Art of painting Muslim political movements in religious shades
POINT OF VIEW BY RIYAZ AHMAD
Islamist has become such a handy term to describe any Muslim struggle in the world. It is one of the important pillars of the phraseological construct conveniently manufactured after 9/11 to make a sense of Muslim affairs. In fact, there are two such terms doing the hectic rounds: Islamic and Islamist. But it is Islamist which now more or less rules the description in comparison with its slightly more moderate but by no means perceived to be desirable, Islamic.
The word Islamism has a hoary past, going back to the scholarly engagements with Islam in nineteenth century France. It meant then the religion Islam itself. However, the term faded out of usage over the turn of nineteenth century giving way again to the original term Islam. But post the 1979 Iranian revolution, it was resurrected to describe the violent new age Islamic movements. Now Islamism doesn’t mean Islam as religion but Islam as a political ideology. And this ideology is perceived to be about pursuit of political power and global dominance through violence and equated with other totalitarian ideologies like Fascism, Communism, Nazism etc. And 9/11 has added another dimension. Now meaning of Islamism has become interchangeable with terrorism.
Over the past nine years the term Islamist has been subject to such overuse that hardly any major Muslim upheaval around the world has escaped this absolutist definition. And Kashmir, as is the case, is no exception. This is despite the fact that Kashmir as an unalloyed political problem predates by far the 9/11, Iranian revolution and other prominent Islamist movements before that and survives as an abiding legacy of the end of the colonial era in the world.
Post 9/11, a section of coverage of the situation in Valley has painted it in ‘Islamistic’ colour. What is more, the use of the word Islamist alone has sufficed to explain the situation in the state. Little need has been felt for a rigorous intellectual examination of the grassroots reality in Valley and draw conclusions from it. Of course, many stray incidents come handy like the recent anonymous letters to the Sikh community in Valley asking them to embrace Islam or some brief occasional clowning around of our very own moral brigade. But the larger reality of Kashmir has been conveniently ignored.
Unfortunately this pernicious view does serve the end of the concerned interests. For in absolute application of a mere word therefore, a movement extended over more than half a century, steeped in history and ideological faultlines, mired in politics of the murkiest nature, injustices and deceptions is portrayed as a simple issue of religious zealotry.
It was OK if the reality in Kashmir didn’t severely test this sweeping generalization. That is, while the religious parties or the leaders may have been in the vanguard of the Kashmiri separatist movement, they have never had a robust religious political agenda unlike Taliban, Hamas or Hizbullah.
Of course, a section of people at the helm of the Azadi movement in Kashmir are Islamists. They do come from the religious political parties, but it is not their ideology that they bring to the table, but a certain stance on the nature of Kashmir dispute. They don’t have a pronounced religious vision of a future Kashmir that circulates or sustains as a discourse.
In fact, there aren't any clear religious motifs or slogans that define this struggle. Even the eighties template slogan of Yahan Kya Chalega, Nizam-I-Mustafa is now conspicuous by its absence. Similarly, there is no viable pan-Islamist discourse where Kashmir is linked with the other Muslim troubles in Mideast beyond a routine sense of religious fellow feeling. It is not a self-fulfilling analysis but grounded in a common experiential understanding of situation in Kashmir.
The Islamists at the helm don't have even an imaginary vision or blueprint of an imagined independent Kashmir available. In fact, if anything the current struggle has woefully lacked since its beginning in 1989 is a credible intellectual input, whether Islamist, Islamic or purely secular. For the most part, the struggle has been punctuated by the intermittent catharsis of the pent-up anger, even hate against an endemic perception of being controlled by New Delhi, overseen, and held against one's will. This sentiment has often so overpoweringly taken hold among people that there has been little sense of political or ideological direction along the way. The struggle has, of course, swung from one extreme to another, from massive electoral support for the secular political establishment to the religious right, and often enough regained its poise again.
There are other realities in Kashmir that are beside the point. Despite the alleged ''Islamist movement'' for the past two decades, Kashmir remains a place where a predominant majority of women don't wear burqa and are not forced to do so. There is no silent coercive force that prescribes a certain overt religious behaviour. Nevertheless, like anywhere in India, Kashmir has its own occasions of moral policing. A suspect attempt by some mysterious gunmen in 2009 to enforce burqa in a Sopore college met with a public opposition and didn't succeed.
Of course, it is nobody's case to completely deny the existence of Islamist tendencies in some forms of our social-political expression or more particularly in our agitational life. There are. But most of these are the standard expressions of Muslim identity which are confused with Islamism.
For example row over Amarnath yatra in 2008 was fundamentally an identity issue, result of an endemic paranoia among the people - real or imagined - of an impending demographic change rather than an assertion of Islamist philosophy.
So, a sweeping Islamist label is nothing but a motivated deployment of vocabulary, rather a frame that has become unfalsifiable as it has now a predominant world-wide audience that is already converted to the belief. The belief that any Muslim struggle in any form cannot but be Islamist in nature. The job of the so called experts on Islam has, for once, become the easiest. What is needed is to tap into a pre-existing deep-rooted global prejudice without bothering to provide an analytic context or an accurate picture of the everyday socio-political discourse of any Muslim crisis being written about. A few stray incidents, even of doubtful nature, are suffice to pull off a bunch of pre-meditated generalizations about the situation and be regarded as an objective analysis.
Lastupdate on : Tue, 24 Aug 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 24 Aug 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 25 Aug 2010 00:00:00 IST
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