By Shruti Sonal:
Nobody had heard of Zuber Ahmed Khan, an average Mumbaikar having a wife and two children, before the news of his arrest came out a few days ago. An alert citizen had directed his tweet towards the PMO, in which he had expressed his desire to go to Delhi and visit the Iraq Embassy, in order to submit his memorandum to “Caliphate Baghdadi” along with his certificates for appointment either as a “spokesperson for foreign affairs” or “government journalist” in the Islamic State.
What drove a father of two to get such ideas in his head, even though he obviously lacked the planning, when he didn’t even have a visa? As per the police reports, he had been in depression ever since he had lost his job as an administrative officer in Mumbai, allegedly due to bias. Then, as described on his now removed Facebook page, he assumed the title of “Journalist at International Peace“, writing not to earn but to “describe the anguish of Muslims in India“. Recently, he had been frustrated over the hanging of Yakub Memon, describing him as a martyr. Going by his blogs, he had long been researching on the wrongs being done to Muslim citizens of India by the “Indian government, police and Hindu terrorists“. On social media, he had been influenced by radical accounts, which constantly feed news of bias and hatred, as seen in communal violence and other instances of discrimination. A closer look at this case can tell us a lot about the issues that push an individual towards joining an organization such as ISIS.
The recent rise in cases of Indians going abroad to fight in Iraq and Syria is a part of the Islamic State’s global plan to recruit more and more foreign fighters, preying on their identity and religious duty, through a well-promoted propaganda on social media. India, having the second largest and a rather young Muslim population, remains on its target list. In an UNESCO report on “Youth and Radicalisation“, it was seen that unemployed or youth living in precarious war zones are the most vulnerable section to join such groups. They typically target youth that show signs of alienation with the system and depression. Further, the idea of pan-Islamic ties and restoration of a glorious era of caliphates is instilled in their head. News of wrongdoings to Muslims around the world are highlighted, giving birth to a sense of guilt of not fighting for a “common sense”. Above all, a sense of belonging and an identity based on romanticized notions of sacrifice traps the gullible youth trying to find a niche for themselves. Along with these factors, the monetary gains associated with these organizations acts as the final bait. Last but not the least, the massive media coverage given to such causes also attracts those craving attention.
It is important to understand that the issue at hand must be neither under-estimated nor over-estimated. For instance, demonizing those waving ISIS flags at Kashmir protest rallies will further push them into isolation. It is interesting to note that the brother of a youth arrested for doing the same, had expressed amusement, as he had never been religious or anywhere near the ideal Muslim man as projected by the group. It was just a tool to irritate the state and gain media coverage. One must remember that the youths who take the radical path, aren’t a superficial form of evil, but from within our society. In order to tackle the issues of extremism, a deeper psychological analysis of their behavior is a must, along with counseling. Global terrorism has changed its forms, and thus, the battle against it is one that’s more mental than physical.
For more information on tackling radicalization on the internet, head here.