Daft and dangerous: Muslim scholar’s plan for a militia to fight global jihad

Hasan Suroor Jul 25, 2014 13:33 IST


I’m not sure if the name Maulana Syed Salman Hussaini Nadvi will ring a bell in many places. My own first reaction when I heard it was “Nadvi, who?”

But apparently he is a big cheese in Islamic circles.An influential theologian and author of numerous scholarly tomes in Urdu and Arabic, Nadvi is Dean of the Faculty of Shariah at Darul Uloom Nadwa, Lucknow, whose reputation as a premier institution of Islamic teaching ranks in the same class as Darul Uloom, Deoband. He is also a member of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board and Aligarh Muslim University’s court, its highest decision-making body.

So, what he says matters and carries weight. It is important to stress this because what he has done has shocked even conservative Muslims. Nadvi has written a long and passionate letter (in Arabic!) to the Saudi government offering to raise a militia of 500,000 Sunni Muslim Indian youth as his contribution to a “powerful global Islamic army” he has proposed in order to fight Shia militants in Iraq and “help Muslims in need” elsewhere. The army would become part of a Caliphate that he wants Saudis to set up for the Muslim ummah, the international Muslim community.

He also suggested that terrorists should not be referred to as terrorists as they were engaged in a “noble cause’’ and called for a “confederation’’ of all jihadi organisations so that they could transform themselves into a single “powerful global force”.

Earlier, Nadvisent fawning greetings to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the notorious Sunni militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and self-appointed caliph of a sharia administration he has set up along Iraq- Syria border.

Nadvi is the only Asian theologian of to have recognised Bagdhadi’s “Caliphate’’. But it is his offer of raising an Indian Muslim militia to fight on foreign lands which has caused a stir even in the normally complacent Muslim quarters as it comes amid mounting concern over the increasing radicalisation of young Indian Muslims who had far defied the global Islamisation trend.

Reports that four educated middle class Mumbai Muslim boys (two engineering students, one medical student, and a call centre worker) have fled the country to join jihadisfighting a vicious sectarian war in Iraq and Syria have deepened concerns about home-grown Muslim extremism and put the entire community under the scanner.

It now seems so long ago when the then US President George W. Bush hailed Manmohan Singh as the leader of the “most fascinating democracy in the world” pointing out that al-Qaeda hadn’t been able to “recruit a single Indian Muslim”. And The Washington Post commented that India’s s “large and tolerant” Muslim population “may serve as an ally against Islamic militancy”.
Suddenly, questions are being asked whether Indian Muslims are going the way of Pakistani youth. There are fears that what has started as a trickle with four Mumbai boys could turn into a “flood’’ if not nipped in the bud immediately. The Biju Janata Dal leader Jay Panda rightly reminded us of the Pakistani experience pointing out how “their youth got involved in jihadist activities, later on they came back and started hunting their own country’’.

Nadvi’s action, not surprisingly played up by the Urdu press which has its own sectarian agenda, is certain to encourage extremist elements already engaged in brainwashing and radicalising Muslim youth. There is a view that Nadvi may have broken Indian laws against inciting terror and there have been calls for an investigation into his conduct and for him to be stripped of his Indian nationality.

“The worrying thing for me is that this is not just his view. There are many takers for this view. If he is promising to put together an army of five lakh Muslim youth from the Indian sub-continent, essentially India, as he has no influence anywhere else, is he just making a tall claim? Only proper investigation can reveal,’’ wrote Sultan Shahin editor of the progressiveNewAge Islam website which published the text of Nadvi’s letter, both in Arabic and in English translation.

He pointed out that what Nadvi effectively wanted was for Saudi Arabia to “organise a Khilafat for the Muslim Umma, the global Muslim community, which would have a world Islamic Army in which he would contribute five lakh Muslim youth from India’’.

“He says there is no need for recruiting youth from among the messed up youth of the Gulf, when you can find them right here. This army would stand behind Muslims wherever they are in trouble. He wishes that terrorists should not be called terrorists and thus antagonised. They are sincere Muslim youth fighting for a noble cause. There should be a confederation of Jihadi organisations active across the Islamic world midwifed by Ulema who should help them hold a dialogue among themselves so they come together and iron out their differences and emerge as one powerful global force.’’

At the best of times, such conduct should be a matter of concern because it amounts to exporting terror but it becomes even more alarming in the current climate with a full scale bloody conflict raging across the Muslim world.

Ask Nadwi about his daft and dangerous proposal, and I’m sure he would do what all fundamentalists do–resort to some Islamic justification by selectively quoting the Qur’an and Hadith (compilation of Prophet Mohammad’s sayings and teachings).Believe it or not, there are people who cite Hadith to claim that a male child’s urine is purer than a girl child’s!

Can it get any more absurd than this? Yet such claims, citing unreliable and inauthentic Qur’anic verses and the Prophet’s sayings are routinely made on Islamist websites making a mockery of Islam. The reason they get away with it is because the Qur’anic text is hugely ambiguous and often contradictory, allowing people to cherry- pick to back their argument. Likewise, the Prophet ‘s sayings are too numerous and were uttered in vastly different situations. It is easy to manipulate them by plucking them out without context—such as the claim over the relative purity of a male child’s urine vis- a-vis a female’s. Islamic theology is full of inauthentic Hadith. Even many authentic Hadith have been found to be flawed because of misinterpretation or contextual mistakes.

Coming back to Nadvi, it will not be easy to dismiss his behaviour as the act of a mad mullah. Because, as I pointed out, he is no ordinary clergy but a highly respected figure. And so is the institution he represents. What is particularly disturbing if it is true, as Shahin points out, that Nadvi’s view is widely shared by mainstream Muslims.

My own sense is that moderate opinion is far more widespread than there is public evidence for it. But moderate Muslims are reluctant to speak up for a variety of reasons. One is the fear of playing into the hands of Hindu Right. Second, most Muslims don’t have sufficient knowledge of Islam to challenge those who invoke Islamic teachings to justify their actions. Third, many simply want to get on with their lives instead of sticking their neck out.

But time for such excuses is over. If Muslims are serious about rescuing whatever remains of moderate Islam from the jihadi mafia which is acquiring ever more menacing teeth with each passing day, they cannot remain passive spectators any longer.


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