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Anti-Islamic State Campaigns in Kerala: Anything beyond factionalism?

By Muhammad Ashraf Thachar Padikkal

Recently, the Jamaat-e-Islami division of Kerala organized a meet to counter the growing influence of the Islamic State (IS) among the Muslim youth in Kerala. On Facebook, I frequently encountered a bunch of serious and relentless arguments that were sometimes pro- and against Jamaat-e-Islami’s anti-IS (Islamic State) campaign. This discussion received a momentum when the Sunni Muslim organization, called SSF (Sunni Students Federation), triggered a new counter-campaign against the Jamaat-e-Islami’s campaign that purportedly called for creating a common platform to fight against the IS-extremist intolerance. As the Jamaat-e-Islami claimed that the Islamic State (IS) does not represent ‘true’ Islam, it was viciously countered by the SSF-campaign, which claimed that the IS is a product of the same fundamentalist ideology championed by the Jamaat. This accusation of fundamentalism has haunted the Jamaat for a long time and has been regularly attributed to it by orthodox Sunni groups in Kerala.

One of the Facebook posts rightly said that this factionalism among Muslims in Kerala would bring only disasters to them. This Sunni counter-activism against the Jamaat-e-Islami callously blamed Jamaat-ideologues like Syed Qutb and Maulana Abul A’la Maududi for their works which had supposedly fostered religious fundamentalism. This is a common accusation that evolved among the Sunni intellectual circles around the globe in the aftermath of Islamic State’s rise and brutality in the Middle East.  Recently, I came across an Arabic best-seller, Alhaqqul Mubeen firraddi ala man tala’aba bidheen (The Clear-cut Reality of Persons who Played with Religion), authored by an Al-azhar scholar from Egypt, Usama Al-Azhari.

SSF’s counter-campaign against Jamaat’s anti-IS campaign is an attempt to thwart Jamaat from earning points in the Kerala public sphere. In the run-up to the campaign, the Kerala Jamaat published a series of articles in its reputed weekly, The Madhyamam, linking the growth of the Islamic State to the imperialist agendas of the US and other western countries. This was again questioned by the Sunni sect by reminding people that in his first infamous speech delivered by Abu Bkr al-Baghdadi, the founding leader of the Islamic State, in Mosul, he had quoted Allama Maududi, who was the founding father of Jamaat-e-Islami movement all across the Indian subcontinent. There are also allegations that the Jamaat had exhorted its followers not to participate in the state elections, as the members of Jamaat perceived the Indian government as Tagoothi (Devilish). However, the popular agitation staged by the Sunnis in Kerala against Jamaat must remember that the Kerala Jamaat has reformed itself and distanced itself from the ‘hukoomath-e-Ilahi’ concept of state fundamentalism, fuelled by the Maududian thoughts. Some of Jamaat’s founding ideas now stand outdated in Kerala and a criticism of Jamaat’s anti-IS campaign based on those ideas would be unfair.

Disregarding sectarian obsessions, Muslims in Kerala must come together to work against any sort of religious fundamentalism and terrorism of the Islamic State (IS) variety. It’s a collective responsibility of all factions to remind people of its negative impact on the community as some youth had recently been deported from the UAE for their alleged links with the IS. The Muslim public sphere in Kerala must create a common space, where different factions could interact with each other on matters concerning the community as a whole. A push-back against religious intolerance and fundamentalism must rise above constraining emotionalism, as evident in social media discussions.

[For a more comprehensive understanding of religious factionalism among Kerala Muslims, read Issue 4 of Café Dissensus.]


Muhammad Ashraf Thachara Padikkal is completing his graduation from Madeenathunnor, Calicut, Kerala. He is an interviewer, writer and independent research fellow, specializing in the areas of Sufism, Islamic studies and cultural anthropology. He is also interested in tradition, philology and subaltern literature.

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6 Responses to “Anti-Islamic State Campaigns in Kerala: Anything beyond factionalism?”

  1. Muhammad Ashraf

    It cannot be simply stated so , to my precise understanding. Because, Most of the Jamath-e-Islami leaders here have never announced their followers that we are not following the Hokoomathe-e-ilahi ideas. And the SSF-campaign should also be welcomed in the account of this foretold understanding.
    What I have tried to tell is that the insider critiques and other criticisms must not redirect the discussions to the mere discussions, we must prioritize the opposing the IS as our responsibility.

  2. Abdul Hameed NS

    There are so many things beyond factionalism.
    At first, it notifies the Jamaat’s outdated and terrific ideology, about which they never made a public confession in Kerala as I believe.
    Secondly, the fact that Madhyamam tried to change the theme to the imperialist interpretations also tells that their campaign the lack of ideological correctness and the lack of support
    Thirdly, their campaign itself was for trying to deviate the topic from their movement related problems to the common platform before somebody blame them
    Fourth, consciously or unconsciously the jamaath was being trapped by announcing this campaign
    Fifth, this essay itself looks a dramatic piece to blame the Jamaat-e-Islami

    • Muhammad Ashraf

      You said it, I have never planned to play a drama here. If it looks blaming Jamaat in between the lines, it’s truly because of some generally accepted views.

  3. Aslam Jaleel

    It’s a good work
    Anyhow, How you dare to say it’s rightful to say that government will arrest common people only on this account of counter-campaign? Is that much vulnerable the Kerala state is?

    • Muhammad Ashraf

      Thanks for reading and evaluating the article.
      Every body has a moral right to share whatever he understood. That’s what is happened, when a person posted so in Facebook.
      And I am agreeing with you that it won’t bring any calamities until or unless we lack the faith in our state machinery, Kerala.
      And I am agreeing with and supporting this counter campaign.


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