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Symposium: India’s Standoff With Jihad By: Jamie Glazov
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, March 28, 2008


Can India counter the Islamic challenge on its own? A distinguished panel joins Frontpage Symposium today to discuss this issue. Our guests are:

Praveen Swami, Associate Editor of Frontline magazine and The Hindu newspaper. He writes on security issues. His most recent book, India, Pakistan and the Secret Jihad examines the history of Islamist terror groups in Jammu and Kashmir from 1947 onwards.

Moorthy Muthuswamy, an expert on terrorism in India. He grew up in India, where he had firsthand experience with political Islam and jihad. He moved to America in 1984 to pursue graduate studies. In 1992, he received a doctorate in nuclear physics from Stony Brook University, New York. Since 1999 he has extensively published ideas on neutralizing political Islam's terror war as it is imposed on unbelievers. He is the author of the new book, The Art of War on Terror: Triumphing over Political Islam and the Axis of Jihad.

Lawrence Prabhakar, an Associate Professor of Political Science at Madras Christian College, Chennai, India and a Visiting Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Dr. Prabhakar specializes in academic and policy research in issues of nuclear weapons and Asian Security, Asymmetric Conflict, Maritime Security and grand strategy of India, China and United States.

and

Dr. Ajai Sahni, the Founding Member and Executive Director of the Institute for Conflict Management (ICM) and the Editor of the South Asia Intelligence Review.

He is also the Executive Director of both the South Asia Terrorism Portal and of Faultlines: Writings on Conflict & Resolution, ICM’s quarterly journal. He has researched and written extensively on issues relating to conflict, politics and development in South Asia. He jointly edited (with K.P.S. Gill) Terror & Containment: Perspectives on India’s Internal Security and The Global Threat of Terror: Ideological, Material and Political Linkages.

FP: Praveen Swami, Moorthy Muthuswamy, Lawrence Prabhakar and Dr. Ajai Sahni, welcome to Frontpage Symposium.

Moorthy Muthuswamy, let’s begin with you. Tell us the threat that Islamic jihad poses in India today. And, without doubt, Bhutto’s assassination looms large in the fears of many of India’s citizens. The threat of Islamists in Pakistan is obviously a part of this story, correct?

Muthuswamy: Thank you Jamie for doing a symposium on this hitherto discussed topic in the western media.

India and its largely dysfunctional democratic system are in an advanced state of a jihadist siege. The words of a jihadist commander, Syed Salahuddin, based in Pakistan, “We can hit any soft target in India at any time” should give an indication of India ’s extraordinary vulnerability to terrorism.

Not just India’s only Muslim majority state of Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state with about 20 percent Muslim population has become a new terror base for jihadists – and with several more states well on their way.

Unlike just about all non-Muslim nations with Muslim minorities that are affected by terrorism, since coming to power in 2004, the ruling Manmohan Singh-Sonia Gandhi regime has taken almost every major security policy decision with an eye on accommodating jihadist interests in India. Even the previous regime led by nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) never took any measures to comprehensively address the terror threat. Among the main reasons: Jihadist control of the 15 percent Muslim voting block is deciding who gets elected and who does not in many constituencies!

The multi-front jihad in India is being escalated in a calibrated manner, with terrorism constituting just one component. As part of this jihad, unfair reservations for Muslims in educational institutions and jobs, grants and other freebees are being extracted under the threat of violence and false claims of Muslim “grievance”. These reservations and other forms of “extractions” are designed to further empower jihadists at the expense of non-Muslims in order to destroy India from within.

Jamie, you hit the nail on the head; the very same forces that have destabilized Pakistan are now working to destabilize its neighbor, India. Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the security agency of Pakistan, and entities in many Middle Eastern nations see (once Muslim-ruled) India as an unfinished agenda of Islamic conquest – and are behind this genocidal “religious” warfare imposed on unsuspecting Indians. As an integral part of this vision, Indian Muslims have been systematically indoctrinated to act against their own state and their compatriots, under the cover of “religious teachings”.

In the aftermath of Bhutto’s tragic assassination, India not only faces escalating terror attacks on its soft targets, but also assassination of its political and religious leaders, seen adversarial to the jihadist interests.

Swami: In my view, the threats posed to India by the crisis in Pakistan are overstated. While a meltdown of the Pakistani state—which I do not believe is imminent—could necessitate a reappraisal of the risks, a protracted crisis of the kind that now seems to be underway is unlikely to transfigure the nature or intensity of terrorism directed at India.

Ongoing Islamist terrorism in India is just a phase of what India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, once described as an “informal war”: a covert war waged, no doubt, by non-state actors, in this case Islamist terror groups, but one that is at its core an onslaught by one nation-state against another nation-state.

