Syed Khalique Ahmed
NEW DELHI—Jawaharlal Nehru University is perhaps the world’s only university that has officially and academically linked Islam with terrorism.
This has been done through a counter-terrorism course designed by the university that has been approved by its academic as well as the executive council.
JNU vice-chancellor Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar also put his stamp on the course after some groups in the university and outside called it Islamophobic. He said that some groups were raising “needless controversy” about the new course. He categorically stated that it was in the interest of national security. The course also found support from Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan who lauded it while addressing vice-chancellors of central universities on the issue of New Education Policy – 2020 a few days ago.
The course titled “Counter-Terrorism, Asymmetric Conflicts and Strategies for Cooperation among Major Powers”, is meant for engineering students who wish to study international relations after completion of their technological courses.
The objective of the new course that will be taught to students, is how to deal with religion-inspired terrorism and what strategies can be adopted to counter the “Jihadi terrorism” in cooperation with major world powers.
But if one reads the details of the course, one gets an impression that it has been prepared by someone not well aware of the subject and the course has an agenda to vilify Islam and Muslims. It is an inaccurate and flawed course.
This is very clear because the author of the course has confined religion-inspired violence and terrorism to Islam only, giving an impression that it is Islam only that inspires violence and terrorism among its followers. However, the author has taken a precaution so that his integrity is not doubted by saying that the “Jihadi cultist violence that glorifies death by terror in the suicidal and homicidal variant” is the result of the “perverse interpretation of the Koran (Quran)”.
Pointing out that “the perverse interpretation of the Koran (Quran) has resulted in the rapid proliferation of a Jihadi cultist violence that glorifies death by terror in suicidal and homicidal variants,” the new course under sub-head “Fundamentalist-religious terrorism and its Impact” says that “the exploitation by the radical Islamic religious clerics has resulted in the electronic propagation of Jihadi terrorism world over.”
“The online electronic dissemination of Jihadi terrorism has resulted in the spurt of violence in non-Islamic societies that are secular and are now increasingly vulnerable to the violence that has been on the increase,” the course goes on.
The course will promote Islamophobia in India
This is very dangerous because this has the potential to further strengthen Islamophobia in India where Muslims already find themselves in a very vulnerable position and under severe assault from fanatic and radical elements of the Hindu community. It is because of the extremist elements of the Hindu society that Muslims cannot live in mixed localities because of perennial threats to their life and property. This has resulted in mushrooming of Muslim ghettos in every big and small town and city across the country. This has restricted every aspect of Muslim life, from education to politics and the economy. The trend of ghettoization has also begun in villages owing to a threat to their lives and assets. Muslims from Hindu-majority villages are gradually shifting to Muslim-majority villages as they feel security in numbers. The Muslim situation in India today resembles that of the Jews in Europe in the 18th century and before that when they were not officially allowed to live side by side with Christians and others. Though there is no official restriction on Muslims in India, the situation on the ground is such that Muslims are forced to live in the separate neighbourhood.
The author of the course is Mr Arvind Kumar, Professor and Chairperson, Centre for Canadian, United States and Latin American Studies, School of International Studies. When contacted over the phone, he agreed to an interview with India Tomorrow. However, at the last moment, he cancelled the appointment, saying the issue has already been covered by most of the media.
Why did the author target Islam only and omitted other faiths?
A perusal of the entire course indicates that Kumar either lacks adequate knowledge about various kinds of religion-inspired terrorism in different societies all over the world or if he knows about them, he has deliberately omitted the terrorism inspired by a wrong understanding of other religions, for reasons best known to him only.
But the question arises why did he target Islam only? In interviews with other media houses, he said that he has selected religion-inspired violence in Islam because, according to him, it is a world-accepted thing. This suggests that his course is not based on his original study and understanding of Islam and political violence or warfare by Muslim groups within and outside the Muslim societies. He seems to be influenced by the literature produced and circulated worldwide by authors and media in the Christian West to vilify Islam and Muslim communities with an ulterior motive.
The New Course will institutionalize Islamophobia
What is most worrying is that the new course targeting Islam is likely to institutionalize Islamophobia and criminalize the Muslim community in India. Waseem RS, a JNU student and an executive committee member of the Fraternity Movement says that the new course “reflects upon Islamophobia of the JNU administration”. JNU Teachers Association secretary Moushumi Basu told media persons that many teachers raised questions on the counter-terrorism course during the university’s executive committee meeting but the authorities did not allow scrutiny of the course based on its merits and faults.
