The JEI which began as a staunch opponent of the India’s secular, democratic polity (idolatrous system) had now turned into its active participant some 40 years later. Marking this shift, the phrase iqaamat-e-din disappeared from the mastheads of the Jamaat’s publications
Meet Irfan Ahmed. Having started his educational journey from a madarsa in north India, he is today assistant professor of politics in the School of Political and Social Inquiry at Monash University, Australia and leads the country’s Centre for Islam and the Modern World. What got him there, quite possibly, is his book Islam and Democracy in India: The transformation of Jamaat-e-Islami, published in 2010 by Permanent Black. The book forms part of ‘The Indian Century’, a series of select books on India’s recent past. The Princeton University Press, in the USA, has also published the book. “It’s the most important book written on Muslims in India in the last three decades”, says Dale F Eickelman, a renowned US-based professor of anthropology and a scholar of Islam and Muslim societies.
No mean achievement for a first venture, an outcome of Ahmed’s PhD thesis on the subject from Amsterdam University. “You’ve come a long way baby”, one might say to him in appreciation. That, in short summary, is also what Ahmed has to say to/about, the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JEI) in his book. Without quarrelling with Ahmed’s conclusion based on meticulous research, the fact remains that his conclusion, though not incorrect, is incomplete. A complete sentence about the JEI should read: You’ve come a long way baby, but you’ve still got a long way to go. Though the JEI has in practice moved far away from its ideological moorings, it has yet to cut the umbilical cord that still ties it to the lethal ideology of Syed Abul Ala Maududi, the Jamaat’s founder.
That there is a movement within the Jamaat movement in India is true and that’s a welcome thing. But there is a limit to the extent you can play with ideas, how far you could go with verbal jugglery. How long can you “Interpret” and “re-interpret” Maududi to legitimise a course of action which would have been absolute heresy for the good maulana? All that you achieve in the process is to stand Maududism on its head.What is needed is a clean break, a decent burial of the Maududian worldview but as of now, the JEI is nowhere close to getting there. Ahmed’s otherwise engaging book fails to satisfactorily address the disjoint between Maududism – the bedrock of Jamaat politics – and its otherwise welcome departure – in the secular, democratic direction.Given this dislocation, to many Indian Muslims the JEI looks like the mirror image, the Muslim version of the Hindu rightwing RSS, in many respects.
The Lenin of Islamism
To Maududi, the Lenin of Islamism, goes the dubious credit of “discovering” (Syed Qutb of Egypt of the Muslim Brotherhood was later to toe the same line and stretch it even further) that unlike other religions, Islam is not just faith and rituals, kalima, namaaz, roza, haj, zakaat. Above all, Islam is a “revolutionary ideology” whose goal is the capture of state power. To be a Muslim is to be a revolutionary whose entire being is dedicated to dismantling and overthrowing all man-made ideas, institutions, laws, isms – capitalism, communism, fascism – and grabbing political power to establish hukumat-e-ilahiya (Allah’s Kingdom) and Shariah laws. Since there’s no place for nation and nationalism in Islam, it is the bounden duty of a Muslim to strive through all means possible to establish Allah’s Kingdom and Shariah rule throughout the globe: from Japan and China to Iceland and America. If Islam is the revolutionary ideology and Muslims the revolutionaries, for Maududi the Jamaat and Jamaatis are its vanguard.
In short, here’s Lenin’s famous “What is to Done?” thesis Islamised. Replace Marxism with Islam, communists with Muslims and the Bolshevik Party with the Jamaat and there you have the complete blueprint for a totalitarian Islamic state.
For Maududi, the bloody partition of India was a great leap forward since it had given birth to a dar al-Islam (Pakistan). Admittedly, there was a little anomaly here, a little twist in the tale. The creator of the “dar al-Islam”, it so happened, was a beardless man whose commitment to Islam was suspect and who’s avowal of secularism and democracy threatened to turn Pakistan into a Paap-istan. But Maududi was confident that his Jamaat would ensure course correction and soon usher hukumat-e-ilahiya in Pakistan. The subsequent trajectory of the Jamaat and the fate of its agenda for Pakistan (and Bangladesh) lie outside the scope of this article since the focus here is on the Indian version of the Jamaat.
Jamaat in Dar al-Kufr
If a part of the partitioned country was dar al-Islam, the other part – greater in size and larger in numbers – was “dar al-kufr” as Maududi saw it. The agenda of the Jamaat in the predominantly Muslim dar al-Islam appeared simple enough. But what was the Jamaat’s rump – with all of 240 arkan(members) in 1948 – left behind in Hindu majority India to do? Not much of a problem there, the maulana believed. If the transition of Pakistan into an Islamic state was a certainty, Maududi was also confident that there was “at least a 60% chance for Islam’s success” in India too (1). If you believed there was “at least 60% chance of success” in whatever you seek to achieve, wouldn’t you “go for it”? So the JEI “went for it”; took up the challenge of transforming infidel India into a dar al-Islam.
If you find this idea bizarre, hilarious, ridiculous or whatever, many Indian Muslims thought so tooeven then. In his book Ahmed narrates the account of a retired professor of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), who as a student of the same university in the 1960s had attended a lecture addressed by Syed Hamid Husain, then a prominent Jamaat leader. Formerly a communist, the highly Westernised Husain had later embraced Maududism. During his lecture, Husain attacked the ideas of secularism, nationalism, and democracy offering Islam as the only real alternative before India. Ahmed’s interviewee challenged Husain, arguing that it was “foolish” and “reactionary” to fantasise about an Islamic system in Hindu predominant India. But an unfazed Husain asserted: “Yes, it is possible”. Asked if Hindus needed to convert to Islam for the miracle to happen, his answer was, “no”. Husain was simply reiterating the Jamaat line that just as a secular, democratic system remained un-Islamic irrespective of whether an Abdullah or a Ram Prasad presided over the affairs of state, so long as an “Islamic system” was established, it did not matter who was at the helm!
Maududi’s and the JEI’s conviction that India could be Islamised rested on three assumptions:
Assumption one: a very large section of Hindus who are victims of caste oppression can easily be won over to the fold of Islam. Why would lower caste Hindus who did not convert to Islam through centuries of “Muslim rule” in India do so under the new secular democratic dispensation? Because there was no Maududi and his Jamaat on the scene earlier, might well have been the response.
Assumption two: As the Jamaat’s monthly Urdu organ, Zindagi, argued in 1955: “If we consider the population of the whole world... we can say that every sixth man is a Muslim, whereas out of three hundred men there is only one member of the Communist Party. Despite their small number, however, communism has captured one-fourth of the planet and is one of the two leading powers” (2) (Yet another example of the Jamaat’s love-hate relationship with communists?) Numbers apparently did not matter; what did was the determination and sacrifices of the vanguard.
Assumption three: Since Hinduism did not have a “permanent worldview” Hindus had no choice but to look to others for a system of governance. That is why they ended up adopting the “evil principles” of secularism, nationalism and democracy from the West. The task before the JEI therefore was straight forward: to tell the Hindu leaders of the Congress, “It is your duty (farz) to recognise, assess and examine... the Islamic principles and display the same objectivity you have adopted towards European democracy and Russian communism. We are sure that if you examine that, then you would realise that in reality only the Islamic system is the guarantee of your and the world’s welfare” (3).