Ever since Independence in 1947, Pakistan’s covert services sponsored a variety of terror groups which operated against India. Some of these, like the Razakars in what is now the state of Andhra Pradesh, or the Master Cell and then al-Fatah in Jammu and Kashmir, were Islamist. Others, like the ethnic insurgencies of the north-east of India or the Khalistan movement in Punjab, had very different ideological underpinnings. The ideological premise underpinning all these operations was developed by Qurban Ali, newly-independent Pakistan’s key covert strategist, who, drawing on British colonial dogma, believed the Indian nation-state would inevitably succumb to ethnic-religious pulls and pressures.

Quite evidently, it has not.

Undaunted by reality, the jihad against India has gone on—and will go on. Its intensity has never been determined by the relative strength or weakness of Islamists in Pakistan. Rather, Pakistani Islamists and Pakistani Generals demonstrated a remarkable unity of intent and purpose, notwithstanding their sometimes-conflicting domestic agendas. Pakistan’s military and covert services calibrated their jihad-without-end against India at levels which they believe best serves their strategic purpose. Islamists collaborated with this project. While Generals and Jihadis might find themselves at war for the soul of Pakistan, there is no real divergence in objectives in India. In coming years, moreover, Pakistan-based Islamists are more likely to be preoccupied with the war within their country than focussed on theatres outside of it.

Does this, conversely, mean terrorism will diminish in India? No. India is now the site of a substantial indigenous Islamist infrastructure, which poses a significant terror threat. Most, though not all, major terror bombings outside of Jammu and Kashmir have, for the last few years, been carried out by groups which draw their cadre from amongst Indian nationals. While these groups rely on the infrastructure of Islamist terror groups in Pakistan and Bangladesh, their in-house capabilities are increasing. In addition, Salafi ideologues and preachers have acquired growing influence amongst some sections of young Indian Muslims. While vigorously working to combat Islamist terrorism, Indians must ask themselves, frontally, why this is so—and, indeed, many are doing so. India’s poor record in combating anti-Muslim chauvinist organisations, and in upholding the rule of law, is one, if not the sole, factor. Even as it fights terror groups, the Indian state must work to re-establish its legitimacy as an entity that respects the rights of all its citizens.

Can India effectively fight the threat it faces—and new threats that might emerge? Despite polemic on India’s “soft state” status, its record has not been as poor as some imagine. India has degraded one of the world’s best-funded and best-organised insurgencies, that in Jammu and Kashmir, to a point where it now claims well below 1000 lives a year — no small achievement if one considers the situation as it was in 1999-2001. Its security services’ record on interdicting and preventing major terror strikes is also far from dismal. While the Hizb ul-Mujahideen’s Syed Salahuddin—whose real name is the somewhat more prosaic Mohammad Yusuf Shah—may assert he can hit any target in India, the fact is his terror group was unable to mount a single operation of consequence in 2007. In addition, it lost its senior-most commander for Jammu and Kashmir, along with four key subordinates. Undoubtedly, the state needs to invest more in modern policing and intelligence—but in a nation where a third of our children are malnourished, fighting terrorism will not always be the number-one priority for policy-makers.

I would add here that the Indian state has been sensible in not succumbing to hysterical polemic on the supposed fundamentalist leanings of India’s Muslim community. Notwithstanding the seduction of some numbers of Indian Muslims by Islamists, there is nothing to suggest that the religious right constitutes the principal voice of the community. The fact that some of the heads of some of the most successful counter-terrorist units in Jammu and Kashmir are Muslim, and the fact that in every year since 1988, Islamist terror groups have felt compelled to slaughter overwhelmingly more Muslims than Hindus for the furtherance of their jihad, speak for themselves. Increasingly, Indian Muslims understand that the Islam pedalled by Pakistan-based neo-fascists is a threat to their centuries-old traditions and beliefs. Every day, tens of thousands of Muslims in our police and armed forces put their lives on the line combating Islamists—an act of conviction I do not believe it behoves those of us who do not take these risks to belittle.

Finally, I wish to underline two points of significance. First, while there can be a number of very legitimate criticisms of the current government’s planned affirmative action programmes for Muslims, these cannot simply be dismissed as appeasement. Any sensible security policy must include measures directed at de-ghettoising Indian Muslims, breaking the power of clerics through funding modern education, and according the community stakes in our economic progress. Second, I would dispute the notion that India’s supposedly dysfunctional democratic institutions are weak instruments for fighting the Islamist threat. India’s “dysfunctional” democracy has allowed it to weather six decades of violent challenges; authoritarian Pakistan split in two in 1971, and has now ceded de-facto control of large parts of its territory to Islamists.

Sahni: If brevity was a primary objective here, I could simply say that I agree with all that Praveen has written, and stop. It is, however, possible to elaborate a little further on some of the perspectives he has articulated.

