May 19, 2008counter-terrorismForeign AffairsIndiajihadisreligionsecularismSecurityterrorism

The Paradox of the New Jihadi

The local manifestation of a global pattern

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

It is hard to say, but it may well be that the Indian media prevented the Indian Mujahideen from setting off their tenth bomb. The earliest reports of the contents of their email made them appear merely dangerously confused. But as we learn more about what exactly they said in their email, it is clear that their message was not merely incendiary. It is, as Praveen Swami puts it, a manifesto for the Indian Mujahideen’s Declaration of Open War Against India. Declaration of Open War Against India.” [via Sandeep]

Because that document has profound implications for India’s psychological preparation for the long war ahead, it is incumbent on the media and the government to make the entire document public.

Mr Swami’s article makes it abundantly clear that pattern of contemporary global jihad’ has manifested itself in India. Now, terrorist attacks by Islamic groups are nothing new for India—but in the past these were linked to the secessionist movement and later, the proxy war in Jammu & Kashmir; or any number of Pakistan’s extended jihadi apparatus, including the Dawood Ibrahim’s organised crime network. The difference between those attacks and the more recent ones is that whereas the former involved either foreigners or hardcore” locals, the latter involve individuals and cells from a broader section of the India’s Muslim population.

Paradoxically, while many of the New Jihadis are home-grown, the reason for their energetic mobilisation is global. As the Indian Mujahideen say in their email, they are motivated by the belief that we Muslims are one across the globe.” India, therefore, in the minds of the New Jihadis is but one front, their front, in the global jihad. While they cite the demolition of the Babri Masjid and the Godhra riots as the reasons for their attacks—which their apologists are quick to ingest—the fact that their violence is directed against the Indian people and the Indian state, including Muslims who disagree with their ideology, suggests that these grievances are either excuses or propaganda slogans for their primary agenda.

At this point, it is common for the Indian debate to be hung up on whether injustice leads to terrorism or the other way around, but because the New Jihadis see themselves as part of a global religious war, it is reasonable to conclude that no amount of justice’—short of the impossible goal of reordering Indian society along their demands—will convince them to halt their struggle. Such implacability makes it extremely easy for foreign interests to use the New Jihadis to pursue their strategic objectives. The old jihadis, for instance, could be controlled strategically by squeezing Pakistan. This approach won’t work too well against the New Jihadis.

What this means is that the only course open to India is to fight the New Jihadis to the finish. They have already declared war on India. Now, it is not that the Indian government is not fighting—it is, and it has notched some notable gains against SIMI in recent years. But because the entire debate of counter-terrorism has been coloured in the tired old colours of communalism”, secularism” and minorities”, the Indian government, and the political establishment, has failed to mobilise the nation for this war.

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