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Sun. March 03, 2024
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The Art of Subtle Denial
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The count of fatalities in recent attacks carried out by ISIS crusaders in France, Tunisia and Kuwait has risen to over sixty. In the tiny state of Kuwait it was the first bomb explosion inside a Shia mosque. Earlier a Shia mosque in Saudi Arabia was also targeted.

Contrary to the established Islamic tradition of observing Ramadhan as the month of peace and virtuous deeds, an ISIS spokesman gave a call to the mujahideen to strike at identified targets and create mayhem. Simultaneously, two youths were beheaded for alleged non-observance of fasting.

Sectarian strife in the Muslim world has a long history. It assumed wider political dimensions after Imam Khomeini’s Islamic Revolution of Iran. Imam’s ideology of export of Islamic revolution and his conviction of monarchy as anti-Islamic led to subtle but sustained reaction of the Saudi, the bastion of Sunni orthodoxy.  Wahhabi Sunni radicalism in contemporary times owes its rising crescendo to this phenomenon.

Sectarian and ideological strife resulted in the creation of proxies on both sides. Bahrain, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Eastern Turkistan, and Pakistan are drawn into the vortex of conflicts and controversies.

U.S. sanctions are stimulated less by Iranian anti-Israel animus than by Iran-Saudi rivalry for the leadership of the ummah. That explains the on-going US policeman-ship over Iran’s nuclear ambition. No wonder the US did not beat an eyelid when the Saudi-Pakistani joint secret nuclear and missile venture fructified.

Determined to counter Islamic Iran’s growing influence in the Middle East and other vulnerable regions, Saudi Arabia invoked the doctrines of Abdul Wahhab, as the standing manual for Sunni armed interventions everywhere. 

Saudi intelligence has done excellent homework in identifying countries, regions, segments, and enclaves where Wahhabi ideology would find fertile ground to flourish. This identification is based on existing remnants of proto-Iranian traces, at least in the Asian continent.

India, with second largest Muslim population in the world, is not beyond the pale of Wahhabi reach. However, in Saudi estimation, for definite reasons, the construct of Indian polity appears rather hard-crested to direct Wahhabi penetration.

India has a unique position in Iran-Arab calculus. From a Saudi perception, India is (i) essentially of Aryan ethnic stock; (ii) most of the 18 crore Muslims of India, the world’s second largest Muslim populated country, are Shias, and (iii) India is the world’s largest democracy where freedom of expression is guaranteed by the constitution.

Rapidly growing Indo-Iran ties in economic, technological, cultural and security related areas are adding to the alarmist psyche of Saudi monarchy, which perceives this as a challenge to its strategic outreach.

Hence, India has come under Saudi/Wahhabi radar.  The Wahhabi/Salafi agenda for India is selective. The more India and Iran come closer in their bilateral relations, the more penetrative India-oriented Wahhabism will become. Apart from Kashmir, three southern states, Andhra, Karnataka and Kerala are prioritized. However, strategies and methodologies will vary depending on the receptivity of the soft targets where it is floated.

The Kashmir experiment, begun two decades ago, has been promisingly successful. The region is brought under a two-pronged assault: Armed jihad is floated through external proxy, while internal subversion is undertaken by local agency.  Jama'at Islami and Ahle Hadith, in concert with rabid clerics imported from Yadavlands,  have engaged the majority Sunni Hanafi population of Kashmir valley for wholesale social cultural and psychological transformation. To pro-Wahhabi ideologues in Kashmir, cliché-like communal harmony and peaceful co-existence among communities is not only redundant but outright nonsense. Recent uproar against rehabilitation of Kashmir IDPs reflects to what extent Wahhabi ideological penetration has succeeded. Recurrent waving of ISIS and Pakistani flags in some parts of the valley, and administration’s unwillingness to react supports our contention.

Wahhabi ideological penetration in Southern India is methodic. The case of violence in a mosque in Bommanhalli, Bengaluru last year, was hushed up as a minor tiff. Actually, the Wahhabites were trying to impose Wahhabi teachers in the mosque which the clerics rejected. Four persons were injured in the clashes. In another case in Maharashtra, Wahhabis tried to bribe the organizers to allow the preaching of Wahhabi ideology.

Saudi Arabia sponsored Wahhabism is highest in Kerala. The Muslim World League requested Saudi Arabia to establish Wahhabi centers in India to counter the growing influence of Iran among the Indian Shia.

However, Saudi has not missed that the Sunnis in India have not followed the violent Wahhabi style of Islam and there are many seniors in the Muslim community who would not subscribe to that line of thinking.

In the background of this reality, the only way Saudi Arabia could instill a radical thinking in the minds of the Sunni Muslims in India is of establishing pro-active Wahhabi centers in congenial locations. As we know Wahhabis are extremely orthodox in their beliefs.

It is not true that Wahhabism has no takers among the Indian Muslims. According to reliable press sources, it is reported that as a first step of its Wahhabization methodology for India, (in direct contrast to ghazavatu’l-hind dogma) Saudi sent Wahhabi preachers to India.  During three years beginning 2011, a record number of 25,000 Wahhabis came to India where they conducted seminars in various parts of the country.

Their kitty carried 1700 crore rupees in several installments. The money was meant for propagating Wahhabi Islamic ideology in India.

Though the Saudi drive for imposition of Wahhabi ideology on Indian Sunni-Hanafis did not enjoy overall success, Kerala, apart from the Kashmir Valley, showed large scale receptivity. So far the State of Kerala has recorded the highest rate of success of Wahhabi ideology in Indian lands.

A large number of Keralite Muslims go to Saudi Arabia in search of employment. Many in Keralites have welcomed the Wahhabi style of preaching. The Saudi controlled ecclesiastical structure in the State has taken control over nearly 75 mosques. The newly up-coming mosques in Kerala are also constructed on Saudi pattern.

Kerala has the highest inflow of Saudi money. It was in Kerala that posters mourning the death of Osama Bin Laden and prayer for executed Ajmal Kasab appeared in public places.

The Wahhabi rule book, which every Saudi Wahhabi preacher must carry with him when headed towards India, is a set of guidelines to be adhered to. Some of these guidelines are: shrines shall be forbidden; every Muslim woman should wear a veil; men should support beards; women should not work; men and women should not to mingle together in public; no weeping should be heard loudly at funerals; one should abide by the shariat law; men should wear trousers above the ankles; and there should be no laughing, music, dancing or watching television.

Wahhabi universities are also being set up: the Saudi sponsored Wahhabis are aiming to set up their own education system in India as well. Nearly half of the 1700 crore rupees for Wahhabization program in India will go to establishing four universities, including one in Andhra, as dissemination centers of Wahhabi ideology.  400 crore rupees are earmarked for setting up 40 mosques and 300 crore for seminaries where Wahhabi ideology will be preached.  Bribing the authorities of existing mosques is part of these allocations.  

Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith has a long history in Kashmir. Now it has been refurbished with funds, ideology, and cadres to carry out the Wahhabi agenda with recharged energy. After spreading its tentacles deep and wide in Kashmir, the Jamiat expanded to Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. Now Kerala is poised to become the hub of Jamiat-e-Ahle-e-Hadith that overseas the flow of Wahhabi scholars into India and its over reach in Southern India.  

As good luck would have it, Indian Muslims have a very valuable friend in Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who affirms and confirms that they are away from the reach of Wahhabi and ISIS ideology. What an enviable art of subtle denial!

Dr. Kashi N. Pandiata is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies Kashmir University

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