Jamaat’s recipe for India: Hindu state
Based on such comforting assumptions the strategy proposed by Maududi and adopted by the JEI was simple: Goad the Hindu leaders of the Congress party to ditch the ideals of secularism and democracy, establish a “Hindu state”. In short, the Jamaatis preferred that Indian Muslims live under a Hindu state instead of a secular state.
While deposing before the Justice Munir Commission (appointed to probe the vicious and violent anti-Ahmediya agitation in Pakistan in 1953), Maududi had stated: "I should have no objection even if the Muslims of India are treated... as shudras and mlechchas and Manu’s laws are applied to them, depriving them of all share in the government and the rights of a citizen" (4). Embarrassed by such a statement from their leader, Maududi’s followers continue to claim that the good maulana was misquoted by Justice Munir. But then, here is the 1950 statement of Maulana Abullais Islahi Nadwi, the first amir of the JEI: “I request… the Hindu leaders to adopt only those principles and based on them establish whatever way of life exists among them. We would prefer that (Hindu state) to the secular systems of Europe. In the (Hindu) system, if there is a provision of death for Muslims like us, we are agreed even to that” (5).
“For a Muslim it is not even legitimate to breathe in a secular society unless he strove to convert it into a dar al-Islam,” said Maududi. However, his and JEI’s preference for a Hindu state seem to have been purely ‘tactical’. It was believed that a ‘Hindu state’ (to be installed with full encouragement from Muslims) couldn’t last long because Hinduism lacked a “permanent worldview” and was cursed with the caste hierarchy. A “Hindu state” was sure to collapse and the JEI (Islam’s Bolsheviks) would quickly step in to seize the moment. As simple as that.
Equipped with such impressive theological arsenal, the 240-member army of the JEI enthusiastically launched its Islamist project in post-Independence India. In the beginning, the JEI chose to float an island of its own in the sea of kufrso that Jamaatis may lead an uncontaminated Islamic life. The organisation’spurist agenda included the following:
- Jamaat workers were prohibited from participating in any way in the electoral process. No standing for elections, no voting since Maududi believeditmeant participation in the taghuti nizaam (idolatrous system).
- Staying away from elections was not enough. Everything other component of the state apparatus, part of the system that propped up the un-Islamic system, was to be shunned.
- Government service, particularly in the Indian army, judiciary, and the banking system were an absolute no, no. (Muslims inspired by Maududism resigned from their government jobs before joining the Jamaat).
- Joining the legal profession and practising as a lawyer was prohibited; taking cases to the courts was not permitted either, except in extreme situations.
- Leave alone government educational institutions, even studying in a Muslim-managed educational institution like the Aligarh Muslim University was outsince Maududi had called such institutions “slaughter houses” for Muslims. Madrasas run by various Muslim outfits because too were “slaughter houses” although of a different kind. So were Muslims to stay illiterate? Not at all, the JEI would open darsgaahs (schools) and saani darsgaahs (institutions of higher education), which would impart true Islamic education and nurture future Jamaatis. Girls’ education was fine, but co-education was out.
- The JEI would have nothing to do with other Muslim organisations because they lacked the “fundamental perspective of Islam” (read did not subscribe to Maududi’s Islam).
- Any dealing with banks,savings or pension accounts, educational or business loans, allwere haraam because interest equals usury, which Islam prohibits.
- Sinful practises such as listening to music, watching films etc were all haraam.
- Birth control measures were un-Islamic and for women, the burqa was a must.
How on earth was the Jamaat going to transform anything with such self-imposed isolation?Daawah is the answer. For starters the JEI issued a daawah to top Indian leaders, including the then President of India, Rajendra Prasad and Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. Sadly for Maududi’s followers, the response, if any, was not encouraging. For converting the aam aadmi to its cause, it published books and periodicals in several Indian languages. But here again, the progress was far from soul-stirring. According to the JEI’s own figures, as against 240 members in 1948, it had grown only to 981 members in 1960 when the total Muslim population in India then was around 42 million. Not a very encouraging picture that.
The vanguard behind the masses
As was only to be expected, the JEI found itself running into hurdles every step of the way. India’s secular democratic polity and more so the Indian Muslims neartotal indifference to its agenda soon forced the organisation to rethink or be reduced to irrelevance. As it turned out, the demands of survival won over the dictates of ideology. Maududi had envisaged the Jamaat as the vanguard of the ummah. But if it has any presence on the Indian landscape today it is only because it willy-nilly chose to be led by the Muslim masses. Slowly but surely, the body that had set out to transform India was itself transformed. That this transformation was not uniform but zigzag and patchy, is another matter.
The Jamaat’s step-by-step ideological retreat is best illustrated through its shifting stance towards the political, electoral process.
- Soon after independence, the JEI switched from its original hukumat-e-Ilahia mission to that of iqaamat-e-din (establishing religion). It’s just a change of terminology, both mean the same thing, the cadre was told. In that case, why change? The realisation,presumably, that harping on “Allah’s Kingdom” will not only not go down too well with the Hindu majority, even Muslims might scoff at the absurdity of the proposition.
- In the first two general elections of independent India – 1952, 1957 – Muslims were warned that taking part in the taghuti nizam (idolatrous system) was totally un-Islamic, haraam. Indian Muslims however totally ignored the Jamaat and participated actively both as voters and as candidates. Finding itself totally isolated, the JEI was forced to revisit Maududi.
- In a dramatic u-turn on the eve of the 1962 elections, the JEI mass-distributed a pamphlet in Urdu under a title in Persian: Pas che bayad kard (What is to be done?). Lenin again! The pamphlet penned by the JEI’s amir Nadwi pleaded with Muslims to participate in elections for not to do so would be “tantamount to suicide”. (6) Muslims in any case had been actively participating since 1952!
- The ground for theshift had been prepared in 1961 when circumstances forced a new realisation on the Jamaat’s shura (highest decision making body): “if the path of elections could be used for the goal of iqaamat-e-din” participating in the “ungodly system” was acceptable, it decided. Interestingly however, in the resolutions passed by the shura the phrase iqaamat-e-din was given a quiet burial. Participation in the elections was now OK because it was “in the interest of Islam and Muslims”. But conditions applied: a Muslim wanting to contest elections must shun non-Islamic parties; it was OK for a Jamaati to vote only “under some conditions”; votes must only go to a candidate who is “not from a non-Islamic party”. For all practical purposes, however, the JEI stayed away from the 1962 polls.
- Until the early 60s, the JEI would have nothing to do with other Muslim organisations because, as mentioned earlier, they lacked the “fundamental perspective of Islam.” But eager to be a part of a new political formation in north India in 1964 – the All-India Muslim Majlis Mushawarat – Nadwi assured its leader Syed Mahmud through the its mouthpiece Radiance that the JEI had full faith in the Indian constitution and in a secular state. However, it remained opposed to sharing a platform with Hindus. All said and done, in the 1967 polls too, JEI members did not contest elections and the ban on its workers from voting remained.
