May 2004 News

The Jehadi Mind,The Fight To Finish

18 May 2004
The Indian Express

New Delhi: He could be a died-in-the-wool product of a remote madarsa, somewhere, bearded, spartan, aloof and intent on his purpose of establishing the Empire of the Faith. Or he could be a jean-clad graduate from a Western campus, modern to all intents and appearances, but equally single-minded in determination as his counterpart from the madarsa. He may have been part of the West and benefited from what it has to offer, but he also sees the 'ills and injustices of its materialism, its determination to foist on the world an order and ethos it has created'; he is determined to fight it. In the final analysis, the jehadi, or the pan-Islamic warrior, is the same person, whether he comes from an ill-equipped madarsa or an affluent university, whether he comes from the poverty of the 'Orient' of from the plenty of the west. He celebrates death in the service of Islam and resolutely believes that death in the service of the only cause worth serving is a one-way ticket to heaven. His biggest disagreement with the modern concept of democracy is that he does not believe religion is the private affair of a person but rather a complete way of life which necessarily includes politics. Islam is his religion and his nation; it transcends geographical boundaries, ethnicities, colour, creed, race, all manner of other distinctions. He rejects secularism and any social order other than that defined by Islam. He rejects the sovereignty of the individual and believes that Allah alone is the sovereign and His commandments are the supreme law of man. Of course, the theoretical reason why Islam had asked its followers to wage jehad was to create an egalitarian social system order where the poor and the vulnerable would be treated with respect and dignity. Jehad (struggle) never exclusively meant a holy war; it could have been a social, political, economic campaign as well. It was a fight against inequality, social injustice and discrimination. But today jehad has but one dimension - Kital, or violent struggle. And it has but one icon: Osama bin Laden, embattled with the Great West to establish the domination of his own realm of faith. According to Karen Armstrong, author of a recent book on the rise of fundamentalism in religions, the contemporary conceptualisation of violent jehad was done by Moulana Abul Ala Muwdudi, a Pakistani scholar and mentor of the Jamat-e-Islami. He was first to talk of universal jehad which he declared to be one of the central tenets of Islam. Armstrong says that 'it was an innovation required in Muwdudi's eyes, by the current emergency. Jehad (struggle) was not a holy war to convert the infidel, as westerners believed, nor was it purely a means of self-defence, as Abdu (another top Islamic scholar of 20th century) had argued'. In fact, Muwdudi defined jehad as a revolutionary struggle to seize power for the good of all humanity'. The very idea of a pan-Islamic jehadi or mujahid is believed to have born after Muwdudi's call. 'Like any idealogist, Muwdudi was not developing an abstruse scholarly theory but issuing a call to arms,' Armstrong writes. Muwdudi saw all other systems as irredeemably flawed. He believed democracy led to chaos, greed, and mob rule; capitalism fostered class warfare and subjected the whole world to a clique of bankers; communism stifled human initiative and individuality. Jehad, he said, was the only remedy. 'Never before had jehad figured so centrally in the official Islamic discourse and the militancy of Muwdudi's vision was almost without precedent,' Armstrong says. But, of course, bin Laden has made it more central than ever before, sending off new global waves of inspiration to sections of youth ready to give their all the fight that he has come to symbolise. So blinded, often, is the commitment of the jehadi to the cause that those confronted with them are at a loss for counter- strategies. Says a senior police officer in Srinagar who has often dealt with jehadis: 'The typical jehadi is very difficult to break, he is absolutely determined to have his one-way ticket to heaven and for that he will do anything. And our tools for tackling them as absolutely insufficient. Do you know, you can ram all manner of questions on a typical jehadi during interrogation and he will not yield anything. Who sent you? Who do you work for? Who motivates you? What is your mission? You can go on asking and he will say nothing. And one day, it suddenly struck me that the answer to all these questions is just one word: Allah. That is what the jehadi is all about and it is very difficult to counter that. It is certainly not something that can be won over by guns or policemen or the army. You need other tools, I wonder what. It is a battle of the mind he is waging, you have to fight him in the mind.' It is often been said, in the context of Kashmir in particular, that the fedayeen are sent off on the suicide missions in a highly drugged or intoxicated state; it is one of the ways the government dismisses their sense of motivation and, therefore, the gravity of the problem that the burgeoning jehadi creed presents. But this is an erroneous, and perilous, way of looking at the phenomenon. One of the jehadis involved in the recent Srinagar Assembly bombing is believed to have spent a lot of his time in occupation of a flank of the building trying to provide fire-cover so the innocent among those trapped could escape the carnage. Certainly not something a drugged man can achieve. They may be intoxicated, but not on drugs or alcohol; it is their faith they are high on and that is something that may be very difficult to counter with guns or security strategies alone.


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