Some of Dr. Muthuswamy’s remarks also demand attention, and I will turn to these first. Much of what he says reflects a polarized ideological position – in many ways a distorted mirror image of radical Islamism – built on very selective and often warped representations of fact or data, and an evident measure of unfamiliarity – or deliberate neglect – of the situation on the ground. The statement regarding “Jihadist control of the 15 per cent Muslim voting block” is a case in point. This is an utterly absurd claim and if the Jihadists did, indeed, ‘control’ this ‘block’ in any significant measure, India would be aflame from end to end. There is no single political formation or ideology that ‘controls’ Muslim votes – and a bulk of these, for the first over four decades of Independence, historically went to the purportedly secular Congress party. Even today, as the unscrupulous Congress manipulation of ‘vote banks’ has been widely exposed, while a proportion of Muslims does tend to vote as a block – as does a proportion of every other communal, caste, ethnic, linguistic or regional sub-group in India – no ‘Islamist’ or manifestly Muslim formation has ever claimed any substantial segment of their vote.

Again, that various “freebees are being extracted under threat of violence and false claims of Muslim ‘grievance’” is an extreme and unconscionable distortion of reality. First, the demand for ‘freebees’ is not unique to the Muslims, but is an entrenched facet of India’s ‘vote bank’ politics, and is something that characterizes virtually all distinguishable social and economic sub-sets, including other religious minorities, various caste groupings, ethnic, regional and linguistic formations. This demand is not led by Jihadists – indeed, this has never been any part of the Jihadists’ demands. While some Muslim leaders and parties have articulated these positions, the truth is that it is India’s mainstream political parties that have created a political culture within which such demands become the principal tool of electoral mobilisation, particularly in a situation where the ‘Muslim vote bank’ has become progressively fragmented. It is, moreover, necessary also to assess the degree to which such demands have actually been conceded – and it is obvious that, other than a few symbolic concessions, such as the ‘Haj subsidy’, Muslims in India have not been particular beneficiaries of any excessive state munificence.

As for the Jihadists harnessing “false claims of Muslim ‘grievance’” – grievances, both real and imagined, are the bedrock of any violent political movement, and are hardly unique to the Jihadists. India has a multiplicity of ethnic fundamentalist insurgencies in the Northeast, and a raging Maoist movement across a large part of its Eastern board, and a range of ‘grievances’ – many of them very real – constitute the essence of the strategies of ideological mobilisation and recruitment in all these violent insurrections. Moreover, on this point, Muslim claims of ‘grievance’, both real and imagined, have been given far greater currency by mainstream ‘secular’ political parties and, in many cases, Government institutions such as the Minorities Commission and, recently, the often perverse Sachar Commission, than by the jihadis (even the Maoists have found it expedient to call attention to the ‘exploitation’ and ‘oppression’ of their ‘Muslim brethren’). The pertinent question is: how many Muslims have actually bought into the jihadis’ “false claims”? If we go by evidence – and not by a presumption of guilt against the entire 15 per cent of India’s population on the grounds that they are Muslims – it is abundantly clear that only a minuscule proportion, numbering no more than a few thousand across a Muslim population of over 150 million in India, have actually responded to the calls of extremist Islam and taken recourse to terrorism.

As for “India’s dysfunctional democracy” – dysfunction characterizes all democratic systems in some measure – there is no “advanced stage of jihadist siege” here. Praveen has rightly noted the resilience of the system, though both he and I have been insistent critics of the absence of a coherent strategy of response, and the extreme paucity of the capacities for response – deficiencies that are crying out for correction. Nevertheless, drumming up hysteria about the system ‘under jihadist siege’ serves little constructive purpose, as does the attempt to draw false parallels between circumstance that prevail in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), on the one hand, and the “new terror base for jihadists” in “India’s largest state with about 20 per cent Muslim population”, on the other. Islamist terrorist strikes, backed by Pakistan, have been engineered, over the past years, in a number of Indian States, and a long and sustained process of subversion has created what Praveen describes as a “substantial indigenous Islamist infrastructure” – but one needs to ask what ‘substantial’ actually means in this context. The numbers needed for terrorism are insignificant in terms of the proportion of the Muslim population – most agencies put the total number of Islamist terrorists, both domestic and ‘foreign’ (principally Pakistani and Bangladeshi) at no more than four to five thousand across the country at present – and it is both unjust and dangerous to try to tar the entire community with the same brush.

I have written elsewhere on the consequences of Benazir Bhutto’s “tragic assassination” (Overtaken by Darkness), and will only reiterate here that the Bhutto assassination will have little impact on the prevailing equations of power in Pakistan. Moreover, I assert a fundamental equation with regard to the internal situation in Pakistan and the scale of terrorism in J&K and across India: the greater Pakistan’s internal difficulties, and the more jihadi violence is directed against Islamabad, the lower the intensity of jiahdi violence in India. This trend established itself shortly after 9/11, and has endured throughout the following period, irrespective of tensions or ‘peace processes’ between the two countries.

