The Lure of the ISIS

On the day of Eid, a group of Tamil Muslims in Ramanathapuram district proudly wore t-shirts with the logo of ISIS printed on them and took a group photo. And then someone decided to post it in Facebook. That’s when troubles began. The photo went viral and soon the law and order began knocking the doors of these young men. They all, obviously, denied any support to the Iraqi terror group and claimed merely that they admired the group for how honourably they treated the abducted Indian nurses. Here the cops are in a dilemma because the ISIS not a banned group in India. Still the pressure mounted and the police had to apprehend some of the youth in the group photo.

Whilst it is condemnable what the youth did, I think it’s just silly to arrest them. There are three key reasons:

  • Since the terror group is not a banned outfit, I’m not sure under what section they will be booked.
  • Such extreme groups and ideas have always found attractive to the concerned groups in the past.
  • There’s a genuinely religious angle to the ISIS that might be attractive to the youth. We’ll come to it later.

Now about the second point.

When Hitler was in his ascendance, the Brahmins in India were greatly excited. They were lured by his claim of Aryan Supremacy and took enormous efforts to justify his acts. The Bengali writer of German origin Savitri Devi, who had married a Brahmin, even went to the extent of extolling Hitler as the final incarnation of Vishnu. The Tamil writer Indira Parthasarathy, in his novel Verpatru (Bonding Roots) would have ridiculed his attitude of the Indian Brahmins. Nobody arrested Savitri Devi or no Brahmin in Mylapore was apprehended.

I don’t know how many of you have heard of the controversial Indologist called Koenraad Elst. He is a Belgium scholar known for his radical views on Hindutva that would put Shiv Sena to shame. He wrote books and published papers that ridicules the idea of Aryan migration and makes exaggerated claims about the destructive nature of the Muslim invaders; some of his works are extremely inflammatory in nature and would easily incite Hindu-Muslim riots. During the Vajpayee regime, Advani invited him to India and felicitated him in a grand function. Advani was not arrested for inciting Hindu-Muslim animosity.

Many Tamils today celebrate Prabakaran, the late leader of LTTE. I have seen several people keeping Prabakaran’s picture and the tigers’ flag as their Facebook profile pictures. Not a single day passes without Vaiko singing ode to the tigers. In fact, the LTTE is an official banned organisation in India. And Prabakaran is the Accused No. 1 in the assassination of one of our former Prime Ministers. But no one gets arrested for their profile pictures of Prabakaran.

Now onto the third point: ISIS is a hugely destructive force in Iraq. They are wreaking havoc in their part of the world and no sane Muslim should be supporting them. Yet, they carry an irresistible lure; that of a renewed Caliphate. ISIS claims that they are here to bring back the regime of the Calipha.

Caliphate was the ancient Islamic empire that encompasses all the Muslim lands. Calipha means ‘successor’, to Prophet Muhammad. It began immediately after the death of the Prophet and remained more or less unbroken until 1924 when it was dismantled by the British. It was against this move to dismantle the Caliphate system that Mahatma Gandhi launched the Khilafat Movement; which means even Gandhi felt that the continuation of the Caliphate System was necessary for peace among the Muslims. There are differing views on whether the Caliphate System was really benefitting the Muslims nor not, but no one can deny the emotional attraction this has, especially among the youth. Ed Husain is a British Muslim youth who had joined a radical Islamist movement in the UK and left after being disenchanted with their ways. He was penned his experiences into a book called ‘The Islamist: Why I Joined Radical Islam in Britain, What I Saw Inside and Why I Left’. In that book, he argues that one of the key goals of all the radical groups is to re-establish the Caliphate System. That’s the one single point of attraction for the youth there.

Seen from this perspective it’s understandable why those young men were excited by the ISIS. Not just them, but even several of the Urdu press were quite sympathetic in their portrayals of the outfit, but no one bothered to arrest the editors of those newspapers and magazines.

The youth need to be told why ISIS cannot be a Calipha theologically and legally. They should be counselled and informed of the destructive effects of this group and what it may portend for the Muslims across the world. But arresting them would only harden them and turn what’s a playful adventure into something more sinister. If Savitri Devi has the right to claim Hitler an avatar of Vishnu, if Advani can celebrate Koenraad Elst, if the Urdu press can be sympathetic to ISIS’s cause, the ill-informed youth of south Tamil Nadu can certainly take group pictures with ISIS t-shirts. Arresting them would cast a terror shadow in their lives and ruin their career; and such people become easy recruits for the willing terror groups everywhere. They were just wearing ISIS in their t-shirts. By arresting them, we wil be making them wear it in their heart.