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Wednesday, April 14, 2021
The Jihadist Exploitation of Kashmiri Mosques: Ulema Must Counter the Theological Justifications of the Use of Mosques for Militancy
By New Age Islam Staff Writer
14 April 2021
The jihadist exploitation of Kashmiri mosques cannot be prevented without a systematic and serious mitigation effort by the local Islamic clerics, ulema and Intizamiya (management committee) of the mosques in the Kashmir valley. Established Islamic clergy must counter the theological justifications of the use of mosques for military purposes.
1. Radical Islamists across the world audaciously misuse the mosques for their military and political purposes.
2. There has been a constant struggle against such jihadist exploitations of the mosques in some parts of the Muslim world.
3. Such efforts need to be replicated in the valley of Kashmir at the grassroots level where the radical jihadists misuse mosques for their militancy.
4. There is a continuous misuse of Kashmiri mosques by the jihadists, for hatching terror conspiracies and carrying out attacks.
5. Kashmiri mosques like the Jamia Masjid of Srinagar and other mosques in Shopian and Pampore in South Kashmir have been brazenly misused by the terror outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahidin.
6. Radical Islamists legitimize the military use of the mosques as a war tactic for Muqawamah, i.e., "resistance” against the enemies.
7. The traditional use of the mosques in the Prophetic times was for worship, acquiring knowledge and spiritual learning, not for military or political purposes, as evidenced by the Prophet’s own mosque—Masjid al-Nabawi—and the “Darul Suffa”.
Radical Islamist and violent extremist organisations in various parts of the world brazenly misuse and exploit the sacred places of Islamic worship—Masjids or mosques—for promoting militancy and achieving their military and political purposes. In some parts of the Muslim world, there has been a sustained struggle against such exploitation of the mosques by the jihadist outfits, especially in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria. Clerics, imams and community leaders associated with the mosques have created resilience against the terror sympathisers misusing the Islamic places of worship.
Such concerted efforts need to be exerted at the grassroots level in a territory like Jammu & Kashmir where the misuse of mosques by radical jihadists and terrorists is rampant. While the jihadist exploitation of mosques in the Kashmir valley is nothing new, there has not been a systematic effort by the clerics, ulema and the Intizamiya (management committee) of the mosques. As a result, in many places in South and North Kashmir, radical Islamist ideologues and terrorist masterminds recruit local youths who come to the mosques which are later misused in their nefarious activities. This situation sometimes emerges as a baffling challenge for the security forces in combating terrorism. In Jammu & Kashmir, this has been the scene since the cross-border terrorism emanated from Pakistan which propelled the beautiful valley from being a bastion of religious harmony to the breeding ground of terrorism.
Nevertheless, the military struggles against the exploitation of mosques at the hands of jihadist organisations such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahidin continue in a variety of ways as an integral part of India’s war against cross-border terrorism and its nefarious manifestations. However, the security forces cannot win this battle against terror organisations unless the community leaders, ulema and imams come out to unequivocally condemn the terrorist exploitation of holy Islamic sites for launching inhuman attacks.
According to recent reports, several militancy related incidents took place inside or in the vicinity of mosques in the valley of Kashmir during the past one year. In this backdrop, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) of Jammu & Kashmir, Vijay Kumar has issued an important statement and an appeal to the Mosque management committees, civil society and the media. He said on the official Twitter handle of Kashmir Zone police:
"Terrorists have misused mosques for terror attacks i.e., Pampore on 19/6/20, Sopore on 1/7/20 & Shopian on 9/4/21. General public, Masjid Intizamia, Civil Societies & Media should condemn such acts".
The IGP Kashmir has also asked the parents of the newly-recruited militants in the valley to make systematic efforts to prevent their children from the path of violence and militancy. "Parents should make continuous appeals to the newly-recruited terrorists to return. The appeals should be made regularly. The parents should not confine themselves to the last appeal when their children are trapped in an encounter," he said.