While this equation will hold in the near term, in the medium term, the outcome of the ‘global war on terrorism’ will have crucial impact on the trajectory of Islamist terrorism in South Asia and its enveloping geopolitical framework. The steady loss of American lives in Iraq, the inability of the US Forces to impose order and project a sense of control, and the visible and growing consternation among the US Forces, media, the political establishment and the general public, are already being taken as proof by Islamist extremist forces that the world’s ‘sole superpower’ is vulnerable to their methods of sub-conventional warfare. The impact of a precipitate withdrawal of Western Forces from Iraq – which seems a possibility towards the end of 2008 – would reverberate across the region, triggering a wave of Islamist extremist triumphalism and terrorism across Asia and into the heart of Europe. At this stage, South Asia will experience unprecedented levels of jihadi violence, and this is the danger against which the Indian state must prepare with great urgency.

Prabhakar: I concur with the views of Swami and Sahni on the scope of the Islamic Jihadist threat to India but would like to specifically address some issues:

[1] The notion of the hard measures of cracking terrorism and the popularity of iron-clad legislations to defang the sting of terrorism is not going to be effective. Today the war is of the hearts and minds and the sensitive issue is that the enemy is now entrenched.

Affirmative actions for de-ghettoising the community has its salient purpose, how do we sustain that? It goes by Good Governance and the reaffirmation of the secular creed. The electoral whiplashing of the communities and the glorification of the majoritarian creed by hype-politicians in India actually provides the fertile ground of discontent.

[2] Civil society and its effectiveness has a role in the combat against radical jihadism and other militant ideologies including the hard-core Left. The imperative for a humanitarian perspective to all contentious issues is most essential. Politiking for votebanks is the favorite instrument of all political parties in India and that is the core cause for the increasing polarization of the Indian society. Civil society would address this through education and empowerment;

[3] The Indian globalization experience has produced billionaires in a resource-rich, but impoverished country of millions whose below-the-poverty line has not shown any improvement. Unrestrained globalization, privatization and liberalization has its ill-consequences, in other words the rampant economic liberalization has not been attendant with social reforms and good governance. The need is to create social safety nets that would not further aid deprivation, while at the same time the imperatives of good governance should aid in viable public policies in agriculture, education, employment and empowerment and specifically women empowerment.

Well these would be specific issues, complex they are and difficult in rationalizing and implementation, yet all the more important to contend, contain and combat radical religious violence.

Muthuswamy: All of my India-based colleagues discount the very notion of an Islamic siege of India. However, an Islamic siege is a necessary tool to achieve the Islamic conquest of a non-Muslim nation.

Although under assault by Islamic forces since its birth in 1947, for the first time, the Indian state is responding in a negative way to the escalating jihadist threat by placating Muslim elements against national interests. This was carried out by the ruling Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Congress-led regime in Delhi, itself implicated by India's own intelligence agency in being infiltrated by jihadists. Major examples: India's anti-terrorism law, POTA, was rescinded because it was considered "anti-Muslim". The Indian Supreme Court's verdict to identify and expel illegals from Bangladesh was circumvented as its proposal was deemed too troublesome for Bengali-speaking Indian Muslims.

Studies of Muslim insurgencies tell us that they are preceded by decades of jihad build-up whereby resident Muslim minority populations are systematically indoctrinated, increasingly driven away from the mainstream, fed resentment toward the majority and finally, terror cells are established in the communities to mount armed insurgencies.

No one any longer disputes the presence of terror cells in Muslim communities across India. These pose an imminent strategic threat to India. The bad news is these cells can only grow in size (the underlying populations are already sympathetic to the cause, thanks to decades of indoctrination), power and significance, continuing to spread their tentacles among the broader population of Indian Muslims. The fact that terror cells in India may be limited in number (as pointed by Swami and Sahni) at the present time is no consolation.

The ideological opportunity to neutralize this jihadist build-up is long gone (especially under a poorly governing democracy) and the Indian state is now limited to small-scale operations to neutralize newly detected ones. But Indian agencies limited or no penetration into terrorist groups. In fact, it is far from clear whether the Indians are even aware of the full scope of terrorist penetration or their plans.

This is one war the Indian state is losing.

At this rate, India is staring at the inevitability of mini Kashmir-like insurgencies based in its many Muslim communities. This could kill the Indian economy and make India highly destabilized, opening the way for other destabilizing groups such as the Maoist ones, already entrenched across India, to become even more potent.

Tackling Muslim backwardness by bringing them into the mainstream through reservation policies may superficially seem appealing. However, without viewing Muslim "affirmative action programs" or Muslim reservations in India through the prism of the ongoing Islamic conquest of South Asia is plain absurdity. Yet, this is what Swami, Sahni and Prabhakar have failed to do.

That an Islamic conquest of South Asia is underway should be evident from the observation that from every Muslim majority region of this region – without exception –be it Pakistan, Bangladesh or from India's own Kashmir valley, non-Muslims have been massively driven out to Hindu-majority India. This occurred when Muslim populations in these areas obtained political power. In1971 about three million Hindus were slaughtered by the Pakistani army in the then East Pakistan and many more were driven to India, never to return.

