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'Terrorism should not be branded Hindu or Muslim'

By Syed Firdaus Ashraf
Last updated on: July 19, 2017 13:55 IST
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'They have the same pet peeves, the same ruse, the same beliefs, the same justifications.'
'All terrorists thrive on the premise that by perpetuating violence and bloodshed on innocents, they are justifying the injustices done to their community.'

IMAGE: Nine suspects arrested after the July 2008 Ahmedabad serial terror blasts. Photograph: Reuters

S Hussain Zaidi, the best-selling writer chronicling Mumbai's underworld, is out with his latest book.

Zaidi, who began his career as a crime reporter, is the author of Black Friday (which was made into a gritty film by Anurag Kashyap in 2007), Dongri to Dubai, Byculla to Bangkok and Mafia Queens of Mumbai.

He also wrote films like Shootout At Wadala, Phantom and Mardaani.

His latest book, Dangerous Minds, is co-authored with Indian Police Service officer Brijesh Singh, Maharashtra's special Inspector General of Police (cyber), and deals with home-grown terrorists.

Hussain Zaidi, left, spoke to's Syed Firdaus Ashraf on what prompted him to write Dangerous Minds.

After writing about the Mumbai underworld, why did you move on to home-grown terrorists?

I don't think it is an entirely new subject for me. There is only a marginal difference between the underworld and terrorists.

While the underworld kills people for money, the terrorists kill people blinded by some warped logic which he also mixes with faith.

Violence is the basic fundamental reason in both cases.

Terrorists leave a trail of violence with so much bloodshed.

By wantonly extinguishing human lives, terrorists seek power, and so does the mafia.

Your book deals with eight terrorists. How did you zero down on them?

I have always been fascinated with Abdul Karim Telgi, Saqib Nachan, Jalees Ansari, Fahmida Sayed and Abu Faisal.

Each of them is as different as chalk is from cheese.

Saqib Nachan is not exactly a terrorist in the mould of Abu Faisal, but a man who seeks to avenge the wrongs done to his community, or so he feels.

All these men/women have completely deluded themselves into believing that they have been the instruments of Allah to seek justice for their brethren.

In their quest to seek justice, they forgot the basic tenet of Islam, that if you kill one human being, you kill the entire humanity.

They forgot that the end does not justify the means.

My friend and co-author Brijesh Singh wanted to write on Mansoor Peerbhoy, Arib Majeed and Mehdi Masroor Biswas.

Mansoor was such a promising young man with such a bright future. His siblings were doing so well.

He came from a very good family, but ultimately fell prey to the gameplan of the jihadis who lured him into their fold.

Your book does not feature any Hindu terror accused. What is the reason?

The reason here is that we focused on those terrorists who have been convicted.

All of them, like Fahmida, Abu Faisal, Saqib Nachan and Dr Jalees Ansari, have been convicted.

I can't write unless there is an outcome from the courts.

All the cases against the Hindu accused are ongoing.

Actually, terrorism should not be branded as Hindu or Muslim.

They have the same pet peeves, the same ruse, the same beliefs, the same justifications.

I believe that all terrorists thrive on the premise that by perpetuating violence and bloodshed on innocents, they are justifying the injustices done to their community.

They lose their moral core and become part of a zealous brigade which becomes their family.

You also did not take up any terrorist from Jammu and Kashmir.

For covering Kashmir you need some expertise and authority.

In Kashmir it is difficult to pick names.

One is not sure if they are really a terrorist or so branded by the security forces.

It is not possible to write about terrorists from Kashmir without spending substantial time on the ground doing research in Kashmir.

What about Abdul Karim Telgi? Why has he been mentioned in the book, considering he was not part of any terror network?

The premise of the book is dangerous minds, and not terrorism.

I say dangerous minds because Telgi was trying to run a parallel economy and always thought what he was doing was right.

I needed to write about someone who was not a terrorist, but had subverted the system.

In that sense, Telgi can be termed as a financial terrorist.

Did you get a chance to meet the families of these terrorists?
Were they aware of what their children or parents were up to?
What was their life like?

I didn't want to track Fahmida Sayed's family.

There are two young daughters involved and the investigators let them off because they didn't want them maligned.

Her son had cut off ties with the family after marrying a Hindu girl.

I met Dr Jalees Ansari's civil engineer son and also his son-in-law at his house.

They spoke to me nicely, but they were cagey about being mentioned in the book.

They pleaded that they had with great difficulty managed to restore some semblance of a normal life and they did not want any stigma.

Even Jalees's brother, who was involved in his legal defence and was taking care of his family, did not want to speak because he too thought that his name would get sullied and he would face trouble with the cops.

The families of those involved in terrorism have a tough time, as they are the ones who the cops use for payback.

