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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