There is another revealing way of interpreting this data: South Asian Muslims (about 25% of the total) obtained a permanent, almost exclusive 25% land of opportunities in the form of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Kashmir valley, in addition to their equal rights in secular India. But non-Muslim South Asians are now squeezed into 75% of the original landmass they must share with Muslims in the form of India.

This documented genocidal conquest of non-Muslims in South Asia compellingly defines the first human rights priorities for India: Ensuring India's long-term existence as a free and safe land of opportunity for non-Muslim South Asians.

This exception-free mistreatment of non-Muslims in Muslim-majority regions of South Asia shows that South Asian Muslim populations do not believe in coexistence (other than religion these populations share ethnicity, language, culture and food habits). Hence, the faster growing Muslim population within India can be seen as a growing and looming genocidal threat to the non-Muslim Indians. Thus from a risk management perspective, one needs to be especially cautious in venturing to empower this Muslim population at the expense of non-Muslims through reservation schemes.

It is fair to ask: Should Muslims in India get additional job and educational reservations, easier-to-get-loans and other concessions when Muslims have already expropriated almost exclusively about 25% of the original land?

Preponderantly, Muslim deficiencies vis-à-vis modern education is self-induced and is cleric-directed. How can reservation solve this problem when clearly what is needed from every perspective is complete liberation of Muslims to alternate faiths or life style from the political ideology of conquest masquerading as a religion?

Although modern education can liberate some Muslims from clerical control, it will also likely empower many more who are predisposed to extremism to wage a more effective jihad against the Indian state. This phenomenon is evident in Muslim communities all over the world.

Indeed, this reservation scheme will eventuate in jihadist empowerment and weakening of the majority community – the two indispensables for a rapid and successful Islamic conquest of India. With the Muslim population growing at a rate 1.5 times that of non-Muslims, is not the implementation of "proportional reservation" for Muslims a sure way to marginalize non-Muslim Indians?

Unfortunately, Swami and Sahni have decided to embrace speculation, not hard data, to somehow assume "moderation" among most Indian Muslims. Indeed, all available statistics indicate the contrary: the vast majority of Indian Muslims having a fundamentalist outlook and identifying with pan-Islamic causes contrary to national interests.

From Where Indian Muslims Have Gone Wrong by Aakar Patel, Mid-day:

"A recent poll revealed that just under 90 percent of Mumbai's Muslims, presumably the most progressive in the country, rejected a secular civil code—preferring instead sharia law, favoring polygamy, triple talaq (Muslim verbal divorce) and Islam's unequal inheritance laws which allow women half as much property as they allow men. The views of most younger and educated Muslims and of women were also the same, in almost the same proportion."

The above data can be seen as representative of the Muslim outlook in all of India, as other data associated with Muslims in the rest of India are consistent with this. The preference of retrogressive sharia over a modern secular uniform code can be seen as favoring fundamentalism over a moderate outlook.

Hence, it is not surprising that jihadists would control the 15% Muslim vote-bank. Jihadists not only represent the face of fundamentalism most Indian Muslims look up to, but as political activists they also seek out leadership positions in the community.

Grossly inaccurate assessment of Indian Muslim outlook and importantly, not learning the right lessons from India's past have led these India-based scholars to not even recognize the extraordinary threat India faces from within.

How prepared the top two Indian leaders are in advancing Muslim interests in India and in undermining the majority is revealed in their own words (and again implying the success of the Islamic siege of Indian democracy). Prime Minister Singh stated in Dec. 2006: "They [Muslims] must have the first claim on resources". Sonia Gandhi, the Congress party President and Singh's boss, went a step further. She wrote a letter as part of a 2007 election campaign in UP (Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state), specifically pleading to over 15,000 Muslim leaders, including clerics, in the state to "help me generously to fight against caste and communalism [read majority Hindus, already targeted by jihadists] so that I can build a society of your dreams" With most clergy in UP representing retrogressive Islamic forces, this is nothing less than promising to work for a jihad-sponsoring Islamic India!

In my opinion, the non-Muslim majority, specifically, the Hindu majority must be mobilized in order to neutralize the escalating Islamic siege of India. Unaided, the majority community in India is incapable of mounting a successful fight. The Western nations must cooperate with the majority in India to encourage their mobilization. Such an India can become an effective frontline state in the war on terror and give Western nations multitude of options against states such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan or Iran in the coming decades.

Swami: I wish to start with a small caveat, stemming from an observation made by Muthuswamy: “This is one war the Indian state is losing”

This is simply untrue. All the empirical data that the Indian state has become increasingly successful in containing the threats posed to it. It might not have done so at a pace, or with an efficiency, that I or other commentators find acceptable, but declining incident and casualty figures in all major theatres of combat—not just Jammu and Kashmir—show the war, if it indeed can be meaningfully called one, is being fought with resolve and commitment.

I have begun here because I think it is important to understand that while large historical currents in India might at times appear like inexorable tides leading us towards the apocalypse, terrorism can none the less be combated successfully.

