Akbar model to sideline Islamists

The current Indian government should use the model of King Akbar to curb radical Islamists in India and the region.

A fighter of the ISIS stands guard with his weapon in Mosul (photo credit: REUTERS)
A fighter of the ISIS stands guard with his weapon in Mosul
(photo credit: REUTERS)
It is disheartening to learn that India’s Sunni theologian Maulana Salman Nadvi of Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama admires reactionary forces such as the self-appointed caliph and head of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Some time back, Nadvi had greeted al-Badhdadi. Now, Nadvi has asked the Saudi government to prepare an army of five hundred thousand Indian Sunni Muslim youth to join the new caliph led fight against the Shia militias in Iraq and elsewhere.
The Modi dispensation in New Delhi and the state governments concerned must remain vigilant against such fanatic elements in Indian society and take all appropriate measures aimed at neutralizing them as early as possible. History bears out such fanatics within the Indian Muslim community (and various other religious segments) have risen from time to time to destroy the fabric of peace and harmony of this glorious ancient civilization.
But successive rulers in India have been by and large secular to the core and have crushed them. In medieval times, when King Akbar tried to introduce some positive reforms, he, too, was opposed by the then-radical Islamists led by cleric Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi who charged him with apostasy. But the king had a massive social base created out of his emphasis on a shared Muslim- Hindu culture and ideology. He invoked that as well as his military prowess to sideline the fanatics.
The current Indian establishment could resort to the Akbar model and invoke its syncretistic tradition and military power to fight effectively all its contemporary Islamists, including the ISIS aligned ones. India’s biggest asset against such Islamists is its secular, democratic character. India has been witness to relative social harmony since time immemorial.
Muslims have been part of its great heterogeneous, pluralist tradition. They have contributed to the making of modern India as much as any other sections of society. They know India is the best model for their multi-faceted development. They know the Islamist terrorism India is faced with is rather un-Islamic and are determined not to allow a few Islamists in their midst to distort their great religion and play havoc with the Republic. New Delhi could use them in its fight against the militant Islamists.
Pertinently, realpolitik demands not to treat the ISIS lightly. The whole world knows this terrorist outfit aims to install an Islamic world dominion, of which India, along with many other pluralist nations, would be part. Sharing its ideology in common with of al-Qaida, Taliban and other Wahabist Islamist outfits, the ISIS preaches hatred and violence against whoever does not subscribe to its radical, militant theological version. Abu Bakr al Baghdadi has reportedly already ordered Muslims to obey him in his call for ‘global jihad.’
In its operations and activities, the ISIS has been far more aggressive and dangerous than its once ideological begetter al-Qaida. It has made a rapid advance in a very short  time. Beginning just as a mere group of al-Qaida members in the region, it took the shape of the Islamic State in Iraq in 2006 in the wake of escalation of the crisis that  the post–dictator Saddam Hussein phase generated in the country. As another crisis escalated in the neighborhood of Syria under its autocratic presidency of Bashar Assad, this terrorist group metamorphosed into an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. It is now known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Syria, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, Cyprus and parts of Turkey.)
There is no gainsaying the fact that the influence of ISIS has been increasing in India. Some Indian youths have recently called up their families from Syria and confirmed they are fighting for it. They have said that they are safe and their entire family would go to jannat, or heaven, because of the 'work' they are doing as part of ISIS.
If these youths, who are currently fighting in Iraq and Syria are victorious there, they are likely to return home only to help ISIS carry out its anti-India designs. Also, the presence of such die-hard Islamist fighters would embolden some other like-minded elements in India.
The good news is the larger Indian civil society is being vigilant against the fanatic elements within. True to the age-old Indian tradition of peace and harmony, Maulana Mahmood Daryabadi of All-India Ulema Council, the umbrella organization of clerics, has in a way already disapproved of the recent action of Maulana Nadvi. Daryabadi has said, "If this is true, it's unfortunate. Indian Muslims share the pain of their brothers elsewhere but it's futile to see the crisis in Iraq and Syria from the Shia-Sunni prism. Some forces are bent on dividing the Muslims. Such letters will only widen the gulf between the two sects."
Many other Sunni Muslims have also distanced themselves from the Nadvi letter. They have asserted that Nadvi doesn't represent Sunnis, for he is an avowed follower of Wahhabism, a fanatic ideology that despises Sufism and discourages visit to the shrines of Sufi saints. Chief of Minhajul Quran Rafiq Ahmed Khan has said, "If he has written such a letter, it is misrepresentation of Sunnis. We don't believe in violence and will certainly not support a violent conflict just to gain power. The ISIS is ideologically close to the Wahhabis and have nothing to do with the faith of Sunnis." Some Sunnis have even demanded action against Nadvi alleging he is “acting at the behest of Saudi Arabia” and “creating schism between Shias and Sunnis." Senior Shia cleric Maulana Zaheer Abbas Rizvi too has condemned Nadvi's letter to the Saudi government.
The author is a senior Indian journalist based in New Delhi