- In the aftermath of the Emergency imposed by Mrs Indira Gandhi – during which period the JEI was banned and many of its top leaders jailed – the organisation took no official stand on the 1977 elections which dislodged Mrs Gandhi from power.
JEI in defence of secularism
Fast forward to 1985.Though matters reached a flashpoint and the organisation seemed on the verge of a vertical split, the leadership at long last pushed through its resolve allowing Jamaat workers to vote. After nearly four decades of organisational twists and torments over the issue, Jamaat members were at last free to vote: for Muslim or even non-Muslim candidates. The only condition now was that the candidates be of good moral character, sympathetic to Muslim concerns and not affiliated to any party whose ideology is “clearly against Islam and Muslims”.
The JEI which began as a staunch opponent of the India’s secular, democratic polity (idolatrous system) had now turned into its active participant some 40 years later. Marking this shift, the phrase iqaamat-e-din disappeared from the mastheads of the Jamaat’s publications. What’s more, with the rise of virulent Hindutva in Indian politics from the mid-80s onwards, JEI turned from mere participant to an ardent defender of democracy and secularism. In the aftermath of the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, it even floated a platform, Forum for Democracy and Communal Harmony, wooing practising Hindus, communists and avowed atheists to jointly combat “communalism and fascism”. Invited to the Jamaat’s ijtima of 2002 were several Hindu high priests (shankaracharyas). One of them even blew a conch on the occasion and chanted, “Om, Om!” Had he been alive, what would Maududi think or say?
Along with the radical shift of the JEI on the electoral front, some other foundational Maududian myths too came into question. Maududi’s neat delineation of the world into dar al-Islam and dar al-kufr was one of them. Some Jamaat leaders now found democracy to be “an unexpected divine boon.” Others claimed that India is neither dar al-Islam nor dar al-kufr but a dar al-daawah. But for the devoted followers of Maududi all this is heresy of the highest order.
In his book, Ahmed well captures the disgust of a Jamaat member from Delhi who was among many who quit the organisation when the ban on voting was lifted: “How on earth could Islam allow voting for taghut (idolatrous parliamentary system)? When I joined the Jamaat, we were told to eliminate taghut, secularism, democracy... everything against the Quran... We joined for iqaamat-e-din. Now the Jamaat is fighting for iqaamat-e-secular democracy. Do you know about the Forum for Democracy and Communal Harmony?... What is it doing? It is fighting for the glory of secularism and democracy. You have also read Maududi. Tell me what has secularism got to do with Islam? Where is the original ideology?”
Ahmed’s field research in India conducted between 2001 and 2004 covered the cities of Delhi, Aligarh, Rampur and Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh and Patna in Bihar. As we shall see later, had he extended his work to cover the southern state of Kerala (where Muslims are around 24 per cent of the total population), especially post-2002, he would have found the JEI to have moved even further down the road to secularism and democracy.
In 2003, the Kerala unit of the Jamaat set up the Solidarity Youth Movement (SYM) which has since been involved “in generating mass awareness on a range of social issues as well as leading and participating in social movements against anti-people government policies, fascism, imperialism, terrorism and environmental degradation.” Particularly noteworthy is the fact that, “We work closely with non-Muslim groups in Kerala, particularly leftists, who are concerned about similar social causes” (7). The SYM has organized several state-wide rallies to which it regularly invites nationally respected non-Muslim activists, most of whom are avowed atheists.
In the last two years the JEI has been fluttering its eyes at communists who were once seen as its biggest ideological foes. In the Assembly polls in Kerala earlier this year, the JEI officially backed the communists-led Left Democratic Front (LDF), leading to the protest resignation from the organisation of its former political secretary, Hameed Vanimel among some others. But the JEI stuck to its support to the communists’ front.
And in what some might see as a big leap forward, in April 2011, the JEI launched its own political party, the Welfare Party of India (WPI) which will henceforth participate actively in the India’s “idolatrous system”.
But this is where the good news ends. While Ahmed greets the gradual transformation of the JEI with an unqualified welcome, the JEI‘s politics remain suspect in the eyes of many Indians, Muslims included. A clear indicator of this is the sharp response of many Muslims to the launch of the Welfare Party.
Here, for example, are the comments of Sahil Khan: “The floating of the new political party by the Jamaat… represents a shift in terms of the Indian Jamaat’s strategy in the face of a transformed political context. Yet this does not necessarily mean a transformation of its overall ideology. Given the Jamaat’s particular understanding of Islam, which many other Muslims do not accept, it is not surprising that the move has provoked considerable debate, including visceral opposition, in Muslim circles” (8).
The core of the dilemma before the JEI continues to be this: because the organization merely seeks to explain away this or that departure from Maududism, or at best resorts to a we-don’t-agree-with-everything-the-Maulana-said approach, it invites suspicion and sharp criticism from the left and the right. To the ardent followers of Maududi, the organisation is deviating from “true Islam.” As for those (Muslims and non-Muslims alike) who consider Maududism as a recipe for a totalitarian state, (some even call it “fascist”), its movement towards secularism and democracy are seen as more opportunistic, temporary, tactical moves. For them, therefore,the JEI is not very different from the Hindu rightwing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Secular Indians view the sangh parivar (the RSS including its affiliates such as the Bhartiya Janata Party, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal etc) as neo-fascist, proto-fascist,or simply fascist. Ironically, the JEI too considers the sangh parivar as fascist. But the fact is that there are striking similarities between the two. Before we examine the similarities, let’s take a quick look at the background of the RSS and the sangh parivar.
Islamic state vs Hindu Rashtra
The RSS was founded in 1925 by a Maharashtrian Brahmin named Keshav Baliram Hedgewar who was heavily influenced by the writings of a fellow Maharashtrian Brahmin, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (1883-1966) who championed the cause of a “Hindu nation” (Hindu Rashtra). If for Maududi being a Muslim did not mean just namaaz, roza..., for Savarkar being a Hindu had nothing to do with puja-paath. As elaborated in his ideological treatise, Hindutva: Who is a Hindu,India belonged only to those who considered it to be both a punyabhoomi (Holy Land) and pitrubhoomi (Fatherland). Muslims and Christians were foreigners since their holy lands lay outside India, had no place in Savarkar’s Hindu Rashtra. (Though it could not be proved in court, many historians maintain that he was the mastermind of the conspiracy which culminated in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi by Nathu Ram Godse, a former RSS worker. (The RSS was banned following the assassination).
The head of the RSS is referred to as the sarsanghchalak. Before his death in 1940, in a sealed envelope Hedgewar had anointed another Maharashtiran Brahmin Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar (1906-1973) his successor. For his followers Golwalkar who was the sarsanghchalak from 1940-’73 remainstheir most revered chief, respectfully referred to as ‘Pujyaniya Guruji’ or as ‘Guru Golwalkar’. Critics of the RSS worldview refer to him as the ‘Guru of Hate’.
