By Salma Kouser-Asif
Taliban prides itself in following Islam according to the scriptures and yearns to establish an Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan.
Their narrow vision rests on the claim that the foremost objective of maintaining law and order in the society is possible by following Islamic principles. Yet, they manifest themselves by committing violent acts to create fear and assert power.
Relying on the religion to further their agenda of control over the Afghan people, the Taliban is contemptuous of the likes of secularism, freedom of speech, human rights or anything that has to do with democratic ideals which for them are the vestiges of Western influence.
In the previous regime (1996-2001), the Taliban meted out strict punishments to anyone who went against their interpretation of Shariah rules. They practiced regressive policies which impinged upon the basic rights and freedom of the Afghan people, most particularly the women and the ethnic minorities like the Tajiks, Hazaras and the Uzbeks. The Hazaras in particular have been subject to some of the most violent attacks for their ethnicity and Shia faith. They even destroyed the famous Buddha statues in Bamiyan.
Do note that the Taliban is killing Muslims in Afghanistan. The Afghan Taliban found its education in Deoband Madrasas located in the Indian subcontinent. Although Taliban finds its influence from the Deoband school, the group also has deep roots in the Pashtun traditions that followed a pre-Islamic tribal code or Pashtunwali.
In their fight against the Soviet Union, it was the US and Pakistan that began pushing the Islamic agenda in Afghanistan. Over time, with Pakistan creating the Taliban, the outfit has mainly sustained itself through narcotics and terror activities which are illegal according to the basic principles of Islam.
Yet, the Taliban claim to establish an Islamic Emirate. Fact is, the brand of Islam that they practice and want an ordinary Afghani to follow is merely a means to have absolute control over Afghanistan. Islam promotes tolerance and not compulsion. As such, the Taliban has resorted to a forced ideology.
The Deoband School in India has condemned the violent practices that are followed by the Taliban. There is no need to draw a connection between the Afghan Taliban and the Deoband seminary of India. The conditions under which the Taliban emerged cannot be blamed on Islam or the theological school they belong to. And equating the Indian Muslims and Taliban is just not right.
Interestingly, with the Taliban back in the picture in Afghanistan, the attention is back on the Indian Muslims too. For the record, it has been reiterated repeatedly that the Taliban do not have anything to do with the Indian Muslims. Do the Taliban need to be condemned? Yes, by every citizen of India and also the world, not only Muslims.
We have seen harrowing visuals of people desperate to flee the clutches of the Taliban. Taliban need a strong condemnation from the international community, the onus should not be on the Indian Muslims alone.
Muslims constitute roughly 14 per cent of India’s population and are the third largest Muslim population in the world. It is important to remember that Indian Muslims rejected the Islamic state of Pakistan during the Partition and chose the secular state of India and have continuously reposed faith in democratic ideals of the Indian Constitution.
The whole narrative of drawing a connection of Indian Muslims to the Taliban is flawed. When isolated people like Maulana Sajjad Nomani of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) commended the Taliban for taking over Afghanistan, the AIMPLB immediately dissociated itself from this opinion. Except for a few isolated cases, Indian Muslims do not glorify or sympathize with the Taliban.
India has long been a pluralistic society and a lot of it is due to the Bhakti and Sufi movements etc. The idea of sharing space binds the people together cutting across sectarian and religious differences.
So, we see a cultural balance and this has been the foundation of Indian Muslims. In India, Islam is also driven by culture, tradition along with theology. For a Bengali-speaking Muslim or an Assamese-speaking Muslim, their ethnic identity is as important to them as their religious identity.
Some Muslims in India believe that Islam as a religion involves syncretism and others believe in a Puritan Islam with no scope for heterogeneity. Indian Muslims respect these differences and opinions and do not believe in forcefully enforcing the ideologies like the way the Taliban does. Muslims need to reclaim Islam from the clutches of those who give fatwas at the drop of a hat and do not mind hobnobbing with political parties for their interests. What is needed is a more educational and economic amelioration of the Muslim community.