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'I don't see the Indian Muslim as a reservoir of terrorism'

September 10, 2007

Is it possible that one major act of terror -- maybe, the killing of a leader -- could provoke communal riots in the country?

If you are talking of crossing the Rubicon of terrorism -- the possibility that killing a leader or by killing a number of people you are going to have a communal conflagration -- that situation is certainly not in the realm of possibility.

There is anger. There are alienated elements. There are discontented and disenchanted elements. We have to guard against them. But the expectation that an entire community will go through a 1993 kind of situation (the riots that convulsed the country after the Babri Masjid demolition) or a Gujarat kind of situation, I think, is where what I would call a very well integrated government is able to score by its inclusive paradigm.

I don't think the minorities feel neglected or that they are out of the mainstream. This (communal riots) happens when the anger is part and parcel of a larger feeling of marginalisation. That is certainly not there now.

I don't think the attempt is to create a communal divide as it is to create sheer terror. The jihadis are contract killers. They are totally outside the realm of all rational thinking. They have the werewithal, they have the money coming in, which makes it that much more difficult to deal with the problem.

Does this assessment not underestimate young Muslim anger in the country?

Hardly any Indian Muslim has been directly involved in all the major incidents (of terrorism). There has always been a strong outside influence. Indian Muslims, wherever they might have been, have had a very minimal role. Even these have been largely infected from outside the country. Mostly, the activity has been generated from outside.

Within India I think there may be anger, but it is anger that has been contained. I don't see the Indian Muslim as a reservoir of terrorism.

Do you think the Sufi form of Islam that was so dominant in India has receded in importance in recent times, giving way to a more hardline form of Islam? Could that change be provoking acts of terror?

You can't say that anybody who subscribes to the Wahabbi form of Islam is a terrorist. Certainly not! By no stretch of imagination! Let us make that distinction. If you are saying the more moderate Islam is giving way and a more iconoclastic, more rigid form of Islam, Wahabbi or Salafist, is coming in, that may be possible. But I am making a distinction between that and terrorism. I don't think that every Wahabbi is a potential terrorist. Far from it. It is totally wrong!

If you look at the Deoband school of Islam here and the Deobandi school of Islam in Pakistan, they are entirely two different things. Ours is a reformist school. I think Madani, the father, and Madani, the son, are certainly not Sufi or anything of the kind, but they are interested in a more integrated form of Islam, integrated with other communities. They are playing a very important role.

What causes a man to become a terrorist is not born out of a considered thought process. Inevitably, there is an economic motive. People are inveigled into joining (terrorist groups). They are told we will take you to Dubai and get you a good job there. Once they are in Dubai or wherever, they are brainwashed into going to a terrorist camp on the Pak-Afghan border. That is where the Rubicon is crossed. Once you join those camps, getting back becomes difficult.

I have been saying from time to time about the Global War on Terror that this global war on terror has not really managed to dent global terrorism Everybody talks about GWOT, but it hasn't really achieved what it was supposed to do. You have instead global terrorists today.

Take the Mumbai blasts. Individuals based in four countries were involved. I won't mention the countries, but one country is obvious. The planning took place over eight to eleven months, most of it outside the country.

Unless countries across the globe join forces and pass on information -- not necessarily linked to a particular incident or to a particular country -- you can't deal with terrorism.

Now, take the Hyderabad blasts. Had one bit of information come to us 24 hours before it did, it may have been possible to avert the incident (the blasts). It was not seen as important enough to pass on the information by whichever agency outside the country.

Terrorism is no longer a conspiracy hatched in Hyderabad or in Pune or in Chennai or in Delhi. It is much wider. You need to piece the information sometimes from across the globe. Because planning takes place in one place, logistics in a second place, funding is done in a third country, recruitment in a fourth country and finally, the act is carried out here. The Global War On Terror is a nice phrase, but actually global terrorism has not been seriously affected.

Photograph: An image from the horrific Gujarat riots. Photograph: Sebastian D'Souza/AFP/Getty Images

Also read: 'There will always be disgruntled people'

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