Solving India’s Islamophobic extremism problem


 OCT 19, 2022 – DAILY SABAH

Illustration by Erhan Yalvaç.

Illustration by Erhan Yalvaç.

Though utterly unacceptable and condemned by Muslims worldwide, the murder of two Hindus by two allegedly Muslim men in August was seen as an extremist reaction to a number of developments within the country. The years of lynching Muslims, the death squads comprised of Hindutva followers, the Hindu extremists’ calls to rape Muslim girls, the vicious treatment of hijab-wearing women, the beating to death of bearded men and the shooting of Muslim protestors by police under the helm of the pro-Hinduvata government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi are only a few documented examples of the state-sponsored anti-Muslim campaigns that authorize violence.

None of the mainstream Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders came out to stand against the wilful violence centered against Indian Muslims. Instead of stopping the Hindu mobs from killing Muslims during the “Delhi riots,” hardline Hindutva leader Yati Narsnighanand “called repeatedly for Muslims to be killed” while his “hate speeches played a crucial role in radicalizing the rioters” who finally “unleashed a bloodbath in North East Delhi.” Hindutva is an ideology that states that India is the homeland of Hindus, though critics argue it excludes other religious groups such as Muslims.

This anti-Muslim hatred eventually transformed into the “shoot the traitors” slogan, meaning that Indian Muslims “have to prove their loyalty to India.” The government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also unleashed Hindu mobs that committed crimes like lynching, public beatings and shootings.

What is happening today in India is a result of years of racial discrimination, Muslim youth segregation and ill-treatment of Muslims across society that is now transforming into extremism.

Hence, the questions that arise are: Is India’s violent extremism a Muslim-only problem? What motivated young people to become violent extremists? Is it the ideology that brainwashed young people or is it the discriminatory attitude of wider society? What about the Hindu nationalists? Is India heading toward full-scale Hindu-Muslim riots? What can be done?

Tolerable or intolerable terrorism

A few days back, I posted a video on TikTok featuring a Muslim girl held hostage by a Hindu extremist. Moments later, I received a message saying my account had been “temporarily blocked” because of violent and offensive content that breaks the rules.

Fair enough, though I found similar videos from Ukraine with similar content on TikTok. The same rule applies when it comes to Israeli atrocities, the moment you post a video on Twitter or TikTok, either it fails the content test or it is systematically blocked using a violent content scheme.

That’s how the Israeli and Indian governments partnered in human rights violations to get away with their heinous crimes by controlling social media sites. In fact, the world has adopted a “double standard” approach to extremism.

A few years ago, I wrote a piece on “tolerable and intolerable terrorism” and argued, “Peace in the world will only come if we adopt a policy of zero tolerance of any terrorism, regardless of the perpetrators.”

Professor Najma Sadiq from NUST University believes “state-sponsored polarized views lead to harvest extremism and violence as it happened in the case of India.” The point is that a selective approach to addressing extremism will not work.

For years, mainstream Indian media, polity and public bodies have remained systematically silent on Hindutva’s ruthless attacks on Muslim mosques, educational intuitions and even their homes. Why has extremism been allowed to be nurtured in India? What happens next? Can extremism in India be stopped?

Rise of anti-Muslim hatred

For a long time, the Modi government empowered by the BJP has not only overlooked genuine grievances of ethnic and religious minorities but evidently tolerated a Hindutva-founded “modern hatred” directed at all religious groups that aim to create a “Hindu India.”

Arundhati Roy thinks “India is becoming a Hindu-fascist enterprise” as it endorses “the practice of bulldozing Muslim homes and businesses,” which indicates “India is transitioning pretty brazenly into a criminal Hindu fascist enterprise with tremendous popular support. We now appear to be ruled by gangsters fitted out as Hindu godmen. In their book, Muslims are public enemy number one.”

Besides, BJP’s top leadership’s unchecked, unsupportable anti-Islam and anti-Muslim statements, discourses and rhetoric have led to the lynching of Indian Muslims, a rise in attacks on mosques and educational institutions, and the around-the-clock use of derogatory language to vilify Islam and the Holy Prophet.

For the last few months, a number of leading members of the BJP, for example, Bandi Sanjay, have openly expressed controversial statements declaring all mosques are built on Hindu temple sides.

Following the demolition of the “Babri Masjid,” saying that another BJP leader Vinay Katiyar “wants the Taj Mahal converted into “Tej Mandir,” and other deliberate attempts have made Indian Muslims feel like they are living in hell while alienating young Muslims from their country of birth.

The point is who is to be blamed for all this mess? To be honest, Muslim mosques in India have long been “under threat.” Correspondingly, the Indian government’s 2020 “Citizenship Amendment Bill” was designed to “marginalize Muslims” and also to pave the way for Indian Muslims’ legal “deportation.”

The crux of the matter is that Hindutva has been engaged in inimical activities to possibly start a religious war in India. For that purpose, Hindutva has gathered huge public support at home whilst most sections of the Indian media and polity are lobbying to assemble like-minded anti-Islam and anti-Muslim states, groups and individuals in the west.

Inspired by Israel

Evidently, Modi’s BJP government, inspired by the vicious policies of the Israeli government that forces Palestinians to live in an “open-air prison” camp, is now applying the same tactics to the Indian Muslims.

Not a single day passes without demonizing Indian Muslims and their religion. Indian scholar Apoorvanand writes, “Insulting Prophet Muhammad is straight out of the BJP playbook,” especially high-ranking BJP spokesperson Nurpur Sharma and BJP’s Delhi media operation head, Naveen Kumar Jindal, whose “publically made disparaging remarks about the Prophet Muhammad” have offended over a billion Muslims around the world.

Dutch right-wing politician and anti-Islam campaigner Geert Wilders’ support for BJP spokesperson Nurpur Sharma shows a globally calculated agenda against Muslims. Mocking the Holy Prophet Muhammad would further isolate young Indian Muslims who are already victims of Hindutva brutal assaults. What exactly does the BJP intend to achieve? A Hindu-only India?

If it is the case, what will happen to Indian Sikhs who went through the deadliest massacre in 1984? What about the violence directed at Christians and Dalits? Hindutva’s extreme ideology is creating division in an Indian (secular) society, which could lead to a civil war.

Arguably, extremism is a global issue; white supremacists in America and Europe, the Lev Tahor Jewish extremist group, Daesh in the Middle East (supported by the Americans), Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in India and Myanmar’s Buddhist extremists are all ideological brothers, a bench of self-proclaimed scholars provoking violence through hate speeches and misinterpretations of religious texts.

Surely, Islamophobia is real, officially accepted and nurtured in Modi’s BJP government, which echoes its own version of America’s right-wing “great replacement theory.” The BJP must accept the multicultural nature of India and that a “Hindu India” could only tear apart its union.


Academic, analyst and activist based in the U.K., Ph.D. holder at the University of Huddersfield


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