‘US and THEM” in Kerala- Spectre of a Radicalized Mind

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Radicalization is not the monopoly of the unschooled and economically deprived. It’s not also about being brainwashed but caring for a cause so fervently, that one is willing to die.

Based on the review of relevant literature, 5 belief domains–superiority, injustice, vulnerability, distrust, and helplessness are the cause of radicalization.

Radicalization begins like a seed and grows; it is the ‘Us and Them’ policy, where dehumanization in the mind begins with the process of causing someone to become a supporter of terrorism or forms of extremism that lead to terrorism.

The number of young professionals joining or pledging allegiance to extremist and Jihadist movements and organizations is on the rise. This is understood to involve a kind of subtle hammering of a certain ideology, whereby impressionable young men and women are led to jihad and violence by malicious manipulators.

The death toll, suffering, and displacement caused by conflicts engaging groups defined by ethnicity, nationality, religion, or other social identities has reached staggering proportions over the past decade. The need is to battle a radicalized mind which we are not able to cope. Being prepared and agile in the face of the new global Jihadist threat requires a fundamental reorientation of our analytical, operational and bureaucratic resources.

To some extent the Indian Domestic Political trends and scenario acts as a catalyst for radicalization causing greater polarization of communities. War should not be just against terror but principally against the jihadist ideas that inspire it.

Now with internet boom, India has a fast-growing number of Internet and Smartphone users,

It is the second largest Smartphone market in the world and is expected to have a Smartphone-user base of over 650 million by 2019.

Increasing numbers of youths are indoctrinated through propaganda that is freely streaming on the internet. It is well known that in India access to the Internet is, at present, still restricted to higher socio-economic strata. The Jihadi groups do not have, on ground access or reach in the Indian subcontinent, and its propaganda mainly reaches India through social media and the Internet.

However one needs to ponder and assume that we will never be able to completely stamp out terrorist activity or the occurrence of terrorist acts ,Second, we will never be able to completely prevent all individuals from being attracted to jihadist ideas. So as long as the means for destruction and the justifications for it exist, so will the possibility of someone committing violence in the name of those ideas.

With these two assumptions in order, we can now fix our radar to a direction on how to stop self-radicalized jihadist terrorism. With the daily happenings around the world and political rhetoric around Islam and Muslims becoming more heated and divisive it is becoming increasingly important that the words “Islamism,” “Salafism,” and Salafi Jihadism” are elaborated a bit to define them and bring out the distinctions among them, as these still remain confusing contemporary movements which have been dominating the headlines and would still continue for some more time.

Moreover coming to home ground and speaking about homeland Kerala, we should first know what Salafism is and should it worry us.

‘Salafi’ comes from the Arabic phrase, ‘as-salaf as-saliheen’, which refers to the first three generations of Muslims. (Starting with the Companions of the Prophet), they are fundamentalists. They reject religious innovation; Salafi movement is the returning to what adherents believe to be true Sunni Islam. What they’re really concerned about is self-purification, education, learning more about their faith, implementing and practicing it better, getting themselves and their families to heaven. For example, they’re not going to want to have a role in the Brexit debate– it’s just not what they’re about.

‘Islamism’ as a phenomenon incorporates a wide spectrum of behavior and belief. In the broadest sense, Islamist groups believe Islamic law or Islamic values should play a central role in public life. Primarily Islamism consists of Muslim Brotherhood and Brotherhood-inspired movements. Their distinguishing features are their gradualism -historically eschewing revolution, an embrace of parliamentary politics, and a willingness to work within existing state structures, even secular ones.

‘Salafi Jihadism’- unitary oneness of God, the idea of Islamic governance, the process of ex-communication, loyalty and disavowal for the sake of god and religion are the defining features of salafi Jihadism.

Kerala is the latest buzzword in the Indian Islamic State saga. Recent reports of some 19 Muslim youths from Kerala joining the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, some of them recent converts to Islam from Hinduism and Christianity, came as shocker not just to their families but to the largely secular construct of Kerala’s socio-political conscience.

The shortcut to spirituality without understanding the core tenets of religion and being misguided is a major problem with the youth of Kerala. Today’s youth are trying to counter the emptiness in their lives by seeking solace through over religiosity. If one is truly spiritual, then he /she would try to understand the neighbor’s difficulties and help, but they don’t do that, instead, they think they can go to heaven by taking a bullet. This is a shortcut to spirituality.

As we know the youths who left for the ISIS, a dozen of them were from Padane village near Kasargod which included a dentist, two engineers, a doctor, two pregnant women, teachers, a BTech graduate, a commerce graduate and others, the issue attracted national attention and has forced the Keralites to think of who they are and where their state is headed to in coming decades.

It is pretty much evident that youths in Kerala are radicalized by the educated class of Muslims such as Islamic clerics, Islamist editors, mosque leaders and televangelists, however the Muslim communities of Kerala are alive to these new developments and worried, but also in denial.

There is unanimity among analysts of Kerala that it is the money coming from the Middle East that is behind the growing religiosity and radicalization among Muslims.

It is well known that, it’s the working professionals, be it from any religion Moslems / Christians bring in the money from Gulf. The returning migrants have brought a form of religion borrowed from the Salafism prevalent in UAE, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations.

It has combined with the proliferation of mass media to refashion religious life. The money from the Gulf is adversely affecting Hindu-Muslim relations. The ISIS is an offshoot of the richness. Islamism in Kerala is due to the money from the Middle East. It is definitely a new influence. Elected governments knew but ignored and neglected. This neglect has become the cause of the migration of youths from Kerala to the Islamic State.

In the right perspective, Islamism is an advocate or supporter of a political movement that favors reordering government and society in accordance with laws prescribed by Islam, and it’s a methodology, but Jihadism cannot be Islamism.

It is a fact that Islamic fundamentalism is gradually taking firm hold in Kerala, because of its geographical location–a safe haven away from the capital and relatively insulated from the radar of central investigative agencies—and supportive political climate to thrive.

It is about time now that Kerala’s political system wakes up to the problem, takes a stand on the issue on the threat of Islamic fundamentalism in the state. Both Governments at Centre and State can’t shy away from the onus of taking responsibility and just be a mute spectator to the growing ill of religious fundamentalism in God’s own country.