My main point, though, is this: I think we are at some risk of seeking to forcing our debate on Islamist terrorism in India into slots devised for polemics on the character of secularism that were conducted between socialists, liberals, and religious nationalists in the 1970s and 1980s.

The question we ought to be addressing is not whether Indian politics has served appeased Muslims, or in fact institutionalised backwardness, but instead: what kinds of policy interventions are necessary to address the problem.

Part of the problem is that terrorists do not fall into any simple profile, of the kinds that policy-makers are so beloved of. Mohammad Shahid Bilal, who headed the jihadist cell which carried out several strikes in south-eastern and northern India last year, might have come from an impoverished inner-city background. He might well have been scarred by Hindu-chauvinist violence. But Kafeel Ahmed, the suicide bomber who targeted Glasgow airport last year, was a child of privilege—the very kinds of educational and economic privilege we sometimes imagine will strike at the “root causes” of terrorism.

Quite simply, there is no one archetypical Islamist, any more than there is an archetypal bank robber or pickpocket. What unites them—as the desire for wealth unites bank robbers—is that the Indian state is a predatory Hindu entity, bent on doing harm to Muslims, and, more important, that its workings are just a small part of a global Zionist-Crusader-Hindu axis against the faith. Just as the Indian state, like all other states, uses both persuasion and coercion to defend its ideological frontiers, so to do the Islamists.

Now, defeating Islamist coercion is a relatively straightforward matter, if not a simple one: it consists of enhancing India’s intelligence and police capabilities to the point where executing attacks becomes ever more difficult. It should be evident to us from the outset that there will never be a ‘zero’ point of violence, but it bears mention here that the investments India has made in Jammu and Kashmir have now brought about per-capita fatalities to lower levels than those in some major US cities.

Second, we must address the problem of countering the ideological challenge. I think this problem, too, is more complex than we sometimes suggest. In India, as in any other plural democratic country, there are bound be diverse ideas of what justice and equity for Muslims might mean—or even whether it is a desirable thing. Major political parties, Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and of course Muslims—not counting industrial workers, peasants, landless peasants, the unemployed—will be divided between and amongst each other on what equity and justice mean.

What we ought to be striving to ensure is that Indian citizens who are Muslims become full participants and partners in this debate. The idea is not to end terrorism—it will not—but to demonstrate that the mosque and the Salafi meeting-room are not the only political spaces available for Muslims.

Sahni: I think Dr. Muthuswamy comes to the crux of the disagreement between him and the other participants in this symposium – it is essentially a disagreement between “India based colleagues” who are largely bound by the realities of the ground situation, and a member of an alienated Diaspora community, who derives most of his arguments from nostalgia, ideology and his own prejudices.

The magnitude of distortion of fact that Dr. Muthuswamy cavalierly resorts to is astonishing. Take, for instance, the claim that, “in 1971 about three million Hindus were slaughtered by the Pakistani army in the then East Pakistan”. The Genocide by Pakistani Forces in what is now Bangladesh is undeniable, as is the fact that all Hindus apprehended were regarded as targets for summary execution. Nevertheless, demography and distribution ensured that the overwhelming majority of the estimated three million slaughtered by the Pakistani Forces were, in fact, Bengali Muslims. I am yet to come across a comparable claim that three million Hindus were killed in the Bangladesh war in any authoritative work on the genocide. While no definitive attempt has been made to determine the proportion of Hindu victims in the genocide, my discussions with those who covered the war as well as others who have written and researched the birth and politics of Bangladesh indicate that there is no reason to believe that Hindu fatalities were extraordinarily disproportionate to their population share in then-East Pakistan.

Again, the claim that the Manmohan Singh regime has “itself been implicated by India’s own intelligence agency in being infiltrated by jihadists”. I have not heard such arrant nonsense being articulated even on the lunatic fringes of the Hindu right in India, and the idea that this regime has been “implicated by India’s own intelligence agency” in this connection, is unmitigated rubbish. As for POTA, while I have been one of the vocal advocates of a strong counter-terrorism law in India and an opponent of the withdrawal of POTA by the present regime, it is impossible for me to escape the fact that the law was more abused than used – and certainly not only against Muslims. POTA’s withdrawal, moreover, had more to do with the polarized partisan politics in this country and with a hysterical campaign by the ‘human rights’ lobby (the inverted commas are intended to reflect the fact that the operation and funding of many ‘human rights’ organisations in India are far from transparent, and at least some of these are no more than front organisations of terrorist and extremist groupings) and liberal democratic elements in India’s fractious polity.

Congress party mischief in turning a blind eye to illegal migration from Bangladesh cannot, again, be denied – but this reflects unscrupulous ‘vote bank politics’ and not ‘jihadi infiltration’ of the Government. Were it the latter, the previous National Democratic Alliance Government, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, would be equally open to the allegation, since it did nothing whatsoever to speed up the processes of identification and deportation of the illegals during its own tenure in Government – although it did repeatedly use shrill rhetoric to exploit the issue for electoral ends.

