Title

× Close
Religious extremism

Why a photo showing Tamil Muslims in support of ISIS is more troubling than any IB report

ISIS speaks the language of Sunni supremacy, and it is this that appeals to some young Indian Muslims.

In the late 1990s, about a decade after terrorism first bespattered the Kashmir valley, champions of secularism in India would point out that Muslims from the rest of the country had never felt the need to join cause with the violence being perpetrated in the name of Islam in the northern state. Though the call for a holy war had drawn young Muslim men from Pakistan, Afghanistan and even Central Asia, not one of the Indian security forces that operated in Kashmir had captured a Muslim terrorist from West Bengal, say, or Bihar. This to many was sure-fire indication that the Indian polity was healthy and secular – a sign of the successful assimilation of a previously troubled minority.

Yet even then the argument seemed conceptually weak. The call to holy war in Kashmir could be ignored because the Bhojpuri or Malayali Muslim was as much of an outsider to Kashmir as a Hindu from Bhopal. The non-participation of Muslims in the violence in Kashmir was perhaps better read as an indication of the distance of that struggle from their daily lives – there was no emotive plank in the Kashmiri’s appeal to holy war. A generalised call to protect your religion or to fight with your religious cohorts is not sufficient to draw a peaceful person to violence. It needs sharper focus. And not just for Muslims: this is the reason LK Advani was ignored in the early 1980s but became a tidal political force later in the decade, radicalising hundreds of thousands across India when he fixed upon the Ram Janmabhoomi issue.

The first instance of Indian Muslim terror – in the definition that we have come to know it, causing wanton civilian death, targeting symbols of the state – were the 1993 bombings orchestrated by the Mumbai mobster Dawood Ibrahim, which he said was a response to the Hindutva attack on the Babri masjid. There is no doubt that the destruction of that mosque devastated the Indian Muslim community, who had suffered through numerous riots, and caused their own. But until then they had felt the state would protect places of worship important to the community. The numerous terrorist acts that have followed indicate the alienation many young Indian Muslims feel.

Yet it is more pertinent today to address the insidious radicalisation of Indian Muslims taking place from within. All over the nation, Muslims are preaching and being taught ever more codified versions of Islam. It is important to disassociate this radicalisation with terrorism – beards and burqas are a fair barometer of violence only in the imagination of some Western media. But it is also important to see these acts of terrorism as the sharp tip of a broader push within the community towards radicalised Islam. The surge in popularity of a Saudi-promoted brand of orthodox Wahabbism – a branch that has a venerable history in India, growing as a reaction to the saint veneration and shrine visitation that Islam in South Asia borrowed from Hinduism – has not been adequately documented.

Muslims in both Pakistan and India are turning away from the less doctrinaire interpretations of Islam that once typified the religion on the subcontinent. While everyone should of course be free to choose their own degree or investment in faith, it is also essential to note that fundamentalists of every religion teach fear and disapproval of the outgroup, and are thus harmful to democratic society and convivial living.

This push has been visible for more than a decade now, perhaps more for closer observers. And it could well be a response to the popular projection, within Muslim communities, of a Western war against Islamic beliefs. But even anti-Americanism among Muslims does not answer one question: why is it that fewer Indian Muslims were drawn to the jihad call of Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and Kashmir, than it seems are already being pulled towards ISIS?

A photograph has been doing the rounds of the Internet of a large group of young Tamil Muslims clad in black ISIS t-shirts. On the Internet it is being brandished by Hindu nationalists as justification for their narrow parochialism, but it should worry every citizen of India. Tamils have nothing to do with Iraq or Syria. Then why this adherence to ISIS over Al-Qaeda, indeed over the jihad in Kashmir?

The answer lies in ISIS’ rallying call. The politically savvy and militarily capable self-named Caliph of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has astutely positioned his struggle as one against not the West but against Shia overreach. While many have characterised his ideology as pan-Islamist, it is in fact pan-Sunni. He seeks to create a Sunni state stretching across West Asia and the subcontinent. Needless to say, Shias will have at best subsidiary part in it.

The violence against Shias that has destroyed any claims Pakistan had left to secularism is an expression of an age-old animosity that goes to the very heart of the Islamic faith. It has been a source of conflict in every Muslim country. It is also the fault-line of the current battle in Iraq.

Sunnis are about 85% of India’s Muslim population. The ISIS t-shirts being worn by those young men in Tamil Nadu are not a reaction to Hindutva fundamentalism or Western political aggressions. They are a means of asserting Sunni pride. The photograph does not suggest to me that these men will join the jihad in West Asia. But it does suggest to me that the Sunni-Shia divide will continue to excite violence long after Western nations have ceased to be a perceived enemy of Muslims.

