A Muslim outfit in Kerala campaigns to counter the influence of Islamic State

The Kerala Nadvathul Mujahideen fears growing radicalisation of Muslim youth in the state.

Social commentator Prof MN Karaserry sees the episode as a sign of the times, even though the Kerala police don’t think much of it. Ever since two Malayalis were deported from the United Arab Emirates last week for allegedly sharing Islamic State propaganda, Karaserry has been wondering if this is a pointer to the increasing radicalisation of the youth in Kerala.

“Today’s youth have no models to emulate,” the professor said. “The youth who have nothing constructive to do are turning to destruction.”

The two men from Kochi were part of a group of around 10 from the subcontinent who were “found to have participated in Islamic State propaganda” on social media, according to news reports. They were interrogated by intelligence agencies on their return to India in late August and, after counselling, sent home. No case was registered against them. An intelligence officer in the state attributed the deportation simply to the UAE authorities’ “zero tolerance” to any association with militants.

Karaserry, former head of the Malayalam department at Calicut University, doesn’t share the unperturbedness of the police. The large-scale migration of Mayalalis to Gulf nations, he says, opened the floodgates to the petrodollar and commercialised religion and politics in Kerala.

Misinterpretations of Islam

His fears are shared by the Kerala Nadvathul Mujahideen, an organisation of Salafi scholars that has launched a campaign, especially on social media, against the spread of Islamic State ideology among Muslim youth. The group, which came up in response to the movement led by scholars and clerics like Sheikh Hamadani Thangal, KM Moulavi and Vakkom Moulavi in the 1940s, had started its drive against the Islamic State earlier. But the August deportations have strengthened its resolve.

Abdul Majeed Swalahi, state president of Ithihadu Subbanil Mujahideen, which has deep ties with the Kerala Nadvathul Mujahideen, says they will circulate a four-minute video on WhatsApp and YouTube to foil Islamic State’s bid to mislead the youth by misinterpreting Islam.

Many young Muslims in Kerala, Majeed says, wrongly believe that the Islamic State could realise its stated aim of establishing a “caliphate” in the Middle East. “The IS are trying to attract such men by introducing gold and silver coins as the currency of the caliphate and selling captured women in market,” said Majeed. “The youths do not realise that the Islamic State is mocking Islam.”

The growth of radicalisation

The deportations from UAE are not isolated incidents of radicalisation, says Majeed. There were reports earlier of a Palakkad-based journalist joining the ranks of the Islamic State in Syria. Besides this, there are many more Malayalis who have come under police scrutiny in the UAE and other Persian Gulf countries Arabia for propagating Islamic State ideology on social media.

Then there were reports of some Malayali Muslim youths joining other extremist groups. In October 2008, four Malayalis were killed in an encounter in Jammu and Kashmir while trying to cross the border to reach a terror training camp run by the Lashkar-e-Taiba. Subsequent probes by the state police and intelligence agencies revealed that more than 50 people were recruited from Kerala by the Lashkar-e-Taiba.

The police believe there are outfits active in the state with links to the banned Students Islamic Movement of India and Indian Mujahideen.

'No role models'

The possible radicalisation of Muslim youths in Kerala, where the community accounts for about 26% of the population, may come as a surprise to many. But not to Karaserry. He says the seeds of extremism were sown among Muslims in Kerala by firebrand cleric Abdul Nassar Madhani. Meanwhile, scholars like Chekannur Moulavi, who tried to teach a progressive version of Islam, were eliminated.

Most extremist organisations flourishing in Kerala today, Karaserry says, are offshoots of the Islamic Sevak Sangh floated by Madhani, who is in jail in connection with the Bangalore blasts.

Karaserry accuses the Kerala Nadvathul Mujahideen too of spreading extremism in the state. He believes the KNM is an ultra-conservative Salafi organisation that takes a fundamentalist approach to Islam. Yet, if its campaign to deter the youth from taking the dangerous path of Islamic State pays off, Karaserry would be happy. “The youth in the past were influenced by spiritual and political leaders, who served the society selflessly.” he says. “Today’s youth have no role models.”


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