In an article in the pages of Open recently, I discussed how Urdu newspapers in India published on June 23 several articles and an editorial to commemorate Ghazwa-e-Badr (the Battle of Badr), the first war of Islam against Kufr (unbelief) led by Prophet Muhammad.[i] An expanded version of the article, which raised concerns that such pieces in Urdu press radicalise Muslim youths in favour of the Islamic State (ISIS), was subsequently published by UK's Daily Mail, Mail Today and DailyO, among others.[ii] Some Muslim writers, who are generally sympathetic to jihadism and its unarmed soft-form Islamism, felt uncomfortable. Zafarul Islam, the editor of New Delhi-based Islamist weekly Milli Gazette, wrote a piece in which he launched a series of personal attacks on me, my employer and other websites.[iii] Zafarul Islam's article was also translated into Urdu and published by several Urdu newspapers, notably Roznama Jadid Khabar.[iv]
"[H]e writes what pleases the Islamophobes," Zafarul Islam wrote in the very second sentence of his article about me, without quoting any of my research and without discussing the merits of any of the points on the Urdu press's role in radicalisation of Muslims in India. In my piece, I had translated excerpts from an editorial in Roznama Sangam, a major Urdu daily published from Patna since 1952. I pointed out how Roznama Sangam inculcated jihad and radicalised Muslims through its editorial on Ghazwa-e-Badr in these words: "[A] handful of 313 Muslims forced the army of the infidels of Mecca to lick dust in the field of Badr. This first battle is the point of the beginning of the philosophy of jihad." As Indian Muslims are going to Syria to join the ISIS, such articles are a serious cause of concern and a threat to India's internal and external security.
Honesty was once a mark of Muslims, at least in the early era of Islam. An honest approach for Zafarul Islam would have been to respond to the points raised in my article. Instead, without bothering to refute the points, he dismissed the issue of radicalisation of Muslims by Roznama Sangam, saying it published only "a short" editorial. As an editor, he knows that more than any part of a newspaper, an editorial is a newspaper's face and a seriously considered piece of writing. He further stated: "Objection to even commemoration of an important landmark like Badr only means that Muslims should forget about their faith and history." Like a true jihadist, he thinks any re-assessment of Ghazwa-e-Badr, a war celebrated on the 17th of Ramzan every year by jihadist organisations, is not right. Clearly, Zafarul Islam is in ideological love with Roznama Sangam's editorial that Ghazwa-e-Badr is indeed "the point of the beginning of the philosophy of jihad" – a very clear assertion Zafarul Islam's mind, nursed in jihadism, does not notice.
Honesty would have also meant to acknowledge the fact that the Battle of Badr became inevitable because the trading caravans of the non-Muslims of Mecca were being routinely raided by Prophet Muhammad and his companions. But Zafarul Islam's primary objective was to launch a personal attack. Since he couldn't find any response to the arguments raised by me regarding the Urdu media's role in radicalising Muslim youths, he decided to launch an attack on my employer, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), a US-based NGO founded by former Israeli government official Yigal Carmon. MEMRI has a number of Muslims and Christians on its staff.
In modern times, a glaring intellectual failure of the Muslim mind is not to distinguish between Israel, the Jews and the Zionists. Zafarul Islam declares: "For all his services, Tufail is now employed by the Zionist propaganda organisation, MEMRI." The thrust of my piece was that the internet itself is not responsible for radicalisation of Muslims, and even without the internet, Urdu newspapers publish content that inspires Muslims for jihad. I cited from research by Delhi-based reformist Islamic writer Sultan Shahin saying that 18,000 Muslims from India went to Turkey to fight for the Ottoman Caliphate in the 1920s when there was no internet. Without refuting Sultan Shahin's research, Zafarul Islam launched an abusive attack on Shahin, describing him as a person with "dubious connections." It is criminal to accuse someone of something "dubious" without citing at least one reason. But perhaps his Islam teaches Zafarul Islam to do so.
In his piece meant to mislead non-Muslim readers, Zafarul Islam presents the Hijrat Movement as if Indians migrated to Afghanistan in search for food. A Pakistani website offers greater clarity: "The Hijrat Movement was a by-product of the Khilafat Movement [which sought to defend the Ottoman Caliphate, leading to migration of over 18,000 Indian Muslims to Turkey]. In the summer of 1920 suggestions were made… that the Muslims should migrate to place where their religion and national image are not jeopardized."[v] It further states: "the idea gained popularity when Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Maulana Abdul Bari issued a fatwa declaring India as 'Dar-ul-Harb' (Home of War)."[vi] As a part of the Hijrat Movement, Indian Muslims, including government officials, left homes and properties in India for Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Islamic world.
