Is this the beginning of assault on India’s Urdu Press?
UK’s Daily Mail1 on 6 July, 2016 published an article, “Why blame the internet for radicalising young Muslims? The newspapers have that covered on their own” by one Tufail Ahmad who earlier served BBC’s Urdu service and has now suddenly emerged as an “Islamic expert” because, like Taslima Nasreen, Tarek Fateh et. al., he writes what pleases the Islamophobes. For all his services, Tufail is now employed by the Zionist propaganda organisation, MEMRI. This article was picked up the next day by India Today’s opinion website, dailyo.in.2 It has also been published in Open Magazine’s 11 July issue.
While Daily Mail used some contemporary photos to illustrate the article, dailyo.in chose to use a painting of “Ghazwa-e Badr”. Alas, even a person with elementary knowledge of history will instantly realise that the portrait has nothing to do with the Battle of Badr in the deserts of Arabia. A little search on the Net brought out the fact that the portrait depicts the Battle of Buda between the Holy League and the Ottoman forces in Hungary in 1686 CE!
The basic thrust of the shallow piece is that Internet and social media should not be blamed for the radicalisation of Muslim youth. The real culprit, according to Tufail Ahmad, is India’s Urdu press which is radicalising Muslim youth by publishing incendiary news items and articles every single day. In other words, whatever little voice Indian Muslims still have in media should be silenced.
The author quotes Sultan Shahin, whom he dubs as “noted social reformer,” as saying that in the times when there was no internet, 18,000 Indian Muslims left their homes and jobs to fight for the Ottoman Caliphate in Turkey. A person with dubious connections, Shahin runs an out-and-out anti-Muslim website.
Both Shahin and Tufail Ahmad are fooling their readers by making this totally false claim which will soon be parroted by the Islmaophobes in India and abroad as yet another proof of Indian Muslims’ doubtful patriotism. The event being misquoted here is the Indian Hijrat Movement of 1920, four long years before the abolition of the Caliphate in Turkey. The Hijrat Movement of 1920, a part of the non-cooperation movement, was against the British colonial government and the migrants went not to Istanbul but to Kabul. Some of these migrants went to Russia, like Shaukat Usmani, where they imbibed communism. Usmani, whom I met many times in Cairo in late 1960s, where he was a correspondent of Bombay’s Free Press Journal, was a pillar of the communist movement in India. The migrants included stalwarts of the freedom struggle like Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan. Soon many returned after facing difficulties in Kabul and finding it unsuitable to wage a struggle against the British rule in India.3
Tufail goes on to claim that “The feelings of persecution, siege mentality and exclusion from the mainstream among Indian Muslims as well as hospitable intellectual environments that nurture jihadist attitudes are created not by the internet but by Islamic clerics and Urdu publications.”
He then moves on to offer some examples from the Indian Urdu press to buttress his claim. He castigates two Urdu publications, Roznama Sangam and Sahafat. The former published an editorial and the latter an article on the anniversary of the Battle of Badr on 17th Ramadan (23 June this year). It is difficult to understand why it is wrong for Muslims, and for a publication mainly read by Muslims, to publish an article on a very important event in the Islamic history.
Roznama Sangam of Patna4 published a short editorial on the Battle of Badr as a major event in Islamic history. It is a traditional piece of writing with no correlation with the present times. Objection to even commemoration of an important landmark like Badr only means that Muslims should forget about their faith and history.
We searched the epapers of all the three editions of Sahafat from Delhi, Lucknow and Mumbai of the given date (23 November) but failed to find the article Tufail Ahmad finds so offensive.
Translating a passage from the claimed “Sahafat” article, Tufail Ahmad fraudulently translates “maal-e ghanimat” as “goods seized from non-Muslims”. How dishonest and/or illiterate! “Maal-e ghanimat” means war booty which is collected from the battle-ground immediately after the defeat of an enemy army in a battle. Muslims are expressly forbidden to seize properties of non-combatants in a conquered area.
The author again returns to Sahafat and claims that an article published in its issue of 22 June 2016 about the Orlando shooting argued “the attack was a conspiracy to make Donald Trump the US President”.5 Tufail claims that the said article says that “the American intelligence agencies carried out the attacks on 9/11”. We found this article in the epaper edition of only the Lucknow edition of Sahafat5 but, lo and behold, what it said was that “Donald Trump is anxious to make political use of the Orlando attack”. The article further says, “Donald Trump is most likely to benefit from the attack since he is spitting venom against Muslims in the US…” What is wrong in this, Mr. Tufail? Wasn’t this what the world press was saying at the time - that Trump will use Orlando shooting in his rhetoric and he did?
Tufail quotes Nai Dunia (23-31 May, 2015) where the killing of Banu Quraiza in Medina has been justified. Any serious student of Islamic history knows that the murder of Banu Qauraiza was according to their own scriptures and was the punishment given by their own religious scholar and decreed by their own ally Sa’d ibn Mu’adh, chieftain of Aws, because they had committed grand treason by inviting and helping enemies to attack Medina. Even today this will be the punishment of any traitor in any country of the world who invites and help an enemy to attack his country.
The author further quotes Mumbai’s Urdu Times (26 December 2014) as saying in an article that an apostate should be killed. Since Urdu Times archives do not offer the epaper of that period, it was not possible to verify if Mr. Tufail was honest in his quoting. But taking the tone and tenor of Tufail’s article, we can comfortably say that he must have misquoted Urdu Times too. Killing of apostates is not an easy matter and no private individual has the authority to do so. Like high treason in contemporary laws, apostasy too is a complicated matter which is beyond the comprehension of a propagandist working for a Zionist propaganda outfit.
It is time for the Urdu press in India to be careful as such dubious claims can open a via dolorosa [route of painful journey] for the Urdu press in India which at present remains the only outlet for Indian Muslims to freely print their news and views.
An alumnus of Al-Azhar and Cairo universities, the writer has a PhD in Islamic Studies from Manchester University