Intelligence agencies have raised concerns over the danger posed by the spread of Wahhabism or Salafism in India, especially in the areas bordering Bangladesh.
While Assam has, of late, started cracking down on such madrassas, Bengal continues to live in denial.
Over the past 10 years, unregistered madrassas tutoring and moulding young impressionable minds in the regressive, puritanical and hate-filled Salafi Islam have mushroomed in many areas dominated by Bangladeshi-origin Muslims in Assam and Bengal.
Operating surreptitiously under the radar in villages along the India-Bangladesh border, these madrassas are radicalising hundreds of youngsters and will, in the long run, seriously undermine national security.
Many organisations funded by Islamic charities based in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries (read this) have been establishing small madrassas in small towns and villages in the districts along the international border. And these madrassa train the students in Salafi, or Wahhabi Islam.
What Wahhabi Islam promotes is puritanical and bigoted and openly advocates killing of kafirs (non-believers) or mushriks (those who worship idols). It not only justifies terrorist acts, but also extols them. An estimated 275 such madrassas have come up in the two states over the past 10 years.
Gaspara village in Dhubri district along the Indo-Bangladeshi border is home to more than 3,000 Muslim families, all of Bangladeshi origin. Most of the children go to the Mozahirul Uloom Islamia Madrassa, which is registered with the Assam State Madrassa Education Board.
But about 30-odd young boys aged between eight and 18 from Gaspara and a few neighbouring villages ‘study’ at a small unregistered madrassa that goes by the name of Imarat-e-Sharia Madrassa. This madrassa is housed in a cluster of three small mud huts with tin roofs a little away from the village.
Maulana Ghiasuddin Lahkar, a cleric, set up this madrassa in 2007. Ghiasuddin claims he is from Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh and had received financial aid from Islamic charities based in Saudi Arabia. He had studied theology from Jamiatul Qasim Darul Uloom Al-Islamiah in Bihar in the mid-1990s, but admits he was attracted to the puritanical Ahl Al-Hadith movement. He became a preacher of this school of Islam that draws inspiration and financial aid fromSaudi Arabia’s fundamentalist Wahhabi organisations.
Ghiasuddin is also the area supervisor of five other small unregistered madrassas in Dhubri district. Together, they have a little over 200 students, all from extremely poor families. They are all taught the puritanical and fundamentalist version of Islam and their textbooks advocate jihad against non-believers.
Ibrahim Mondal, all of seven years, is considered to be a bright student of Mozahirul Uloom Islamia Madrassa. He can recite parts of the Quran by heart and wants to be an Islamic scholar when he grows up. His dream, he firmly states, is to see India, and eventually the whole world, become Islamic nations.
“There will be no suffering, no exploitation of humans, no disputes between people and the entire world will happily live together as one under the umbrella of Islam, governed by the Sharia,” he says with a zeal rare among children his age.
Incidentally, United Nations-designated terrorist Hafiz Saeed and other terrorists like Abdul Rehman Makki are adherents of the Ahl-i-Hadith movement (the South Asian variation of the Ahl Al-Hadith). The madrassa at Gaspara is non-descript and the interiors are stark.
There are no portraits or paintings and, in fact, the students are strictly forbidden from drawing or painting any object or living form. Listening to music is banned, and the students here cannot even dream of playing a musical instrument. Watching movies is out of the question.
The only gadget used is the mobile phone, and recordings or videos of sermons by fundamentalist scholars preaching Wahhabism or Salafism are about the only entertainment for the kids here. Ibrahim explains that listening to music, playing musical instruments, painting or pursuing other such pleasures is haram and forbidden in Islam.
Maulana Mobarak Hussain runs the Hosaini Madrassa at Paschim Chaipara near Aurangabad town in Murshidabad district’s Jangipur subdivision. Chaipara lies between two streams of the Padma river (as the Ganga is called after it enters Bangladesh) on the Indo-Bangladeshi border. Chaipara is a large village with about 1,500 Muslim households.
All of them are said to be of Bangladeshi origin. The Hosaini Madrassa, established in 1999, is unregistered and operates very discreetly. Four single-storey concrete structures with small openings for windows set around a dusty ground and surrounded by a high wall with an iron gate painted in deep green makes for this madrassa. There is no signboard announcing its presence.
Mobarak Hussain also learnt Islamic theology from an Islamic institution in Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh. He started off as a preacher and was subsequently recruited by the Barua Rahmani Education Society (BRES), an organisation of Islamists with strong Saudi links. The BRES has been surreptitiously setting up scores of madrassas imparting Salafi or Wahhabi Islamic teachings to children in Malda, Murshidabad, North Dinajpur and other districts of Bengal bordering Bangladesh.
The textbooks in this, and other madrassas run by the BRES, present a highly distorted version of this subcontinent’s history, whitewashes the bigotry of Islamic invaders like Ghori and Khilji, justifies destruction of mandirs by Islamic rulers and advocates conversions, even forcible conversions, of kafirs to Islam!
This expose of the BRES published in 2001 is an eye-opener. To quote from the expose: “students of madrassas run by BRES are prescribed The Economics of Islam written by one Moulana Mohammed Abdur Rahim and published by Khairun Prakashani of Dhaka.
The book tells the students that the chief source of national income is — hold your breath — the divine act of ‘expropriating the property of vanquished enemy’.” The prescribed textbooks of the 50-odd students of Chaipara’s Hosaini Madrassa are replete with many such hateful prescriptions (read this book excerpt).
No wonder, then, that it turns out children like Shahidul Islam, all of 14 years, rages against “subjugation of Muslims by kafirs in India”. “The time is not far, though, that Muslims will re-establish their rule over India and this country will once again become Islamic.
Sinners who worship idols and commit shirk have to choose between Islam and death in the Islamic India that will be a reality soon,” says Shahidul. He is the son of a poor fisherman. Shahidul looks to terrorists and terror outfits like the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba as ‘soldiers of Islam’ whose bounden duty is to overthrow Hindu rule in India and replace it with Islamic rule. He considers killing of kafirs very Islamic and an “act of virtue by every true Muslim”.
Since these madrassas are not registered, the state governments exercise no control over them. Also, since they are located in overwhelmingly Muslim-dominated areas, the writ of the state does not extend to these areas. They are often ‘no-go zones’ for state officials and even the police.
These madrassas revere the controversial Islamic theologian Ibn Taymiyyah whose infamous ‘Mardin Fatwa’ prescribing beheading of infidels by Islamic warriors is often quoted by terror groups like Al Qaeda and Jaish-e-Mohammed to justify their brutal acts or terror. According to this report, madrassas funded by the Ahl-e-Hadis teach hate and bigotry.
Intelligence agencies have, over the past few years, raised repeated concerns over the danger posed by the spread of Wahhabism or Salafism in India, especially in the areas bordering Bangladesh. But while Assam has, of late, started cracking down on such madrassas, Bengal continues to live in denial.