Here is what Golwalkar wrote in his book in praise of Nazism, We, or Our Nationhood Defined, first published in 1938: "German national pride has now become the topic of the day. To keep up purity of the nation and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races, the Jews. National pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for races and cultures having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into a united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by" (9)
Golwalkar’s message for India’s religious minorities was clear: "From the standpoint sanctioned by the experience of shrewd nations, the non-Hindu people (read Muslims, Christians, Parsis) in Hindustan must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and revere Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but the glorification of Hindu nation, i.e., they must not only give up their attitude of intolerance and ingratitude towards this land and its age long traditions, but must also cultivate the positive attitude of love and devotion instead; in one word, they must cease to be foreigners or may stay in the country wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, for less any preferential treatment, not even the citizen's rights" (10).
RSS: JEI’s mirror image
To return to the similarities between the Jamaat and the RSS:
- If Maududi fantasised about an Islamic state, for Golwalkar the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha, “Hindu Rashtra” (Hindu Nation, Hindu Rule) was/is the goal. If Islam meant “revolutionary ideology” for the former, the catch-phrase for the ideologues of the Hindu right was ‘Hindutva’. (Had Hindus heeded the sagely advice of Maududi and the JEI, instead of a secular-democratic republic India post-Independence would have gone the way of a Hindu Rashtra).
- The RSS claims it is merely a ‘cultural’ organisation engaged in ‘character building and inculcating patriotism’; the Jamaat, too, pretends to be a religio-cultural body. That the RSS claim is a sham, an open secret for it tightly controls the politics of its affiliate, the BJP. For secular Indians, the RSS in fact is the political party and the BJP its ‘parliamentary wing’. Having launched the Welfare Party this year, the Jamaat too is at great pains to convince people that the WPI is an independent entity. Notmany take this claim seriously since apart from anything else the leading lights of the party are also top-level office bearers of the Jamaat.
- The Hindu Rashtra ideal of the sangh parivar is the polar opposite a secular democratic polity. That, however, does not stop the RSS from active participation in the country’s democratic polity through its proxy, the BJP. In fact, swearing by democracy, the RSS and the BJP use every opportunity to remind Indians that it fought for the return of democracy whileit was the Congress under Mrs Indira Gandhi which tried to dismantle it by imposing Emergency rule in the 70s. The ‘Islamic State’ ideal too is at complete odds with the idea of a secular democratic state. But the “transformed” Jamaat as we have seen above is a keen defender of secularism and democracy.
- It is clear from the literature put out by both organisations that just as the RSS embodies social conservatism of the Hindu middle class, the Jamaat embodies social conservatism of the Muslim middle class. Both are archetypal patriarchal outfits, Male Clubs with their ‘women’s wing’ for adornment. Their views of an “ideal woman” are remarkably similar, too: conveyor belts to transmit culture from generation to generation.
Whose Maududi is he anyway?
If there are many similarities, there is also a sharp situation-defined difference between the two.The RSS sees in Hindu majority India afavourable “natural climate” for its sustenance just as Pakistan is for the Jamaat. Some wonder whether the Jamaat in India is adopting a more benign posture only because it is compelled to buy time given the rather “hostile mileau”, unlike in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Jammu and Kashmir where the Jamaat shows its “true colours”.
If there is skepticism about the Jamaat’s real motives from without, there is scathing criticism of the organization from within the Maududian camp by those who accuse it of betraying the pristine ideals of “true Islam” out of cowardice or sheer opportunism. Apart from those who’ve left the organization in sheer disgust, there are also those who are still within the Jamaat, perhaps dreaming of an opportune time to reverse the clock. But the most consistent and the sharpest critique of the JEI comes from the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).It’s an organization which emerged from the wombs of the Jamaat to launch itself in the 70s, and which since the ‘90s has, rightly or otherwise been accused of involvement in numerous terrorist activities across the country.
Though the sub-title of his book might suggest otherwise, an examination of the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) is an integral and a critical component of Ahmed’s thesis on the JEI. It is by contrasting the radicalization of SIMI – an offspring of the Jamaat – in response to the upsurge of virulent Hindutva from the ‘80s onwards that Ahmed seeks to bring out the transformation of the Jamaat into sharp relief.
India: From riots to crimes against humanity
Those familiar with the recent history of India would be aware of the growing communalisation of India’s polity since the mid-80s thanks to the meteoric rise of Hindutva culminating in the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, the anti-Muslim, Shiv Sena-led pogrom in Mumbai in December 1992-January 1993 and the genocidal targeting of Gujarat’s Muslims by the Narendra Modi led BJP government in 2002.
Since the 1980s onwards, from an era of “riots” India moved on to an era of one-sided, state-condoned and even state-sponsored carnages and pogroms targeting India’s religious minorities. In this post-riots scenario the role of the state is no longer limited to its earlier partisan conduct.In the past three decades it has been an active accomplice, prime instigator, even chief sponsor of mass crimes. Nellie, Assam 1983 (target Muslims); Delhi 1984 (target Sikhs); Bhagalpur 1989 (target Muslims); Mumbai 1992-’93 (target Muslims); Gujarat 2002 (target Muslims); Kandhamal, Orissa 2008 (Christians) are the most gruesome reminders of this ugly reality.
Were we to go by the definition adopted by the UN’s 1948 ‘Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide’, the Indian state emerges with the dubious distinction of having subjected its religious minorities – Muslims, Sikhs, Christians – to genocidal targeting six times in 25 years. It’s a record that even many dictatorships would find tough to match. Thanks to this prevailing culture of impunity, in each case, the masterminds of the mass killings have gone unpunished, while the police officers responsible for shocking dereliction of duty got promotions after promotions.
Given this backdrop, for well over a decade now, not only secular activists but highly respected establishment figures – retired top-level police officers and civil servants – have repeatedly made two assertions:one, no communal carnage can last beyond 24 hours unless the state wants it to;two, “by its failure to protect the life and property of a section of citizens, the state sows the seeds of extremism” (11).
Prem Shankar Jha, a veteran journalist and columnist, writes regularly for the national and international media. In the midst of the 2002 Gujarat carnage, in an article he wrote for The Hindustan Times he lamented: “For every one person who has been killed (Gujarat 2002) there are ten whose property has been destroyed, breadwinner taken and the family rendered destitute. Not the Centre, not the state, not a single political party, not a single industry association has even thought of setting up a relief fund to which concerned citizens can contribute to facilitate their rehabilitation. With such callousness at home, we will soon not need Pakistan or Kashmir to breed our terrorists for us” (12).In another article written around the same time, he repeated the warning: “Would it be surprising if some of them (Muslims) are asking themselves whether Hindus will ever let them prosper in India and whether it would not be better to go out in a blaze of terrorist revenge?”(13)
Much the same thing was said In a different context by Antonio Cassese, the first Court President of the 11-member bench of judges appointed in the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal to try Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and others for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes: “How could a woman who has been raped… or a civilian whose parents or children had been killed in cold blood, quell their desire for vengeance if they knew the authors of those crimes were left unpunished? The only civilized alternative to this desire for revenge is to render justice” (14).
