ALLOWING EXTREMISTS A FREE RUN
K G Suresh, The Pioneer
Monday, 30 June 2014
The ongoing crisis in Iraq is a result of militancy by the extremist brand of Sunni faith dominated by the Wahhabi school. The ideology flourishes through petro-dollars pumped by Saudi Arabia and the benign conduct of the West
Even as the crisis in insurgency-hit Iraq deepens further, the primary concerns in India, and naturally so, are the evacuation of its citizens, including hostages currently in the custody of the ISIS/ISIL terrorists, and the possible fallout on fuel prices which would further burden the country’s fragile economy.
A spurt in oil prices may widen India’s current account deficit to 2.3 per cent of the GDP. India imports nearly 80 per cent of its oil demand, out of this close to two million barrels per day come from Iraq, making it the second-largest source of fuel for the country after Saudi Arabia. Thus, it is equally important to understand a crucial dimension of the conflict, which could have a far-reaching impact on India as a nation — the growing tentacles of Wahhabism including within its borders.
To begin with, it is important to take into account some key factors which are being ignored both by the Western and Indian media.
The conflict in Iraq is not a Sunni-Shia sectarian war. The ISIS’s Saudi-backed Salafi-Wahhabi terrorists are killing Sunnis, Sufis, Shias and Christians. In their eyes, all Sunnis, Sufis or Barelvis (as we know them in India) in particular, are polytheists; Shias are infidels whereas Christians and Jews are enemies of Islam.
It’s the Salafi-Wahhabis who are attacking religious shrines in the war-torn country. Shrines in Samarra, Najaf, and Karbala are equally holy to Sufi Sunnis and Shias. Imam Hussain shrines in Karbala and Hazrat Ali’s shrine in Najaf are equally holy to all Muslims except the Salafis. In fact, Sunnis and Shias are joint custodians of the holy shrine in Samarra and other areas.
The ISIS, Nusra and Al Qaeda terrorists, and their allies in South Asia, despite their minor political differences are united in their hatred for Sunni Sufis, Shias and Christians. Events in Afghanistan, Nigeria, Libya, etc confirm that it is not the majority of Sufi Sunnis versus Shia, but it is Salafi-Wahhabis versus the rest of the world.
Wahhabis are known enemies of cultural heritage. The historic Buddha statue of Bamiyan had to face their ire. They were icons of tolerance in a Muslim nation like Afghanistan for centuries before the advent of Taliban.
The Arab Spring years witnessed some most heinous crimes against humanity in Muslim states. Mosques were targeted and very old Islamic manuscripts were destroyed by the Wahhabi elements. In Syria, they destroyed the tombs of Hazrat-e-Zainab, Khalid bin Waleed, Hujr ibn Adi etc. Mosques and monuments dedicated to tolerant peaceful Sufism were the main targets.
India is known all over the world for its composite culture, also known as Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb. Indian Muslims have not suffered at the hands of the majority community in the country, as has been the political propaganda. They are, instead, socially protected by the tolerant Hindu society. What has made the world’s second-largest Muslim population vulnerable is the advent of the ideology of Wahhabism.
Efforts are on to attack and eliminate this tolerant culture by foreign-led and funded Wahhabi/Salafi elements who are at work with oil and gas money for last several decades. They have gained access to administration, bureaucracy and political class by faking Muslim representation. They are being handled through doles to religious schools, student scholarships, coaching classes, vocational training etc.
The genesis of this development can be traced to Saudi Arabia which became a power to reckon with, in the early 70s after the discovery of hydro-carbons. The flourishing Saudi economy attracted workers from poor countries. India was one of them. Indian Muslims went to Saudi Arabia for work. They, of course sent remittance from Saudi Arabia and contributed to foreign exchange reserves, but beyond this they came back with the extreme infamous ideology called Wahhabism.
The petro-dollars came as subscription to Muslim cause, which was disguised as charity. Now Qatar has emerged as the main challenger to the Saudi dominance and its agents are relentlessly at work in India. Earlier all Wahhabi individuals and their organisations were supported by Saudi funds, but now some of them have switched loyalties to promote the Qatar brand of Salafism.
These elements have penetrated important Muslim bodies such as Central Haj Committee, State Haj Committees, Central Wakf Council, State Wakf Boards and Government bodies requiring Muslim participation, like the Maulana Azad Education Foundation, as also organisations created to serve the Muslim community in language and literature like State Urdu Academies and National Council of Promotion of Urdu Language apart from pure Sufi bodies like Khawaja Gharib Nawaz Dargah Committee, unwittingly with the support of ignorant Central and State Governments.
Jammu & Kashmir is a Sufi-dominated area but its contact with Wahhabism hastened the process of alienation. Wahhabi/ Salafi influence is growing in the valley since early 70s. They have targeted Sufi clerics, politicians and intellectuals and their places of reverence only to misguide public opinion, which is otherwise peace loving. The separatist movement is totally backed and funded by Saudi, British, Pakistani and Kashmiri Wahhabi organisations. Their prime target is the Sufi culture which can bring peace and harmony in Kashmir.
The new Government should check interference by Wahhabi elements in Muslim-related activities and encourage the involvement of Sufi institutions such as the All India Ulama and Mashaikh Board. Modern centres of quality education should be established in Muslim-dominated areas which should be manned and managed by Sufi intellectuals and clerics so that the students grow into patriotic, responsible citizens of the country.
Instead of blindly handing over Muslim affairs to existing Wahhabi-dominated Muslim outfits, a coordination committee should be entrusted with the task of Muslim affairs, including maintaining nationwide peace and harmony, identifying problems with their possible solutions and implementation of designed programmes for more and more integration of the community in the national mainstream.
Indian Muslims who profess and practise as per Sufi beliefs should be pro-actively involved in the management of Wakf Boards, which have unfortunately become the biggest tool to promote extremism. The Central Wakf Council too must be re-constituted in consultation with renowned Sufi leaders.
The world is gradually rising up to the challenge of Wahhabism. It’s time India too wakes up to the damage potential of this menace. Let Iraq be an eye opener in this crusade.
(The author is a senior journalist based in Delhi)