and Hafiz Mujib Rehman, the last being the cleric. It seems that the group of six broke up at some point, due to the revelation that Rehman had demanded a dowry at his marriage, an act of impiety. Niket Kaushik, the ATS official, stated: 'There were six youths in this new cell. Rehman had brainwashed them and exhorted them to join ISIS. During interactions, however, the youths learned that Rehman had demanded a dowry from his wife, and this 'un-Islamic act' led to divisions.' Another unidentified ATS official said: 'The group planned to first send Khan to ISIS. They decided Khan would go and evaluate the situation, and if things went fine, he would request his commanders to arrange for the smuggling out of more youths from the cell.' 

"Shoaib Khan's arrest led the trail to Hyderabad, a southern Indian city that has been in the news headlines along with Mumbai for heavy pro-ISIS related radicalization. Khan was first arrested in October 2014 in Hyderabad along with two others, Talha Shah and Mohtasin Billa, as they tried to leave the southern metropolis for abroad to join ISIS. Over the past 18 months, police in Hyderabad have stopped some two dozen young men from leaving India to join ISIS. However, Shoaib Khan received bail, and returned to his hometown of Pusad to work at his father's business. Once in Pusad, he connected with Abdul Malik, who would go on to stab the cop. As per Mateen's report, Shoaib Khan has revealed: 'In case of failure to join ISIS, the group kept open the option of joining the Taliban in Afghanistan." The ATS is on the lookout for two more individuals. 

"Some Conclusions
"Some conclusions follow from the Yavatmal stabbing case. One: It is not the central Syria-based leadership of ISIS that is trying to recruit Muslims from India. On the contrary: We are witnessing self-radicalization by young Indian Muslims who are considering ISIS one of their options. Their other options include Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and a host of Pakistani military-backed jihadi groups like Jaish-e-Muhammad and Jamaatud Dawa.  

"Two: Islamic clerics in India are using local issues to arouse anti-government sentiment which undermines loyalty to India. This is largely in conformity with the Islamic teaching that all Muslims form a single Ummah, the global Muslim nation. 

"Three: The controversy over beef witnessed last year by India was stoked by the country's non-Muslim intelligentsia, including journalists, actors, and authors who largely belong to left-of-center politics and were therefore opposed to the BJP-led governments in Maharashtra and elsewhere. This controversy was used by Islamists for their own benefit.  

"Four: It is possible that all these young men might be released by the courts, because in such cases it is always difficult for intelligence agencies to produce police-like forensic evidence, complicated further by the fact that India doesn't yet have a counter-radicalization law. 

"Bibi Zohra, the mother of stabber Abdul Malik, told journalist Aarefa Johari: 'My boy was not even fond of meat... He always preferred vegetarian food at home. Why would he be angry about the beef ban?' Aarefa Johari wrote: 'For Abdul Malik's family, this is just one of the many perplexing questions...' 

"Yes indeed, common Muslims become perplexed about this phenomenon of our times. Bibi Zohra is right too. Her son's story is indeed not a story about beef or a ban on cow slaughter. It is a story of radicalization by Islamic scholars in India, in favor of the global jihad that is being inspired by ISIS, Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and their lesser-known cousins in our streets."

Endnote:

[1] Newageislam.com, January 2, 2015.  

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