Recently, a video went viral showing a child singing a song about killing those who speak against Islam. The song also incorporates death threat to Kamlesh Tiwari, a Hindu activist who was recently murdered in cold-blood by Islamists disguised in saffron clothes.
The song is in Hindi, and the lyrics are as follows:
Kamlesh Tiwari ko fansi pe chadha denge (We will hang Kamlesh Tiwari)
Islam ke khilaf jo bolega use gun se uda denge (Those who speak against Islam will be shot dead)
Kamlesh kahan ye bhula hai to (If Kamlesh has forgotten, I remind him)
Muhammad ko jo bolega, use bam se uda denge (Those who speak against Muhammad, will be blown up by bombs)
More than the horrifying lyrics that glorify Islamic terrorism, the video clip shocked the social media users that a child, most likely in his preteens, was singing such a song.
Many contented that the recorded performance might have taken place in a Madrassa where hundreds of Muslim students study; was recorded, and then circulated around the internet.
Madrassa and the terror-connection
Several scholars around the world have studied the connection between Madrassas and terror-groups.
In the paper Madrasas and Recruitment of Child Soldiers: The Scenario in Afghanistan, Ghulam Mohammad Qane, Mohammad Naqib Ishan Jan note that there is significant amount of credible research indicating the correlation between madrassas and child soldiering.
They further note that the founders and members of the terror groups operating in the country are “almost invariably madrasa graduates and students, and they have time and again turned to madrasas under their control for new recruits”.
It is significant that the very name Taliban in Pashto means “students”.
The paper also notes that Islamic State in Afghanistan has shown preference for individuals with some degree of religious knowledge - possibly to use it to prove their actions as Islamic and attract more recruits.
It is also important to note that these terror-groups maintain a strict posture of acting as the soldiers of Islam, and make it a point to justify all their actions in the light of Islam.
Islamic State had released a detailed note justifying the capture, rape and sex-slavery of Yazidi women as the behaviour mandated for ‘Kafir’ women in Islam. Taliban as well as Islamic State both justify use of child-soldiers on religious grounds.
Several other Islamist groups also zealously recruit children. Over 50 per cent members of Al-Shabaab, a jihadist group in Somalia, were under the age of 18.
Disturbingly, the videos used by the terror-groups to recruit child soldiers bear an eerie similarity to the one mentioned above - with the glorification of use of guns and bombs against those who criticise Islam or Prophet Muhammad.
In 2009, Afghan Taliban’s leadership issued a video targeting children. The clip also showed children using slogans of martyrdom for the cause of Islam and included a eulogy for a 14-year old Taliban recruit who purportedly killed an American soldier.
Pakistani scholar Azmat Abbas in his book, Madrassa Mirage: A Contemporary History of Islamic Schools in Pakistan says, “most of the militant sectarian and jihadi organisations either originated at madarassas or were established by those who studied at Islamic religious schools”.
He gives several examples:
- Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Fiqa-e-Jafaria was formed by Mufti Jafar Hussain, a student of Madaris in Lucknow and Hauza Imam-e-Najaf, Iraq
- Maulana Haq Nawaz Jhangvi, a student of Darul Ulum Eidgah Kabirwala, established the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan
- Maulana Masood Azhar, a student of Jamia Ulum Al-Islamia, Banuri Town, Karachi, established the Jaish-e-Muhammad
- Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil, a student of Jamia Ulum Al-Islamia, Banuri Town, Karachi, established Harkatul Mujahideen
- Qari Saifullah Akhtar, a graduate of Jamia Ulum Al-Islamia, Banuri Town, Karachi, founded Harkatul Mujahideen, and later Harkat-e-Jihad-e-Islami
Khaled Ahmed, the consulting editor, Newsweek Pakistan said that the religious seminaries had made literacy “toxic” in Pakistan.
In a sting operation carried out by India Today in 2018 in Kerala, the investigators reported their findings as follows: “Aided by hawala funding from petrodollar-rich Gulf countries, these seminaries were found to be indoctrinating young impressionable minds with what has been the wicked goal of ISIS to establish a global caliphate through a world-wide war”.
