Why some of the threats of Islamic terrorism are fantastical
It is surreal how certain emails remain forever in cyberspace; neither dying a natural death nor falling out of circulation. A few years ago, when the US war in Afghanistan had run aground and the popular media was replete with stories of rise of Jihadi terrorism, I received an email with a strong message urging me to forward it to as many people possible to create awareness if I wanted to prevent Jihadi holocaust from scalding the world. Lending authenticity to the mail, the sender explained that though the origin of the mail is unknown, it is ostensibly written by a German psychiatrist, who would certainly know a thing or two about right-wing extremism. The so-called author of the mail, the sender claimed, was a holocaust survivor.
The lucidly written essay highlighted the power of a fanatic minority over the silent majority. Giving examples of the Nazi Holocaust, the Russian purges, the Japanese massacre of the Chinese before World War II, the writer wrote that it was irrelevant that Islam was a peaceful religion or that majority of Muslims were regular people, because it is the fanatics who rule. The evidence of the rise of Islamic fanaticism, according to the author, was the way ‘fanatics, who systematically slaughter Christian or tribal groups throughout Africa… are gradually taking over the entire continent in an Islamic wave.’ His final warning was that if the world didn’t wake up now, ‘they will awaken one day and find that the fanatics own them, and the end of their world will have begun.’
The references to stoning of rape victims (allusion to Taliban rule in Afghanistan), capture of mosque (Lal Masjid in Islamabad, Pakistan) and massacre of African tribal suggested that it was a fairly recent composition, but not so recent as to have factored in the Arab Spring, which has been giving sleepless nights to western analysts because of the rise of conservative Islamist organisations like the Muslim Brotherhood.
I read the essay but didn’t heed the warning and deleted it. I could not see rampaging Islamic armies anywhere. Yes, there were incidents of terrorism worldwide (more in India than anywhere else) perpetrated by Muslims, but I refused to see Afghani/Iraqi resistance against the US-NATO combine or Palestine resistance against Israel as Jihadi terrorism. Jihad it may be, but not terrorism. But despite not forwarding the email, I did not doubt its veracity or the horrors its author claimed to have suffered at the hands of the Nazis.
A few days ago, the same email landed in my inbox once again. This time it was sent by a retired senior Indian Army officer, well-known as a thinker and reasonably sought-after in the national and international seminar circuits. The mail carried the name of its creator: ‘Dr Emanuel Tanay, a well-known and well-respected psychiatrist’. The title was: A German View of Islam. I was dismayed to receive this mail from a person who is supposed to have a better understanding of the world and contemporary conflicts.
But perhaps I should not have been. In the last couple of years, a lot of Indian military officers, seeking an academic break, are undertaking research on ‘Jihad’ and by extension on ‘terrorism.’ No doubt it is a hot-selling subject, but there are only these many aspects to it. Hence, probably for the sake of more dramatic research or to project diabolical future threats, a lot of strange phrases are being tossed around. One such phrase, which I learnt last year through an Indian Army Colonel was, ‘Ghazwa-e-Hind’. When I asked him what it meant, he told me ominously, “Google it. The cyberspace is full of it.”
I dutifully ran a Google search and discovered that Ghazwa-e-Hind refers to a supposedly Islamic prophecy, in which the army of the faithful will rise one day and capture India. Incidentally, despite having grown up in a Muslim household, I have never heard of this prophecy. Some people with too much time on their hands have concluded that indeed this prophecy will come true. The army of the faithful will be led by Pakistan to defeat India. Jesus Christ, who continues to live, will return from heaven to lead this army which will then vanquish Israel.
I would have merrily fallen off my chair laughing if I hadn’t come across this term subsequently in articles ostensibly written by army officers making future threat projections, including in an article defending continuation of AFSPA in Kashmir. Thinking continue to live in a Fool’s Paradise when the end is nigh, I met up with a recently retired home secretary and asked him if he had in his tenure ever come across a threat called ‘Ghazwa-e-Hind’.
He drew an even bigger blank than I had. Perhaps, somebody should research why so much of time is being wasted on permutations of Islamic ascendancy.
By the way, out of curiosity, I ran a Google search on Dr Emanuel Tanay. It looks like that while Dr Tanay is a real person he is not the creator of the mail. The mail was written by someone called Paul E. Marek and was published in an Israeli news network publication called Arutz Sheva sometimes in 2007. So much for threats real and imagined.