As for reservations, I stand against them for all groups – including the scheduled and backward castes, the scheduled tribes, and any reservations that may be proposed for or given to the Muslims. I believe these have deepened social fissures in India, and led to the larger and enduring neglect of these very populations, who are merely politically exploited in the name of reservations. But far from seeing a conspiracy for ‘jihadist empowerment’ here, I see nothing other than the same unscrupulous electoral politics. And frankly, if reservations are to be accepted for a widening array of disadvantaged groupings, what consistent logic can be advanced against reservations for disadvantaged Muslims?

As for the ‘genocidal conquest of non-Muslims in South Asia’ as a result of the distribution of land at the time of Partition in 1947, the reality is that the conquest of non-Muslims by Muslims in South Asia – ‘genocidal’ or otherwise – occurred many centuries earlier, in continuous waves commencing as far back as the 13th Century and, in lesser incursions, since the 8th Century AD. The distribution of power in 1947 represented a radical diminution in Muslim territorial dominance as compared to the height of the Mughal Empire. We may rail against the injustices of history, but inventing a new history is hardly a constructive solution – they’ve tried to do that in Pakistan, and look at where they are.

The point here is that everything is being viewed by Dr. Mutthuswamy through a communal lens, and the situation is much too complex to lend itself to this reductionist analysis. In advocating that the “non-Muslim majority… must be mobilized in order to neutralize the escalating Islamic siege of India” Dr. Mutthuswamy simply mirrors the jihadi agenda, advocating an anti-Muslim jihad – or, in Hindu parlance, dharma yudh – to ‘neutralize’ the ‘Muslim jihad’.

As stated earlier, large segments of Muslims – soldiers and policemen – have fought the jihadis in India. Others – including, most recently, the hyper-orthodox Deoband school – have spoken out openly to condemn Islamist terrorism and Osama bin Laden’s appalling cult. To ignore this is to succumb to the same ideology of hate that is advocated by bin Laden and his ilk.

It is the “politics of belligerent self-pity” – to borrow Fouad Ajami’s phrase – that impels the jihadis; it is the same psyche that motivates Muthuswami and others who share his views.

I agree with Swami. We need to examine the issue of what kind of policy interventions are necessary to address the problem of widening terrorism in India, as well as the widening spheres of deprivation and distress that Prabhakar points to, and not to drown ourselves in polarized polemical debates or in a sentiment of belligerent self-pity.

Prabhakar: The Islamic siege is now a global phenomenon. Military and hard-core legislations are not going to decrease it. It is a struggle of the "heart and mind." Therefore demands a viable and appropriate response that would win the heart and mind of the insurgents. If there is a concept of humanity, it is inclusive of all. There cannot be any exclusion of "us" and "them."

What is important to infer is the "evil" and not to align "the human to the evil." Separating the evil from the person who is seized with that frenzy is the most important task of winning the "hearts and minds."

It needs a humanitarian approach based on strong moral-ethical foundations in governance, civic education, empowerment and not the iron laws that clamp and stifle the personae of individuals belonging to any particular ethnic, religious, sub-regional, lingual or racial group. Who are we to discriminate--when humanity as a whole has the fine print of creation.

FP: Well if you are against discrimination sir, I guess you will begin with lecturing the Muslim world about the fact that all the schools of Islamic jurisprudence teach that it is part of the responsibility of the umma to subjugate the non-Muslim world through jihad. It is Islam that separates the Islamic and non-Islamic world and that mandates war until the whole world is Muslim. If Islamic terrorists did not get their inspiration from their theology, then we wouldn’t be in the conflict we are in today.

I have a bit of difficulty understanding how we would have defeated the Third Reich if our only approach versus Hitler and the Nazis would have been to win over their “hearts and minds”. And I have difficulty understanding how we may have prevented 9/11, and how we will prevent more 9/11’s, and stop the jihdists in their destruction, if we somehow just get a hold of the likes of bin Laden and the rest of his demons and try to make them understand the beauty of democracy, the separation of Church and State, individual freedom, the sacredness of the pursuit of happiness on earth etc.

The totalitarians who believe that heaven must be built on earth and that it must be done so on the ashes of the earth that exists in the here and now, I am not to sure what kind of dialogue you want with these people. The tyrants who believe that the only way to the higher paradise is through the purification of the earth through mass suicide, I am not so sure what kind of conversation you think will work with these people. History has taught us that military means is all that can save us in the face of this evil. That is not to say that an ideological battle is also not involved in this conflict.

FP: Moorthy Muthuswamy, since you were outnumbered on a realm or two in this symposium, take the last word.

Muthuswamy: The fundamental differences between myself and the India-based authors stems from our varying view of Islamic terrorism in India: Conquest model of Islam vs. the religion one.

