Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Confronting Maududi's Dogma

Praveen Swami usually reports facts about terrorism and the Islamist movement and he does it well. But he is usually careful to refrain from offering any policy prescriptions or advice. Of late, that has changed a little as he has been concluding his writings with a couple of sentences about the way to resolve the issue. In today’s op-ed ‘Mumbai, Mawdudi and the Mujahideen’, he concludes with the following words:
...a host of fugitive jihadists …are working to revive the IM’s campaign. India’s police and intelligence forces have an important role in preventing them from succeeding. But the real challenge involves politics, not policing: defeating Mawdudi’s ideas involves demonstrating that democratic struggles against communalism can succeed. Bar a few honourable exceptions, no politician appears either able or willing to take up this challenge.

If fighting communalism was all it took to confront Mawdudi, we would have had it really easy. Unfortunately, Maududi’s ideas have not achieved their dominant position in Islamist circles because of Indian communal politics. While a small but significant number of Indian muslims may have signed up to volunteer for the jihadist movement, the infrastructure that spawned and sustains it emerged from its own dynamic. The triumph of the ideology and its consequences including the jihadi organizations, training camps and violence all function with very limited contribution from Indian muslims. Communal politics may fuel rage and contribute volunteers to the effort – to that extent Swami is correct – but to argue that successfully combating communal politics will defeat Maududi’s political doctrine is to fatally underestimate its potency and the attractiveness of its teachings to the faithful.

Maududi’s arguments are not about communal justice nor is it merely a doctrine of hate-and-kill Hindus. In fact, Maududi himself, as far as I know, never advocated violence. His argument was that Islam is not merely a religion in the sense that religions are understood in the modern nation state but a complete code of life. And the role of the state ought to be not only to advocate the ideal (read Islamic) way of life but to enforce it. This proposition must be read in the historical context of Mughal rule which to many signifies the most successful experiment in Islamic triumphalism in South Asia. Aurangzeb Alamgir who is seen as the last great ruler of that empire is greatly revered by Islamists for his austerity, piety, strict interpretation and enforcement of Islamic tenets – his teachings are still followed as the textbook in some major schools such as the Dar-ul-Uloom-Haqqania madrassa. The caliphate that Islamists seek to resurrect in South Asia is therefore, in their view, merely a restoration of the lost glory of Islamic rule – a cause that is not only worthy of the ultimate sacrifice but also achievable in light of the past through the subjugation of what they see as an effete Hindu dominated society. As one can see, these are revolutionary ideas whose objective is to supplant the existing world order with a tyrannical alternative that commands obedience and subservience of the pagan faiths from whom it brooks no dissent. These ideas must be confronted for what they are and what they have to offer which means taking religious zealotry by its horns and neutralizing it. The medieval crusades, the Bolshevik and Maoist revolutions, the rise of Hitler and more recently, the victory of the Taliban all teach us that militant minorities often prevail over silent, ambivalent and vaccillating majorities. That means revolutionary ideas can only be confronted by equally passionate alternatives which in our case would amount to the notion of individual freedom and the articulation of alternative doctrines of a just society. Fighting communalism can only be a part of the struggle, not the whole.

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