India: Al Qaeda's Call to Muslim Youth

24 Jul, 2013    ·   4052

Bibhu Prasad Routray analyses the growth of the influence of Al-Qaeda among the Indian Muslim youth

Bibhu Prasad Routray
Bibhu Prasad Routray
Visiting Fellow

Its appellation bears close resemblance to a pre-existing evangelical video. On July 23, Al Qaeda's media arm, As-Sahab, released the English translation of a video statement it had posted in June 2013 calling upon the Indian Muslims to join the jihad in Syria. Titled, "Why is There No Storm in Your Ocean?", the video features Maulana Aasim Umar, an Al Qaeda ideologue believed to be based in northwest Pakistan.

Umar is believed to be 'a scholarly militant who liaises closely with Al Qaeda’s core leadership'. Many of Umar's writings are freely available on the internet and include "Teesri Jang-e-Azeem aur Dajjal", "Imam Mehdi (R.A) K Dost Aur Dushman", etc.

Unlike Al Qaeda's previous statements which vowed to defend Pakistan against Indian aggression in February 2009 and threatened to carry out terrorist attacks in India in February 2010, Umar's statement is more of an expression of frustration regarding the inability of the organisation to recruit Indian Muslims into global Jihad. The 11-page translation of the original video in Urdu, specifically exhorts the Muslims of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Southern India and Gujarat to "Join the forces of global jihad." It includes the following.

• Will the land of Delhi not give birth to a Shah Muhadith Delhvi who may once again teach the Muslims of India the forgotten lesson of Jihad and inspire them to take to the battlefields of Jihad?
• Is there not even a single mother in Uttar Pradesh who may sing those lullabies to children after listening to which they grow up to stage the battleground of Shamili instead of heading to bazaars, parks and playing fields?
• Has the land of Bihar become so barren that it is unable to prepare even a single group of the like of the Mujahideen of Azeemabad?
• The Muslims of southern India, it seems, have totally forgotten those words of the lion of Mysore which still cause the infidels to tremble in fear.
• What has afflicted the land of Gujarat, where the cries of Takbeer were raised against Kufr and Shirk?
• Why is it that the Muslims of India are totally absent from the fields of Jihad? How can anyone scare you from bloodshed?
• Muslim youth of India.. Head for arenas of jihad to establish the system of the Caliphate [again]!  Join the forces of global jihad!

In the first week of July 2013, Umar had claimed that many militant leaders and fighters from the Af-Pak region have been transferred to the Syrian front. His statement was endorsed by Mohammad Amin, a senior Taliban operative and 'co-ordinator of the Syrian base' who claimed that 12 Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) "experts in warfare and information technology" have been moved to Syria in May and June 2013 to aid Syrian jihadists. The TTP's Syrian base came up sometime in January/ February 2013.

Till now, Al Qaeda has failed to find supporters and recruits among the Indian Muslims. Apart from three Indians who became a part of the global jihad in the years since the 9/11 attacks, no Indian Muslim has figured in the global terror network. Incidentally all these three Indians were radicalised when abroad. Kafeel Ahmed, a Bangalore-born Muslim was raised in Saudi Arabia and died carrying out a car bombing at the Glasgow airport in 2007. Dhiren Barot alias Abu Musa al-Hindi, a Vadodara-born Hindu who got radicalised in Britain, converted to Islam and was imprisoned for plotting to bomb the New York Stock Exchange, the International Monetary Fund headquarters, and the World Bank, among other targets in 2004. Mechanical engineer Mohammad Niaz Abdul Rashid, a cadre of the proscribed militant organisation in India, Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), was arrested in Paris in 2011. He has been accused of being a part of the Al Qaeda and sending two French nationals to Pakistan for terror training. 

The birth of Bangladesh in 1971; the persisting instability and governance chaos in Pakistan; and plural and tolerant ethos of the Indian multicultural society are among the factors which have militated against the idea of Muslims being a part of Islamic nation. In spite of recent political statements linking riots in India with the birth of outfits like the Indian Mujahideen (IM), Muslim youths have rejected the idea of being a part of the global jihad. Al Qaeda's persistent failure in this regard has little chance of getting transformed into success.

The release of the English translation could have been timed to correspond with the American Vice President Joe Biden's India trip. The natural tendency would be to treat Umar's call to Indian Muslims as having negligible repercussions on the India's security. However, to dismiss it as a rhetorical statement with only an outward and external manifestation would be a mistake.

Viewed as a part of the Al Qaeda's radicalization efforts convert discontented Muslim youth in India into jihadists, the call could well have a much larger dimension, both in the near as well as long term, directly impinging on the country's internal security. With the economic growth stagnating and discontent rising all over, no scenario can ever be ruled out.