Indian democracy, sadly, has been lax in providing such civilized alternative, in the delivery of justice in the context of communal violence post-Independence. What we have seen instead is an undeclared culture of impunity for the perpetrators and masterminds of communal carnages and also police officers whose constitutional obligation it is to impartially enforce the rule of law. Reports of various judicial commissions – appointed by different governments from time to time to probe incidents of communal violence, fix responsibilities and make recommendations – have two conclusions in common. One, the violence was never spontaneous but the result of meticulous planning, organisation and implementation by Hindu communal bodies. Two, police and the administration showed anti-minority bias. Repeated recommendations by commission after commission on the imperative of measures to pre-empt violence, to punish the perpetrators and derelict police officers have gone unheeded. It is in this climate of permissiveness that the culture of impunity has grown with no accountability mechanisms in place.
As many peace-loving and justice-minded Indians have repeatedly emphasised in recent years, if the perpetrators of 1984 had been prosecuted and punished, the 1992-‘93 anti-Muslim pogrom in Mumbai may have been prevented; and if the perpetrators of 1992-’93 had been punished, the 2002 genocide in Gujarat 2002 may have been pre-empted.
SIMI turns to jihad, khilafat
You do not need to be an Al Qaeda supporter to point outthatthe absence of justice creates the climate for the birth of extremism Two months before India’s “26/11” (the 2008 terror attack on Mumbai), in his General Cariappa Memorial Lecture in Delhi, the then Union finance minister, PC Chidambaram, foresaw “new waves of terror” in India. “Out of the hopelessness and despair of the Muslim community — and if not addressed firmly, the Christian tribal communities too (Kandhamal) — will rise new waves of terror,” he warned. The national media chose to ignore the alarm bells rung by their favourite finance minister, or relegated it to a few paras on the inside pages. Soon after being made the Union home minister in the aftermath of 26/11, Chidambaram spoke again: “We cannot fight terrorism effectively unless we fight communalism with equal determination” (15).
If the 1984 massacre of innocent Sikhs produced “Sikh extremism”, the demolition of the Babri Masjid (December 1992), the anti-Muslim pogrom in Mumbai (1992-93), the genocidal targeting of Gujarat’s Muslims (2002) sowed the seeds of “Muslim extremism”. Terrorism is not the monopoly of any religion. Discrimination and injustice saw the birth of extremism among the Tamil Hindus in Sri Lanka and the Catholics in Ireland. But when an extremism brought into existence by force of circumstances finds anchor in a pre-existing ideology of terror, a closer look at the phenomenon becomes necessary.
Enter SIMI. When launched with the JEI’s blessings in 1977, SIMI‘s declared objective was “character building” to fight against the perceived twin evils of communism and capitalist consumerism with its “degenerate morality.” In less than a decade, however, this self-styled moral brigade had metamorphosed into crusaders for Islam, claiming for itself the mantle of “the real inheritor” of Maududism. In the mid-‘80s, SIMI had widely distributed eye-catching stickers proclaiming: “Secularism, NO; Democracy, NO; Nationalism, NO; Polytheism, NO; Only Islam”. The stickers adorned numerous Muslim homes and shops throughout India. From then on, Hindutva’s belligerence was matched by a rapid radicalisation of SIMI.
In December 1991, at an all-India conference held in Bombay (now Mumbai), SIMI issued its call for jihad. As Ahmed spells it out in his book, “By Jihad it did not mean a battle against temptation of the self; SIMI stated that it meant killing the enemy” (16). In SIMI’s analysis the agenda of the Hindutva forces was not limited to demolishing mosques and killing Muslims; its real goal was to wipe out Islam from India. The task before the jihadis, therefore was to “attack the root: polytheism”. In other words, SIMI proposed to wipe out idol worship from India. Having taken to jihad in 1991, in 1996 SIMI added the re-establishment of khilafat (caliphate) to its agenda.
Ahmed writes, “Now jihad was not only for the defence of Muslims under attack from the sangh parivar and the police, but was also for the establishment of the caliphate”. Without jihad, opined SIMI’s mouthpiece, Islamic Movement, “a revival of the caliphate is not possible”. In keeping with Maududi’s internationalism, if not stated in so many words, SIMI clearly implied that since Muslims and Islam were being targeted not only in India but elsewhere in the world too, its own jihad was part of a global jihad with caliphate as its goal. Further, in an argument that Maududi would heartily endorse, SIMI proclaimed that if Prophet Mohammed was a “mercy upon mankind” (Rahmatul lil Alemeen), he was also “a prophet of wars”. Once jihad, shahadat and khilafat had become its catch-call, SIMI embraced the Muslim Brotherhood’s epigram:
“Allah is Our Lord
Muhammed is our Commander
Quran is our Constitution
Jihad is our path
Shahadat (martyrdom) is our desire”.
“SIMI’s declaration of jihad”, says Ahmed, “did not stem from its members reading the Quran but from Hindutva’s violent mass mobilization against Muslims through its campaign to build the Ram Temple. Second, the SIMI became radical because the Indian state failed to practice secularism” (17). Agreed that the anti-Muslim hysteria generated by Hindutva and the reluctance, or refusal, of the India state to impartially enforce rule of law created the political climate in which SIMI’s militant idiom could find some resonance in a section of Indian Muslims. But surely, it’s one thing to talk about a hounded, targeted group being pushed towards extremist thinking, quite another to dress up your resistance to injustice in the theologically-loaded idioms of jihad, shahadat and khilafat? Why would SIMI quote Maududi back to the Jamaat except to indicate where it got its inspiration from: Maududism certainly with a sprinkling perhaps of Qutbism. And who else but the JEI introduced SIMI to the Maududian worldview?
Credibility in question
Yes, faced with the reality of secular democratic India, the JEI was forced to depart from the core ideas of Maududi. But it contented itself by explaining away its departure from these through interpretation or seeming disagreements with Maududism here and there while maintaining a façade of overall ideological fidelity. Such pragmatism or opportunism was bound to create problems for the JEI. If on one hand, those opposed to Maududi’s Islamism, found its equivocation suspect, Maududi’s devoted followers were bound to be outraged by such treachery. And in this they clearly had the good maulana on their side: “After all, what is the worth of that Islam which can be followed only in a specific context and, when the circumstances change, then it is abandoned and a different ideology is adopted according to convenience?” (18)
You cannot continue to swear by Maududi for whom secularism, democracy, nationalism were “evil principles” and simultaneously be ardent defenders of those very ideals without putting your credibility into question. There’s more than credibility at stake here. If the JEI’s embrace of secular democracy et al was sincere, it owed it to itself as much to others to undertake a searching critique of Maududi, pinpointed the fallacies of his core theses, given Maududism a decent burial, dissolved the JEI and found for itself a new name in tune with its new politics. This the JEI has never attempted. As a result, the ghost of Maududi still inhabits the Jamaati universe and Maududian cobwebs continue to cloud its edifice.
