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Baghdadi and his impact on India
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Rakesh Kr Sinha | Date:01 Nov , 2019 0 Comments
Rakesh Kr Sinha
Former DIG and is associate member of Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA). Presently Special Advisor to the Chief Minister, Govt of NCT of Delhi.

Abu Bakar al – Baghdadi seems to have died finally if we trust the announcement made by the US President Donald Trump. Baghdadi, carrying a reward of $ 25 million on his head, had proclaimed the creation of an Islamic State, captured huge chunks of land in Iraq and Syria and was able to direct and execute terrorist attacks in over 30 countries.

Baghdadi, coming from a lower class family of Iraq was enrolled in a Sharia college of Baghdad University in the year 1991. He earned a bachelor’s degree and then joined at Saddam University, and institution dedicated to Islamic studies where he earned a master’s degree and a doctorate in topics related to Islamic scripture. He made good use of modern technology like internet, remote cameras and drone to further the influence of ISIS. He was using social media and internet for the recruitment to ISIS and making many radicalized Muslim as the virtual citizens of ISIS state.

Baghdadi had a clear message to them that anybody anywhere could act in the name of ISIS which would in turn show ISIS the capacity of attacking the targets remotely through those followers who had never been a part of regular ISIS militia. But the same use of social media to webcast the horrific execution of its opponents did not find much favour by other scholars of Muslim state as such punishments were invented by ISIS and no where prescribed in Islamic scriptures.

However, it would be too early to believe that the dream of building another caliphate based on Muslim theocracy after the fall of the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East has ended. The legacy will stay and it would be a part of tale amongst the radical Islamist organizations in different parts of the world.

 In India, it could not impact much. The Islamic state ideology could not permeate India that has world’s third largest Muslim population. The investigative agency of Indian Government could find only around 100 recruits joining ISIS from India. Many of them making to Syria were from Gulf countries where they had gone to work.

Islamic ideology and the desire to create sharia based theocratic state has been always a fanciful idea of many madrasa based scholars all over the world. But the radicalized muslim scholars are more interested to create their own brand of localized ISIS rather than joining the Islamic state headed by Baghdadi. They were happy to be designated as the affiliates of ISIS rather than being a part of it. Once such example in South Asia is ISIS – Bangladesh. This smaller versions of ISIS did not have any difficulty in recruiting the members for marketing their own brand of Islamic state ideology within Bangladesh. But they did not take much interest in sending the recruits to Iraq and Syria.

In Afghanistan too, ISIS could not sell its ideas. Afghanistan has its own jihadi eco system based on local and regional dynamics. The Islamic radicalism is held, spread and enforced by Taliban in its own style. The ideology of territorial expansionism of ISIS to establish caliphate was contrary to Taliban’s idea of enforcing strict shariat laws and not spreading the geographical boundaries. Given these contradictions, ISIS in its own form could not penetrate the minds and bring Taliban to alley with them.

The main threshold point for the recruitment to ISIS cadre was first to create a kind of disillusionment, a grievance and an altered individual psyche to bring them closer to the Islamic state ideology. There were mainly three doctrines. The first is “Tawheed al-Haakimiyyah’’ or the promotion of undisputed idea that Allah and his judgement and legislation (Sharia law) is supreme. Second, “Kufr bin Takhud” or the complete rejection of false gods which includes idols, elected democracy, parents if they stop you from joining the greater cause, and so on. Lastly, Al-wallah-al-Burrah’, advocates complete loyalty to muslims and only muslims.

These tenets were intended to radicalize the youth to make a potent concoction for recruiters. But none of the above three doctrines could help in bringing in more resources from India. It needed more than the ideologies to lure the youth to ISIS. It required the targeted individual to have complete sense of social, cultural or political disillusionment. The lack of achievements and purposelessness were other personal traits that jihadist recruiters looked for. The muslim youth in India are much more rooted to the soil than ISIS could think of. The family bonding, camaraderie, relatives, kinship and community belongingness and overall a liberal environment kept the Indian muslim youth tied to their motherland.

The Indian muslim youth is different from their western counterpart who are more alienated and detached from the family bonding and are much more vulnerable to fall prey to ISIS ideology. In India, the fascination of joining the geographical entity of the caliphate in Iraq and Syria did not exist that much. Even some of the radicalized youth loved to follow the activities of ISIS on social media. They would be happier to represent ISIS domestically instead of going to Syria.

Besides, the majority of those youth, inspired and ready to go to Syria, were from a very poor background and hardly had ever stepped outside India, and most of them did not even have valid passports. Many of their passport applications were rejected due to lack of address proof or an actual permanent address, inconsistent documentation, and lack of understanding of the application processes. Those who completed the process could not go beyond police verification. The ever alert Indian bureaucracy and intelligence agencies too spoiled the game.

In India whatever traits of radical Islamic fundamentalism that exists, revolves around Kashmir. Rest of Indian muslim are well ensconced under the constitutional guarantee of a secular state. Their demands are more related to education and employment opportunity rather than establishing a caliphate or even a part of it in India.

The ISIS has been at loss with the issue of Jammu & Kashmir and that remains a perplexing question for them. There was no clear single narrative within ISIS on the issue of Kashmir. Even as ISIS flags have sporadically been waved at protests in the Kashmir valley but on the ground the effect have been minimal. The ISIS failure to construct a narrative in the valley, despite various news reports suggesting the same, is grounded in the fact that jihad in the region is completely different ideologically and militarily than what the ISIS looks to achieve.

First, the reasons for jihad are diametrically opposite to what is propagated by ISIS. It is more towards a political identity than that of the religious theocracy. Second both the India and Pakistan are institutionally and ideologically too ingrained in the Kashmir issue to allow space for any other organized narrative to take root. The predominant jihadist narrative in Kashmir is pro separatists who fight for ‘azaadi’, or freedom from the rule of both India and Pakistan.

The second group consists of organizations supported by Pakistan, who in their nationalist discourse hold that the Kashmir is part of Pakistan. These two discourses leave little space for any other agendas by international groups such as ISIS, Al Qaeda, and others. The goal of Kashmir jihad is to establish an independent geo-political entity of Kashmir rather than accepting the dictate of ISIS.

However, it does not rule out some fringe elements exploiting the embroiled situation for limited gain with self-interest as the motive.

The message the death of Baghdadi sends to all the jihadis world over is loud and clear. First, you can’t turn the clock hundred years back. Caliphate is history and too much has changed worldwide since then. Second, any organization based on horrific violence and killing has a limited shelf life. Not only the world will unite against it but also the members of your organization will soon get fed up. Third, the religious laws cannot supersede the laws of nature and justice that every individual born to this world is entitled. One cannot re-establish and justify the human slavery, particularly those of the captured women. And finally the muslims in different parts of the world have their own issues and do not see their expectation fulfilled in the Islamic state ideology. They would like their issues, if any, to be sorted out in the country they live.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

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