A 'Terrorist' Magazine

Fawaz Shaheen & Rooman Ahmad

Between 22nd-31st March 2014, the Delhi Police Special Cell and Rajasthan Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) along with Jaipur and Jodhpur police carried out a series of raids in Jaipur, Jodhpur and Sikar which resulted in the arrest of 13 young Muslims accused of being members of terror outfit Indian Mujahideen (IM).

While the Delhi Police believes that they have arrested the last of IM's top leadership, the Rajasthan ATS claims to have uncovered a local IM 'module' in Rajasthan and have subsequently arrested at least three more persons alleged to be its members. More arrests seem to be on the cards.

One of those arrested is 40-year-old Ashraf Ali Khan, who the Rajasthan ATS alleged to have been on the run from 23rd March, before finally being nabbed in Tamil Nadu's Cuddalore District on 1st May.

Ashraf Ali Khan was the publisher of "Nida-e-Haq" (literally; "Voice of Truth") a monthly magazine in Hindi being published from Jodhpur for the last 16 years. The police claim this magazine propagated a jihadi-terrorist ideology and was used to lure young Muslims towards terrorism and become members of the IM's 'sleeper cells' in Jodhpur.

An analysis of 10 issues of this magazine—March 2012, November 2012, December 2012, February 2013, March 2013, July 2013, August 2013, September 2013, October 2013 and February 2014, which was the last issue to be published—is self revealing.

A reading of these ten issues of Nida-e-Haq leads one to conclude that the publishers undoubtedly held very orthodox and fundamentalist views regarding Islam, much more so than the original Ahl-e-Hadith group that they belonged to. They have used the word ‘jihad’ very liberally and often called on the Muslim community to unite under the banner of Islam, but nowhere have they called on Muslims to openly engage in violent jihad against the Indian State.

In fact in many places they have criticized religious leaders and preachers from all sects of Indian Muslims. For instance, the September 2013 issue concludes with an article "¥ariza-e-dawat-o-tabligh, kahan hein humare rehnuma" (The obligation to call towards Islam, where are our leaders/ guides) in which the writer mourns the lack of groundwork and people to people interaction on the part of Muslim ulema (scholars) in spreading the message of Islam among both Muslims and Non-Muslims. He calls their ongoing activities mere lip service.

The important thing to note is that in their criticism, no sect is really spared, except for a preference for Ahl-e-Hadith in general, but not towards the Ahl-e-Hadith group in India in particular. This is a general trend noticeable in all the volumes.

Another important point is that despite broad criticisms, the Nida-e-Haq fails to advocate any solutions of its own, and particularly on the political front, there is very little by way of actual call to action, except for sweeping generalizations and rhetorical assertions.

For instance, the idariya (Editorial) of the September 2013 issue titled "Musalman ka hadafkya hai? " (What is the goal of Muslims?) talks about all the oppressions and atrocities being carried out against Muslims all over the world and ends it with a general appeal for all Muslims to come back to their true faith, without spelling out anything concrete.

Again, the October 2013 issue's idariya (Editorial) calls upon Muslims to unite in the face of oppressions like the Muzaffarnagar riots. It talks about how the rioters who killed Muslims in Muzaffarnagar did not ask for their sectarian loyalties, but only for the fact that they were Muslims.

In the same issue, an article entitled "Subramanyam Swami ke agendey par millat to pehle hi amal-pera hai" (Muslim community is already practicing Subramanyam Swamy's agenda) the writer, one Dr Ajmal Farooqui, deplores the disunity in the community and sarcastically points out how Muslims have already made Subramanyam Swamy's agenda successful (Subramanyam Swamy has many times pointed out that Hindutva forces must work to exploit the sectarian divisions among Muslims).

On Jihad
There is one article in the March 2013 issue entitled "Jung-e-Hind, mazi, hai aur mustaqbil" (War in India; past, present and future) in which the writer Abu Talha Al-Hindi has called India Dar-ul-Harb (Land of war/divisions/stiuggle or Land ruled by Disbelievers). The writer posits that jihad in India has been going on for more than a thousand years and will continue as long as India does not become an Islamic State. This is very clearly an aspiration akin to RSS’s demand for a Hindu Rashtra and must be considered along the lines of an ideology that propagates an alternative worldview.