Another Pakistani website comments on the Hijrat Movement: "When Khilafat Movement was at its peak, in the meantime a voice arose from Lucknow declaring the India Subcontinent as Dar-ul-Harb…, urging the Muslims to migrate from their homeland on the plea of few Ulama [Islamic scholars] of India…. Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, Maulana Abdul Bari Farangi, Maulana Muhammad Ali and Maulana Abdul Majeed Sindhi issued a fatwa [Islamic decree] which declared migration from India Dar-ul-Harb (home of war) to Dar-ul-Aman (home of peace) desirable…."[vii] Exactly for the similar theological reasons, a number of Indian Muslim youths have recently gone to Afghanistan and Syria to fight for jihad and live in the Islamic State today.
A second article I cited was published by Roznama Sahafat marking Ghazwa-e-Badr on June 23. Zafarul Islam says: "We searched the epapers of all the three editions of Sahafat from Delhi, Lucknow and Mumbai of the given date (November 23), but failed to find the article Tufail Ahmad finds so offensive." Zafarul Islam admits that he could not read the article but rushes to pose that the article was not offensive. His lapse was to look for Roznama Sahafat's epaper of November 23, not of June 23, which marked 17th Ramzan, the day of Ghazwa-e-Badr. I have re-checked the online archives of Roznama Sahafat, the six-column, half-page article cited by me does exist.
Of all the articles cited by me, the Roznama Sahafat article is the most hateful towards non-Muslims. The article, written by Allama Pir Muhammad Tabassum Bashir Owaisi, observes: "[Prophet Muhammad] used to chase and attack the caravans and seize their goods. Otherwise too, the infidels are enemies of Allah and their properties… are Halal [permissible as per Shariah] for Allah's friends, in other words, for Muslims." In a multi-religious society like India, such incendiary articles in Urdu press radicalise Muslim youths who develop a hateful view of non-Muslims as infidels. If Zafarul Islam had an ounce of academic integrity, he should have noted that Roznama Sahafat was engendering Islamophobia by publishing such articles. But Zafarul Islam's article does not have a word against Roznama Sahafat and its writer Allama Pir Muhammad Tabassum Bashir Owaisi, the cleric sowing the seeds of Islamophobia by authoring such articles.
In his article, Allama Pir Muhammad Tabassum Bashir Owaisi went a step further in preaching hate against non-Muslims, saying that for Muslims the "most legitimate halal thing" is maal-e-ghanimat (goods seized from non-Muslims), followed by profits earned from trade, especially of clothes, followed by profits from agricultural activities, followed by income from work done by one's own hand—in that order. Instead of attacking Allama Pir Muhammad Tabassum Bashir Owaisi who authored this Shariah-based argument, Zafarul Islam launches an attack on me: "How dishonest and/or illiterate! 'Maal-e ghanimat' means war booty which is collected from the battle-ground immediately after the defeat of an enemy army in a battle."
Of course, maal-e-ghanimat is war booty and is seized from non-Muslims in war – how else you seize maal-e-ghanimat if not in fighting? The issue here is that an Islamic scholar like Allama Pir Muhammad Tabassum Bashir Owaisi publishes a half-page article arguing based on Shariah that personal income should be the least-preferred source of income for Muslims and maal-e-ghanimat must be the preferred, first source of livelihood for Muslims. Instead of accusing me of dishonesty, Zafarul Islam should at the least read the Urdu newspapers to face the truth.
In the Golden Age of Islam, Muslims read Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, and translated the Greek classics of philosophy into Arabic. In modern times, individuals like Zafarul Islam who promote themselves as Muslim intellectuals are too lazy to walk up to a library or do objective research, or enter an academically sound argument by responding to the points I raised. Sitting in his comfy office in New Delhi, Zafarul Islam had neither time nor interest to call up the editor of Roznama Sahafat, or the office of Roznama Urdu Times, another leading Urdu daily which I cited in my article. He could have sent one of his staff members to the offices of these newspapers to trace the original copies, but search for truth is not a concern for Islamists like him. In dhandha (the underworld of crimes), criminals and prostitutes live by a code of honour, but in the journalistic world of Zafarul Islam no code of principles exists because the Urdu-Muslim press no longer believes in educating Muslims to broaden their mental horizons. In the intellectual world of Zafarul Islam, journalism is a concubine in the service of Islamism, not a public service to humankind.
