Jihad: A deadly old game – Ravi Shankar

Ravi Shankar Etteth“Politics abides no principles. To counter the Raj, Lenin mixed religion and ideology, dreaming of a Communist India. He chose pro-Islamic M. N. Roy, an intense Bengali Communist, to found an army to fight the British empire, much before Subhash  Chandra Bose’s INA was formed. In September 1920, Comintern boss Grigory Zinoviev urged 1,800 Muslim delegates from the Middle East and Central Asia to start a jihad against imperialism.” – Ravi Shankar

ISIS tank on parade in RaqqaSometime around the turn of the 19th century, an agitated young Indian gentleman named Abdurrahman Peshawari decided to sail for Turkey. The British were fighting the last caliphate, the Ottoman Empire, and Indian Muslims were sending men and money to help the sultan. Jihad had a certain je ne sais quoi for Peshawari. He decided to bunk classes in Aligarh University, hawk all his belongings and took the steamer from Bombay to Istanbul. Peshawari was probably the first outsourced educated Indian jihadi. The tribe is growing. Eighteen homegrown fighters—mostly educated youth from South India— have given up filter coffee and Chettinad chicken to wage bloody war in Syria. They are among the hundreds of global holy warriors who believe in faith decaf—this depraved world has to get its just deserts of Wahab’s Arabia. Indian intelligence confirms that Indians have been fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan in hundreds. Middle East’s fractious politics now has infected the Indian psyche.

History shows that in spite of all the rabid romance of faith, jihad is about seizing power and creating new rules—in other words, politics by other means. Peshawari, after being wounded in Gallipoli, realised that the Ottoman cheque had bounced and became a politician and an acolyte of Kemal Ataturk, the Big Daddy of modern Turkey. Ataturk gave him much Turkish delight by appointing him ambassador to Afghanistan—the first Indian to represent a foreign power. Today, Ankara is playing politics in Syria, reportedly supplying arms to opposing factions. The result is that the jihadi story in Syria is not all ittar and virgins: there are over a hundred groups, killing one another for apostasy.

Napoleon  BonaparteBut then the politics of jihad is as old as the lust for power. Babur was a heavy-drinking and wenching, murdering bandit until he discovered the power of religion as a political weapon to motivate against Hindu armies. The spoils of war for his uneducated, bloodthirsty hordes were the usual—riches and women. Napoleon’s political move to appease Egyptian Muslims was to promise the great Imam of Cairo that he, along with the entire French army, was converting to Islam. It boomeranged, because his soldiers refused to be circumcised. In British India, the English, who were fighting the Sikhs supported Wahabi leader Syed Ahmad Barelvi who established a jihadi camp in Peshawar—now the capital of Taliban terror—recruiting fighters from Bengal, Bihar, Awadh and Agra against Maharaja Ranjit Singh. By the time the 1857 Mutiny happened, Raj politics had come full circle—historians like Sheshrao More claim that jihadis threatened to kill Nana Sahib if he didn’t lead the anti-British forces.

Politics abides no principles. To counter the Raj, Lenin mixed religion and ideology, dreaming of a Communist India. He chose pro-Islamic M. N. Roy, an intense Bengali Communist, to found an army to fight the British empire, much before Subhash  Chandra Bose’s INA was formed. In September 1920, Comintern boss Grigory Zinoviev urged 1,800 Muslim delegates from the Middle East and Central Asia to start a jihad against imperialism.

Jihad in the KoranThe principles of religion—whether it be the imams or the Church—have been exploited for centuries for political power. Invaders like Ghori, Ghazni and Aurangzeb conquered and ruled by fanatical faith. In Arabic, jihad means ‘struggle’—the believer’s spiritual effort to keep the faith to his best ability. Prophet Muhammed, after winning the war against his enemies, had said, “We are finished with the lesser jihad; now we are starting the greater jihad,” meaning the war against the enemy outside is less important than the spiritual struggle. It will take many decades and millions of lives lost for jihadis to realise the sublime truth behind the Prophet’s words. Meanwhile, the atavistic bestiality of belief is being baptised in blood daily, both of innocents and warriors fighting one another. – The New Indian Express, 3 August 2014

» Ravi Shankar Etteth or just Ravi Shankar is an Indian author, columnist and cartoonist. Contact him at ravi@newindianexpress.com