Sharjeel Imam, the mastermind of the Shaheen Bagh protests and a columnist at The Wire, was arrested recently for his seditious speeches. He had called for the breaking up of India and had spoken about cutting off Assam from India. During interrogation, it was revealed that Sharjeel Imam is highly radicalized and wants to turn India into an Islamic state.
It was also revealed that he does not regret his actions. Now, reports have emerged that the police are looking into his links with radical Islamist outfit PFI and the Islamic Youth Federation. In this report, we shall look into the backgrounds of these two organizations.
Popular Front of India (PFI)
The radical Islamic outfit, Popular Front of India has been in the midst of several dangerous controversies and plots of radical terrorists. It was launched after the Karnataka Forum for Dignity (KFD, Karnataka) National Development Front (NDF, Kerala) Manitha Neethi Pasarai (MNP, Tamil Nadu) and the South India Council decided to float the organization together.
The PFI is suspected of funding violence in the recent spate of violence during the ongoing protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act. The Enforcement Directorate has claimed that the PFI has spent around Rs. 120 crores to fuel riots across the country. The investigation report says that the money was withdrawn a day before or on the day of the anti-CAA protests.
Three people associated with PFI, including UP state head Waseem, were arrested by the Uttar Pradesh police for orchestrating violence by spreading misinformation through social media platforms. UP police chief OP Singh has stated that members of radical Islamic organisations – PFI and its political front, Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), including political parties like Samajwadi Party were involved in instigating Muslim mobs to indulge in violence across the state during the anti-CAA protests. The UP police have advocated a ban on PFI after the widespread violence in the state. Five more PFI members have been arrested by the UP Police on the 31st of January, Friday.
The PFI has a history of its members being associated with violence. Only last month, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) had re-arrested the out-on-bail accused and a member of PFI, KA Najeeb, in connection with a professor’s palm chopping case in Kerala. Najeeb was booked under relevant sections of the IPC, Explosive Substances Act, and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for “conspiring and facilitating the lethal attack on Professor TJ Joseph at Thodupuzha, Ernakulam district in Kerala on July 4, 2010.”
PFI member Asim Sharif is also suspected of involvement in the killing of RSS activist Rudresh. Rudresh, the RSS worker, was hacked to death in the Shivajinagar area of Bengaluru in October 2016. Five men including Asim Sharif were arrested in the case and a National Investigation Agency court had framed charges against them. Asim Sharif was reportedly the district president of Bengaluru PFI.
The NIA had also arrested a Muslim man named Myden Ahmed Shali last year, the head of one ‘Dawah’ team, for the killing of 42-year-old Hindu activist and PMK leader Ramalingam on the morning of 5th February 2019 at Pakku Vinayagam Thoppu in Kumbakonam, Thanjavur district, Tamil Nadu. The Dawah team was linked to the PFI. Earlier, the NIA had arrested another PFI member named Mohammad Faruk in connection with the murder. Tamil Nadu police had earlier arrested 10 persons before NIA took over the case.
Islamic Youth Federation (IYF)
The IYF was founded as a consequence of a merge between various Radical Islamic organizations that used to operate under the umbrella of Federation of Islamic Youth Organizations (FIYO) since 11 January 2009. At the end of 2018, the member groups of FIYO decided to come together and form a single group in order to build a single nationwide student movement. Thus, on the 31st of March, 2019, all these groups of FIYO came together to form the IYF.
According to a DailyO report from April 2019, the IYF considers itself the true heir to the legacy of Abul A’la Maududi, the founder of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI). The JI was founded in 1941 by the Islamic fundamentalist Maududi. Some members of the JI chose to stay in India post the partition of the country and it began calling itself the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH), however, there was no visible disassociation from its Islamic fundamentalist objectives. It was only in 1984 that it lifted its ‘voting ban’ on its members, until then, their members were not permitted to vote in elections. It also ‘boycotted’ judiciary, army and the banking system.
The report also says that the constituent members of the FIYO wished to establish an Islamic State in India. It goes so far as to say, “The IYF doesn’t represent anything new. It is just a continuation of Maududi’s original programme of establishing Hukumat e Ilahiya. JIH left it midway and moderated itself. SIMI continued the same but got banned. IYF now seeks to carry that legacy forward.” ‘Hukumar e Ilahiya means the government of Allah.
The website of IYF says that its aim is ‘To achieve the pleasure of Almighty Allah through the establishment of Islam in individual and collective lives.’ Other objectives include “To try to eliminate moral degradation, sexual anarchy and mental slavery” and “To present the message of Islam to Non-Muslim students and youth and to call them towards it”.
The reasons for Muslims to join this organization include “(IF!!!) You wish to liberate the humans from human dominance and bring the humanity under the rule of Allah” and “(IF!!!) You wish your school, college, campus, hostel, streets and cities to live by belief (iman) and Islam in vision, mission and action”. IYF also says that Muslims should join it if “You wish to convert your society into the best and exemplary society”.
The Facebook page of the organization provides further clues about its fundamentalist inclinations. They club atheism, movies and music, birthday celebrations along with alcohol, nudity, affairs (presumably extramarital) and vulgarity.
And the poster was part of its ‘Crush Evil Campus Campaign’. It does appear a bit drastic to condemn birthday celebrations and music as evil but it is consistent with Islamic fundamentalism. Furthermore, it clubs social media as evil too, which is a bit amusing given the fact that the poster was published on Facebook.
According to the IYF, the Muslim youth should come forward “To attain the happiness of Allah and achieve Jannat (Heaven) join the effort and struggle of dominating of the motto ‘La ilaaha illallaah’ (There is no God and sovereign except Allah) and making Quran the constitution of lives of humans. Become an integral part of this important student and youth organization Islamic Youth Federation (IYF). And sacrifice the most important and precious phase of your life, your youth, in the path of your creator and lord, Allah.”
It is pertinent to mention here that the slogan of ‘La ilaha illallah’ has been the dominating slogan of these Muslim protests against the CAA. The same slogan caused a split between the ‘secular’ camp and the Islamic fundamentalist brigade. Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor spoke out against the slogan being used in these anti-CAA protests, however, his voice was soon crushed by the Radical Muslims driving the movement. Tharoor was also subjected to sloganeering for his words.
The DailyO report says that “As a part of its programme, IYF makes sure it vilifies nationalism, secularism, feminism, communism and liberalism every now and then through the posters it releases, both online and offline. These ‘isms’, they believe, are antithetical to Islam and must be demolished before an Islamic state can be established.” The poster by IYF appears consistent with this. It’s also consistent with Sharjeel Imam’s ideology who considers Materialism, Atheism, Liberalism, Idolatry and Humanism as ‘Shirk’.
The distressing part here is the fact that the IYF has added another word to the conventional interpretation of ‘La ilaha illallah’. According to the IYF, it doesn’t simply mean ‘No God But Allah’ but also means ‘No God or Sovereign but Allah’. It is a clear hint towards the fact that the organization does not consider the Indian State to be sovereign. The preamble of the Indian Constitution declares India to be a sovereign country, the IYF is clearly rejecting it. This is also consistent with Sharjeel Imam’s ideology who considers nationalism to be ‘Shirk’.
What It Means
It clearly indicates that Sharjeel Imam is just one individual but there exists a vast network of such organizations and individuals who share the same ideology as him and are working towards the same objective. It also indicates that the Shaheen Bagh protests and the violence in response to the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act were organized by a network of organizations that envision another partition of the country.