By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi
This visit is a testimony to India’s "Think West" policy getting robust and more vigorous, as it comes within a few weeks of PM Modi’s transit through Amman to Palestine. The remarkable visit by the Indian Prime Minister to West Asia earlier this month, which included Jordan, the UAE and Oman, was described as "history in the making".
On the first leg of his tour of West Asia, PM Modi met with King Abdullah II in Amman. This was the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Jordan in 30 years. Both the countries look for closer cooperation since diplomatic relations were established in 1950.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas (R) and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi pose for a picture, during the latter's visit to the West Bank city of Ramallah on February 10, 2018. (AFP Photo/AP/Nasser Nasser)
Now, Jordan King’s visit emphasizes continuity in India’s engagement with West Asia. It will definitely enhance collaboration between the two countries in business, investment, trade and technology. But one wonders how India and Jordan can take a joint venture into counter-extremism?
In this context, it is interesting to note a special talk of the King Abdullah slated in Delhi’s Vigyan Bhawan on Thursday, where he is expected to highlight India's role in combating extremist thoughts by averting the threats of ISIS and al-Qaeda. He will speak on “Islamic Heritage: promoting understanding and moderation” to an audience that includes academics and Islamic scholars, as well as representatives of all denominations of the Indian Muslim community. This topic has been selected by the king himself.
Particularly noteworthy in this visit, which officials said would be the “first of its kind” for New Delhi, is the release of the Urdu translation of the book written by King Abdullah’s cousin and renowned Islamic thinker, Prince Ghazi Bin Mohammad in the same premise of Vigyan Bhavan. The crucial significance of this event lies in the news that this authoritative work on the Essence of Islam tilted “A Thinking Person's Guide to Islam” will be launched at the hands of the Prime Minister.
Detailing how countries like India have escaped jihadist influences due to the most moderate and tolerant strand of Islam—non-Takfiri Hanafi Islam —being largely practiced in the country, the book includes a complete chapter on the “Crisis of ISIS”.
It holds vital significance not only because it has been authored by the Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad who is descendant of the Prophet (pbuh), an asset to the Hashimite Kingdom of Jordan and an eminent Islamic scholar engaged in rigorous research and intellectual activism on counter-extremism, but also because the book’s foreword has been written by the King himself, who is known for his global effort of deradicalisation. He is also custodian of the Al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, located in the Old City of Jerusalem.
In his visit to Amman, Prime Minister Modi vowed to boost India-Jordan ties, especially in security and intelligence, defence, trade and investment. Counter-extremism is obviously an important area of cooperation as both the countries are at the forefront of the fight against global jihadism and Islamic State's extremism. In fact, after the fall of ISIS in its de facto capital Raqqa, return of ISIS fighters greatly worries both Jordan and India.
According to counter-terrorism officials, several ISIS fighters of Indian origin will now try to return to India. After the loss of its occupied territory, ISIS sympathizers, who had travelled to Iraq, Syria or Afghanistan in groups or individually, seem to plan their extremist activities in rural areas.
Notably, when King Abdullah launched the “Aqaba” process of de-radicalisation, Prime Minsiter Modi, as part of the Aqaba meetings, instituted new mechanisms for cooperation in counter-extremism. It appears now that not only Muslim countries, even Indian government is cognizant that counter-extremism is not possible without engaging with the community’s leaders to guide the vulnerable sections, and that without explaining the true essence of Islam, any effort aimed at de-radicalization will prove futile.
In this context, one is reminded of the PM’s keynote address at World Sufi Forum in which he recounted the 99 names of Allah and remarkably stated: “When we think of the 99 names of Allah, none stands for violence, and that the first two names denote the Compassionate and the Merciful (Rahman and Raheem)”. Quoting from the world’s greatest Sufis and the tallest of Indian ulema and Sufi scholars, PM averred that “Islam rejected violence and the idea of division on the basis of religion” and that Sufism in India is the voice of co-existence, altruistic service to mankind and composite nationalism.
According to the media reports, in Jordanian King’s special address at Delhi’s Vigyan Bhawan, India’s religious plurality will be highlighted as key to success in mitigating the influence of extremist Islamist groups such as ISIS and al-Qaeda. An official involved in the planning of the visit has reportedly said: “The King has personally chosen to give this address in Delhi, as Jordan has studied how India has been able to avoid the threats from ISIS and other groups”.
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Since India and Jordan share counter-terror strategies, their bilateral ties will be well received in combating the forces of radicalism. Commenting on how India and Jordan can tackle the common threat of religious extremism, Ashok Sajjanhar, President of Institute of Global Studies (Former Indian Ambassador to Kazakhstan, Sweden and Latvia) writes: “It has been reported that Prime Minister Modi and King Abdullah II will address an event themed on measures against radicalisation of youth. This reflects their conviction that the scourge of terrorism and violent extremism cannot be dealt with by force alone but that a counter-ideology of amity, concord and harmony is urgently needed. Both countries share the view that nations must coordinate their positions to fight against the misuse of religion by groups and countries for inciting hatred and justifying terrorism.”
Most importantly, King Abdullah’s vehement opposition to the Takfirist ideology which Ashok Sajjanhar cogently pointed outs, has earned him global support in countering extremism. His declaration of the “Amman Message” unraveled a crucial Islamic consensus (ijma’a) of the world’s leading Muslim scholars in the capital of Jordan.
In the Assembly for Moderate Islamic Thought and Culture convened in Amman, King Abdullah II stated: “True Islam forbids wanton aggression and terrorism, enjoins freedom of religion, peace, justice and good-will to non-Muslims. It is also a message of good news, friendship and hope to the whole world.”
Several Indian Islamic scholars including A.P Aboobacker Musliyar of Kerala, Maulana Mahmood Madani and Prof. Akhtarul Wasey were among the participants of the Amman Message against Takfirism. They strongly believe that if the Amman Message is truly practiced in its letter and spirit, it would put an end to the pernicious spate of violent extremism.
Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi is a scholar of classical Arabic and Islamic studies, cultural analyst and researcher in Media and Communication Studies. The views in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Al Bawaba News.
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