Zafarul Islam writes: "The author further quotes Mumbai's Urdu Times (December 26, 2014) as saying in an article that an apostate should be killed. Since Urdu Times archives do not offer the epaper of that period, it was not possible to verify if Tufail Ahmad was honest in his quoting." Having failed to read the original, a pious Muslim would not have proceeded to write a piece against me, or at the least would have waited for a few weeks to trace the original. But academic research is not to the taste of counterfeit Muslim editors like Zafarul Islam and honesty is something he needs to learn from members of Jamaat-e-Islami who are his neighbours. While questioning my honesty, Zafarul Islam did not even bother to use Google because perhaps he thinks such search engines are an invention by infidels. Zafarul Islam did not even use telephone to call up the editor of Roznama Urdu Times and therefore cannot be given even the benefit of doubt.
A full translation of the concerned article from Roznama Urdu Times is available on the internet and it is pertinent to cite some portions to show how the Urdu media radicalises Muslim youths, an issue hugely relevant as dozens of Indian Muslims are feared to have gone to work with jihadist organisations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria and Iraq. In 2014, the issue of ghar wapsi (reconversion to Hinduism, literally: homecoming) was a major issue after some Hindu groups in northern India tried to re-convert Muslims to Hinduism. In this context, Roznama Urdu Times published the article written by Muhammad Najeeb Qasmi Sanbhali, an Islamic scholar who quoted the Quran, hadiths (sayings and deeds of Prophet Muhammad) as well as practices of the first four Righteous Caliphs of Islam Abu Bakr, Umar ibn Khattab, Usman ibn Affan, and Ali ibn Abi Talib to justify that Muslims converting to Hinduism must be killed.[viii]
In that article, Roznama Urdu Times published such arguments: "In fact, the first interpreter of the Quran, Prophet Muhammad, has clearly ordered the killing of a person becoming apostate [i.e. Muslims leaving Islam]"; "Hazrat Aisha, the mother of all Muslims [and wife of the prophet] narrated that Prophet Muhammad said: … if a person leaves his religion (of Islam), then murder him"; "[the third caliph of Islam] Hazrat Usman bin Affan narrated that 'I heard Prophet Muhammad as saying:... shedding of a Muslim's blood is not permitted except for three cases – i) committing adultery/rape after marriage, ii) murdering a human being, iii) adopting kufr [unbelief] after accepting Islam, then s/he will be killed'", and so on. Zafarul Islam's ideological comfort with modern-day jihadism is such that he doesn't offer a word of criticism of, or at least a response to, Roznama Urdu Times because only a true jihadist's eyes will not see how jihadism threatens the security of India in contemporary times.
Zafarul Islam admits in writing that he has not read the original piece in Urdu Times but without concern for self-respect attacks me in these words: "But considering the tone and tenor of Tufail Ahmad's article, we can comfortably say that he must have misquoted Urdu Times." There cannot be a bigger and open case of dishonesty than this. His next sentence is: "Killing of apostates is not an easy matter and no private individual has the authority to do so. Like high treason in contemporary laws, apostasy too is a complicated matter, and beyond the comprehension of a propagandist working for a Zionist propaganda outfit." Instead of blaming the so-called Zionist propaganda outfit, honesty demands that Zafarul Islam question the Urdu Times which published the article. But integrity is not a creed for Muslim editors like Zafarul Islam who goes on to equate the hateful religious doctrine of apostasy with treason – a line of argument adopted by jihadist groups. He lashes out at me, not at Roznama Urdu Times for advocating the killing of apostates.
Zafarul Islam criticises me: "The real culprit, according to Tufail Ahmad, is India's Urdu press which is radicalising Muslim youth by publishing incendiary news items and articles every single day." I re-assert my argument that the Urdu press in India is indeed radicalising Muslim youths. In my piece, I cited another article from Roznama Sahafat that fed conspiracy theories into Muslim minds by publishing such arguments: "the American intelligence agencies carried out the attacks on 9/11"; "the attack [of June 12 at the gay club of Orlando, Florida] was a conspiracy to make Donald Trump the US President." But because Zafarul Islam is himself engaged in nursing conspiracy theories against the West, he is dismissive. "Lo and behold", he writes and offers his own translation as: "Donald Trump is anxious to make political use of the Orlando attack."