And Waseem is not wrong. We have seen the consequences when the government’s health department and the media, particularly electronic media, linked the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic in March 2020 with Tablighi Jamaat and Muslims which was based on myth, not facts. The health department stopped releasing corona positive data on religious lines after the intervention of the then Delhi Minorities Commission chairman, Dr Zafarul Islam Khan. But the media continued to link the corona pandemic spread in India with Muslims even after that.
The Supreme Court in an observation on the issue a few days ago strongly castigated the media for communalization of news. The communalization of Corona pandemic news further strengthened hatred against Muslims. The result of it was that Muslims all over the country, including the national capital, became the target of physical assault by radical and extremist elements in Hindu society. There was also a boycott of Muslim businessmen and traders because they were held responsible for the spread of the deadly virus. Many Muslims also lost their lives in mob attacks. One can only imagine what will happen in the long-run when a large number of engineering students are injected with an unbalanced view of fundamentalist-religious terrorism that covers only one religion.
JNU’s course ignores religious-inspired violence by non-Islamic faiths
Religious fundamentalism and radicalism are prevalent not among Muslims alone. It is very much common among Hindus, Christians, Buddhists or Sikhs also. Khalistan movement in Punjab was inspired by religion. And similarly, there is a long history of violence by Christians in India’s Northeastern states. Mob lynching and violence by the cow and Hindu vigilantes against Muslims and Christians in India is also inspired by religion, though based on a wrong interpretation of Hindu religious texts. Muslims, in general, feel that this is terrorism unleashed on them in violation of the teachings of Hinduism. But the JNU’s course on terrorism has completely overlooked the violence and terrorism against minorities in India.
Kumar is also totally silent on religious-inspired terrorism in Myanmar and Sri Lanka where Muslims are the target of Buddhists monks and fanatic groups. The genocide of Muslims in Myanmar by Buddhist monks and the Myanmar Army is motivated and inspired by religion. And there is Buddhist-inspired violence and terrorism against Muslims in neighbouring Sri Lanka also. Was not the terrorist and separatist movement by Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Sri Lanka motivated by their religion? And to which religion the LTTE terrorists belonged? More than a million Muslims from Myanmar fled to save their life from Buddhist terrorists and about seven lakh of them have taken shelter in Bangladesh alone. Kumar, perhaps, does not think what happened in Myanmar is also fundamentalist-religious inspired terrorism. Maybe it does not fit in his academic framework because there is no absolute definition of terrorism. A terrorist for one can be a hero for another. And the best example of it is India itself. While the British-Christian rulers of India called Subhash Chandra Bose and Chandra Shekhar Azad and many others as terrorists, they were the greatest of freedom fighters for us because they fought to liberate India from foreign occupation. Even religious slogan like “Ram Rajya” was used during the freedom movement to drive home the importance of freedom in the minds of the commoners who were not aware of democracy at that time. India’s freedom struggle cannot be called a religious-inspired movement simply because some religious terminologies were used to mobilize the masses in support of the freedom struggle.
No mention about terrorism against Muslims in the US, Europe
The JNU’s counterterrorism course is also completely silent on terror attacks on mosques and Muslim communities in the US and Europe by fanatic and extremist Christians though Christianity does not sanction such violence. The genocide of Bosnian Muslims by Serbian Christian forces after the split of Yugoslavia is also missing from JNU’s syllabus. One only hopes that the JNU administration will redesign the counter-terrorism course by taking into consideration all aspects of global terrorism that have destabilized many countries of the world, including Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq and Syria, causing the death of millions of people. The course should also have an honest discussion about international agencies that created al-Qaeda and ISIS (ISIL), to destroy Muslim lands, particularly those Muslim countries that opposed the supremacy of the United States and other Christian powers. The worst-hit by al-Qaeda and ISIS have been the Muslim societies themselves, and not non-Muslim societies as claimed by the author of the course. Academic honesty demands the revision of the counter-terrorism course by incorporating fundamentalist-religious inspired terrorism in different societies by wrong interpretation of religious texts of different faiths.