Analyst: Indian Muslims Not Signing Up for Al-Qaeda or ISIL

By Venus Upadhayaya, Epoch Times
September 27, 2014 8:20 am Last Updated: September 27, 2014 12:56 pm

NEW DELHI—Investigations earlier this month identified two terrorist organization recruiters of Indian origin who have been trying to convince Indian youth to join ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) also known as ISIS or IS, and al-Qaeda.

According to the Indian Express newspaper, one succeeded in convincing four youths from the southern Indian city of Hyderabad to join ISIL, but all were detained while trying to leave India.

Despite the recruitments, analysts say the democratic country need not worry, as terrorist organizations like these do not have mass appeal among Indian Muslims.

“These are fringe elements which are there in every society. I don’t think that there is support of any global group of the kind, whether it’s al-Qaeda or the ISIS. [Neither] has any substantive standing in India,” said Col Vivek Chadha, a research fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses in New Delhi.

Political representation of Muslims has remained low in India and there have been notable incidences of sectarian violence between Hindus and Muslims. However the country remains largely democratic, and analysts say this discourages those with grievances from turning to violence.

“Democracy allows you to have outlets for frustration, anger, disagreement with the system, which is not necessarily possible in other absolute regime states,” said Chadha.

Earlier this month al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri announced the terrorist group was opening a branch in the Indian subcontinent. Shortly after the announcement, the group claimed responsibility for two attacks in Pakistan, one of which targeted a US ship, which ultimately failed.

Shortly after the attacks, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shrugged off the threat of al-Qaeda gaining a foothold in India.

“If anyone thinks Indian Muslims will dance to their tune, they are delusional,” he said in an interview with CNN. “Indian Muslims will live for India, they will die for India, they will not want anything bad for India.”

Losing Support

According to a December 2012 report by the Pew Research Center, India has more than 176 million Muslims, the second largest population of Muslims in any country after Indonesia. 

Many believe that al-Qaeda is trying to regain power after many of its senior leaders, including Osama bin Laden, were killed, and are connecting with terrorist groups in other countries to do so.

al-Qaeda’s new Indian wing, Qaedat al-Jihad, is partnering with other regional terrorist organizations like Harakat ul-Mujahidin (HUM) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM) to recruit and train jihadis for operations in Jammu and Kashmir, a state in northern India with a large Muslim population. Both of these groups are recognized as terrorist organizations by the U.S. State Department.

al-Qaeda, the parent organization of ISIL, has also been losing media coverage since ISIL started taking over large swaths of Iraq and Syria. Some analysts say al-Qaeda’s announcement of an Indian wing was an attempt to regain the attention and influence it once had.

“There’s a new rivalry which is coming out which is the ISIS and very obviously they are finding themselves sidelined,” said Chadha. 

Chadha said India has a long history of dealing with terrorist organizations and did not believe the the country was threatened by a new branch of al-Qaeda.