However, it still does not call towards open violent action and it is also not the first time India has been called Dar-ul-Harb by a scholar. Some scholars of the Ahl-e-Hadith or Salafi sect do take the extreme position that all lands not governed by Islamic law are Dar-ul-Harb (which effectively includes all Nations of the world today), but they do not advocate instant violent action against those states.

In most cases throughout the Nida-e-Haq the call for struggle (or Jihad) has been directed towards reform within the community itself.

For instance, in the September 2013 issue, an article "Islah-e-muashray ke liye amli jadd-o-jahad" (Practical struggle to reform the society) the writer Mohd Ismail Qureshi calls on Muslims to implement Islamic Shariya (Islamic Law) by following it themselves in their day-to-day affairs: "...musalman... ko chahiye ke shara' i ahkaam jo bilkul saaf, waazeh aurfaaide-mandhein, khud ba khud apne upur naaflz kar lein.." (Muslims... must by their own volition start following Islamic edicts which are clear, open and beneficial to them).

Then the article goes on to list many social evils prevalent among Muslims like the problems regarding talaq (divorce), marital affairs, caste and class divisions, un-Islamic rituals and practices, education of Muslim girls, illicit means of income, problem arising out of joint families, evil of dowry, the need for purdah, etc. and calls on Muslims to fight against them.

At many places the Afghan Taliban and certain Mujahideen have been praised and glorified, but without connecting them to the Indian context.

Like the March 2012 issue carries an article "Mustaqbil ki ek tasveer" (A glimpse of the future) the sacrifices and steadfastness of the Afghan Mujahideen has been praised. The article paints an apocalyptic picture wherein all Mujahideen and defenders of Afghanistan are defeated and the American lead forces enjoy undisputed rule over the entire region. In such a scenario, the writer says, the Mujahideen will be remembered and people will long for their return.

The entire article centers on the Afghan issue and briefly touches upon the Arab-Israeli conflict, without once mentioning the Indian State.

The very next article in the issue "11 Sept 634 se 11 Sept 2001 tak" (11th Sept 634 to 11th Sept 2001) briefly discusses the laws of war and methods of expansion of the early Islamic society through an example of a battle that took place on 11th Sept 634. (This refers to the siege of Damascus. Khalid bin Walid was the commander of Muslim army which entered the city by force. Abu Ubaidah, the second-in-command, had already negotiated peace, so the peace treaty was honoured and nobody was touched.) The article goes on to stress the value of a Muslim's promise and the priority given to treaties above war. It concludes that "...Musalmanon ne zulm kajawab zulm se na kabhi diya hai na denge..." (Muslims have never answered oppression with oppression nor will they ever do so).

In a December 2012 article, "Musalman, unki maqbooza zameenein aur unki jadd-o-jehad" (Muslims, their occupied lands and their struggles) Ashraf Ali Khan points out the double standards in labeling liberation movements in Muslim lands like Palestine, Chechnya and similar places "terrorist groups". (Interestingly, the article does not mention Kashmir)

On Terrorism in India
The February 2013 issue's "News Observer " section carries an article titled "Aaropi to pakde gaye, lekin masoom musalman chhoote nahin" (Although culprits have been caught, innocent Muslims not released). The section carries a detailed analysis of how Muslim youth are arrested and accused of terror activities after each blast and other cases. It notes how in many cases like the Malegaon blasts, Hindutva terrorist organizations have been identified as the real culprits and some members of those organizations have also been arrested, but still the young Muslims arrested for the same cases have not been released.

The report calls homegrown Indian Muslim terrorist organizations 'imaginary' creations of the police, and the cycle of arrests a planned ploy by the State to discredit Muslims at large and spread fear and distrust against them in the entire Nation.

It is interesting to note that while explanatory notes by the editor, the police claim this magazine to be a recruiting tool used by the Indian Mujahideen, the magazine itself calls this organization a figment of the police's imagination.

It censures politicians, police, State agencies and media houses for failing to vindicate Muslims arrested on charges of terrorism even when their innocence has been proved. The report by and large rejects the notion that India has home-grown Islamic terrorists.

The March 2013 issue's "News Observer" section carries two articles by noted journalists. The first is by veteran Hindi journalist Anil Chamadia on Afzal Guru's hanging titled "Afzal ko phansi hindutva ki siyasat" (Afzal Guru's hanging a Hindutva politics/ploy/conspiracy).

The other is by Kuldip Nayar on Pakistan-India relations, "Pakistan aakhir samasya haiya samadhan" (Is Pakistan a problem or solution).