Zafarul Islam's heart is so shut to truth that his eyes refuse to see the article's headline in bold which reads: "Orlando Shooting – Donald Trump ko Amriki Sadar Bananey ki Saazish (Orlando Shooting – the Conspiracy to Make Donald Trump the American President)." In this article whose full translation is available for non-Urdu readers, Roznama Sahafat also notes: "American intelligence agencies themselves carried out the two air attacks [of 9/11] so that the entire blame could be put on the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, and the regime of the Al-Qaeda-supporting Taliban could be terminated."[ix]
Zafarul Islam also thinks that it is right to kill surrendered non-Muslims in modern times, which is against the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners. Earlier, I reviewed a special issue of Nai Duniya, which is edited and published by Shahid Siddiqui from New Delhi, in which I had questioned the Urdu weekly newspaper for injecting conspiracy theories among Muslim youths and cultivating an intellectual environment in which jihadism thrives. A full review was published by MEMRI[x] and a short version of it appeared in the pages of Open.[xi] In the issue dated 25-31 May 2015, Nai Duniya published conspiracy arguments such as American soldiers chopped off Osama bin Laden's body into pieces and threw on the mountains of Afghanistan, and went on to "justify the massacre of nearly a thousand Jews of Banu Quraiza on Prophet Muhammad's orders despite the fact the entire tribe had surrendered and desperately sent emissaries requesting safe passage and offering to leave behind their wealth."[xii]
Zafarul Islam justifies the "murder" of the 700-900 surrendered Jews by Prophet Muhammad and his companions in these words: "Any serious student of Islamic history knows that the murder of Banu Quraiza was according to their own scriptures and was the punishment given by their own religious scholar…" If Zafarul Islam and Shahid Siddiqui think in modern times that it is justifiable to order the killing of surrendered people of an entire tribe, how they are different from Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the murderer-in-chief of the Islamic State, who too thinks like them. One should also remember that victorious Muslims ordered young boys of Banu Quraiza tribe to get naked to ascertain whether they had grown pubic hair and those who had hair were indeed killed.
Zafarul Islam writes: "Even today this will be the punishment a traitor receives in any part of the world for inviting and helping an enemy attack his country." So, in his opinion, "even today" it is justifiable to massacre an entire tribe and for having pubic hair. In his own words, Zafarul Islam is abundantly clear that like the ISIS jihadists he too wants to live even today by the 7th century Shariah code adopted by Prophet Muhammad. The mainstream Islam today is not like Zafarul Islam; he is speaking to us from the 7th century version of Islam.
The point of my article is that Urdu media is inculcating jihadist sentiments among Muslim readers against non-Muslims and therefore is a threat to the interests of Indian Muslims. For example, Nai Duniya of Shahid Siddiqui, who presents an immaculate moderate face when speaking in English on television channels and promotes radicalism among Urdu-speaking Muslim audiences, has been feeding conspiracy theories and mass orthodoxies among Muslims, and in one of articles it argued that U.S. President Barack Obama had developed a plan to launch a nuclear attack on Kaaba in Mecca, a clear incitement of Muslim youths.[xiii] I am not opposed to him publishing such reports if he does have a mole in the White House who gives him such secret information.
I have examined in detail the role of Nai Duniya: "In the worldview that Siddiqui injects into Muslim consciousness, courageous reformist Taslima Nasreen and litterateur Salman Rushdie are shown as Satan as in the cover page headlines: 'Satan's daughter [Taslima Nasreen]—how long will she have fun on the Indian soil'; 'On the back of Satan [Salman Rushdie], the Congress's hand'; 'The attack of Satan [Salman Rushdie] on Muslims and Imran [Khan of Pakistan]'. While legitimate criticisms of Israel and its occupation of Palestinian land must be welcomed, Siddiqui doesn't differentiate between Jews and Israel as his mind is clouded by the tide of global anti-Semitism. Cover page headlines read: 'Before attack on Iran, the Jewish conspiracy to have the Islamic world fight against the whole world'; 'The Jews' satanic propaganda in America—Muslims [are] animal; the world of Islam stunned by ad campaign in New York'. The ad was given by a pro-Israel group urging people to defeat jihad."[xiv]