The report quoted Mohammed Bashir, joint secretary of a madrasa run by the Karuna Charitable Trust at Pullorammal in Kozhikode district, as saying, “Caliphate is the basis. It's the basic for the children. Only then will there be a caliphate," he declared.
"The base is required. It's there in our hearts. We share this with the children bit by bit. There's no rush. A caliphate is not built in a day".
"There's a problem if we talk about a caliphate in public. There are many Hindu people around. If we speak about Khilafat (caliphate), the Hindus would call us ISIS men. So, we are not direct. We put it in the hearts of children bit by bit," he said.
The report quoted Abdul Malik, who runs his madrasa in Karanthur, as admitting that the children in the Madrasa are regularly shown the video clips of radical Islamic preacher Zakir Naik.
Interestingly, Malik makes special mention of Naik “inviting” ladies to convert to Islam apart from other religious groups, hinting a special focus on “ladies” for conversion to Islam.
"Each and every person knows who Zakir Naik is. Here we show Zakir Naik inviting ladies and other religious groups to Islam. Then they are seen accepting Islam in video clippings," he said.
It is important to note that several members of terror groups have mentioned Naik’s speeches as their inspiration to carry out Jihad. A terrorist who carried out 2016 Holey Artisan Bakery attacks in Dhaka had posted sermons of Zakir Naik on social media where Naik urged "all Muslims to be terrorists”.
Naik is currently under investigation not only for terror links but also money laundering. His speeches are banned in several countries- including the Muslim majority ones- like Malaysia and Bangladesh.
In an anti-terror conference this month, a top official of National Investigation Agency (NIA), Alok Mittal, said that majority of the 130-odd people arrested by security agencies in India for suspected Islamic State links were inspired by the speeches of Zakir Naik.
The India Today sting also found out that crores were being received by these Madrassas to carry out radicalisation, channelled through “brothers who are abroad in other countries” like Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Oman, Qatar etc.
Abdul Gaffar, an administrator of Koyilandy's Markazul Jamia Madrasa, said his centre was financed by several countries from across the Gulf region through ‘hawala’ channels. The act has been going on for so long and so easily that Gaffar said that the money will be received with “one hundred percent” certainty.
It is only a confirmation of the stronghold of foreign-funded Madrasas on Indian politics, that the report failed to generate a significant debate, despite the fact that Madrassas in India enjoy special treatment under Indian Constitution, including state funding, as minority educational institutions.
Many radicals nabbed by NIA who held allegiance to Islamist groups like Islamic State or Indian Mujahideen also weilded a Madrasa connection.
In 2018, a Madrasa owner Adbus Sami was held for planning terror attacks across the country. Sami had given provocative speeches for establishment of Islamic Caliphate and uploaded his speeches to several websites.
Looking at the bigger picture, the common threads between Islamic seminaries and Madrassas, terror groups, and their front-cover preachers as well as foreign funding become starkly clear. The nexus comes together to target young children with impressionable minds to preach radical Islamist ideology.
How children are used by Islamists- similarities between Kashmir and Palestine
Several scholars point out the reasons behind children being the special target for recruitment by armed groups. High population in countries like India, Pakistan, etc makes children a cheap and accessible resource.
Non-monetary incentives such as religion, honour, prestige, revenge and duty work better in the case of children. Also, since children are more obedient and malleable than adults, they are easier to indoctrinate and control.
In countries with widespread poverty, children and their parents may come to see membership of an armed group as a lucrative vocation. Due to this, terror groups often deliberately create conditions of poverty and unemployment.
Terror groups in Kashmir especially target schools for bomb blasts. This is to scare parents into not sending their children to schools. These children, of school-going age, are then recruited to carry out stone-pelting against the armed forces, tourists etc.
In 2017, India Today interviewed five protesters from Baramulla district who confessed on camera that they are paid an amount of Rs 5,000-Rs 7,000 a month and are also provided with clothes and shoes. One of them also said that separate funds are given for making petrol bombs. They refused to disclose the identity of the financiers.