Before we proceed ahead, let us take a cursory look at how brutally terrorists have recently misused and desecrated mosques in the Kashmir valley:
On April 9, a mosque in Shopian was reported to be misused by a total of five terrorists who were killed in an encounter with security. These terrorists were holed up inside the mosque. According to Kashmir Zone Police, two of them were firing at the security personnel from inside the mosque during the encounter. Tellingly, the encounter began on April 8 in Shopian where the terrorists had been hiding. The J&K police had sent the local Imam and the brother of one of the terrorists to convince them to surrender. The police also said that efforts were being made to save the mosque.
Last year on June 19, terrorists misused mosques for attacks in Pampore in South Kashmir. Before they were killed in the Pampore encounter, they had entered the Jamia mosque to take refuge. During this fierce encounter, two terrorists were neutralised by the Indian security forces. But the other terrorists, despite being asked by the commandos of the Special Operations Group to surrender, took refuge in the local Jam’e mosque. Subsequently, they were killed after a gun battle ensued between them and the security forces.
On July 1 last year, terrorists killed a 65-year-old civilian along with CRPF personnel after they fired at them from the attic of a mosque in Sopore in North Kashmir. Speaking about the incident, a CRPF spokesman informed that “The personnel were de-boarding near Model Town Chowk, Sopore, Baramulla, for patrolling duties… Head Constable Deep Chand later died of his injuries.” A 3-year-old boy seen sitting on the body of his grandfather was also rescued by the security forces. According to the IGP Vijay Kumar, Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists Usman Bhai and Adil were involved in this attack. He emphasised that the security forces had recovered a full magazine from the premises of the mosque. J&K DGP Dilbag Singh enumerated the incident and said: “At Meej Pampore, after the killings of one militant, two others entered the local Jamia Mosque which is a huge structure. Forces have exercised restraint and only limited tactics have been used. Operation team is on the job.” Later, the IGP in Kashmir informed that although the forces took time to complete their mission, the sanctity of the mosque had been maintained.
These incidents candidly expose how blatantly terrorists were misusing the Kashmiri mosques for pursuing their militant objectives—by taking refuge in them and opening fire at security forces from inside a mosque like in Shopian—while the security forces were trying to rescue and maintain the sacredness of those mosques. AK guns were also recovered from the neutralised terrorists who were holed up inside a mosque. Now the question is: where is the religious sensibilities of our ulema, imams and the Intizamiya of mosques who otherwise take all pains to defend the Islamic symbols and their sacredness? Is the exploitation, desecration and defamation of the mosques by jihadists not tantamount to a far more vicious kind of blasphemy against Islamic symbols?
Radical Islamists claim that making a tactical use of the mosques for Muqawamah, i.e., "resistance” against the enemies is legitimate in Islamic Shariah. Therefore, they encourage the use of mosques for carrying out their acts of terrorism. They frequently cite that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself used a mosque for military purposes. But the classic use of the mosques in Islam has always been as house of worship and spiritual learning. In the city of Madina Munawwara, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) built his own mosque—Masjid al-Nabawi— which is known as the second holiest site in Islam after the Ka’aba. Notably, it was used only as a sacred seminary of Islamic spirituality and worship as “Dar ul-Suffa” was also attached with the same mosque. The mystically inclined companions of the Prophet (pbuh) used to engage in a formal spiritual learning in Dar ul-Suffa. Another sacred place of worship in the prophetic times, Masjid-e-Quba, which was the first mosque in the Islamic history and is also situated in Madina, was never used for military or political purposes.
It was about time the leading Islamic clerics, both in Kashmir and from other parts of India, had voiced strongly-worded views in refutation of misusing mosques for military purposes. The religious and theological roots of the use of mosques for military purposes must have been dismantled. But unfortunately, till the time of writing this piece not a single Islamic theologian has come out to openly condemn and mitigate this vicious thought process in the valley of Kashmir. Not even the most reputed Sunni and Shi’ite leaders have considered this a part of their job. They are busy doing the easiest tasks such as launching FIRs against the frivolous utterances of the ignorant Islamophobes. But perhaps they have no time or intellectual energy to vigorously challenge and dismantle the causes of Islamophobia which actually lie in the unquestioned activities like the exploitation of mosques for the jihadist attacks. The role of the Muslim community in averting this scenario is equally critical. Mosque committees and civil society should not only condemn terrorists for misusing religious places but also identify and tackle the root causes of such gross misuses.