Force Magazine

Closed Minds

Only a political resolution can help curb radicalisation

By Ghazala Wahab

Srinagar: As dusk settled in, the call of the muezzin broke through the cacophony of the traffic and surge of people rushing to reach a place where they could break their daily fast. On the bustling streets of Residency Road leading up to the famous (or notorious, depending upon one’s perspective and memories) Lal Chowk, men, and sometimes boys, stood on the pavement with trays of milky drinks and dates for the passing rozgaars (those who were on the fast) who were unlikely to reach their home or a mosque in time.

Yet, not everybody heeded the muezzin’s appeal. Many held out. A few minutes later, another muezzin cried out, urging the devotees to break their fast and come to the mosque for the maghrib (dusk) prayers. Before this azaan could be finished, another one broke out and then yet another. For a brief moment, suspended in time, it seemed that there was an open-air surround sound system, with azaans in various stages of recitation reverberating in the atmosphere.

Kashmir Radicalisation

It was not the truancy of the clocks that led to the difference in the timing of the muezzin’s call. It was the difference amongst the various sects that have sprouted in Kashmir, which determine their own timings, always at variance with others.

Of course, there has always been a variation in prayer timing and mosques amongst the Muslims, since the division of the community into Sunnis and Shias, but in today’s Kashmir, there are sectional mosques with their own prayer time even within the majority Sunni community. From the erstwhile Jamaat-e-Islami to the gradual sprouting of sects like Ahl-e-Hadis, Ahl-e-Sunnat dawat e Islam, Saut-ul-Haq among others, there are innumerable numbers of sects operating their own mosques and madrassas in the Valley. While some like Ahl-e-Hadis have a following running into a few hundred thousand including a number of medical and educational institutions (it’s proposed Islamic university with affiliation to Medina University was approved during Ghulam Nabi Azad’s chief-ministership), there are many which are restricted to a few districts alone and hence function (for good or bad) well below the radar screen.

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