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SPECIAL REPORT: Radicalization among Kerala Muslim youths gaining epidemic proportions

By Azhar Jaman

The Islamization of Kerala is normatively different from the north Indian counterparts of religious propagation. In Kerala, the Sufi credentials of assimilation and integration into local tradition and thriving heterogeneous Islam guided the swift conversion of local population into Islam. Islamic preachers based the propagation on the divine human rights and justice, causing the people coming into its embrace like moth coming to fire. The Islamization process no longer altered the social system of the state and the traditional practices because Islam never turned out to be a radical obstacle to religious harmony and mutual existence.

Even when north Indian Islam was dragged into constant strives with the regional elements and cultures, ranging from various religions, customs to ruling classes, Islam in Kerala stood strongly entrenched to the peace and mutual coexistence. Strong adherence to Islamic ideals only promoted social cohesion and regional religious harmony. Islam’s hallmark identify of cultural assimilation emerged out of region’s characteristics were fully enjoyed in Kerala.

Islam in Kerala served the purpose of social construction, justifiably knocking down the barriers of casteism and religious segregation. When Hindu community invoked the taboo on travelling in sea, Muslims acted as the navel heads of local ruler Zamorin of Calicut. Muslim leaders were the arbitrary reformers of the Kerala community. Sayyid families who trace their origins back to Prophet Muhammad acted as the undisputed leaders of the community.

Kerala Muslims1Recently, the alleged migration of 21 Kerala Muslim youth to Syria and Iraq to fight for ISIS sent shock waves across the community. Leaving the nation to fight in the cause of God and Islam (jihad) is a core tenet in terrorist Islam as it advocates the migration from the abode of infidels ( Darul kufr) to the abode of Islam ( Darul Islam). The missing youth trauma clearly shows the alarming growth of radicalism among the Kerala Muslims.

Drawing parallels of terrorist movements in various nations, it would be concluded that radical ideology of Salafism is to blame behind this radicalization. Wherever Salafism or Wahabism made foothold among the Muslims it naturally leads to social and communal disintegration, because Salafism is firmly rooted in violence and social hatred. Salafism promotes interreligious discords and leads the spiritually exploited people into the traps of social alienation. Puritanical Salafi views perceive an imagined global community with firm emphasis on Thawheed (belief in the oneness of the God and his attributes) violently opposing the practices that crept into Islam as part of integration and assimilation of inclusive Sufi Islam. Assaulting the local cultures of Islamic manifestations Salafism sows the seeds of bloodshed as in the case of al Shabab in Mali and Boko Harem in Nigeria.

Salafi doctrines give importance to violent political activism against non Muslims, severing of social bonds with them dreading contamination of pure faith and loyalty towards to Muslims and enmity towards infidels. Terrorism and radicalization spawned by Salafi ideology has been subjected to detailed study exposing the hidden menaces of Salafism across the Muslim world and the inherent struggle with all imbibing Sufism.

It is high time to prevent the epidemic spread of radicalization among Kerala Muslims. The budding opposition of radicalized youths to the celebration of composite cultures of social practices and rituals has brewed communal tensions. If not curbed, it will spoil the communal equilibrium of the state which relishes unbalanced religious harmony so far. Muslim leaders must distinguish between religion and regional traditions, allowing the both not to collide shedding the bloodbath. It is onus on all community leaders to wake up to the nascent dangerous dangers of radicalization and promptly respond to pre-empt the religious discords.

[Azhar Jaman is a research scholar at Dept. Hadith and Related Sciences, Darul Huda Islamic University, Malappuram, Kerala. He can be contacted at [email protected]]

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