As is evident, neither of the articles portrays a terrorist point of view. Publishing an article that calls Afzal Guru's death a Hindutva conspiracy instead of martyrdom in the course of jihad and another which advocates better relations with Pakistan certainly indicates anything but a terrorist–jihadi mindset.

The March 2012 issue in its News Observer section carries an article by Observer Research Foundation Vice President Wilson John titled "Lashkar abhi bhi duniya ke liye khatra" (Lashkar still a threat to the world). In this article the noted terrorism expert details out the activities of the Lashkar-e-Taiba the world over, and posits them as a greater threat than Al-Qaeda. The article seems to have been reproduced as it is and contains no comments or explanatory notes by the editor.

Addressing Indian Muslims
Throughout the entire volumes Nida-e-Haq has consistently tried to point out widespread social evils prevalent among Indian Muslims and their solution in the form of puritan Islam.

However, the December 2012 issue, marking 20 years of the demolition of Babri Mosque, was replete with political overtones (still without any concrete action plan), and grievances of Muslim oppression at the hand of various political outfits in India.

The article "Kaise hui shaheed Babri Masjid" (How the Babri Masjid was martyred), which was written by the editorial team, the entire episode is recapped and Muslims are asked to always remember the pain and humiliation they were made to go through on that day.

Toward conclusion the writers make a very controversial remark : "...Babri Masjid... jis tarah chheeni gayi hai, usi tarah se use hum wapis hasil karein. 10 aadmi chheenne gaye to ugravadi kehlao ge, 10 lakh gaye to aap bhi ummadi bheed kehlao ge..." (Babri Masjid...can only be regained the way it was snatched away. If 10 of you go to snatch it back, you will be called extremist, if 10 lakh of you go then you will also be called a mob).
This concludes the general tone of calling the community towards united political action that the article aims at from the beginning. It then goes on to say that even if this cannot be done, then at least Muslims must remember it and make their successive generations remember it.

The article can certainly be said to incite people towards an illegal activity, but it is more along the lines of Togadia than Taliban. Perhaps they can be prosecuted under some sections of IPC for publishing hate speech, but this is still no proof of any terrorist activities.

Other than that, the bulk of Nida-e-Haq's message concentrates on social reform from an Islamic fundamentalist perspective.

For instance, the March 2013 Editorial encouraged Muslims to do acts of goodness and to work to attain peace and tranquility.

In another article in the August 2013 issue, "Ameeron ke maal mein ghareebon ka haq" (Rights of the poor in the wealth of the rich), the writer has described rights of poor in the light of the Qur'an and Hadeeth, and urged Muslims to uphold them regardless of caste and religion.

Democracy and Nationalism
While there is a general tirade against democracy and a clear indication that they rejected democracy as a creed, an article in December 2012 issue "Hussain r.a. ki shahadat ka raz" (The secret of Hussain's martyrdom) (Husain was the grandson of Prophet Muhammad) the writer accepts that free and fair elections can be the only basis of governance in an Islamic Caliphate.

The August, September and October 2013 issues of Nida-e-Haq are full of articles decrying the double standards of the West with regard to democracy in the context of the coup against the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt.

The December 2012 issue carries an article by Ammar Yasir on nationalism (page 22) that calls nationalism a false ideology and advocates global Islamic unity leaving behind racial, national, regional, sectarian and other differences. It must be noted that the article speaks out vehemently against nationalism as an idea, but not against the Indian Nation as such.

In conclusion it can only be said of the magazine's publishers that they were a group of people very disillusioned with both the Indian State and the Indian Muslim community's own leadership. They believed in an orthodox strand of the Ahl-e-Hadith sect without paying formal obeisance to any one group in particular. In fact, they were clearly critical of all sects in general.

The magazine is mostly a reflection of the general feeling of being neglected, exploited and directionless that many Indian Muslims feel today, and therefore despite being heavily critical of the present situation, it fails to elaborate on any specific solution, much less a violent one.

The only crime of the publishers of Nida-e-Haq seems to be that they had lost all confidence in the Indian state and were openly expressive about it. There seems to be no indication of any covert activity or a secret agenda behind their declamations.

On the basis of their writings and publications, the publishers of Nida-e-Haq can be called confused, unclear in their immediate ends (other than broad rhetorical assertions) and openly disillusioned with a system that they believed to be oppressive and exploitative.
[source: Mass Media, June 1, 2014]

Vol. 47, No. 4, Aug 3 - 9, 2014