Indian Muslims: Spiritualize the Radicals
The toll in the serial blasts in Bangalore and Ahmedabad needs to be counted beyond the numbers of deaths and injured. If the bombings are the handiwork of the Indian Mujaheeden as claimed by the outfit, then the biggest casualty of the latest episodes of fanatical madness is India's ability to tackle terrorism.
The impunity with which bombs were planted and set off confirms the expanding reach of terror groups on Indian soil. This means that terror groups have been able to convince more Indian Muslims to support them and act as their sleeping cells. This needs to worry India as a nation.
More than the bombs, what threatens India is the increasing radicalization and indoctrination of young professionals and the educated. The unfolding details of the recent terror plots dispel the perception that Islamic radicalism is a domain of the marginalized and uneducated.
This begs the question: What is convincing these youths, many of them with off-the-charts intelligence and family pedigree one should be proud of, to leave this world as a "martyr" in the name of saving Islam.
There is no point seeking an answer from the so-called leaders of Indian Muslims, both political and religious, as they have more or less silently watched the swelling ranks of the radicalized youth. Nor does the Indian political class have the answer; it is more keen to play to the gallery than address this national calamity at its roots.
That the lack of spiritual education among Muslims is the main cause of the spread of Islamic terrorism is borne by the fact that it has coincided with the rise of Wahabism as the more vocal and dominant brand of Islam. The ultra-conservative philosophy robbed Islam of its rich spiritual facets and propagated a one-dimensional interpretation of the Quran and Hadith. The Tablighi Jamaat, the Muslim revivalist movement, is effectively the flag bearer of Wahabism in the Indian subcontinent.
More than the odd cases of terror suspects sharing some kind of Tablighi pedigree, what must worry the anti-terror brigade is the narrow doctrine of the Tablighis. For them the concept of jehad literally means fighting against infidels. More spiritually-oriented sects of Islam interpret the Quranic promise of heaven for one who performs jehad as a reward for a struggle against one's soul (nafs).
This limited understanding has corrupted the minds of many. The time has come for some serious sermons on peace and co-existence from the pulpit.
Spiritual education is also vital to channelise youth energy into constructive pursuits. There is no doubt that Muslim youths are anguished by the plight of Muslims the world over and the amount of suffering in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine. It is natural for them to feel guilty and want to do something to alleviate the suffering; there is always an inner call to do something for those in need.
Islamic fundamentalists are exploiting this innate human nature by offering jehadi potion to quench the inner quest.
If youth of today attain a multi-cultural, all-inclusive spiritual education, they would not take to the barbaric tooth-for-a-tooth or eye-for-an-eye response. The whole nation has to be involved in this task of peace education. The role of the Muslim intelligentsia and religious leaders cannot be overemphasized. Unless they stand up to be counted in this national call of service, their bluff will be called sooner than later.
I recall a huge public gathering in Bangalore where hardline Islamic evangelist Zakir Naik dismissed the phenomenon of Islamic terrorism as mere imaginations of the Indian media. Such trivializations should be denounced not only as a desperate attempt at playing to communal constituencies but also as a dangerous camouflage to mask the mujahideen.
Indian Muslims must now stand up and assert that they will not be fooled by fanatical posturing of a few fundamentalists and the misguided. There couldn't have been a better time to answer the call of the deen (faith) to tell the world that Islam stands for peace, at least in India!
(M. Rajaque Rahman, a former journalist, now conducts spiritual workshops for the Art of Living. He can be reached at email@example.com)
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