A friendly encounter
Here’s a personal example. In response to an article I wrote for an Indian daily around four years ago, I received a polite call from the secretary of the public relations department of the Maharashtra state unit of the JEI. The JEI, I was told, had some issues with what I had written about the organisation and was keen for a discussion. I readily agreed and we had a three-hour long conversation at the Mumbai office of the JEI, Maharashtra at which four senior office bearers were present.
Here, are a few examples from our friendly encounter:
Me: In the global market-place of ideas, the Jamaat invites Muslims and non-Muslims alike to the Maududian ideal of a Shariah-driven Islamic state. The best case scenario for a non-Muslim in your dream state is the status of a second class citizenship. Why on earth should any sane non-Muslim be enthused by this offer?
Response: My hosts question my contention that in the Islamic state envisaged by Maududi, a non-Muslim would be consigned to second-class citizenship status.
Me: I quote certain passages from Jihad fi sabilillah (Jihad for Allah’s sake), a booklet based on a 1939 lecture of Maududi and from the Munir Commission report.
Response: “Are you sure you are not misquoting?”
Me: I produce the booklet (in Urdu and in English) and photocopied pages from the Munir Commission.
Response: “In any case, we don’t agree with everything that Maulana Maududi said”, I am then told.
Me: If you don’t agree with some or all of the contents of Jihad fi sabilillah, whyshouldyou bepublishing and distributing it? Shouldn’t the JEI at least preface the booklet explaining clearly to readers its disagreements with its contents and an explanation of why you are circulating such problematic text?
Response: To the credit of my hosts, they agree I might have a point here.
Me: I gently point out how putting such booklets into circulation would, if anything, be counter-productive for the JEI. Were a non-Muslim to read such a pamphlet won’t he or she be put off Islam forever? If a young Muslim with an impressionable mind read such material, wouldn’t he or she be rendered a total misfit in a secular-democratic society like India? Having been influenced by such ideas, wouldn’t such a Muslim youth find SIMI more attractive than the JEI?”
Response: Some disagreements and arguments then an awkward silence.
Me: Non-Muslims accuse Muslims of double-standards? They say that wherever Muslims are in a majority they want Shariah law and Islamic state; they only want democracy and secularism wherever they are in a minority? Isn’t that your view too: Islamic state for Saudi Arabia and Iran, secularism and democracy for India? Does that sound consistent?
Response: What’s wrong with that? The Islamic state is far better than a secular democratic state.
Me: Better for whom and by what criteria? Shall we return to Jihad fi sabilillah?
Response: Some smiles but no coherent response.
Question:Your dream of an Islamic state in India makes no sense to me.
Response: None of my hosts retort that that was the past, that the JEI is now in favour of a secular state. Instead, the response from one of my hosts remarks: “If the communists can dream of a Marxist state why can’t we talk about an Islamic state so long as we go about it in a totally peaceful manner?” Ah, communists never seem to be far from the Jamaati’s mind.
Question: So you are still dreaming of an Islamic state in India?
Response: Why not? The day we are able to convince enough Indians about our vision…
It’s getting late. I am treated to lunch. We part company agreeing to revert to these questions some other day. (It’s not happened yet). I am left with the distinct impression that at least for my hosts – four senior office bearers of the JEI in Maharashtra – Islamic state and Shariah law in India are still not closed chapters.
JEI’s tell-tale Constitution
Could it be that the Maharashtra unit has yet to internalize the JEI’s transformation? The organization’s constitution which you could easily access of its website is quite an eye-opener (19). Ahmed, it seems, never visited the official website. Or perhaps he did not see much merit in pointing to the gulf between what the JEI still preaches and what it practices.
We learn from Ahmed’s book about the welcome shifts in the JEI’s towards embracing secularism and democracy, inter- and intra-religious pluralism etc. That this is so is empirically demonstrated by Ahmed through numerous practical examples. But let’s take a look at its constitution:
Iqaamat-e-din: Ahmed points out that from the mid-‘80s onwards, the expression iqaamat-e-din disappeared from the mastheads of JEI organs as also from its public discourse. But Article 4 of its constitution states: “The objective of the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind is Iqaamat-e-Deen, the real motive of which is solely the achievement of divine pleasure and success in the Hereafter... There is not even a single aspect of human life ranging from beliefs, rituals and morals to economic, social and political aspects which may be beyond its pale... Iqaamat of this Deen means that it, in its entirety and without exercising any discrimination or division, should be sincerely followed and followed single-mindedly. It should be so enforced and given effect to in all aspects of human life, individual as well as corporate, that the development of the individual, the reconstruction of society and the formation of State should all conform to this very Deen.
Pluralism: Article 6 states, “Every citizen of the Indian Union, whether male or female, and irrespective of the community or race to which he/she belongs, is eligible to the membership of the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, provided that he/she… bears witness, after understanding the Creed, La Ilaha Illallahu Muhammadur Rasulullah, with its Explanation (mentioned in Article 3), that the same is his/her Creed…” In other words, only Muslims are welcome and for that reciting the kalima itself is not enough. The JEI must satisfy itself that the aspirant has internalized its import. Article 9 further stipulates that “every member of the Jamaat shall have to endeavour that he/she should severe contacts of affection and friendship, but not the general human relations, with transgressors as well as iniquitous and God-neglecting people and should establish contact and connection with righteous and God-fearing people…” In other words, any relationship of “affection and friendship” with idol-worshippers and atheists is out of the question.
Idolatrous system: Along with lifting the ban on voting in the mid-80s, the JEI is also said to have relaxed its requirement that a member of the Jamaat must not hold a government job or approach the courts. But Article 8 states: “It shall be incumbent on every member that he or she should ... relinquish any key-post which he/she holds under an ungodly governmental system, or the membership of its legislature or a judicial office under its judicial system”. Article 9 has two further stipulations: “Every member of the Jamaat shall have to endeavour that he/she should… in case of being part of any ungodly governmental system or being instrumental in giving effect to its laws, should readily part with that means of sustenance… and… not go to un-Islamic law-courts for settlement of matters except under compelling necessity”.
Islamic state, shariah laws: More important than all the above is “The ideology of the Jamaat” section on the JEI’s website where the Maududian worldview may be revisited in its undiluted spelndour: “Jamaat believes that this world and everything that is in it has been created by the one God. He alone is the Creator and Sustainer of life in all its forms. Not only this; He is the Ruler and the Sovereign, and Omniscient, possesses the sole prerogative, absolute privilege and unfettered right of giving laws to mankind, through Prophets, to regulate the entire mundane activity of man… It is, thus, the duty of man, who is the vicegerent of God on earth, that he should not only worship God but also live his whole life according to His Law and render allegiance to Him, the Lord and the Sovereign”.