Don't these terrorists fear for the safety for their loved ones, specially children?

These men feel they are the soldiers of Allah.

They think they are worshipping Allah by causing violence and bloodshed.

They are heedless about what will happen to their family.

After they are jailed and when it is time for introspection, I suspect they feel sorry for their family, but never acknowledge it publicly.

One of the men I spoke to justified the family's suffering too.

He told me that when he attains salvation, there would be a domino effect and his family would get salvation too.

What can one say!

The reality is that all the men who are incarcerated on charges of terrorism have found to their dismay, that their families have fallen apart.

Sometimes their children are dragged and labelled as terrorists too, even when they are innocent.

False cases are registered against the family members because they are vulnerable.

Is there a mention of salvation for your family through jihad in the Quran or Hadith (Prophet Mohammed's sayings)?

With my limited knowledge of the Holy Quran I know that it says in chapter 5, verse 32: 'Whoever kills a person... it is as though as he has killed all mankind. And whoever saves a life it is as though he had saved all mankind.'

In the introduction to my book I wrote about the life of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) and his family.

I wrote that he was in Mecca for 13 years soon after proclamation of his prophethood, but he did not take up arms for jihad.

He could have taken those few people who converted to Islam for jihad, but he did not do that.

Instead he preferred migration. He asked his cousin Jafar bin Abu Talib to migrate to Africa and seek shelter while he himself opted for Medina.

Prophet Mohammed (mentioned in the Quran as Mercy to Mankind) wanted to avoid violence at all cost.

The Holy Quran and Hadith have emphasised the sanctity of human life.

In all the cases of terrorists mentioned in your book, it seems they took to the terror path after Hindu-Muslim riots.
Would you then conclude that Hindu-Muslim riots lead to the making of a terrorist?

Nothing justifies terrorism.

There is no justification for causing bloodshed and carnage.

One must never kill innocent people.

Terrorists try to explain that they took to jihad because of Hindu-Muslim riots, and I don't think that can be condoned.

Revenge, terror and violence are not the answer for Hindu-Muslim riots.

In fact, terrorism maligns the whole Muslim community.

In the end, it will be more dangerous and harmful for Muslims if they resort to terror activities.

Swaminathan Anklesaria Aiyar in a recent column says those who sow Hindu terror will eventually reap Muslim terror too, and that won't be good for the future.
Do you took think it is so?

Let me say this. It is not the communal issue or the riots that fuels the terror business, though the young men from the community are wooed with such stories.

Terrorists from across the board will always find reasons to keep the industry of terror flourishing.

The business of violence will always continue, picking on any excuses.

Reams have been written about jihad and its applicability. But gullible Muslim youth are brainwashed with dreams of Jannat (paradise) to kill and get killed.

You have written of Mansoor, an engineer who earned Rs 19 lakh as salary in 2006. He had 3 kids and a happy married life.
What was the turning point for him to become a terrorist?

He was thoroughly brainwashed by Indian Mujahideen members.

As the boy went to learn Arabic, he ended up learning a wrong and warped ideology.

They fed him with stories of atrocities on Muslims.

He was made to believe that he was the saviour of Islam in India, that unless he chose to intervene, Islam would perish in India.

They don't realise that Islam has survived for the last 1,400 years despite all the catastrophic ups and downs, including the sordid Crusades.

What about ISIS? You gave example of two ISIS terrorists from India.
Did you find out why young Muslim boys who were never influenced by Al Qaeda got influenced by ISIS's ideology?

Al Qaeda did not talk about a global caliphate.

Its ideology was to take revenge against America. Al Qaeda spoke more about the enemy of Islam without promising the establishment of Islam all over the world.

ISIS was smart and cunning. It started with the dream of a global caliphate which attracted the youth.

It started by promising Islam would dominate other religions of the world with an Islamic caliphate.

Its enemy was not just the US, but anybody and everybody not following their brand of Islam.

Even those Muslims who did not follow its brand of Islam were their enemies.

Technology too helped ISIS.

It used its media cell to lure young men and women into their fold.

During Al Qaeda's heyday, technology was avoided so as to not leave an electronic trail.

I fail to understand how these terrorists get so much of bomb material.
Why do we fail in our intelligence to nab them before they carry out their terror operations?

India is a huge country. There are more than a billion people in India.

Intelligence agencies, in spite of all the monitoring, will not be able to peep into the mailboxes or telephones of each and every individual or peep into every home.

Terrorists work very surreptitiously and slyly after dodging intelligence agencies.

Pakistan too is a helpfully cooperative neighbouring country for terrorists.

Pakistan is always willing to help terrorists find the right stuff or train them in the art of using explosives.

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Syed Firdaus Ashraf /