Recently, the Islamists are targeting apple-traders. Shopkeepers are also primary targets. The terrorists’ aim is to grind the economy to a halt, stop government’s developmental work, and claim empty schools and hospitals to carry out terror-activities.
The use of children in terror activities is Kashmir is very similar to that by Palestinian terror groups. “A substantial number, if not the majority” of troops of the First Intifada against Israel were “young people, including elementary schoolchildren,” noted William O'Brien, a professor of Georgetown University.
In 2002, Child Soldiers International stated that there were at least nine documented suicide attacks involving Palestinian minors between October 2000 and March 2004.
The perpetrator of Pulwama attack, 20-year-old Adil Ahmed Dar was also radicalised when he was a minor. In 2016, Dar had taken part in the protests against the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani. Wani had himself become a terrorist at the age of fifteen.
Apart from their direct use, children are also used for tactical purposes. In both Kashmir and Palestine, the Islamist groups use children as a ‘human shield’. The goal is to maximise injuries to children so that the other party can be shown in a bad light in international media. The gruesome photographs of “martyred” children are also used for recruitment of more children.
The targeting of young children at Madrassas also causes a cultural normalisation of hatred against the ‘other’ as well as the use of violence.
This year, a secret United Kingdom government report found out that Imams training in 48 British madrasas were promoting extreme ideas among the children. A special mention was made in the report of Darul Uloom, an India-based Islamic school and the clerics born in the Indian-subcontinent.
A 2007 documentary Undercover Mosque found that children as young as six were punched in the back, slapped, kicked and had their hair pulled by the Imams. A large number were beaten using sticks and other instruments.
Combined with the teaching of hatred against the ‘Kafirs’ and calls for jihad against them, the children were being effectively desensitised towards violence.
In a footage shown by the documentary, a Madrassa teacher was seen insulting those who worship ‘idols’ and ‘cows’. He gives example of Hindus as “the people who choose not to use their intellect”. This footage was captured at Darul Uloom High School in Birmingham.
In another full-time secondary school, the children were seen being told by the cleric that “disbelievers are the worst of all the creatures”. The children were checked for their haircuts and were not even allowed to look like ‘Kafirs’.
In a class, the speaker, who looks barely 18 or 19 years old, asks the students, “Do Hindus have any intellect?” and insults them.
Several reports point to a similar radicalisation being carried out in Indian Madrassas. Gulf countries have been pumping millions into the country to turn the world’s second largest Muslim population into radical Islamists.
According to an Indian Intelligence Bureau report, between a two year period from 2011-2013, 25,000 Wahhabis visited India for missionary work.
"With them they brought in $250 million in several instalments and used it to propagate the Wahabi style of Islam," the reports noted.
Further, the reports claim that a sum of $460 million was earmarked to set up madrasas (religious schools) while the remaining $300 million has been set aside as miscellaneous costs.
"Over the decades the Saudis have used Zakat (charity) money to build new mosques and seminaries in India that have radicalised younger Muslims and put them on an ultra-conservative path," the report stated.
Pointing out the role of Madrassas in indoctrinating young children with radical Islam, the Uttar Pradesh Shia Waqf Board chief wrote a letter to PM Modi in January this year.
“If madrasas are not shut down, the ISIS influence will grow and in 15 years more than half the Muslims in the country will be influenced by their ideology,” he said.
Interestingly, the primary buyers of the radical Islam are more educated, well-off Muslims in India, who want to differentiate themselves against the poorer, uneducated rural Muslim folks, many of whom follow a syncretic version of Islam with many similarities to Hinduism.
Most of the Islamic State recruits from India were also well-educated middle class working men with white-collar jobs.
Of course, such wealthy Muslim families send their children to expensive English-medium schools instead of Madrassas. However, they either get home tutions from an Islamic cleric from a reputed Madrassa, or send the children to supplementary Quran classes taken by such teachers that are after school or on weekends.
Therefore, those who cannot reach Madrassas, the Madrassa education is brought at home. Internet and mobile phones have further facilitated the process.
As of August 2019, the banned channel of Zakir Naik, Peace TV, was still available in India through a free app in the Google Play Store, and downloaded over one lakh times. One would not be surprised if children were being taught using these apps.