The challenge from Kerala
India’s southern state of Kerala has an unusual demographic mix. While Hindus constitute around 56 per cent of the state’s population, Muslims make up for about 24 per cent and 19 per cent are Christians. Thus Muslims and Christians – the two religious communities in India which have been at the receiving end of militant Hindutva in the last two decades– add up to nearly half the state’s population. In case of Muslims, apart from the Muslim majority state of Jammu and Kashmir, only Assam in the north-east has a higher percentage of Muslims (28.43 % according to official estimates) while the proportion of Muslims in Kerala and West Bengal is roughly the same. But it is only in Kerala that a Muslim party has since independence found a strong foothold and has frequently been part of the ruling coalition. Even today, it is part of the Congress-led United Democratic Front government with several of its ministers in the cabinet. Surprising as it might sound, the name of the party is Muslim League (the full name is Indian Union Muslim League).It’s the same party remember that spear-headed the demand for the creation of Pakistan.
Following partition, the IUML became a purely Indian entity though some of its leaders still refer to Mohammed Ali Jinnah as “hamare Qaid-e-Azam” along with the honorific “Rahmatullah alaihe”. While a party with a name like the Muslim League, its leadership exclusively Muslims and its support-base overwhelmingly Muslim remains problematic in a secular democratic, one thing seems clear: though aligned to a particular religious community, from the beginning the IUML has echoed Jinnah’s secular agenda for Pakistan just as the JEI remained committed to Maududi’s Islamic state ideal. The aims and objectives adopted by the IUML at its inception in 1948 were:
- “To uphold, defend, maintain, and assist in upholding, defending and maintaining the independence, freedom and honour of the Indian Union and to work for and contribute towards the ever increasing strength, prosperity and happiness of the people”.
- “To secure and protect the rights and interests of the Muslims and other minorities in the state and”
- “To promote mutual understanding, goodwill, amity, cordiality, harmony and unity between the Muslims and every other community of India”.
“The IUML has been working since its inception true to its objectives and upholds the ideals of secular democracy and social justice. It has a vision of safeguarding the cultural identity of the Muslims, making them capable of their share to nation building and to equip them to face the challenges of changing times with religious commitment and national outlook”, is how the party recounts its history on its official website (20).
Contrast this with the constitution of the Jamaat and its programmes in the initial years post-independence. The radical difference in the outlook of the IUML and the Jamaat accountsfor their radically different trajectories since 1947. The IUML has been represented in the Indian Parliament since the very first elections in 1952 and as mentioned above it has been part of coalition governments in Kerala on several occasions. What’s more, as chief minister the charismatic IUML leader CH Mohammed Koya led a coalition government in 1979 with support from the Congress party.
In comparison, until the boom in the petro-economy in the ‘70s which attracted a large numbers of Keralities to the new job opportunities in the Gulf countries, the influence of the JEI in Kerala was limited to a few pockets. Alive to the new possibilities, the JEI piggy-rode the resulting prosperity in Kerala and perhaps today it has its strongest presence in this southern state compared to anywhere else in the country.
In an article titled, ‘Socially Engaged Islam: A view from Kerala’, Yoginder Sikand sings high praise of the state unit of the JEI that would mesh well with Ahmed’s views on the progressive transformation of the Jamaat in India. Sikand writes, “Unlike much of the rest of India, Islamic organizations in Kerala are heavily involved in various forms of social activism, not limiting themselves simply to religious education and preaching or to petitioning the government for sops. This is one of the major reasons for the remarkable social, economic and educational progress that Kerala’s Muslims, who account for around a fourth of the state’s population, have witnessed in recent decades. Among the major Islamic movements in Kerala is the Jamaat-e-Islami”.
Sikand proceeds to elaborate on how through the institution of several forums and activities – the ‘Dialogue Centre’ (for promoting inter-community dialogue and understanding), ‘Dharma Dhara’, (the communications wing of JEI Kerala), ‘Jana Sevanam’ (micro-finance schemes for helping the poor), ‘Majlis Thaleem al Islami’ (under which banner it runs 150 schools, some 200 part-time madrasas and about a dozen Arabic colleges for Islamic higher studies) and the Solidarity Youth Movement (launched in 2003 for engaging with all sections of society for generating mass awareness on a range of social issues) – the JEI has established an impressive presence in Kerala.
Launched in 1989, a Malayali daily, Madhyamam, which shares the Jamaati worldview but is not its mouthpiece, today has an impressive circulation of some 2,00,000 copies. JEI Kerala clearly is a well-oiled machine and funds do not seem to be a constraint. As Sikand observes in his article, “The Kerala JI’sheadquarters are located at the HiraCentre, an imposing multi-storeybuilding in the heart of Calicut (Kozhikode), a town which, for centuries, has beena major Muslim centre. Enter the building and the stark contrast with north IndianMuslim organizations—even with the JI’s units in the north—is immediatelyevident. The building is sparkling clean and well-maintained, and it has separateoffices for its different wings, which are a staffed by team of professionallyqualified activists (and not just maulanas)” (21).
Ironically, the state with the strongest JEI presence also happens to be the state which has seen the strongest challenge to Maududism in recent years. The story of the JEI and the fate of Maududism are perhaps best concluded with an account of this mass campaign.
If the petro-dollars repatriated by Kerala’s Muslims employed in the Gulf were helpful in the JEI’s growing muscle, a number of developments in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s gave the JEI an opportunity to propel itself. The pro-JEI daily Madhyamamplayed a significant role fishing in troubled waters, discrediting existing Muslim leaders and organisations. The newspaper’s launch in 1989 coincided with a major split in the Samastha Kerala Sunni movement. This presented an opportunity to Madhyamam to highlight the opportunism of the existing leadership and the lack of its commitment to the community.
The demolition of the Babri Masjid which came as a rude jolt to Muslims across India created a major tumult within the IUML in Kerala. Many within and outside the party wanted the IUML to severe its links with the Congress party which was in power in Delhi but had failed to prevent the demolition. The IUML’s reluctance to do so resulted in a split within the party and disenchantment with it among a large section of Muslims in the state. A little later, the Kerala Nadwathul Mujahideen, among the most powerful Muslim bodies in the state, also split.
In this climate of growing disenchantment among Kerala’s Muslims the JEI saw a big opportunity for itself. However, it was soon to face a major competition from a different quarter.
As discussed above, the resurgence of virulent Hindutva from the mid-80s onwards, the unchecked demonization of Muslims and Islam resulted, among other things, in the radicalisation of a section of Indian Muslims. SIMI was one manifestation of this phenomenon. In 1989, Kerala saw the birth of the Islamic Seva Sangh (ISS), pitting its name and its politics against the sangh parivar’s Rashtriya Seva Sangh (RSS). Along with SIMI, the ISS was among the several Hindu and Muslim organisations that were banned in the immediate aftermath of the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Following the ban, the ISS leader Abdul Nasser Madni floated another organisation, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Though he has never been convicted by a court of law, Madni was jailed for long years for his alleged involvement in terror activities. In 2010, he was arrested once again by the Karnataka police for alleged involvement with some Muslim extremist groups. While the PDP has lost much steam in the process other extremist groups influenced by Maududism have surfaced to create problems for the JEI as also the IUML.
