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101 the national bureau of asian research nbr project report | april 2009 Transnational Islam in India: Movements, Networks, and Conflict Dynamics Animesh Roul Animesh Roul is co-founder and Executive Director of Research at the Society for the Study of Peace and Conflict, New Delhi. He specializes in Islamic fundamentalism, WMD terrorism, armed conflict, and arms control and proliferation in South Asia. His publications include “India’s Home-Grown Jihadi Threat: A Profile of the Indian Mujahideen” Terrorism Monitor 7, no. 4 (March 3, 2009), and “South Asia: Hotbed of Islamic Terrorism,” NBR Analysis 19, no. 4 (August 2008). Executive Summary Since the events of 9/11, transnational Islamic forces have consolidated more along religious lines with regional and local Islamic outfits to further the extremist cause worldwide. South Asia has been confronting the challenge of Islamic extremism for many years and in varied forms. Among the South Asian countries worst hit by Islamic extremism, India, with a Muslim minority population numbering over 140 million, has cradled a number of important transnational Islamic movements throughout history. As this paper shows, many of these movements have tremendous influence on present-day Islamic radicalism and grassroots activism all over the world. This paper argues that India’s Muslims have largely shunned Islamic violence and radical influences, though perceived marginalization and insecurity among this minority community could prove a potential source for radicalization. Main Findings While many Islamic movements arising from India remain local in influence, others have spread across the world, primarily through immigration and the Indian diaspora, missionary activities, and pilgrimages to Mecca. The roots of India’s Islamist challenge can be traced to late nineteenth century India where the seeds of dominant reformist and revivalist movements were implanted, namely: the Deoband, Tablighi Jamaat, Ahle Hadith and Jamaat-i-Islami. In due course, these movements have transcended the political boundaries of the subcontinent and manifested in both violent and pietistic forms at home and elsewhere. The key principle which drives India’s transnational Islamic movements (with the exception of Sufi mystic movements) is the establishment of the imaginary Ummah through either violent or other (e.g., conversion) means. Unlike other parts of the world where the transnational Islamic movements are intense, only a small section of India’s Muslims is believed to be endorsing radical Islam, though the numbers are increasing. While India’s Muslims have largely shunned Islamic terrorism, there is evidence of Indian Muslims contributing to international terrorism. Increasingly, Indian Muslim youth are talking about the plights of fellow Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq, Chechnya, and neighboring Pakistan. Indian blogospheres and social networking websites are full of these instances. India’s leading radical Muslim youth movement and increasing source of concern is the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and its off shoot, Indian Mujahedeen. Policy Implications In India, the drive to implement • • shari‘a has never been as intense as in Pakistan and Bangladesh. However, a sense of insecurity has long gripped India’s Muslims. Future policy should monitor and address this perception of marginalization. A small section of India’s Muslims—homegrown jihadists—has taken to terrorism and has acquired • • international links in recent times. Terrorism among Indian Muslims appears to have originated following the Babri mosque demolition in 1992. Since then, the potential for homegrown terrorism has grown extensively throughout the country. The changing Islamic political landscape in neighboring Bangladesh and Pakistan, where terrorist • • outfits have political parties with overt ties to transnational movements and networks, and the resurgent Islamic violence in the region will likely dictate the future trajectories of transnational Islam in India. 103 Transnational Islam in India u Roul Islam in India unfolds a bewildering diversity of Muslim communities and no statistical data can be framed to determine their location and assess the multiple streams of thoughts existing within them.183 T his paper traces the emergence and growth of major transnational Islamic revivalist and militant movements and networks in India. While outlining their influence and geographical spread, the paper attempts to assess the degree of dialogue, interaction and confrontation occurring within and between these movements which have dominated India’s Islamic landscape for over a century. In order to provide a comprehensive understanding of their sphere of influence, the paper examines the flow of ideas, resources and, most importantly, future trajectory of these movements and how they are shaped by contemporary circumstances inside India. In particular, the paper addresses some specific questions about the Islamic movements in India: What role do transnational Islamic...


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