No cause for celebration: Indian Muslims and the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan

06-09-2021 Mon 20:58 IST | IANS | Opinion

Taliban prides itself in following Islam according to the scriptures and yearns to establish an Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan.

Their narrow vision rests on the claim that the foremost objective of maintaining law and order in the society is possible by following Islamic principles. Yet, they manifest themselves by committing violent acts in order to create fear and assert power.

Relying on the religion to further their agenda of control over the Afghan people, the Taliban is contemptuous to the likes of secularism, freedom of speech, human rights or anything that has to do with democratic ideals which for them are the vestiges of Western influence.

In the previous regime which lasted from 1996 to 2001, the Taliban meted out strict punishments to anyone who went against their interpretation of Shariah rules that were to be followed. They practiced regressive policies which impinged upon the basic rights and freedom of the Afghan people, most particularly the women and the ethnic minorities of Afghanistan like the Tajiks, Hazaras and the Uzbeks.

The Hazaras in particular have been subject to some of the most violent attacks for their ethnicity and Shia faith. They even destroyed the famous Buddha statues in Bamiyan.

It's important to remember that in its thirst to gain control over Afghanistan, Taliban is killing the Muslims in Afghanistan. The Afghan Taliban found its education in Deoband Madrasas located in the Indian subcontinent. Although Taliban finds its influence from the Deoband school, the group also has deep roots in the Pashtun traditions that followed a pre-Islamic tribal code or Pashtunwali.

In their fight against the Soviet Union, it were the US and Pakistan that began pushing the Islamic agenda in Afghanistan. Over a period of time, with Pakistan creating the Taliban, the outfit has mainly sustained itself through narcotics andterror activities which are illegal according to the basic principles of Islam.

And still the Taliban claims to establish an Islamic Emirate. In reality, the brand of Islam that the Taliban practices and wants an ordinary Afghani to follow is merely a means to have absolute control over Afghanistan. Islam promotes tolerance and not compulsion. As such, the Taliban has resortedto a forced ideology and has thrived on it by having a strict control on the Afghani people.

The Deoband School in India has condemned the violent practices that are followed by the Taliban. There is definitely no need to draw a connection between the Afghan Taliban and the Deoband seminary of India. The conditions under which the Taliban emerged cannot be placed onIslam or the theological school they belong to. And placing the Indian Muslims and the kind of religion they follow and Taliban on the same bar is just not right.

Interestingly, with the Taliban back in the picture in Afghanistan, the attention is back on the Indian Muslims too. For the record, it has been reiterated time and again that the Taliban do not have anything to do with the Indian Muslims. Do the Taliban need to be condemned? Yes, by every citizen of India and also the world, not only Muslims.

Harrowing visuals of people desperate to flee the clutches of Taliban having been doing rounds on the internet, social media and television channels for which the Taliban need a strong condemnation from the international community; the onus should not be on the Indian Muslims alone.

Muslims constitute roughly 14 per cent of India's population and are the third largest Muslim population in the world. It is important to remember that Indian Muslims rejected the Islamic state of Pakistan during the Partition and chose the secular state of India and have continuously reposed faith in democratic ideals of the Indian Constitution.

The whole narrative of drawing a connection of Indian Muslims to the Taliban is flawed. When isolated people like Maulana Sajjad Nomani of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) commended the Taliban for taking over Afghanistan, the AIMPLB immediately dissociated itself from this opinion. Except a few isolated cases, the members of the Muslim community do not glorify or sympathise with the Taliban.

Everyone knows very well the harm their medieval practices in the name of Islam are doing, is more to the religion than the practitioners themselves. A handful of radical statements cannot be taken as representative of the whole Muslim community in India.

India has long been a pluralistic society from the start and a lot of it is due to the social movements like the Bhakti and Sufi movements etc. The idea of sharing space binds the people together cutting across sectarian and religious differences.

So, we see a cultural balance and this has been the foundation of Indian Muslims. In India, Islam is also driven by culture, tradition along with theology. There has been an intermingling of cultural practices which have created a cohesive bond of a plural society.

For a Bengali-speaking Muslim or an Assamese-speaking Muslim, their ethnic identity is as important to them as their religious identity. Likewise, it is sometimes a common language which bonds people irrespective of the religion they belong to. There is Kerala Muslim, Tamil Muslim, Bengali Muslim, and so on. All take as much pride in their ethnicity as they identify themselves with their religion.

Some Muslims in India believe that Islam as a religion involves syncretism and others believe in a Puritan Islam with no scope for heterogeneity. There are interpretations in the same faith and differences of opinion too, as what might be right to one might be wrong to the other.

And Indian Muslims respect these differences and opinions that have existed since time immemorial and do not believe in forcefully enforcing the ideologies like the way the Taliban does. Muslims need to reclaim Islam from the clutches of those who give fatwas at the drop of a hat and do not mind hobnobbing with political parties for their interests. What is needed is a more educational and economic amelioration of the Muslim community.

By Salma Kouser-Asif
(The views expressed are personal)

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