What's happening in Iraq and Syria is not a conventional Shia-Sunni conflict. It is a case of motivated groups of wrongly indoctrinated fighters going out of control and playing havoc. They are killing Sunnis, Sufis, Shias and Christians. Their call for Caliphate is just a camouflage to spread Wahhabism in areas traditionally dominated by spiritually-oriented liberal Muslim sects.
Tragically, rogue groups patronized by the Wahhabis rule thousands of square miles in this area today. And that's scary. Following an orthodox form of Islam that insists on a literal interpretation of the Quran, the Wahhabis believe that all those who don't subscribe to their brand of Islam are to be hated, persecuted, even executed. And from Algeria to Afghanistan to Iraq, they have done that religiously.
Osama bin Laden to Mullah Omar to now Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, all are propagators of this school of thought. The root of hatred is systematically nurtured in the madrassas of Saudi Arabia and exported all over the globe. The religious curriculum in Saudi Arabia teaches children as young as 13 that in Allah's eyes, people are of just two types. Wahhabis, the blessed ones, and the rest. The rest include all non-Wahhabi Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus and others.
What Islam needs today is not a movement towards orthodoxy, but a dynamic interpretation of its tenets. There can be no debate or compromise about its core creed. But its interpretation and application should change from time to time. When it's frozen at a certain period, it becomes outdated and loses its charm and appeal. And that is the biggest tragedy of the ummah today. The deviant behaviors are so rampant to make radical groups believe that a revivalist agenda and strict policing are the only way.
This distorted rigidity is what has kept the Arab world backward and is also making Muslims in India vulnerable. The rising influence of the Tablighi Jamaat, effectively the flag bearers of Wahhabism in the Indian subcontinent, is a worrying factor.
A recent news item talked about an Intelligence Bureau report which says some 25,000 Wahhabi preachers visited India last year, addressing over 1.2 million people in events organized mostly by Tablighi Jamaats. This is dangerous. It is a known fact that groups like Indian Mujahideen draw their inspiration from this ideology. Add to it the millions of petro-dollar flowing into Indian madrassas from Wahhabi groups in Saudi Arabia. Along with the investment comes a heavy dose of ideological and cultural preaching.
I was shocked when I recently visited an Islamic seminary in Bangalore. Barring the location sans the date palms and desert sands, it looked like a mini Saudi Arabia. It had nothing Indian. That way, the Wahhabis have already succeeded in insulating the Indian Muslims from the mainstream and sowing a rigid ideology. This ideological arrangement could also be behind Deoband's stated apprehensions against Prime Minister Narendra Modi's proposed plan for Madrassa reforms.
This trend can destroy Indian social fabrics. Not only it will create a chasm between an increasingly fanatical Muslim population and the rest but also has the risk of all hell breaking loose among different sects of Indian Muslims.
This ideological invasion needs to be checked immediately. ISIS may not dream of taking over Delhi but they will be keen to unleash their influence on radical Muslim groups in Kashmir and elsewhere in India. And they will sneak in not in combat uniforms but most likely as religious preachers. India needs to be alert to this.
Liberal Indian Muslims must stand up to join this national jehad of saving the nation from the clutches of orthodoxy! Condemning Osama bin Laden is not enough. We need to fight the mindset that gave birth to bin Laden. Let's take it upon ourselves the task of ensuring that this radical ideology is not taught and preached in any form in India.
(The author is social worker and currently works as a volunteer of the Art of Living foundation. The views expressed in the article are personal.)