The ban on SIMI in December 1992 initially saw the mushrooming of several district level organisations of Muslim youth in Kerala, ostensibly with charitable and welfare activities as their limited goal: Malappuram Young Muslim Association (MYMA), Wayanad Young Muslim Association (WYMA), Kozhikode Young Muslim Association (KYMA) etc (22). Soon, however, these organisations came together to form the National Democratic Front (NDF). In 2006, the NDF from Kerala, the Karnataka Forum for Dignity (KFD) from Karnataka, and the Manitha Neethi Pasarai (MNP) from Tamilnadu state merged to form the Popular Front of India (PFI). In turn, the PFI announced the formation of a political party, the Social Democratic Party of India (SDP) in mid-2009.
Judging by the names of these organisations, their pronouncements and information posted on their own websites, one would imagine them to be bonafide organisations fighting for democracy, human dignity and fundamental rights for all. But as many Muslims from these southern states will tell you, the PFI and its constituents are far from democratic outfits. According to these Muslims and not just the intelligence agencies and the police, the PFI and its predecessor the NDF are nothing but SIMI re-incarnated.
Forget others, even the JEI’s Kerala unit was forced to go public, distancing itself from the NDF/PFI just as it had done earlier with SIMI. In April 2008, the JEI mouthpiece in Malayali, Probodhanam, published a hard-hitting article titled ‘Jihad Unlimited’ blasting the NDF for “ridiculously imitating” HAMAS and Chechnyan Mujahideen. It charged the NDF with moral policing and wrongly interpreting jihad which was bound to spoil the lives of “gullible youth” (23).
Here we have a replay in Kerala of the Jamaat-SIMI feud elsewhere in the country which has been dealt with above. The significant thing about Kerala, however, is that many Muslim organisations recognised this as an intra-Maududian feud and decided to launch a massive state-wide campaign targeting Maududism itself. That the over three-year long campaign between 2008 and 2011 was no flash in the pan is evident from the fact that spearheading the campaign were mass organisations like the youth wing (it claims a membership of over 6 lakhs) of the IUML, both factions of the Nadwathul Mujahideen.
Why were these mass organisations so perturbed? Some might argue that the IUML was merely protecting its electoral base but that would be missing the larger point. It may be pointed out that despite the sangh parivar having had a strong presence in the state for long, till date the BJP has failed even to win even a single seat in the state assembly, leave alone one in the national parliament. The argument of the Muslim organisations involved in the campaign was simple: It is to the credit of Kerala’s Hindus that they have shunned the sangh parivar’s communal politics. If nothing else, it was the reciprocal duty of Kerala’s Muslims to oppose communal and extremist Muslim bodies. The failure to do so will implicate the state’s Muslims in opening the doors to the communalisation of the state.
For KM Shaji, the dynamic president of the IUML’s Youth League (now also a member of the state assembly) who held countless public meetings across the state challenging Maududism, between the politics of the Muslim League and the Jamaat there is a world of difference. According to him, being in the IUML it is possible for a Muslim to remain true to his faith as well as to his country and its secular democratic polity: there is no contradiction, no tension between the two. But if you subscribe to Maududi’s ideology, you are trapped in an ethical morass, compelled to live the life of a hypocrite or a misfit as a citizen, apologetic about your Indianness.
Interestingly, if the Youth League and the Nadwathul Mujahideen provided the numbers to the campaign, the ideological thrust was provided by an ex-Jamaati, CT Abdurahiman, head of the Dayapuram Educational and Cultural Centre, in Calicut since its inception in 1984. According to NP Ashley, a young teacher-cum-activist associated with Dayapuram, during the campaign ‘CT Sir’ who is well versed in Islamic texts and Islamic history wrote a critique of Maududi titled, The Roots of Muslim Terrorism. Over 1,000 copies of the booklet in Malayali were sold in less than four days of Ramzan in Calicut city. During my meeting with him at Dayapuram, Calicut in 2008, ‘CT Sir’ told me that ideologically speaking, Maududism, Nazism and Stalinism have much in common.
That this mass campaign was highly successful was evident from the results of the Assembly polls in Kerala in May 2011. Clearly, the Jamaat as well as the NDF/PFI/SDP failed to leave any impress. “The very impressive performance of the IUML in the elections only means that Kerala’s Muslims have said an emphatic no to communal, extremist politics in Islam’s name”, says Ashley.
It remains to be seen whether the Jamaat-floated Welfare Party of India is a non-starter. As mentioned earlier, its launch itself was greeted by widespread scepticism and criticism. To those wedded to the Maududian worldview, this was final proof of the JEI’s betrayal of its founder. Those opposed to it voiced the concern that if it were to take off, the WPI would achieve little more than fan Hindu communalism.
The Kerala example shows that until it snips its umbilical tie with Maududi, the JEI would continue to find itself squeezed from both ends: from anti-Maududi Muslim organisations such as the IUML from one side, radical outfits like SIMI/NDF/PFI with their claims of being the “real inheritors of Maududism” on the other.
- Irfan Ahmed, Islam and Democracy in India: The transformation of Jamaat-e-Islami; Permanent Black, India (for sale in South Asia only) and Princeton University Press, New York, for sale in the USA.
- Quote in Ahmed’s book.
- Quoted in Ahmed’s book.
- Report of The Court of Inquiry constituted under Punjab Act II of 1954 to inquire into the Punjab Disturbances of 1954 (Popularly referred to as the Munir Commission Report. The report can be accessed from the website of Muslims for Secular Democracy (India): http://mfsd.org/maududi.htm
- Quoted in Ahmed’s book.
- Quoted in Ahmed’s book.
- Yoginder Sikand, Socially-Engaged Islam: A View from Kerala; http://www.scribd.com/doc/13135170/Yoginder-Sikand-About-JIH
- Sahil Khan, Indian Jamaat-e-Islami finally discards its longstanding pretence of being a benign religio-cultural organization;
- Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, We, or Our Nationhood Defined, 1938, p 37.
- Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, Ibid, p.52.
- Teesta Setalvad, Who’s to blame? Cover story, Communalism Combat; http://www.sabrang.com/cc/comold/march98/page1a.htm
- Prem Shankar Jha, Separate fact from fiction; The Hindustan Times; http://www.cscsarchive.org:8081/MediaArchive/audience.nsf/%28docid%29/DF8335889E7F52D4E5256B7D0030546B
- Prem Shankar Jha, Why Narendra Modi has to go; http://www.premshankarjha.com/articles/articles_t_21.html
- Chris Stephen, Judgement Day: TheTrial of Slobodan Milosevic; pg. 98; Atlantic Monthly Press, New York, 2004).
- Javed Anand, Seize the Moment; Seminar; http://www.india-seminar.com/2009/593/593_javed_anand.htm
- Ahmed, ibid.
- Ahmed, ibid.
- Quoted in Ahmed’s book.
- Yogi Sikand, ibid.
- NP Ashley, through e-mail to this writer.
- MP Prasanth, New Indian Express; http://islamicterrorism.wordpress.com/2008/04/29/jama%E2%80%99at-e-islami-hits-hard-at-extremist-islamic-ndf-in-kerala/
|Javed Anand is co-editor, Communalism Combat and general secretary, Muslims for Secular Democracy (India).|