In order to indoctrinate Indian Muslims into attacking the Indian state, “grievances” against the state and the majority community have to be discovered. This is part and parcel of the jihadist strategy. Noted by Swami, one such grievance “the Indian state is a predatory Hindu entity, bent on doing harm to Muslims” flies contrary to the data that after the partition of British-ruled India in 1947, most Muslims were allowed to stay and practice their religion in secular Indian state, while Hindus and other non-Muslims were massively driven out from every Muslim majority region of South Asia and the non-Muslims who chose remain there now live as Dhimmis.

I am claiming that we can understand the above phenomena and more in the context of the conquest model of Islam. Jihadists in India, Pakistan and in Middle East are the ones talking about conquering India for Islam and claim to be inspired by Islamic scripture. Why should we expect that this is just talk?

Swami is not correct to exclusively focus on terror. Islamic scripture and jihadists themselves have articulated terror as just one of the tools of conquest of unbelievers. From this view, jihadist access to corridors of power and modern education must be increased. The Indian state is obliging them by allotting preferential reservation schemes for Muslims. Indeed, educated Indian Muslims are increasingly caught in the terror net, and many appear to have got their education through these schemes for Muslims. The disturbing trend now is the escalation of the reservation jihad for Muslims.

That the Pakistani army singled out Hindus in the then East Pakistan for extermination in 1971, is backed by Pakistan’s own Hamoodur Rahman Commission. Here is what a “professional” army of a Muslim nation can do to the unbelievers: “There were verbal instructions to eliminate Hindus… To a great extent I executed this order. General Niazi visited my unit at Thakurgaon and Bogra. He asked us how many Hindus we had killed. In May, there was an order in writing to kill Hindus.” The point is – there were no Carte Blanche orders to kill Muslims, unlike the Hindus. That there is some disagreement about the extent of massive extermination of Hindus is beside the point.

It is not my invention that Islamic terrorist links are showing up in mainline parties, including the ones that make up the ruling Congress-led regime in New Delhi. It is discussed in this article in a well-regarded magazine.

When Muslim majority regions of South Asia were under British control, non-Muslim communities there had no existential threats. But when Muslims got political power there from the departing British in 1947, the situation changed almost overnight. From over 20% of the population prior to 1947, non-Muslim population in Pakistan now stands at no more than 3%. This is a str ong evidence of Islamic conquest of land. Unfortunately, Sahni is unable to see the significance of this data.

The icing on the cake is Sahni’s claim that “hyper-orthodox Deoband school – have spoken out openly to condemn Islamist terrorism and Osama bin Laden’s appalling cult.”

The declaration by India-based Deoband is an act of Taquiya (an Islamic deceit). It has not denounced the terrorism directed at Indian state and the majority community by Pakistanis and other Muslim nations or by Indian Muslims. It instead castigates the Indian state for doing its duty to protect its citizens. It has not condemned Kashmir terrorism by Muslims, but instead notes “Their aggression [the Western nations’], barbarism and state-sponsored terrorism not only in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan but also in Bosnia and various South American countries have surpassed all the records known to human history.” Importantly, it doesn’t specifically declare that the killing of innocents in the name of Islam is wrong.

Sahni’s enthusiastic interpretation of this bogus and deceitful “anti-terrorism” declaration is one of inventing a non-existing message, and it has more than revealed his outlook and his disconnect with the symposium topic. His unwarranted description of me as “a member of an alienated Diaspora community, who derives most of his arguments from nostalgia, ideology and his own prejudices” is disappointing.

Let me point out to Prabhakar that good governance, opportunities, wealth and secularism have not stopped large sections of British Muslims from identifying with jihadists. Unfortunately, Prabhakar, like the rest of the panellists, thinks that Muslim aspirations are like any other.

Terrorism directed at unbelievers by Muslims and Muslim societal outlook, including the one from India, depicts a different picture – that there is an underlying ideology of conquest shaping Muslim aspirations and is driving them toward a perpetual war of conquest – not nation or community building, like the rest of us. Jamie summarized it nicely when he said: “If Islamic terrorists did not get their inspiration from their theology, then we wouldn’t be in the conflict we are in today.”

To conclude, a rising India can be seen to reflect the success of its entrepreneurial class, and by some astute observers, despite the state. However, robust national security, unlike wealth-creation, requires functional democracy.

India is going to have a hard time countering the Islamic challenge on its own.

FP: Praveen Swami, Moorthy Muthuswamy, Lawrence Prabhakar and Dr. Ajai Sahni, thank you for joining Frontpage Symposium.


Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine's editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in Russian, U.S. and Canadian foreign policy. He is the author of Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev’s Soviet Union and is the co-editor (with David Horowitz) of The Hate America Left. He edited and wrote the introduction to David Horowitz’s Left Illusions. His new book is United in Hate: The Left's Romance with Tyranny and Terror. To see his previous symposiums, interviews and articles Click Here. Email him at jglazov@rogers.com.


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