Riyaz Ahmad

From Greater Kashmir: “Islamist, really?

“‘Islamist’ has become such a handy term to describe any Muslim struggle in the world. It is one of the important pillars of the phraseological construct conveniently manufactured after 9/11 to make a sense of Muslim affairs. In fact, there are two such terms doing the hectic rounds: Islamic and Islamist. But it is Islamist which now more or less rules the description in comparison with its slightly more moderate but by no means perceived to be desirable, Islamic.”

“Over the past nine years the term Islamist has been subject to such overuse that hardly any major Muslim upheaval around the world has escaped this absolutist definition. And Kashmir, as is the case, is no exception.  This is despite the fact that Kashmir as an unalloyed political problem predates by far the 9/11, Iranian revolution and other prominent Islamist movements before that and survives as an abiding legacy of the end of the colonial era in the world.”

“Post 9/11, a section of coverage of the situation in Valley has painted it in ‘Islamistic’ colour. What is more, the use of the word Islamist alone has sufficed to explain the situation in the state. Little need has been felt for a rigorous intellectual examination of the grassroots reality in Valley and draw conclusions from it. Of course, many stray incidents come handy like the recent anonymous letters to the Sikh community in Valley asking them to embrace Islam or some brief occasional clowning around of our very own moral brigade. But the larger reality of Kashmir has been conveniently ignored.”

“In fact, there aren’t any clear religious motifs or slogans that define this struggle. Even the eighties template slogan of Yahan Kya Chalega, Nizam-I-Mustafa is now conspicuous by its absence.  Similarly, there is no viable pan-Islamist discourse where Kashmir is linked with the other Muslim troubles in Mideast beyond  a routine sense of religious fellow feeling. It is not a self-fulfilling analysis but grounded in a common experiential understanding of situation in Kashmir.”

“There are other realities in Kashmir that are beside the point. Despite the alleged ”Islamist movement” for the past two decades, Kashmir remains a place where a predominant majority of women don’t wear burqa and are not forced to do so. There is no silent coercive force that prescribes a certain overt religious behaviour. Nevertheless, like anywhere in India, Kashmir has its own occasions of moral policing. A suspect attempt by some mysterious gunmen in 2009 to enforce burqa in a Sopore college met with a public opposition and didn’t succeed.”

“So, a sweeping Islamist label is nothing but a motivated deployment of vocabulary, rather a frame that has become unfalsifiable as it has now a predominant world-wide audience that is already converted to the belief. The belief that any Muslim struggle in any form cannot but be Islamist in nature. The job of the so called experts on Islam has, for once, become the easiest. What is needed is to tap into a pre-existing deep-rooted global prejudice without bothering to provide an analytic context or an accurate picture of the everyday socio-political discourse of any Muslim crisis being written about.  A few stray incidents, even of doubtful nature, are suffice to pull off a bunch of pre-meditated generalizations about the situation and be regarded as an objective analysis”


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