 
We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BULLETIN BY 

Making transportation more sustainable even with fuel-based automobiles

These innovations can reduce the pollution caused by vehicles.

According to the WHO’s Ambient Air Pollution Database released in 2016, ten of the twenty most polluted cities in the world are in India, with Gwalior and Ahmedabad occupying the second and third positions. Pollution levels are usually expressed in the levels of particulate matter (PM) in the air. This refers to microscopic matter that is a mixture of smoke, metals, chemicals and dust suspended in the atmosphere that can affect human health. Particulate matter is easily inhaled, and can cause allergies and diseases such as asthma, lung cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Indian cities have some of the highest levels of PM10 (particles smaller than 10 micrometres in diameter) and PM2.5 particles (particles smaller than 2.5 micrometres in diameter). The finer the particulate matter, the deeper into your lungs it can penetrate causing more adverse effects. According to WHO, the safe limits for PM2.5 is 10 micrograms per cubic meter.

Emissions resulting from transportation is regarded as one of the major contributors to pollution levels, especially particulate matter. A study conducted by the Centre for Ecological Sciences of the Indian Institute of Science estimated that the transport sector constitutes 32% of Delhi’s emissions. It makes up 43% of Chennai’s emissions, and around 17% of Mumbai’s emissions.

Controlling emissions is a major task for cities and auto companies. The Indian government, to this end, has set emission standards for automobiles called the Bharat Stage emission standard, which mirrors European standards. This emission standard was first instituted in 1991 and has been regularly updated to follow European developments with a time lag of about 5 years. Bharat Stage IV emission norms have been the standard in 2010 in 13 major cities. To tackle air pollution that has intensified since then, the Indian government announced that Bharat Stage V norms would be skipped completely, and Stage VI norms would be adopted directly in 2020.

But sustainability in transport requires not only finding techniques to reduce the emissions from public and private transport but also developing components that are environment friendly. Car and auto component manufacturers have begun optimising products to be gentler on the environment and require lesser resources to manufacture, operate and maintain.

There are two important aspects of reducing emissions. The first is designing vehicles to consume less fuel. The second is making the emissions cleaner by reducing the toxic elements.

In auto exteriors, the focus is on developing light-weight but strong composite materials to replace metal. A McKinsey study estimates that plastic and carbon fibre can reduce weight by about 20% and 50% respectively. A lighter body reduces the engine effort and results in better fuel economy. Additionally, fuel efficiency can be increased by reducing the need for air conditioning which puts additional load on the vehicle engine thereby increasing fuel consumption. Automotive coatings (paints) and sheets provide better insulation, keep the vehicle cool and reduce the use of air conditioning.

Most emissions are the result of inefficient engines. Perhaps the most significant innovations in making automobiles and mass transport systems more eco-friendly are being done in the engine. Innovations include products like fuel additives, which improve engine performance, resist corrosion and reduce fuel consumption while offering a great driving experience, and catalytic converters that reduce toxic emissions by converting them to less harmful output such as carbon dioxide, Nitrogen and water. Some of these catalytic converters are now capable of eliminating over 90 percent of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides.

All of these are significant measures to bring the negative impacts of vehicular pollution under control. With over 2 million vehicles being produced in India in 2015 alone and the moving to BS VI emission standards, constant innovation is imperative.

Beyond this, in commercial as well as passenger vehicles, companies are innovating with components and processes to enable higher resource efficiency. Long-lasting paint coatings, made of eco-friendly materials that need to be refreshed less often are being developed. Companies are also innovating with an integrated coating process that enables carmakers to cut out an entire step of coating without compromising the colour result or the properties of the coating, saving time, materials and energy. Efforts are being made to make the interiors more sustainable. Parts like the instrument panel, dashboard, door side panels, seats, and locks can all be created with material like polyurethane plastic that is not only comfortable, durable and safe but also easily recyclable. Manufacturers are increasingly adopting polyurethane plastic like BASF’s Elastollan® for these very reasons.

From pioneering the development of catalytic converters in 1975 to innovating with integrated process technology for coatings, BASF has always been at the forefront of innovation when it comes to making transport solutions more sustainable. The company has already developed the technology to handle the move of emissions standards from BS IV to BS VI.

For the future, given the expected rise in the adoption of electric cars—an estimated 5~8 percent of car production is expected to be pure electric or plug-in electric vehicles by 2020—BASF is also developing materials that enable electric car batteries to last longer and achieve higher energy density, making electronic mobility more feasible. To learn more about how BASF is making transport more sustainable, see here.

Watch the video to see how automotive designers experimented with cutting edge materials from BASF to create an innovative concept car.

Play

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of BASF and not by the Scroll editorial team.

× Close