Will Indian Muslims listen to Ayman-Al –Zawahiri call?

Posted September 7th, 2014 at 5:12 pm (UTC+0)
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A photo of Al Qaeda's new leader, Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri, is seen in this still image taken from a video released on September 12, 2011
By Iftikhar Hussain

Al Qaeda chief Ayman Al Zawahiri’s announcement of opening up a new Al-qaeda franchise in India, Bangladesh and Burma that in his words would address the grievances of Muslims there, has not only alarmed the three countries but also the world at large, raising fears of the expanding threat of the organization, which was supposed to be on the run in South Asia.
The timing, nature and presumed location from where the Al Qaeda video came out is read with different perspectives in India; some experts believe it is the Pakistanization of Alqaeda, others call it the outfit’s call in desperation to compete with the more lethal organization IS on the jihadi scene in Syria and Iraq.
A general round of Indian media gives an impression that Indian Muslims are largely immune to the Jihadi culture but with the Jihadi concept easily floating around from the capitals of the developed nations of Europe to the most impoverished one in Asia and the Middle East, the Al Qaeda threat cannot be ignored. Also the critical part of the Al Qaeda video is how the message is read by Indian security experts: Pakistani intelligence agency ISI and Al Qaeda coming together.
Tricky timing of the video: The Daily Beast in its report, “Al Qaeda desperation could be India’s nightmare”, quoting India’s leading journalist on the subject Praveen Swami questioned the timing of the video. The journalist says “after all Al Qaeda has been in Afghanistan and, therefore, available in Pakistan, already, for anti-India Jihad.” The Daily Beast report explains IS has stolen Al Qaeda thunder, siphoning recruits away from the organization and has yet to recover from the loss of its leader OBL.
IS reaching out to Pakistan & Afghanistan: There are reports the IS has distributed a 12- page booklet in Pakistan and Afghanistan translated into Pashto and Dari languages calling the locals for joining jihad with the group to expand its caliphate to Central Asia. Officials in Washington believe that the IS is attracting influential individuals from around the world. Answering Deewa Radio question at a debate on the topic at the Brookings Institute the US Director for National Counter-terrorism Center Mathew Olson said the IS reaching out to new regions is a matter of concerns for the US. He says, “What we have seen so far is not necessary an alignment of other groups. We have seen individuals and you know some influential individuals either is in alliance with the ISIL or having affinity for the ISIL success and you know it’s a very dynamic situation. With the rise of ISIL, the competition between the ISIL on the one hand and the Al-Qaida on the other is our concerns that their leaders will carry out attacks that would establish them they are the bona fides”.
Al Qaeda preparing for new war after the Afghan withdrawal: As the Americans depart Afghanistan, it is hard not to imagine Pakistani jihadist swooning to visions of 1989. In that year, the Soviets left Afghanistan, freeing up battle-hardened jihadis for holy war in Kashmir. Regional experts Dr. Muhammad Taqi, a US-based Pakistani columnist and Prof. Khadim Hussain, author of The Militant Discourse, while talking to Deewa Radio interprets the Zawahiri‘s call a blatant message to the rival IS that their spiritual leader is still Mulla Omar rejecting the IS head Abu Bakar AL Baghdadi leadership. Both the analysts also believe that the religious extremists are planning to open new fronts to keep their ranks active and it was likely that different groups will come together under their umbrella with the plan to gain ground in Afghanistan in the post-2014 scenario as foreign combat troops are leaving the region.
Indian Muslims Furious Response: While some Indian Muslim leaders talking to VOA called al-Qaida a “terrorist outfit” and criticized it for killing innocent people and threatening peace, others said that any action by al-Qaida would be detrimental to the interests of Indian Muslims and urged communities to ignore the group. Zafarul-Islam Khan, president of the All India Muslim Majils-e-Mushawarat, a New Delhi-based umbrella body of Indian Muslim organizations, said Muslims will fight al-Qaida if it tries to spread its ideology or networks. “We, the Indian Muslims totally reject the al-Qaida chief’s offer to help us and consider it a disservice to the cause of Muslims in the subcontinent. We do not want any meddling in our affairs by a foreign terrorist outfit,” Khan told VOA. Indian analyst warns that after all, youth of the 175 million Indian Muslim populations has to be awakened of the Al Qaeda designs.
Al Qaeda has gone native in Pakistan: Patricia Bacon, a professor at the American University in Washington, D.C., who worked on counterterrorism for a decade at the U.S. Department of State, in the same Daily Beast piece pointed to another reason why Zawahiri has chosen to expand al Qaeda’s portfolio—the “Pakistanization” of al Qaeda. “Over the course of its years in Afghanistan and Pakistan, al Qaeda has endured many losses, and a number of its Arab members have left the region for Syria or other conflict zones as the security situation in Pakistan have deteriorated.” As a result, Bacon explained, “Al Qaeda has incorporated more Pakistanis into its ranks to fill these vacancies.” One salient example was Ilyas Kashmiri, one of the highest-ranking al Qaeda commanders. He is thought to have been killed in a drone operation in June 2011.
(A colleague of Bacon’s, Steven Tankel, the piece adds, has written a fascinating paper on the extent to which al Qaeda has “gone native” in Pakistan. By last year, he reports, studies showed that “a plurality” of the videos produced by al Qaeda’s media wing focused on India and Pakistan; and, startlingly, Urdu, Pakistan’s national language, had supplanted Arabic as “the predominant language in al Qaeda propaganda releases.”)
Pakistan intelligence agency ISI and Al Qaeda links: Experts also believe that both have enjoyed a marriage of convenience but Pakistan spy agency ISI mostly remains comfortable with the local and Afghan militant groups to advance its objectives in the region. But the suspicion will remain. The most dangerous part, Indian experts and security analysts think, is the coming together of Pakistani ISI and Al Qaeda in purpose and objective and that is now the new Indian security nightmare.

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