Once I believed that Urdu editors are doing it thoughtlessly. But I have now realised that they are deliberately inculcating a jihad-sympathetic intellectual environment among Muslims in India. Even today, hidden Islamist Shahid Siddiqui's Nai Duniya has been serialising Aur Talwar Toot Gayee (And the Sword Broke) by Nasim Hijazi, an Urdu novelist whose writings have been loved by Islamists and jihadists of South Asia for generations. As of 22 July 2016, 32 parts of Nasim Hijazi's book have been published by Nai Duniya. In the Urdu-speaking world, everyone knows that Nasim Hijazi's writings radicalise Muslim youths. A Pakistani writer tweeted on 21 September 2013: "Nasim Hijazi is also responsible for the circumstances through which Pakistan is passing through."[xv]
In The News daily of Pakistan, Mohammad Waseem observed: "Nasim Hijazi created nostalgia for the perceived Muslim glory or tragedy in the past in various locations in Central Asia, Spain and India. Indeed, the Andalus syndrome had become the pivot of nostalgia among Muslims of India and later Pakistan after the end of Khilafat in 1924."[xvi] Pakistani writer Aamir Mughal tweeted: "Nasim Hijazi [engaged in] glorifying foreign conquerors..."[xvii] Broadcast journalist Shahid Wafa wrote about the hero of Nasim Hijazi's novels: "Novel ka hero kafiron ko qatl aur un ki betion se ishq ek sath karta tha (The novel's hero used to murder Kafirs and simultaneously love their daughters)…"[xviii]
Sultan Shahin has written: "Even historical fiction written by 20th century Urdu novelist Nasim Hijazi, for instance, can be taken as a call for jihad, far more effective than any overt jihadi literature."[xix] In the Friday Times, Lahore-based academic Raza Naeem wrote: "Nasim Hijazi, the writer of Urdu potboilers glorifying such foreign conquerors as Muhammad bin Qasim and Hajjaj bin Yousaf [both of whom planned the invasion of India by Muhammad bin Qasim in 712 CE as a result of which all native civilisations and ways of living have been wiped out from Balochistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan for ever]."[xx]
It is no longer possible to believe that Indian Muslim editors are like Shahid Siddiqui and Zafarul Islam, who has no word against jihadism, are not deliberately radicalising Muslim youths. Perhaps, the University of Manchester, from where Zafarul Islam obtained a Ph D, did not teach him the value of academic research, the need to visit a library or use Google, the purpose of intellectual engagement to broaden the minds of Muslims, or the need to take up an opponent's argument and refute them by citing sources. He is in full ideological comfort with jihadism of today working from the office of the Milli Gazette situated at D-84 Abul Fazl Enclave, a hub of Islamist groups such as Jamaat-e-Islami and jihadist publishers. During a recent tour of Jammu & Kashmir, I was astonished to see jihadist books printed by several publishers based in Abul Fazl Enclave and being sold openly to Kashmiri youths. In a detailed research paper, I examined how Abul Fazl Enclave, an area of New Delhi where Zafarul Islam nurses his mind, has emerged as a major centre of jihadist publications.[xxi]
[i] Call for Jihad, July 1, 2016.
[ii] Why blame the internet for radicalising young Muslims? The newspapers have that covered on their own, July 6, 2016.
[iii] In response to Tufail Ahmad: Is this the beginning of assault on India's Urdu Press?, July 16, 2016.
[iv] Roznama Jadid Khabar, July 23, 2016.
[v] Hijrat Movement, accessed July 23, 2016.
[vi] Hijrat Movement, accessed July 23, 2016.
[vii] Hijrat Movement (1920), accessed July 23, 2016.
[viii] Indian Urdu Daily Advocates Murdering Apostates After Extremist Hindu Groups Convert Muslims: 'The First Interpreter Of The Koran, Prophet Muhammad, Has Clearly Ordered The Killing Of A Person Becoming Apostate', January 4, 2015.
[ix] Indian Urdu Daily Roznama Sahafat: 'Orlando Shooting – The Conspiracy To Make Donald Trump America's President'; 'American Intelligence Agencies Themselves Carried Out The Two Air Attacks [On 9/11]', June 24, 2016.
[x] In Special 'Terrorism And Islam' Issue, Indian Urdu Weekly Accuses Hollywood Of Facilitating U.S. Foreign Policy, Justifies Killings Of Jews On Muhammad's Orders, Says Jihadi Terrorism Is Caused By American Imperialism, June 18, 2015.
[xi] Lies, Duplicity and Deceit in the name of Allah, June 9, 2015.
[xii] Lies, Duplicity and Deceit in the name of Allah, June 9, 2015.
[xiii] Fanning Minority Fears, October 9, 2014.
[xiv] Fanning Minority Fears, October 9, 2014.
[xv] https://twitter.com/SahafiSoorma/status/381364969368850434, September 21, 2013.
[xvi] A tale of two generations, October 25, 2015.
[xvii] https://twitter.com/mughalbha/status/756394835091881984, July 22, 2016. The original English of the tweet has been standardised for clarity.
[xviii] https://twitter.com/shahidobserves/status/756452192094134272, July 22, 2016.
[xix] Religious and Theological Underpinning of Global Islamist Terror: Full Text of Speech at International Counter Terrorism Conference 2016 in Jaipur, February 3, 2016.
[xx] Courage of Refusal, April 29, 2016.
[xxi] New Delhi's Abul Fazl Enclave Emerging As India's Biggest Publication Center For Jihadi Literature – And Antisemitic Literature, Including Book On 'Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion', February 5, 2016.