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NSA Doval sketches blueprint to foster moderate Islam in address to Ulemas

NSA Ajit Doval welcomes his Indonesian counterpart Mohammad Mahfud ahead of a conference of Ulemas in New Delhi.

A very significant  and extraordinary meeting between the Indian and Indonesian Ulemas was held at the India Islamic Cultural Centre on November 29 in New Delhi.  The highlight of the first dialogue was inaugurated by the National Security Adviser (NSA), AK Doval.  In a very forthright and candid address to the audience, which comprised clerics, academics, students and representatives of various important Islamic organizations from India and Indonesia, the NSA categorically stated that extremism and terrorism are against the very meaning of Islam as Islam means peace and well-being.  Elaborating his point, NSA Doval stated how India and Indonesia have both been victims of terrorism and separatism.  The NSA also flagged the reality about the surging cases of terrorism inspired by the ISIS. Adequate emphasis was also laid by him on the blatant abuse of religion fostering extremism and radicalization.


Further, the NSA cautioned about a clear distortion of religion which called for everybody to be vocal to defeat the forces representing radicalization.  He stressed that the need of the hour instead was to focus on the real message of our religions which stands for the values of humanism, peace and understanding.  Illustrating this, he added that the holy Quran itself teaches that killing one person is like killing all of humanity and saving one is similar to saving humanity.  In this context, NSA also highlighted the role of civil society in playing a crucial role in countering the threat of indoctrination from extremist forces.    Touching upon further, he felt that there was a need to work in close collaboration to develop common narratives on de-radicalization as in a democracy, there is no space for hate speech, prejudice, propaganda, demonization, violence, conflict and abuse of religion for parochial ends.  According to the NSA, it was also imperative on part of the state institutions to join hands to identify potential negative influencers and share information to effectively counter their destructive activities.  In this regard, he stated that the Ulemas, due to their deep connect with civil societies, could play a very vital role and that was very much needed at this critical juncture. Against this backdrop, the Ulemas have the capacity to play crucial role in educating people in the tolerant and moderate tenets of Islam in countering radicalization and extremism with fresh ideas which were based on forward thinking.

NSA Doval reckoned that for this,  the youth were often the primary targets of radicalization but if their energies are channelized in the right direction, they can easily emerge as heralders of change and building blocks of progress which holds good for any society.  The NSA  also underlined the fact that India and Indonesia are in a position to send a joint message to the world to end violence and conflict which would eventually serve as a powerful symbol of determination of two large countries to preserve and promote true values.

In the meet of November 29 on the “Role of Ulema in fostering a culture of interfaith peace and social harmony in India and Indonesia”,  the Indonesian delegation was led by Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, Mohammad Mahfud M.D., who held a dialogue with their Indian counterparts and other religious leaders.  According to him, Indonesia being the world’s largest Islamic country and India being the third largest in the world, can deliver by effectively meeting the challenges.

Meanwhile, the Muslim youth in general in India appear satisfied with the NSA’s take on the critical issues like radicalization, extremism etc. at the recently held interfaith dialogue.  It is pertinent to mention that a segment of Muslim  youth who are largely anti-establishment, also seemed happy with the reach of the NSA and they feel that the message very positive, will go down well with the youth and they would in all likelihood, refrain from the temptations of radicalization which of late appeared threatening due to the all-pervading propaganda by the IS.

NSA’s message is also expected to help curb this trend, infuse communal harmony and promote inter-faith bonhomie. A senior professor of Jamia Millia University claimed that the NSA’s speech came like a boon to the Muslim youth as he dwelt on Islam and Jihad in the right perspective with a convincing and rationale explanation.  Similar reactions were also noticed in a large section of Muslim students who are feeling reassured with hope and security as according to them, the NSA’s speech coming at the right time will make things difficult for the undesirables to brainwash the Muslim youth who are often misled due to false propaganda on Islam.

The audience addressed by the NSA also included senior media persons and some military veterans. Some gave examples of a cohesive    coexistence prevailing in the Indian societies right from the Khilji dynasty bringing Hindus and Muslims together amalgamating their shared culture.  It is also relevant to point out on the sidelines of the meet that there are umpteen examples of interfaith harmony in India where a large number of Muslims have been seen participating in the Saraswati poojas where the goddess is worshipped not only as a token of Hindu religion, but also as a goddess of learning.  This trend has also been noticed in neighbouring Bangladesh.  On a personal note, during a recent visit to Prayagraj which has the holiest confluence of Ganga and Jamuna rivers resulting to Sangam, the boatman, a Muslim, carrying the ashes of  a Hindu family member, helped without any inhibition, in immersion of ashes and later facilitating darshan of iconic Hanuman. Such illustrations are endless implying that all is not over in preserving the age-old communal harmony. Here, NSA’s recent rhetoric, in sum, reinforces the hope for a peaceful  and terror free society not only in India and Indonesia, but even beyond their geographical frontiers.

Also Read : India and Indonesia launch major international campaign to foster moderate Islam

(The writer is a retired IPS officer, a security analyst and a former National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Mauritius. Views are personal and exclusive to India Narrative)